The single biggest mistake almost every business is making

In my first interview for a job after I left the army, one of the interviewers asked, “What are you good at?”

“Leadership,” I said, “Staying calm under fire,” and “Being good in a crisis.” All true, and all the kind of qualities I was sure they would be looking for.

However, I didn’t get the job. They said they felt the firm would always be in crisis mode if they employed me.

You’re probably wondering why on earth they would feel that way? I think it’s all down to that small but highly explosive word: crisis. Nobody wants to accept the possibility that one day they may have to deal with one themselves.


What seems within your grasp can quickly grow out of control

Forty years after that interview, we’re all caught up in a global crisis that few saw coming and no one was prepared for. Eighteen months on from the first recorded case of Covid-19 in China and, at the time of writing, we’ve seen more than 161 million cases worldwide.

As with the covid pandemic, people rarely plan for how they’ll respond to the kind of crisis a dispute can cause. It’s much easier to think it will never happen to me, so it’s not my problem. Which means when one does strike – which in all likelihood it will – hardly anyone knows what to do or what will be expected of them.

Shouting, “We’ll see you in court!” or “Send for our lawyers!” is not your best opening gambit. It increases the risk you’ll face financial disaster and lose all control of the situation. When you’re in dispute, it’s vital you remain in control of your time, your costs and your preferred outcome. But you lose control of all three the instant you hand the process over to your solicitor and the courts.


Your business is not unique

The best thing you can do is be realistic and accept that you will have to deal with a dispute one day, probably when you least expect it. You may believe your business is unlike any other. Aspects of it may very well be. But in a dispute, you face the same risks to your finances, your reputation and your sanity as everyone else.

Take, for example, these seemingly straightforward events:

  • You’re in a long-term contract with an underperforming supplier who is regularly in breach of the contract.
  • Your landlords demand payment for dilapidations you were not responsible for and threaten to issue proceedings against you.
  • Your insurance company refuses to pay a valid claim for a loss sustained by one of your subsidiaries who did not know a condition precedent was in place.
  • You’ve been presented with a bill by one of your suppliers for professional services rendered. It is three times their estimate, yet they say if you don’t pay now, they will take legal action against you.
  • You’ve received a claim for damages from your main customer because a vital piece of equipment failed in their manufacturing plant. However, although you supplied the equipment, you did not manufacture it.
  • You’ve entered into a joint venture (JV) with another company and formed a special purpose vehicle. However, your JV partner refuses to contribute their share of the investment plan.
  • You’ve found your professional advisers to be negligent.

I’ve seen all of these happen many times. And every time, the company involved had to pay thousands of pounds in legal fees. They lost significant amounts of time. And they lost business. Because, while their managers were wrapped up in the dispute, their eyes were off the ball.


How you can protect your business

You can combat all of these problems if, at the outset, you’re prepared and clear about your boundaries.

Most firms spend more time practising fire drills than they do planning how they’ll deal with crises like those I described above. Yet, if you don’t plan your immediate response and rehearse until you know you can carry it out efficiently, any of these disputes are likely to have as catastrophic an effect on your business as a fire would.

Stability and security come from having a plan and a team in place, drilled and ready to take immediate action in the event a crisis rears its ugly head.

Think of it exactly as you would the fire drill you will do next Friday at 10.00 am. Be prepared.


If you’re involved in a dispute or are worried that one is developing, we can help you make and execute a plan to resolve it on terms that are in your best interests.

Get in touch today.

Moot Hill dispute resolution Leicestershire