Business Partners: Using Mediation to Restructure during COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic is causing perhaps the largest disruption to the business community in our history. Millions have contracted the virus worldwide, and there have been more than 100,000 tragic deaths so far. This has prompted an unprecedented global response, with most countries issuing “stay-at-home” orders and temporarily closing non-essential businesses.

As we go through the COVID-19 crisis, millions of businesses are facing an uncertain future. The first question on everyone’s mind is, “when do we reopen again?” But even after we reopen, it is difficult to predict how consumers will react. Will there be a pent-up desire to return to life as normal? If so, this could translate into overflowing crowds at restaurants, bars, movie theaters, sporting events, and other gathering places that have been shut down for a while.

Perhaps a more likely scenario, however, is that people will be much more cautious to go back into settings with large groups of people. They will only want to do so once they know the risk of contracting the virus is extremely low, and that there is a treatment that has proven to be effective if they do unfortunately catch it. So, what does all this mean for business partnerships?

Business Restructuring in a COVID-19 World

As businesses navigate the choppy and uncertain waters ahead, a lot of critical decisions will need to be made, many of which could determine whether or not they survive. A lot of partners are likely to have strong disagreements about which way to go as they try to get their business back on its feet. Some of the areas in which they may not see eye to eye include:

When/How Much to Reopen

The way this situation is going, it seems increasingly unlikely that the federal government is going to issue one big “all clear”, and the whole country will reopen at once. More likely, certain types of businesses will reopen first in parts of the country were another outbreak is unlikely. But even after the government approves a business to reopen, they still need to ensure that they are in a position to do so safely. And this means having various protocols in place to protect everyone. This is definitely an area where partners need to be on the same page.

Staff/Potential Downsizing

While a business is shut down or has reduced services, they have probably had to lay off their employees for a while. And once everything reopens, decisions will need to be made regarding how much of the staff to rehire and when to bring them back on board. There is an incentive in the form of a forgivable SBA loan to rehire employees and keep them on the payroll, but in some cases, this might not be enough to bring back everyone, especially if the business is unable to get back to the same level of sales/profitability that they had prior to the shutdown.

Allocation of Resources

Most businesses are not equipped to close down for an extended period of time and have ample resources when they reopen. They have bills that need to be paid, and in many cases, they may have to take out loans over and above what is offered through the SBA in order to stay afloat. In preparation for reopening, there could be a very spirited discussion about how to allocate the limited resources they have available. 

Should they spend more on marketing? And if so, what type of marketing would be most effective to get customers/clients to return? They may also have to spend some money on modifications to their location in order to ensure that everyone continues to follow social distancing guidelines (assuming they might still be in place for a while). And what about cost reduction measures that could be implemented to save precious resources? These and similar issues must be resolved as partners prepare to get back up and running.

The Benefits of Business Partnership Mediation during Times of Crisis

As we work toward the (hopefully soon) end of the COVID-19 pandemic, business partners need an effective and constructive way to work out the inevitable disagreements and disputes that will arise as they map out an uncertain future. And sometimes, getting to this place on their own can seem like an impossible task. During times like these, it makes sense to consider business partnership mediation. 

Mediation is an alternative form of dispute resolution that is facilitated by a neutral, third-party professional who has no vested interest in the outcome and is able to bring a fresh perspective to the situation. The mediator facilitates the session and guides the discussion, but the partners are ultimately in control of the outcome. In other words, no resolution can be implemented unless all participants agree.

One of the major benefits of business partnership mediation is the opportunity to work with a professional who has helped others who have been in your shoes to resolve similar conflicts. We are all going through the same thing right now, and it is very helpful to receive professional guidance from someone with business experience who knows how others have been able to successfully handle a crisis situation. 

AMS is Here to Help 

We at AMS want you to know that we are here for you, and we are ready to help with any business disputes or family conflicts that need to be resolved. Our business partnership mediator has decades of experience working with organizations of all types and sizes, and our service is available for your business during this difficult time.

Like everyone else, we are working remotely these days as we follow all of the social distancing guidelines, but we have been doing virtual mediation for many years already, and we are well equipped to continue providing the exceptional service our clients have come to expect. Our consultations are free, and we offer extended hours and customized appointments to accommodate your schedule. Feel free to contact us anytime to get started.