All personal relationships experience conflict at some point. 

Often seemingly petty arguments start to accelerate until there’s a screaming match.  Or there’s a slow burn as one party feels unhappy with something the other’s doing and eventually explodes leaving the “offending” party wondering what happened.

Business relationships are no different. 

The primary difference in business though is the opportunity to put into place dispute resolution protocols at the start of the relationship.  Mind you, there’s nothing to say you couldn’t do that in your personal life, but that’s for another day.

Dispute Resolution Protocols are designed to:

Encourage a coordinated and consistent approach to resolving disputes.

Focus attention on the benefits earlier resolution will bring including keeping the relationship intact. 

Create a culture and environment that allows communication including the engagement of Alternative Dispute Resolution experts to facilitate a solution.

There should be a key focus on principles which foster early dispute resolution including:

Uncovering and assessing/evaluating each party’s perspective in a timely and objective way.

Ensuring communication is conducted courteously, honestly and respectfully.

Finding the simplest, most cost effective, non-confrontational mechanism which will lead to a mutually acceptable solution while keeping the relationship intact.

Dispute Triage

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach in handling a commercial dispute.  

Each dispute needs to be analysed.  The grievances and aspirations of each party will determine possible paths to resolution which need to be codified into a resolution blueprint which maps the way forward.

While traditionally this process has been handled by lawyers, I’d humbly suggest (as a lawyer myself), that this is not necessarily the best way to go at the beginning.

The simple reason is our legal system is built on an adversarial framework.  As lawyers we’re trained to oppose and argue.  Which by its very nature tends to escalate disputes rather than pouring oil over troubled waters.

So in the first instance, engaging a dispute resolution expert who can help negotiate an acceptable settlement can lead to a quicker, more productive outcome.

Of course, should there be legal complexities you will need professional legal help.  But this can often come later in the process when new agreements are crafted etc.

Download Chris Whitelaw’s “7 Proven Strategies to Resolve Your Commercial Dispute WITHOUT Litigation”.  This in-depth report details 7 strategies that will help you dramatically deescalate disputes and resolve them quickly at minimal cost and relationship damage.

Renae Thompson