Dispute Resolution

Disputes arise from time to time in small businesses over a range of issues and can involve customers, suppliers, partners, and employees.

Resolving a dispute can take considerable time, effort and money that would be better used to operate, manage, or grow your business. It is preferable to resolve the dispute as cost effectively and with as little damage to the relationship as possible.

While there could be several ways to resolve disputes, many can be easily managed through direct discussion, common sense and informal negotiation between parties. However, some significant or complex disputes may need to be resolved using a more formal process.

Types of disputes

The approach required to resolve disputes will vary according to how the dispute is categorised. Generally, disputes in small business can be categorised into one of four issues:

Top 4 tips for resolving disputes

TIP 1: Be clear and logical about the facts

  • Document the relevant details about the dispute.
  • Record dates, times, product or service details, summary of discussions, promises or verbal agreements and the details of each party to the dispute.
  • Document each problem relating to the same issue separately; it may be possible to resolve a few smaller issues one at a time.
  • Find out the rights and obligations of each party to the dispute, and if there are any specific organisations you should be talking to.
  • The solution or action required will often be obvious once the rights and obligations are clarified.
  • Record how each party would like the dispute resolved.

TIP 2: Organise the evidence

  • Collect all documents relevant to the issue (contracts, leases, receipts, warranties, invoices, orders, and photographs).
  • Tag the relevant clauses of any contract or lease.
  • Organise the facts in chronological and subject order.

TIP 3: Identify what you want

  • Be clear about the remedy being sought by you or the other party. The remedy could include compensation, refund, repair, replacement, an apology, change in behaviour or a combination of these.
  • Ask the other party about what is important to them and what remedy they are seeking.
  • Remember that each party has a common interest in resolving the matter quickly, fairly and cheaply. A direct exchange of information may present a solution that is acceptable to both parties.

TIP 4: Be calm and show respect

  • Present your case calmly and show respect for the other party's point of view. Animosity from a badly managed dispute can cause long term adverse effects on your business.
  • Be prepared to compromise and give a little when the other party is prepared to do the same.

What's next...

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