Graduate School; Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

MBA international negotiation workshop signed, sealed, delivered


Having closed an estimated 12,000 business and real estate transactions in his career, Judson Jahn knows a thing, or two, about negotiations.

Judson Jahn preps students before negotiations session
Judson Jahn, right, prepares MBA students prior to their negotiations with students in France.

So, when the transaction attorney and senior lecturer in the College of Business proposed an international negotiations workshop for Clemson University MBA students, it quickly became a done deal.

“By utilizing technology, this workshop exposes our students to a global opportunity without leaving the building,” said Jamie Patterson, MBA director of career services and student experience. “One of our program’s goals is to provide students with career-advancing global opportunities and this interaction with students in Paris is a great example of that.”

The French-based students pitted against 21 Clemson MBA students in a simulated business negotiation are from the IESEG School of Management, one of France’s top business schools. Clemson has built a relationship with IESEG through its dual-degree program by offering an MBA and Masters of International Business.

“I already teach a course in negotiations to our MBAe students and thought what a worthwhile experience it would be for MBA students to negotiate with cohorts from another country without leaving Greenville,” said Jahn, who has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in several study abroad programs, including the Clemson Business in Paris program hosted by IESEG.

So, Jahn contacted a faculty member he knows at IESEG and proposed a business negotiation simulation between students in Paris and Greenville via Skype. The exercise is between a U.S. company that has a French subsidiary and cohorts are negotiating where a product is manufactured and distributed.

“Students on both ends have to deal with different management styles in their respective cultures and determine how they will bridge any gaps,” Jahn said. “This is not unlike what many of them will experience in the global business environment they are about to enter.”

Clemson negotiators are a mix of part-time and full-time MBA students who had several preparatory classes before their first negotiation session.

“The first session was definitely a win-win. Our four teams of negotiators entered the session with confidence after several weeks of preparation,” Jahn said. “Two of our teams negotiated with rather easy-going counterparts from France, but the other two teams encountered negotiators with hard and fixed stances. Our students deftly deflected that aggressiveness and managed to establish a relationship with their counterparts to reach a solution that benefited both sides.”

MBA director Greg Pickett joins cohorts as they prepare for a negotiation session
Greg Pickett, MBA director, joins students as they prep for negotiations with French students.

Jamie Lever, an MBA student who participated in the exercise, said the experience helped her better understand her negotiation style and develop skills she will find valuable in a “real-world” setting.

“We were very confident going into the negotiation with the French students because of how Dr. Jahn prepared us by practicing multiple bargaining cases with fellow students,” she said. “We also researched the differences between the French and American business cultures. We were pleasantly surprised with the French students’ desire to reach an agreement suitable to both sides. In the next session, I will worry less about the business culture differences and focus more on what our combined strengths can accomplish.”

Jahn said there are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to negotiate, and going into it with an adversarial mindset, or viewing it as a competition, oftentimes can lead to a negative outcome for both parties.

“To be good at it, you must be genuine, open minded and adaptable,” Jahn said. “Educational programs are generally technical-skill oriented. This is a soft skill that can be uncomfortable for some. That’s why this is such a great exercise for these students. It’s good to see someone who isn’t confident in this setting grow and learn from it.”

Greg Pickett, director of MBA programs and senior associate dean of the College of Business, said unique experiences like the international negotiations workshop are what separate Clemson from other programs.

“In a world of inter-connected experiences, being able to effectively negotiate with counterparts from different countries is an essential skill all senior managers should possess,” he said. “This international negotiation certificate is yet another way we are adding value to students who possess an MBA from Clemson.”

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