Jan Mexo Rehak

About Jan Mexo Rehak

Negotico is a collaborative initiative between the Czechoslovak Association of Professional Negotiators z.s. and Genovia Royal s.r.o., offering negotiation, crisis management, conflict resolution, and leadership services to businesses and individuals. It also provides excellent support for start-ups’ managerial, legal, and ADR needs. At the Innovative Digital EXPO 2023, Negotico will share its practical and pragmatic approach to the daily activities of SMEs and start-ups from the negotiators’ perspective with visitors, exhibitors, and networkers. In our interview with Jan Mexo Rehak, Founder of Negotico and NegotiCON, we learn about the life situation that transformed his life and the significance of negotiation in our daily lives.

About the topic

Expodia: Thank you, Mexo, for your time. I’m also honored to have you with Negotico as a partner and official exhibitor at the Innovative Digital EXPO. Can you tell us a little more about yourself? Where are you from, and what is your background?

Jan Mexo Rehak: Thank you for having me. I’m from Prague, the Czech Republic, and I am a professional negotiator. In addition to that, I am the founder of NegotiCON, a one-of-a-kind conference focused on bringing negotiators and negotiation topics together. My role is to train people how to negotiate effectively to find mutual agreements. My background is quite diverse, one part is in business intelligence and informatics, while the other is focused on psychology and behavioral science. 

Expodia: When did you realize that you are good at negotiation and that you can use it for yourself in your daily life?

Jan Mexo Rehak:  Probably too late, I’m afraid, not before I learnt it the hard way. When I was 24, I was offered the position of a Marketing director at a construction development company. I was young and ego driven I might add, and I didn’t see that position as “too good to be true”. But I saw the benefits offered to me like company car and 4.8 million CZK house that came with the job. I didn’t realize that the company’s owner was negotiating in a bad faith to get deposits (actually stealing money) not only, but most importantly, from the Ukrainian and Arab partners. One day, I received a threatening message to us living in the house saying, “If you don’t return the money by Friday, we will cut your throat.” I asked my boss whom the money was owed to, and I was told that it was the Ukrainians. I was shocked and asked how we could owe them money. My boss simply answered, “Yeah, we just do.” This was the wake-up moment for me.

Expodia: What did happen after you digested the shock?

Jan Mexo Rehak: Being in denial I told myself: “Okay, I didn’t do anything wrong. What could happen to me?” And disregarded the threat. However, after a sleepless night, on Wednesday, I realized “something needed to be done”. So, I went to the market and bought a longer knife, thinking they were threatening me with knives, I simply needed a longer one. I had been practicing martial arts for a long time, so I felt prepared.

By Thursday, I realized that maybe it wasn’t that smart approach. And it wasn’t a good strategy either, because I didn’t know how many people were involved or whether they had guns. I discretely asked some contacts of mine, where the Ukrainians would be, and found out that they shouldn’t have been far away, in a close-by village. I took a small team of three people and went looking for the Ukrainian boss who had threatened us.

I asked him about the threat and he confirmed it was correct. I tried to explain that we didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t believe me since I was at a director level. I confirmed that he was right and I had nothing but my honesty to convince them otherwise. So I started to listen to them actively because that was what my behavioural science background had given me. I found myself in a difficult situation where I had to choose between my life and my non-disclosure agreement with the company. It was not an easy decision, but ultimately, I chose to rather live than die trying to protect the company’s secrets. 

Expodia: That’s a good point because you came in at the crossroad of your life and there was the option to get a weapon (like a knife) and to fight, or to realize that using your negotiation skills and words can sometimes be stronger than a knife. Did you realize that proper negotiation skills can be a weapon as well?

Jan Mexo Rehak: I was about to take a drastic step, so I threw the non-disclosure agreement out of the window and revealed everything I knew about the company and how it worked. They informed me that they had already known everything I told them, and even more, but believed me then. At the end they said that the threat was no longer targeted at me, nevertheless, it still was at the owner. They also disclosed that the company’s silent co-owner whom I believed to be in a hospital, supposedly seriously ill, was in fact in jail, where he was running the company from via the other owner.

