Mentor Article

Does Your Business Need a Mediator?

Bob Halagan, Halagan Law Firm, LTD.

One of the most difficult challenges a business owner can face is divorce; not from his or her spouse but from a business partner.  Sometimes that business partnership that looked so promising when you started out turns sour and you find yourself simply unable to continue to work with the person who is a part-owner of the business with you.  Does it make sense to hire a mediator to find your way out of the relationship?

The best approach to a business partnership is to have a partnership agreement that addresses the critical issues of how you separate in the event things go badly.  (See the Corporate Cranium April 2018 article at: If you don’t have that type of agreement or if there are issues that are going to get difficult even if you do, hiring a mediator with a background in business can save a tremendous amount of time, attorney’s fees and ill will.  An outsider who can bring a fresh perspective to old conflicts, who can speak the truth to both sides without the baggage of a damaged relationship, and who can understand how your business functions and help preserve as much value as possible while you separate can be an excellent alternative to the expensive and destructive path of shareholder litigation.

As a business mediator, my goal is to first understand how your business functions.  Some of the questions I ask are: who are the key players in your business both owners and employees; how secure are the relationships with the internal and external customers of your company;  what is your market like; where is the future for your business, who are your competitors and what are your greatest risks?  Having counseled businesses and business owners for over 30 years, I understand business and understand how to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks a business faces.

As a mediator, my focus is on helping each party make their best business decision.   In a business dissolution, the emotions can often overwhelm your best business instincts.  My goal is to bring you and your partner back to looking at your company like an objective business person.   The common ground is often with where you started, a vision of what the company can and should look like.  Considering what is best for the business is often the path to deciding what is best for you and your investment in the business.

If your relationship with your business partner is on the rocks or if you are struggling with reaching consensus on what path is best for your company to take, feel free to contact me to design a mediation process for your company that best fits your particular situation

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