Interview with Mark Jankowski

Jeff Cochran


Mark Jankowski Co-Founded the Shapiro Negotiations Institute in 1995. He has been an invaluable asset to the organization over the last 17 years, but he will soon be moving on to pursue other endeavors.  A couple days ago we were able to talk to Mark about his time at SNI.

How would you describe your 17 years at SNI?

Absolutely life changing.  I recall when we started the business in my apartment in 1995.  My kitchen table was my office and the second bathroom was our storage closet!  I never would have known then that I would be fortunate enough to co-author two books, teach on five continents, and work with tens of thousands of participants.  More importantly, I have worked with incredible people at SNI.  Ron Shapiro has been a mentor, partner, and guide throughout my years here.  Todd Lenhart has for many long stretches carried the entire business on his back.  Jeff Cochran is the most incredible facilitator I have ever encountered.  I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that I know that as I depart SNI, it is in great hands and extremely well positioned for future growth.

What was the vision when you started SNI and do you think that vision has been met?

Our first business cards had the following quote:  “Helping individuals and organizations reach their full potential through The Power of Nice.”  Over the years, we have had many participants come back to us and tell us that not only did our programs help them do their job better, but it helped them live their lives better.  I recall one instance where a participant told us that he was concerned that his son did not want to go to college and that no matter what was said to the son, he simply refused to budge.  Two weeks after taking our course, he e-mailed to let us know that he used our negotiations approach with his son to convince him to go to college.  Other participants attributed leaps in their career paths to what they learned in our programs.  Our vision was never about revenue or building equity so that we could sell the business.  That is not to say that we are not proud of how much the business has grown over the last 17 years, but from the very start Ron set the vision that if you help the people with whom you touch, the business will take care of itself.  I think that the last 17 years are a tribute to that vision.

What has been one of your most memorable moments with the organization?

As with many things, my most memorable moment, and most illuminating for that matter, was at the time one of my greatest failures.  Ever since we started the business, people encouraged us to move beyond focusing on just negotiations training.  They told us that if we offered things like leadership training or team building, we could increase revenue by selling more products to our existing clients.  Ron and I always resisted, knowing that we did not have the level of expertise in those areas to deliver the type of top shelf product that we offer through negotiations training.  However one client begged us to do a team building retreat for them. I violated our ‘stick to your knitting’ mantra, and agreed to give it a go.  It was a total disaster.  We held it at Ron’s farm.  We tried to do a row boat race, and the boats sank. Our campfires almost burned down the fields, and 98 degree temperatures made the entire day almost unbearable!  Ron later told me that we created so much chaos at his farm that the migratory geese stopped visiting!  It was then and there that I decided that we would stick to delivering training focused on Sales, Negotiation, and Influencing, and to stay away from other topics in which we did not possess adequate expertise.  All in all, our strategy has served us extremely well.  And to give you a sense of “the rest of the story”…  Several years later I ran into one of the participants in that team building session and I offered an apology for the “less than adequate session.”  She looked back at me stunned and said, “That was one of the best team building events we ever had!  People have talked about the chaos and hilarity for years.  It really did give us an experience that bonded us all together.  As a matter of fact, my new company is looking to do a teambuilding session and I was wondering if you would do it!”  We respectfully declined.  The geese had returned to Ron’s farm and I did not want to risk chasing them away again.

What do you plan on doing in the future?

Several years ago I started to focus on the technology side of the training business.  I have four kids at home and my wife is in a wheelchair and going on the road to do live training simply became impossible.  I decided then to try to find a way to be able to continue to meet our initial vision, but to do so in a way that used technology such as 3D virtual worlds, iPads, Webinars and the like.  It has been a great challenge as it is very difficult to translate a live training experience into an online format.  Of course I do love a good challenge, and I decided to devote my full time and effort to developing ways for both corporations as well as schools to “harness the potential of teaching through technology in order to reach their fullest potential.” (Sound familiar?)

