Every time you negotiate, you have to make choices that affect whether you achieve a successful outcome for your business.
The time spent preparing will depend on what is at stake. Allocate more time to prepare for complex or high value negotiations.
Check your facts
Miscommunication is a key contributor to disputes and can escalate into unnecessary and costly conflict. Review any relevant information and documents for what you understand you agreed to, and what the other party may think you have agreed to.
Understand the dispute
This checklist can help you understand what it is that you’re in dispute over and where you stand on the issues.
Authority of the party
When speaking with the other party, make sure you understand the level of authority they have. It is usually best to speak to someone who has the authority to resolve the issue.
- Set goals and gather information for weighing up your options.
- Negotiating and mediating can save everyone time and money.
- Conflict is inevitable, combat is optional.
Behaviour that can make negotiation difficult
Breaking the original agreement while in negotiations can be tempting, especially if you believe the other party has breached the agreement. It is not recommended to withhold payment or make public allegations during disputes as this may put you in breach of the lease or you may risk legal action against you. You should seek legal advice before withholding payment or commenting publicly (including on social media).
If the issue is minor, you can call them, and if more complex, a face-to-face meeting may be more successful. Set guidelines for the discussion and ensure that you stick to them throughout the entire process. Writing to the other party can sometimes be helpful; however, as with any communication, written words can be misinterpreted. How you behave and communicate will likely influence the outcome.
Behaviour that assists in negotiation
Reflect on your methods
Adults learn through reflection. You can improve your negotiating skills when you reflect on what techniques are working and what approaches have not worked. Reflect on whether current business practices contributed to the dispute. Reviewing some practices may help avoid future disputes.
Reflect on the costs
The time and energy spent in resolving a dispute can be just as significant to a small business as the out-of-pocket costs. Depending on the value in dispute, it may be worth paying a commercial negotiator to act on your behalf or writing off the matter and moving on.
Consider seeking professional advice from an accountant, financial counsellor, lawyer or business adviser. Friends and family are likely to offer advice that is more personal and emotionally supportive but may not help you to reach a commercial outcome that is best for your business.
In mediation parties are guided through a process of discussion and negotiation. Mediators are neutral and follow a tried and tested process to structure the conversation allowing each party to have their say and to respond. Mediations can be held virtually using phone or video.
Download the Tips on negotiating disputes fact sheet.