Tuesday, 20 May 2014

It's Business Baby - Handling Dispute Resolution Like a Boss

dispute resolution

We’d be lying to you if we told you that everything at Crown and Glory HQ was always rosy. While we’re usually having glitter parties and confetti showers, there is the occasional day when it seems like someone wants to rain on your parade. From handling issues with suppliers to dealing with tricksy retail partners, while the majority of exchanges are perfectly pleasant, like in all walks of life, sometimes wires get crossed or sadly, people can just be looking to take the Michael out of you.

The problem when you run your own business, though, is that it can be all too easy to take these things to heart. You are the lifeblood for your business and it can all feel quite personal. To let a snotty email grab hold of your throat and sit with you for the rest of the day. To go to bed worrying if that rash email you fired off in retaliation has harmed a profitable relationship. As a self-proclaimed stubborn git, over the past few years I’ve had to learn to take my personal feelings out of situations and deal with them like a boss. Here’s how I cut the wheat from the chaff, and get responses to issues that I want and deserve for my business!

  • Keep communication, wherever possible, over email. If you do have meetings on the phone or in person, ensure you follow up all points discussed with an email later on. You never know what point you might need to pull up in the future.
  • When entering into any kind of agreement with another party, be sure to outline the terms of what the relationship means for all involved and what is expected from the off. At the very least, this means getting in writing (email) and asking for acknowledgement of receipt, or this may mean going to a solicitor to draw up a contract. This will depend on the sort of relationship is at stake here. However still remember that email communication does hold certain legal ties. Everyone should know where they stand regarding a partnership, collaboration or relationship and if certain terms aren’t being met, you have clear evidence of when the terms were agreed and can refer to them as such.
  • If an issue is making you feel angry, upset or down-right hard done by, it can often be good to leave a little breathing space before submitting your response. How long you’ve got really depends on the situation, but if a decision or response has not been requested by a certain time, I would say that acknowledging the request or issue within 48 hours of receipt is absolutely fine. If someone puts you on the spot in a phone conversation, tell them that you’ll have to think it through and will respond within x amount of time. Even if you receive an email requiring a response that you need to mull over, you could acknowledge receipt of the communication but again, say that you will be submitting your response within a certain amount of time.
  • So when it comes to feelings, as much as it can be tempting to stamp your feet or plead to human decency, try to just stick to the cold hard facts when dealing with disputes. When “I think” or “I feel” start to get brandished about, you’re opening yourself up to opinion and waters can start to get muddy very quickly. It’s a sad scenario when communication breaks down to blackmail. To keep the upper hand, only refer to cold hard fact.
  • Write the email you *want* to send, and then bin it. For me, it can be really cathartic to get all the anger and feelings out and onto paper so to speak. I’ll often write that, leave it in my outbox or a text document over night, and then come back to it the next morning and then extract the pure fact from all the emotion.
  • Be clear with the resolution that you expect, but also acknowledge that sometimes you have to compromise. You’re likely dealing with someone who has a very different agenda to yours, so often playing out best case, worst case and ‘would settle with’ scenarios can be useful to understand your end game. Tell people what you expect of them! So often wires can be crossed because we just assume that people are on the same page as us.
  • Ask for advice. Go to your best business babes and ask how they’d handle a situation. Do some covert digging and see if you’re the only problem having this issue with the other party. Get some free advice from a solicitor on legal matters.
  • Know when to cut your losses. Sometimes, people are just out to take the piss out of you, to try and pull the wool over your eyes and no matter of attempts at communication will help them to see your point of view. Some things, my dear friend, are more trouble than they’re worth!

Above all, be concise, clear and classy. Act with your head in first place, and keep your feelings for your diary. Articulate your desired outcome and what you expect of the other party. Know when you’ve reached the point that you’re flogging a dead horse and put your efforts into elsewhere. Don’t be blackmailed into making decisions you’re not happy with. Learn to breathe it in, and then let it go.

Image from Beyonce - Why Don't You Love Me music video

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