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American Express


Red Lobster



United States Postal Service

Salvation Army

Time-Life Books

National Geographic


New York Yankees

Washington Redskins

Ruth's Chris Steak House

TJ Maxx

GoodYear Tires

Bell South

The Hechinger/HQ Acquisition Case Study

“Strategic negotiator lands 30-year, $80 million home improvement holdout for client.”

Clean Store ChallengeThe Challenge

The Hechinger Company a large Home Improvement chain based in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan markets with locations throughout the Southeastern U.S. was a 30-year holdout for American Express.

At the time Hechinger’s owned premium real estate in most of Washington’s neighborhoods being the primary home improvement chain in the market.

The big problem besides the fact that they were not signed, was just trying to get an appointment. All my letters and calls went unanswered which had been the problem faced by the previous sales professionals.

So to be successful I had to first get my foot in the door.

The Journey

The key to my success in landing this target was literally doing my homework. But the type of research I had to do was not the traditional stuff.

I had to understand who the players were. Who they associated with and how these folks were connected to people I could leverage to get an appointment. I was confident once I found the entry point I could convince them to sign an agreement. The market demand and missed profit was just too compelling to be ignored.

The Discovery

So I went to work. I snooped everywhere and called everyone I knew trying to figure out how the owner of this publicly held firm was connected to American Express. One day while reading their annual report, I found the answer.

When I read the board of directors section, I found a name that made me curious. One of the few folks in Washington associated with American Express was Vernon Jordan. Vernon had served on the board for as long as I could remember and was close friends with the American Express chairperson.

As it turned out Vernon lived up in Potomac, Maryland right next door to john Hechinger Sr. In addition, to top it all off his wife and Mr. Hechinger’s wife were good friends and took walks each morning and Jordan’s wife was on Hechinger’s board of directors. What a find…

So I carefully crafted a message to my companies president and chairman outlining the situation and requesting he make a call to Mr. Jordan to ask Mrs. Jordan if she would be willing to arrange a meeting for me with this prospect.

Boy was I nervous. Mr. Chenault called me to make sure he had everything straight and placed the call on my behalf.

It worked! The next morning I received an urgent call from Hechinger’s treasurer wanting to know how quickly I could meet with him.

The Solution

One of the critical pieces of information I shared that actually sealed the deal was as a result of a mailing I distributed to Cardmembers surveying where they wanted to use their cards that they had not been able to use them in the past.

Of course, I received stacks of requests to sign Hechingers.

I compiled the actual reply cards and the envelopes they were mailed in including their postmarks. I analyzed this data and presented this information to the Chief Financial Officer including the approximate dollar amount of sales lost due to lack of acceptance of the American Express Card for payment.

The Result

The treasurer was overwhelmed by the findings and called me back in about a week to negotiate the terms of the agreement. I suppose what I learned from this one is the value of understanding people and their relationships. This can be one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when trying to construct a business relationship.

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