Keep calm, but don’t carry on

Posted: Monday, 2 July 2012 @ 15:13

I’m often asked by business owners for my advice when they are in dispute with a customer or supplier. Unlike the current message we get on everything from t-shirts to mugs to Keep Calm and Carry on! my advice is invariably Keep Calm, but don’t Carry On.

If you’re in dispute with a customer, for example who refuses to pay or disputes an invoice claiming what you’ve delivered was not what they were expecting, didn’t meet quality standards or wasn’t delivered on time, failing to discuss those concerns could be storing up a whole heap of trouble for the future. Who’s to say they’ll pay you for future work you do for them?

If a supplier has let you down, sent shoddy goods or continually fails to meet the terms of your contract with them, continuing as though there’s nothing wrong could be seen as acceptance that you are happy with what they’ve supplied. When it comes to settling the bill, you might find that this apparent acceptance is used against you.

And, if a member of staff is failing to perform but you refuse to take the bull by the horns and tackle them on where they are deficient, you are again storing up future difficulties and potentially costly disputes.

So, my rule of thumb is to stop, think and take action quickly, and preferably with the aid of legal advice. It’s a fact of life that conflicts will always occur in business, indeed in a relationship of any kind where people are involved.

Stop and deal with the conflict before it escalates. Stay calm certainly; in fact I find the sooner you stop and say, “This is unacceptable”, the calmer you are able to be. If you allow a problem to linger over weeks or months, you can stew on it, getting more and more annoyed and perhaps have less ability to see things in perspective.

Once you stop accepting the problem and raise your concerns, you can start moving towards a solution. Depending on how serious the dispute is, you might follow the approach we suggest in Steps to Handling Business Disputes. But in many instances you will be able to resolve the problems just by airing them, explaining your dissatisfaction and asking for a remedy. If that doesn’t work of course, I’m only on the end of the phone.

Gary Cousins
Dispute Resolution Solicitor

Blog by Gary Cousins
Gary has been providing legal advice to shareholders, directors and business owners for over 25 years. Specialising in dispute resolution Gary is based in Birmingham with clients throughout the UK and overseas. View profile
Call Gary on +44 (0)121 778 3212 or by email
This blog is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor is it intended to be a complete and authoritative statement of the law, and what we say might be out of date by the time you read it. You should always seek legal advice to confirm whether or how any information in this article applies to your particular situation. We offer a free telephone consultation to discuss your particular circumstances.

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Thank you. Your response is great, very straight to the point! Hopefully this will bring an end to the matter. I will certainly be recommending your services as I am very impressed with the prompt dealing of this matter.
Janet Burbidge

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