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Common business disputes and how to handle them

You can have the most comprehensive business plan in WA, but sometimes things don’t go to plan. If your business is involved in some kind of a dispute, you’re not alone – and help is available. Here are some of the most common disputes in small business, followed by what you can do about them.

Contractual disputes

A common example of a contractual dispute is when you may have paid upfront for services that you haven’t yet received, such as a website design. You might have spent a lot of time and effort chasing up your supplier – or your client – who hasn’t met the terms of their contract.

This type of dispute can often arise when two parties have different expectations about what the end result of a project should look like. Whether you are the supplier or the client, and whether it’s a simple task or complex project, it’s important to agree exactly what a contract covers before you start the project. Get everything in writing before the project begins, even if this means a bit of going backwards and forwards to have everything included clearly in the contract.

Disputes about repairs and maintenance

A leaky roof, storm damage and vandalism – these are all common types of repairs and maintenance that can cause a dispute related to your commercial lease. Sometimes it’s not clear who is responsible for what.

Debt collection disputes

If you’re having trouble getting an invoice paid, it can lead to a dispute between you and your client or customer. This can be a common dispute if you supply goods or services without receiving upfront payment – perhaps if you work from home as a freelancer or solo entrepreneur.

Product, pricing or customer disputes

If you’re running a franchise, perhaps your franchisor has created an offer that means you’ll need to sell certain products at a loss. Or perhaps an unhappy customer wants a refund but you’re not sure who’s at fault.

How to handle a dispute

There are as many different types as business disputes as there are small business ideas. The good news is there are some simple ways to handle these disputes. If you’re faced with a dispute:

  • Stay calm. Take a breath, take a walk or take a moment to get your thoughts together as you work out how you can respond. Chances are, someone has been through the same kind of dispute before and there’s a process you can follow to sort things out.
  • Stay professional. Regardless of your dispute, it’s generally not a good idea to use social media to vent your frustrations with the other party involved. As a business owner, it’s probably better to stay friendly and professional as you work through the issue.
  • Keep records. Keep a paper trail of any products, warranties, contracts, leases or correspondence.
  • Put your concerns in writing. Write to the other party in a friendly and professional manner to let them know your concerns. Outline the specific issue and what you would like them to do to resolve the issue.
  • Aim for a solution. Ultimately, finding a win-win solution is more important to your business overall than being able to prove you’re right about an issue.

You can find out more in our ‘Building your knowledge’ publication on resolving disputes. If you’re having trouble sorting out a dispute in your business, we encourage you to get in touch with our dispute resolution service.

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