Ron Shapiro On MLB’s Spring Training

Jeff Cochran


Our chairman, Ron Shapiro, recently traveled to Arizona and Florida to check in on some of his clients during Major League Baseball’s Spring Training.  While he did catch a few innings, most of his time was spent building and strengthening relationships.  It just goes to show that the game is important, but the relationships made outside the lines are just as, if not more, valuable.  Taking the emphasis on relationships that has worked so well as a sports agent into the business world has led Ron to become a change agent.

How many Spring Trainings have you been to and how does this most recent trip compare to your first?

I’ve been going since 1975, so almost 40 years.  My most recent trip was much shorter than my first trip because Shapiro Negotiations Institute takes up more of my time.  I also used to spend most of Spring Training in Florida because that’s where the majority of facilities were. Now, many teams train in Arizona so I spend about half of my time out there.  Another difference is it’s become a lot less personal now in the sense that the new stadiums and facilities put a greater distance between the players and the fans.  The older facilities allowed for a more personal feel.

What was the purpose of your trip?

I see players and club officials and spend time with them to learn what’s on their minds.  I actually see relatively few innings of baseball games.  If I watch 2-3 innings of a game that’s a lot.  The purpose of my trips isn’t about seeing games, but connecting with people.  I take the things we preach at Shapiro Negotiations Institute, like building relationships, and apply them.

Do a lot of other agents do the same thing you do at Spring Training?

It’s always been the case for agents to meet with clients during Spring Training.  It’s a relatively low pressure environment and allows for higher time availability for players.  It’s not the game-to-game grind of the regular season.  Players only play in parts of games so they are much freer, which is great because it allows for more 1 on 1 time.

Do you have any memorable stories from this or any other Spring Training?

I’m in baseball because I love the people involved in the sport.  This is the time when I get the best opportunity to engage with these individuals.  Meeting with great people and families, like the Mauers, Ripkens, and Pucketts, is a wonderful experience.

One memory that stands out was being able to step in to hit a few pitches.  I love the feeling of a wooden bat hitting a leather covered baseball.  When they were kind and threw the ball up to me…it went well.  When they showed me their stuff…it didn’t go so well.

The Last Baltimore Orioles World Series Title

Jeff Cochran


The power of relationships can’t be overlooked.  If you want to do business more than once, relationships make all the difference.  Of course you can be a hit-and-run negotiator by making one deal with somebody that squeezes them for all their worth, but then they will never want to come back and make another deal.  If you make WIN-win negotiations and build bonds, great things can happen in the future.

With baseball’s Opening Day beginning tomorrow, we thought it would be a good idea to share a story about the hometown Orioles and their last World Series championship.  Hopefully they’ll be able to bring another championship back to Baltimore in the near future.

The following is an excerpt from the book “The Power of NICE” by Ron Shapiro, Mark Jankowski, and Jim Dale.  Ron’s story shows how special relationships and bonds between players and management in 1979 helped the Baltimore Orioles win the World Series four years later.

The Orioles fell one game short of winning the World Series in 1979.  It was a team that had all the makings of a World Series winner, if the players could be kept together.  But keeping a team of that caliber together during the dawning of free agency was a real challenge.  Hometown heroes were leaving daily for big bucks in other markets.  It so happened, in the rarest of situations, I represented 15 members of that team.  We had negotiated very hard for every one of them, but we and our clients, also tried to understand the other side, the team.

So, when it came time to renegotiate contracts, how many of the players opted to leave Baltimore for greener pastures?  How many did the Orioles decide just weren’t worth the price?  None.  Eddie Murray, Ken Singleton, Rich Dauer, Scott McGregor, Doug DeCinces, Rick Dempsey, Dennis Martinez, among others, all stayed.  They each achieved WIN-win.  They stayed with the team and in the town they wanted and got paid market or near-market value.  That was, and is, unprecedented in modern sports.  It wasn’t because one side caved into the other.  It was because bonds had been made, relationships had been built and deals had been made that lead to more deals.

In 1983, the heart of the team was there and that team won the World Series.  It was a long-term dividend of the Power of Nice.