Mediation: Allowing family businesses to keep calm and carry on
An alternative form of dispute resolution, mediation in the context of family law is often associated with relationship breakdowns rather than family businesses.
However, there are a host of benefits that the process can provide, especially for those businesses facing complications.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary form of dispute resolution, where an impartial third-party facilitator helps people to find their own solutions. A final decision is never forced onto the participants, with the mediator there only to guide those involved through the various options available to them.
It is particularly effective in situations where power imbalances and deadlocks between family members must be overcome.
What disputes can it solve?
Mediation can be effective for the majority of family business disputes, including:
• Succession planning
• Bringing new people into the business
Once a persistent issue begins to get out of hand, mediation should be considered.
How much control do participants have?
.. Mediation allows the participants to have ownership of the process, and in what can be emotive circumstances, this can make all the difference. They can adjust the amount spent on sessions, the time scale the sessions are held over, and who takes part in the discussions.
What does the process look like?
Although emotionally challenging, the process itself is simple. To assess whether a case is suitable for mediation, mediators speak to each party separately first. If it is suitable, a joint session is arranged, the main topics for discussion are identified, and an agenda is created. Flip charts are used to allow the situation to be visualised and contrasting opinions are talked through. Mediation will usually comprise of three to five sessions spread over a few weeks.
How to ensure mediation is a success
An open mind is vital for families entering into mediation. Unless participants are willing to listen to the opinions of others without instant disregard, there is no point in them taking part in the process. Everyone must also feel comfortable with the mediator, as they need to be happy sharing their honest views in front of this person.
When people are living and working with family members, it can be difficult to separate the two worlds. However, mediation can stop disputes from carrying over into family life, ensuring bonds are maintained and businesses continue successfully.