They suggested that I leave the company because there was no future for me. I took their advice and left the company, even though I knew that the owner would not pay me and outstanding commissions. I was left with nothing and in debt. However, this experience made me realize that I was able to act as a crisis negotiator since I succeeded in saving at least my own life. This conclusion was a major breakthrough for me – as I could handle that situation, I knew that I could negotiate almost anything.

Expodia: So you took this hard experience. When your life is on the line, I think it’s the worst experience you can imagine. As you said, you were then from hero down to zero. Sometimes before you succeed, you need to learn how to fail. What happened after? Did you create your own company just based on negotiation?

Jan Mexo Rehak: Well, not at that time. Knowing I can negotiate, my partners and I established our own construction development firm. However, our timing was very unfortunate as it was in 2008, the year of the worldwide financial and real estate crisis. The circumstances and conditions on the market were unfavourable. So were our business results. What I sold for 4.6 million CZK the year before, I couldn’t sell for even 3.2 million CZK in the following year. This didn’t make much sense from the business point of view. We closed the company and the lesson learnt for me was that “timing is crucial not only in negotiations, but in business as well”. I then shifted focus and established a personal development company, where we trained individuals communication and self-awareness. After some requests from our clients, we started to provide negotiation courses at the end of 2009. 

Expodia: Speaking about negotiation, I had the pleasure and chance to meet you at your first NegotiCON this year. I had the opportunity to see fantastic negotiators like Gary Noesner, the first ever Chief of the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Unit, and you were presenting as well. How did you come up with creating an event just based on negotiation?

Jan Mexo Rehak: That’s a great question. There are several kinds of conferences, each with its own point of view on negotiation. For instance, there are academic conferences where universities come together to discuss and exchange knowledge and approaches to negotiation. For example: TNC (The Negotiation Challenge) which brings together the academic and diplomatic negotiations and overlaps into business. Additionally, there are other events, such as Crisis Negotiation Unit conferences, but these are usually for law enforcement only. 

We realised it would be beneficial to host an international conference connecting business, crisis, and academic approaches. Thus, we invited former police and FBI crisis negotiators, internationally active lawyers, businessmen, politicians, and academics as keynote speakers, panellists, and workshop leaders.

Our focus is on education, exchanging expertise, as well as creating networking opportunities, which proved to work very well. Participants from different fields discovered and appreciated the human side of conflict navigation applied by crisis negotiators. Academics also gained insights into practical negotiation approaches, and Czech police crisis negotiators, emergency line and crisis line operators discussed mutually beneficial future activities. It brought together negotiators from all areas to better cooperation, which we really loved, because the 2023 topic was “Harnessing the power of relationships, trust and teamwork in negotiation”.

The keynotes were excellent, and the workshops were even better, all together providing a holistic experience. For instance, the FBI has an impressive 97% success rate in their negotiations. This remarkable success rate motivated us to learn from them and understand their unique approach. 

Expodia: As I said, I had the honour and pleasure to be a part of it and experience the first NegotiCON. The event was over two days, keynotes on one and workshops with certification on the other. It was excellent and I just want to ask this for the readers who couldn’t come this year and don’t want to miss out on being part of the next NegotiCON in 2024. When is the next event?

Jan Mexo Rehak: NegotiCON 2024 on the topic of “Enabling critical and creative thinking by intelligence gathering and lie detection” will be held on 19th-21st April, 2024. We are gathering an amazing line-up again and we believe that the next year’s NegotiCON will bring many breakthroughs to the area of negotiations too. 

Expodia: I’m going to include the link here (https://negoticon.com/) for the readers to not miss out and have a chance to get one of the early bird tickets (until 7th July) for next year. It is worth it. Back to the Innovative Digital EXPO. You have a stand as an exhibitor at stand C2 and our event is designed for start-ups, SMBs, and enterprise companies. What can the exhibitors and attendees learn while talking to you during and after the event?

Jan Mexo Rehak:  We negotiate every day (if we have a relationship and even the smallest conflict, we already are in a negotiation), whether we like it or not. The only difference then is if we negotiate well or poorly. 

If you want to enhance your negotiation skills and mindset, we can help you with that and more.

Expodia: We have also the pleasure to listen to your Keynote Speech at 4 PM. We will also live-stream your keynote for the attendees from all over the world. What can we expect from your presentation?

