Financial Times Business Question 9/11/2009

Question

I run a sports marketing business with a fellow director who, until now, has also been a very close personal friend. But the downturn has really hit our business and put a lot of strain on our relationship. We now cannot discuss operational issues without exploding into arguments and the tension is affecting staff morale and the bottom line. Can we resolve this issue legally?

Answer

The problem with a ‘legal’ resolution is that it is about enforcing rights.  This is sometimes needed; but introduce it too early and you will be picking over the carcass of your business rather than rebuilding it.

Instead of asking ‘What are my rights?’ you can focus on ‘What are my hopes and aspirations?’   With emotions running high and misunderstandings and blame rife, you need help.

A neutral facilitator or mediator will be able to help each of you  explore and express your aims for the future, the reasons for you being held back and the steps needed for progress.  They will then devise a process in which you can express your views and hear those of your fellow director. You are likely to share some similar aims and can then agree how to achieve them.

If there is genuinely an irrevocable breakdown between you, recognise it and discuss a way out than waste assets on lawyers’ fees. The person you need to help will be part facilitator, part mediator.  They will be comfortable working with conflict, but outside the battle lines of litigation.