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Mediation for Your Small Business: Does It Really Work?

Mediation for Your Small Business: Does It Really Work?

An Alternative To Litigation For Your Business

Despite their size, small businesses encounter the same types of issues as large companies. Managing cash flow, co-owners, employees, customers, and conflicts are all part of everyday operations. When disputes arise, they often take a tremendous toll on a business’s bottom line. Few small business owners have the resources to pay hefty attorney’s fees and court costs. Furthermore, they don’t have time to sit through dozens of hearings and courtroom procedures.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to litigation. Done right, mediation can help you resolve disputes quickly and keep your money where it belongs – in your pocket.

What Is Mediation?

On a very basic level, mediation is a process that allows two (or more) parties to resolve their conflicts, air grievances, and draft settlement agreements with the help of a neutral mediator. Unlike arbitration – another form of alternative dispute resolution – mediation is not binding. The mediator does not make a formal ruling, and the participants can walk away at any time. Although mediation is not binding, the participants can decide to enter into a binding settlement contract if they reach a mutually acceptable agreement during the mediation process.

The mediation process varies from court to court. Some jurisdictions have well-developed mediation programs with specific rules and procedures. In other places, it is up to the parties to set up their own mediation and hire a mediator to oversee the process.

Can Mediation Work For My Business?

In years past, mediation was regarded as something reserved for family law disputes and relatively minor conflicts. It grew out of the conflict resolution movement of the late 1960s. As a result, few people seriously considered it as a viable option for the business world. As mediation has developed and evolved, however, it has become a powerful tool for businesses. The success (and failure) of every business is tied to numbers. If your company’s time and money are tied up in a lengthy, expensive court battle, you could end up losing your livelihood. Similarly, many business-related court battles begin with an injunction that prevents the parties from engaging in critical operations. With mediation, you can address disputes directly rather than using the court as an intermediary. More importantly, you can resolve disagreements in a way that preserves relationships with vendors, fellow business owners, and customers.