Jan Mexo Rehak: My keynote topic will be “Negotiation for start-ups.” Negotiations play a critical role in start-ups, both in dealing with external business entities, as well as internally within the team or company. Most start-ups struggle with acquiring new clients. Many start-ups face challenges in reaching agreements and resolving conflicts during ongoing projects. Most start-ups aim to attract investors, and convincing them is not easy, especially when investors know that 3 out of 4 start-ups fail, and only one will eventually succeed. Furthermore, about 60% of start-ups fail for non-business reasons (such as a breakup of their personal relationship), which is a fact that investors are aware of, but many start-ups are not. Serious investors are not only interested in the business idea, but also in the team, how they work together, negotiate, and present themselves. Therefore, it’s crucial for start-ups to understand the importance of negotiation and how to negotiate effectively.  

Expodia: In general, how are great communication skills, and negotiation skills, usable for SMBs or even enterprise companies?

Jan Mexo Rehak:  Poor communication can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings, which can escalate, cause chaos and lead to disengagement within a company. It is crucial for people to communicate well to prevent emotional turmoil and ensure that decisions are not made solely on emotions.

Effective communication provides tools to de-escalate heated disputes or even prevent them and enable all parties to transition from conflict to cooperation, ultimately leading to a mutually acceptable agreement.

Expodia: Interesting. Now, we know what all the exhibitors and attendees can get from you, but let me turn the table and ask you, what is your expectation of the Innovative Digital EXPO. What do you expect to get there or to find there?

Jan Mexo Rehak:  I’m excited to meet individuals with a clear vision who are attending the event. The start-up industry is a great place to discover new goals, learn continuously and meet like-minded, ambitious individuals in a fantastic environment. It’s an opportunity that I wouldn’t trade for anything else. I’m confident that the Innovative Digital EXPO will provide excellent networking opportunities as well. 

Expodia: You talk about vision but if I ask you in short what is the vision and mission of Negotico and NegotiCON in the near future?

Jan Mexo Rehak: The vision of the Negotico Team is to provide an alternative to the prevalent problem of poor communication in today’s world. Most people tend to resort to filing lawsuits when faced with problems coming from communication issues which, in my opinion, should be the last solution (by doing that we give up control of the process, procedurally and even timewise). 

The situation has become increasingly difficult, especially after the COVID pandemic, and courts are overworked and overloaded. Therefore, we aim to bring an alternative approach to resolving conflicts, such as negotiation, mediation, or even arbitration. There are two options how to do that. First would be to teach our clients how to communicate and negotiate effectively, the other would be to negotiate for them or even accompany them as a part of their negotiation team. By doing that we can enable our clients to explore all the possibilities of resolving conflicts without going to court. This principle can also be applied to develop preventive measures. 

Expodia: Having a vision is great, but I always say if you make one step after the next one, you need to have a goal. And every step you take will turn your vision at some point into reality. Let’s not talk about what will happen in the next five or ten years, but if I meet you today, one year from now on, for a coffee maybe at your next NegotiCON – what do you think you will tell me you will have achieved?

Jan Mexo Rehak: I anticipate that our company will have gained more establishment on the market, and we will have stronger collaborations not only in Europe but also globally. Our goal is to promote cooperation worldwide, and NegotiCON was perceived as such, with participants from various countries such as the US, the UK, Switzerland, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and even Taiwan. We expect to do more of these international events including a negotiation competition in the future. And we are going to provide more consulting, training, negotiation, and interim management services for our clients. We always act on gathered feedback and aim to improve the whole experience. 

Expodia: Like you said, we grow by improvements. You can help all Innovative Digital EXPO attendees to improve their negotiation skills, navigate them through conflicts or manage the crises on their behalf, fantastic! I’m looking forward to seeing you on the 27th of July 2023 at the Innovative Digital EXPO and listening to your keynote. Thank you very much for the interview.

Jan Mexo Rehak:  Thank you, Armin, for inviting me. I am excited to meet and help everyone on their negotiation journey at your Innovative Digital EXPO!

 Mr. Jan Mexo Rehak was interviewed by Armin Khani.

 You can meet Negotico at stand C2 at the Innovative Digital EXPO 2023.


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