Businesses often have disputes that they wish to resolve quickly and quietly without the involvement of legal proceedings. While negotiation is usually the first port of call for resolving these disputes, they sometimes escalate into something that requires intervention by the courts.
Business mediation is a process by which a neutral third party, called a mediator, assists parties in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution to a dispute. Mediation involves private sessions with both parties, in which they state their interests and positions, brainstorm settlement options and negotiate towards a resolution. It is generally a faster and more cost-effective alternative to litigation. Mediation is also confidential, so the outcome of a mediation will not be made public.
Disputes can arise in the course of conducting business, for example where a customer or supplier is dissatisfied with a product or service, or where a contract is breached. As a result, relationships can be strained and the business’ reputation may be damaged. In these instances, mediation is a useful tool for mending these relationships and protecting the business’s reputation.
As well as preserving relationships, mediation has the potential to offer financial benefits for a business. Litigation can be extremely expensive for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), even at the lower end of the spectrum, and can consume a significant amount of management time. A mediated resolution is typically reached much more quickly than a court case, so businesses can get back to running their business and concentrating on growth.
A reputable business mediator should be able to understand the needs of both sides and find solutions that are creative and workable for both parties. This can help to mend ties and, in the ideal scenario, enable both parties to continue working together after a dispute is resolved.
It is essential to find a mediator with appropriate training and experience in dealing with business disputes. This will include a thorough understanding of the commercial context within which a business operates, and the types of disputes that commonly arise in these areas. Choosing an experienced and skilled mediator will ensure the process is as efficient as possible, and that the best resolution is achieved in the shortest time frame.
It is also important to consider whether the dispute involves a competitor or a customer. If the dispute is with a customer, a business mediator can assist in finding ways to settle the dispute that will not impact on the relationship going forward. This can be particularly important in retaining valuable customers who might otherwise choose to go with a competitor as a result of a bitter dispute between two businesses. Business mediators