Running a successful business brings many challenges which can include disputes or problems arising with suppliers, customers, competitors, members of staff, other service providers or compliance issues. It is important that if a dispute or problem arises, however small, it is managed carefully, effectively and commercially to prevent it escalating. Here are some tips to help manage the dispute:
1. Identify what the dispute or problem is really about.
Often issues arise but there is an underlying factor that has caused the problem or dispute to be raised. It is important to consider what has caused the problem to know how to address it.
2. What is the value of the dispute?
This is not just the value of the claim and any costs for external fees. Think about the management time; stress; distraction from the running of the business; risks such as damage to reputation and impact on future business relationships; all of which may dictate how the dispute or problem is handled. Are you insured for some of these costs?
3. Think Objectively and Commercially. Not Subjectively and Emotionally.
Parties to disputes see matters from their own point of view and recall the facts to justify their position. Take an objective view and think commercially about the problem, rather than responding emotionally which is often the instinctive reaction.
4. Assess the strength of your position
What is the legal position? Is this dependant on the facts? Do you have evidence? Do you have terms and conditions or policies? Have you followed them? Do you need an independent opinion on the law and merits of your position?
5. What outcome do you want?
Identify at an early stage what outcomes you want and also outcomes you would be willing to accept. Are you willing to compromise on anything? Do your outcomes reflect the risk to both parties and the strength of your position?
6. Carrot and Stick!
Make your desired outcomes attractive to the other party. Disputes rarely resolve without some compromise. There needs to be an incentive to settle. This maybe an offer as an alternative to a stronger course of action e.g court proceedings.
7. Devise a strategy to achieve your outcomes.
Identifying a plan of action and how you intend to deal with the dispute is essential to enable you to take control of the matter and prevent the dispute escalating in a way you had not envisaged.
8. Evidence – Search and Preserve
This is vital to the strength of your case. Knowing what evidence you have and that it is preserved is an essential part of the strategy. You can then control when to disclose the crucial evidence.
9. Think before you communicate
‘What to say’ and ‘What not to say’ is crucial. Saying the wrong thing can inflame the problem or weaken your position. Think about what should be ‘without prejudice’ and what should be ‘open’ correspondence. Do you need insurer’s approval?
10. Get Early Advice!
Consult a specialist in handling disputes who will:
- Know the law and relevant procedures;
- Have experience of dealing with similar problems;
- Give an objective commercial view;
- Help with valuing the dispute and the timeframe and costs to resolve it.
- Probably be able to add value to your claim;
- Advise on the risks;
- Help identify realistic outcomes to reflect the risks;
- Help devise a strategy to take control;
- Know what evidence is needed and where to look for it;
- Know when to use the carrot and the stick;
- Get that early communication right. Not just what to say but how to say it;
- Share the problem to release you to focus on your business;
- Probably cost less than you think for an initial view;
- Provide clear advice on costs to ensure they are proportionate to the problem.
Howes Percival have vast experience of handling commercial disputes and solving business problems on a daily basis. In our experience being pro-active and sharing these problems is the best way to ensure disputes are resolved quickly and at low cost, so you can focus on the running of your business.
The information on this site about legal matters is provided as a general guide only. Although we try to ensure that all of the information on this site is accurate and up to date, this cannot be guaranteed. The information on this site should not be relied upon or construed as constituting legal advice and Howes Percival LLP disclaims liability in relation to its use. You should seek appropriate legal advice before taking or refraining from taking any action.