As a ‘kitchen table entrepreneur’ you might sometimes feel a bit alone, particularly when it comes to resolving business problems. Recently, a micro-business owner mentioned the challenges of collecting overdue bills. They struggled with the idea of how to maintain the relationship in this tough situation.
Maintaining a relationship under this situation, can be a tricky tight rope for anyone. Sometimes bills may get paid, but you lose the customer. Often bills don’t get paid, and the customer never comes back. There’s got to be a better way!
Mediation may offer a win-win opportunity to strive for retaining a customer AND correcting the fiscal issues (past, current, and future). What’s Mediation? Mediation is a voluntary process for settling disputes with the help of a neutral third party. The third-party mediator helps facilitate confidential discussions and work towards a creative solution that is acceptable to both parties while providing the opportunity to rebuild or strengthen the relationship.
Mediation is not a court hearing but is sometimes mandated by the court. It is not a process to determine who is guilty or innocent, but it can open the dialog in a mutually respectful manner that is safe and supportive. Mediation can be significantly less expensive and quicker than going to court and is often being required in some venues before the parties are allowed to go to court.
“Mediation,” Karlee Cottrell, Community Coordinator for Common Ground Mediation explained, “can help support accountability in business transactions.” Common Ground Mediation has been helping Coos and Douglas County residents for 20 years working on many different kinds of conflicts and issues. Their website (https://www.commongroundmediation.org) contains tips and techniques to aid in the process. Or visit them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ListenTalkResolve/).
Preparation is part of a successful mediation, particularly for business issues. This could include pulling together and organizing data such as costs, dates, product/service, people involved (such as dates when service was provided, cost each and totals, copies of contracts, general operating guidelines (i.e., payment is due by x date, normal operating time is, fee schedules, etc.) and agreements, receipts, notes on previous interactions or correspondence (like a request for payment, bill, etc.). It is helpful to have your thoughts organized before entering the mediation to easily identify your issues and needs.
Your preparation may also include thinking about acceptable or possible outcomes, such as a short-term payment plan, etc. or potential negotiation areas. The Common Ground Mediation website has several other recommendations for preparing for the mediation that are worth checking out (see https://www.commongroundmediation.org/copy-of-mediation-advantages).
Mediation is cost effective and affordable, especially when compared to going to court, but services will not be refused due to inability to pay, there is a sliding scale based on need. Each issue is different, but help is out there. Skills used in the mediation process, such as listening and rebuilding relationships, are skills that can be learned and perfected. Common Ground Mediation is a section 501(c)(3) Nonprofit in the State of Oregon.
How mediation can be a part of business retention and expansion? There are bound to be some disagreements along life’s road. Business owners occasionally need a helping hand. Learning ways to resolve those problems, avoid court fees, or worse, can help a company stay in business, create stronger relationships, and get things done.
Business Retention and Expansion comes in many flavors. Resolving conflicts, such as getting paid on time, can be a major barrier for small businesses. Mediation might just make it easier to get resolution AND keep your customer!