If you’re part of a business partnership, the occasional disagreement is a normal part of getting things done. However, in rare instances, disagreements turn into a serious business dispute. When things escalate, partners are left to make difficult decisions, including potentially shutting the business altogether.
Mediation can be a great way to resolve things before they reach that point. If you do decide to part ways, a mediator can also help you make the split as amicable as possible. But it’s important to approach it correctly to ensure it’s effective.
Have It in Writing
The best time to prepare for a partnership dispute is when your company is first being formed. That’s when you’re drawing up your business agreements. Your partner won’t raise an eyebrow over your request to put something about mediation in your partnership contract. There are sample mediation clauses you can borrow from, but in general you’ll simply want to outline at what point a mediator will get involved and how the mediation process will happen.
Set a Goal
Walking into the room, the mediator should know what the issues are and the goal you hope to achieve. If you’re ready to dissolve the partnership and divide or sell the business’s assets, your mediator will need to arrive ready to help you manage that process. Gather all the documentation necessary before the mediator arrives. The mediator should be able to provide clarification on exactly the documents you’ll need, but if you think something might be relevant, bring it along anyway.
Let the Mediator Guide You
Once a mediator is in place, it can be tempting to continue to battle the way you’ve done in previous discussions. The mediator is there to guide you to a resolution. Sit back and let the professional take control. Throughout the process, focus on the solution you’re trying to reach, not the problems that got you to this point. While you likely won’t be able to resolve your disagreements, you can come to a solution that will work for everyone.
Ideally, your business partnership will remain amicable for decades. However, having a plan in place in case things go awry can protect you, your business partner, and your clients. If you don’t already have a partnership agreement in place, make sure you include a detailed mediation clause. If a signed contract already exists, you can still draw up an amended contract to include mediation as one of the stipulations.