The ILF application process
The ILF application process itself is relatively straightforward with two written applications and an interview. I found the most difficult part of the process was identifying an appropriate course that suited my needs and the needs of the business. The reflection on my professional development, the company’s needs and my skills was a very valuable experience that even if I hadn’t been successful in receiving a grant would have been of immense benefit.
TGR BioSciences is a biotechnology company based in the SA Thebarton Biotech Precinct, and is an Immunoassay Specialist company. We develop assay technology for use in our own products and make the technology available to other companies via license. Our agreements are a combination of technology transfers with payment, milestone fees and royalties. Over 95% of our revenues are export based. In my position, the challenge is to negotiate agreements that do not leave value for either party behind. This enhances not only our business but the reputation of the business as good to deal with.
At the ILF interview, it was important to expand on why the course I selected would be of benefit to the company and to me. Although a brief interview, the preparation provides the opportunity to clarify and concisely present your objectives for and expected outcomes of the course. For me this meant ensuring that I maximised the opportunities for the company in the areas of negotiation practice and negotiation strategy. Through the generosity of the Industry Leaders Fund, I was provided with a $10,000 contribution towards completion of a one week Strategic Negotiation course offered by Harvard University in January 2015.
Why I chose the Strategic Negotiations course at Harvard
A significant number of Australian and international business schools offer courses in negotiation. The ILF Scholars network also provides great feedback from past scholars who have attended a number of these institutions. I chose the Harvard Business School’s Strategic Negotiation course for two main reasons, course content and quality of past attendees. The program format was clearly relevant and the presenters highly regarded with significant practical international experience in negotiation. Only 60 attendees are admitted to the course. Previous attendees had been from all over the world and from multiple industries. The opportunity to interact with this mix of attendees, in addition to the reputation associated with Harvard, was very attractive.
About the course and benefits
I cannot recommend highly enough the benefits of completing such a course. The course is built on the Harvard Case Study method which promotes participant led learning. Extensive reading is done out of the classroom and lectures are kept to a minimum. Participants are encouraged to learn through real-life challenges. Problems build on previous learning, with each case study becoming more complex with less information in terms of the deal and the motives of deal participants. Each challenge is worked on in small groups with the final plan of action shared with the whole group. It is a challenging format but accelerates learning as you are exposed to a significant number of methods and possible solutions.
Experience is a great teacher, and being exposed to such a number of versions of the same problem has given me knowledge and confidence that I could only have gained over a number of years. I believe that completing the course has helped me in making better business decisions.
Working within small groups also encourages you to develop relationships with the other participants. This is one of the most rewarding facets of the course. My group was made up of participants from 26 countries with very diverse life and business experience. Even when interacting after class, you learn an enormous amount about different cultures and the different ways of doing business. Surprisingly, in such a short period of time I made strong relationships.
In summary, the course has provided me with additional skills that I can use, not just in negotiating significant business agreements, but also in smaller less formal negotiations, for example with staff, family and friends. For TGR, our growth will be influenced by the number of technology licenses we can negotiate with various parties. Identifying the opportunities and ensuring that value is created and maximised for all parties in the deal is obviously a clear aim. We deal with companies from all over the world, both big and small, and with differing levels of business sophistication. Each of these transactions brings complexities that I feel better equipped to manage through completion of this course.
I would like to thank the TGR Board and my colleagues for their support throughout the process. I am very appreciative of having had the opportunity to complete this course. I am grateful to the ILF for encouraging me to look at my own development, as without their prompting I may not have taken up the opportunity. I am also grateful for their generous financial support and their ongoing backing of the ILF Scholars Network. Such investment assists in supporting South Australian businesses and business leaders.