How to Mediate a Family Business Dispute

Family businesses account for roughly 60% of the United States’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP). These enterprises have long been the bread and butter of the economy, and are a large driving force of entrepreneurship.

Because of this, you must look into family dispute resolution to handle things whenever you and your family aren’t seeing eye to eye on business and financial matters.

Here are some ways that you can resolve business disputes with your family members.

Prioritize the Family Relationship

First things first, take a deep breath. Getting money with your family as an enterprise is a wonderful proposition, but take a step back and recognize that the relationship is the most important part.

You were a family before you ever had a family business, so prioritize this. Plenty of families have allowed money to come between them, so even though you’re not seeing eye to eye at the moment, resolve to get past these issues.

Understand What You Want From a Business POV

While it’s important that you put your personal relationships first, you still need to outline your goals so that you can handle business matters. Unpack every detail that you and your family members and business partners are at odds with, and figure out what the ideal resolution looks like for you.

Figure out what kind of outcome you’re looking for and consider what’s acceptable on your end, and what points you may be willing to concede.

Some of the most common points of contention for business partners include:

  • Monetary compensation
  • The future direction of the company
  • Appointment of leadership
  • Breaches of contract or other agreements
  • Disputes between owners and employees

When you know which points are most important to you, it’s easier to come to the negotiation table in a way that brings about resolutions.

Consider What’s Best for the Group

In business and personal relationships, you need to be able to think outside of yourself. While you should have a list of deal breakers, it’s also important to consider the needs and feelings of others involved.

Always be willing to negotiate, rather than come to the table with adversarial tendencies and thoughts. Understanding the perspective of others is a large part of conflict resolution. Take the time to listen to the others that you’re currently at odds with. Make it a point to listen without defending so that you can find common ground.

Practice Effective Communication Skills

Learning effective communication will help you get through your business dispute and also will teach the skills needed to resolve conflicts in your company. With effective communication, much of your family business disputes mediation can be resolved.

Schedule formal meetings and exercise the same boundaries that you would if you were in business with people who weren’t your family. Learning to effectively communicate will help you learn how to get your point across and get the end results that you’re looking for.

Hire Professional Mediators

Once you’ve exercised every other option, the best thing you can do is bring in professional mediators. Mediators are skilled at acting as impartial third parties so that both sides are heard. They’ll do everything in their power to make sure that all sides come away happy and satisfied.

Here are some benefits of working business mediators:

  • They’re more likely to get you and your family a workable resolution
  • It’s less expensive than long, drawn-out litigation
  • Coming to a resolution peacefully makes you more likely to salvage familial relationships
  • They’re professionals that have skills handling even the most contentious disputes
  • Mediation will save you money in the long run

You might also choose to appoint a family business advisory board to help you get expert advice on the most important details.

Avoid Emotions and Drastic Measures

It’s always important that you put your emotions to the side when handling business. This is often easier said than done when dealing with family. Practice stoic thought and allow yourself to take things one moment at a time, rather than being too attached to what you’re feeling at the moment.

The ability to detach yourself from the current disagreement allows you to take a big picture approach to the situation rather than losing your head. It can get tempted to exercise nuclear options when you feel hurt or slighted. Always act with professionalism and hold the other parties accountable for doing the same.

Put Agreements in Writing

Finally, make sure that you put things in writing whenever you’re creating agreements. Some people find it offensive to put things in writing when doing business with family but resist this thought.

Recognize that written contracts protect all parties involved, and will help you stay on the same page with agreements that you come to terms with. Have an attorney look over the contract and discuss things with you, and encourage the other parties to do the same. This way, everyone is on one accord and will feel more confident and cheerful moving forward with the terms that you come up with.


Handle Your Family Business Disputes

Your business disputes don’t have to reach a boiling point. You can prioritize family and still handle business correctly when you follow the points above. The sooner you find common ground, the sooner you can get back to being family, while also moving forward with a thriving business.

Positively People has the skills and resources to help unlock your people potential. You can contact us on our website to get started or give us a call at

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