Business relationships can turn sour in numerous ways, often taking the parties involved by surprise.
One minute, everything seems rosy. The next, your supplier is threatening to cut off the products so vital for your business, or maybe the relationship is slowly deteriorating, with frequent arguments over pricing and delivery.
Why do things go bad?
The good news? There’s plenty you can do to prevent business differences becoming full-blown clashes.
1. Get off to a good start
The best way to avoid disputes is by drawing up contracts which are reasonable, fully understood by both parties and easy to fulfil. Be realistic about what's possible regarding price, time frames and delivery. It’s far better to under-promise and over-deliver than commit to goals you just can’t reach. Be sceptical when a supplier promises you the earth – it’s not likely to happen. Communicate openly and regularly, ensuring you keep your supplier or customer in the loop.
2. Check your facts
If things are starting to go awry, be sure you have your facts right. Take note of all current projects and deliverables in the business so you can answer questions that may crop up. Understand your legal responsibilities and don’t accuse your business partner or supplier of things they haven’t done. Business relationships take time to develop, and you don’t want to burn bridges without trying to work through the problems.
3. Listen and communicate
So many disputes start as simple misunderstandings and quickly escalate. Nip clashes in the bud as quickly as possible by discussing the situation, face to face if possible, and attempting to sort out the problem calmly and rationally. Try some creative solutions – renegotiate a contract acceptable to both of you, or keep your reputation intact by agreeing to part ways amicably.
4. Retain a positive attitude
You might be the boss, but bosses don’t know everything. A little humility goes a long way in business, along with the ability to listen, staying calm under pressure and resisting tit-for-tat verbal sparring. Character clashes are minimised when you keep your personal emotions away from work relationships. When responding to customer complaints, don’t give a heated defence of your business or a rude retort. Tell your customer you are concerned, and ask him to outline the problem. Address legitimate issues, keep listening and offer a discount or promotional offer as a goodwill gesture.
5. Get expert help
With the best will in the world, some clashes can’t be sorted out. Follow the advice of the Australian government’s Business website when dealing with an unresolved dispute and, if necessary, refer your case to the fair trading agency in your state. Be sure to keep accurate records of the dispute, including relevant emails, texts and paperwork, along with days and times of phone conversations.
Harmonious relationships are key to business success, so it’s worth taking the time to nurture them.