Small businesses who have been battling for survival during the Coronavirus pandemic now face a new threat – the re-emergence of costly and time-consuming commercial disputes.
As workplaces gradually begin to get back to the new normal, conflicts ranging from partnership disputes and family business fall-outs to disagreements with suppliers, landlords, contractors and regulators are beginning to rear their heads. These ‘zombie conflicts’ are a bit like the zombie fires that have recently erupted in the Arctic – they have been simmering away beneath the surface since March, but have been on the back burner while businesses have been struggling to deal with the impact of Covid19.
As UK plc emerges from the pandemic, the flames of conflict are being re-ignited – and at huge potential cost to business owners. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has previously estimated that commercial disputes are costing small businesses 11.6 million per year.
But it’s not just about the money involved, dealing with disputes is time-intensive, stressful and exhausting. “Business is all about the relationships,” says David Liddle, CEO of recently launched The Mediation Company, a subsidiary of leading conflict management consultancy TCM Group. “When the relationship breaks, it can have a deep and lasting impact on the business. Years of hard work can be undermined, or even destroyed, in the space of a few weeks as relationships sour and opponents adopt intractable positions.”
Liddle argues that businesses don’t need to resort to costly litigation or lengthy courtroom battles. Ministry of Justice statistics show, for example, that it takes nearly 40 weeks between a small claim being issued and it going to court. Mediation offers a cost-effective, rapid and proven remedy for solving business disputes and is successful in over 90 per cent of cases.
“The best way to resolve a dispute is through constructive dialogue. When people talk and listen, they can move mountains,” says Liddle. “Litigation fuels adversity and reduces relationships to right/wrong, attack/defend and win/lose. There will always be a place for litigation in the most serious cases -and of course the courts provide an invaluable safety net of justice for the vulnerable – but I strongly believe that our reliance on litigation and litigation inspired procedures is damaging to businesses and to wider society.”
With a panel of specialist mediators working across the UK, The Mediation Company offers support on a wide range of disputes, from contractual infringements and Intellectual Property through to financial and employment-related disputes.”
“Business is tough and recent circumstances have made it even tougher,” says Liddle. “Austerity, Brexit and Coronavirus have rapidly become the ABC of modern business. Companies need to make sure the D doesn’t come to stand for the disputes that will drag them down.”
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