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Mike Baicher came to see me recently. If his name rings a bell,it’s because I’ve written about him several times. He first approached me more than 12 years ago,looking for advice about how to expand his family-owned trucking company. Since then,he’s come back whenever he has a problem he needs help with. The problem he had this time was a pretty big one,and he was about to compound it by making a fundamental negotiating mistake — a mistake that can prove especially costly in an economic environment like this one.

The problem grew out of a decision Mike made in August 2007 to buy a warehouse. Up until then,he’d been renting three warehouses,where he stored containers and did pick-and-pack for retailers importing goods from abroad. Figuring it was time to consolidate,he’d found a building,negotiated a price of $8.5 million,put down $600,000,and borrowed $7.9 million from a bank at 7.25 percent.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Then the recession hit. As his sales dropped,he struggled to make his monthly payment of $56,000. By the time we sat down together,he was way behind,and he was scared. The bank was sending in a workout guy to assess the situation and decide what to do. Mike,like everyone else,had just been through a very rough four months,and his situation seemed unlikely to improve anytime soon. Worse,he had signed a personal guarantee on the loan and thought he might lose his house.

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