There is a thorny dilemma in business: How far should you fight to defend your position and when is it more pragmatic and financially astute to negotiate? This problem can be compounded when we are in ‘fight mode’, as the last thing we want to do is talk calmly. Yet there are different, sensible ways to resolve issues, and business leaders are increasingly using them.

Take the case of the venture capital firm (VC) which took a controlling stake in a technology company. The company’s new product was widely recognised as aesthetically attractive and ergonomically built, and the VC was very encouraged by initial trading performance. However, six months later the previous market leader released a new model that looked virtually identical and, after testing, the VC was convinced that there had been a serious copyright infringement, and that substantial compensation was due (in the millions). However, the VC did not want to see its investment tied up in lengthy litigation, so its in-house counsel suggested using mediation as an alternative to the lengthiness and costliness of litigation or arbitration.

The resultant meeting between the leaders of both parties was initially tense, but, with the assistance of the professional mediator, paid dividends by achieving a settlement after only two days of mediation. From start to finish, the process took just six weeks, the mediator’s fees were only £3000 for each party, and both sides were able to wrap up the negotiations feeling satisfied with the outcome and at ease with the status of their relationship as competing leaders.

Jan-Mar 2015 issue