Resolving Conflicts with Channel Partners
The potential for conflict is an ever-present factor for any kind of partnership – whether that be in our business lives or in our social lives. And with that as a given, much of our success in life is based not on our ability to avoid conflict, but to deal with it effectively when it arises.
This is also true of the dealings between small business leaders and the channel partners who play an integral role in keeping their IT infrastructure running smoothly. In fact, you can make the argument that in many cases the IT infrastructure is so important to the company’s success that the potential for conflict is even greater.
Sometimes, the solution is clear-cut. There are instances when reach their conclusion and both partners are just better off moving down the line. But every now and then, the business relationship is to tightly interwoven that both parties need to travel the extra mile in order to preserve the relationship, if only on a temporary basis. This is particularly true where long-term projects are involved and changing the proverbial horses in mid-stream is something best avoided.
The good news is that most people are more focused on the bottom line, and are usually willing to do what’s best for business. The bad news is that egos can – and do – get in the way sometimes. When this happens, the most expedient solution may be for one, or both sides, to change out the people who are managing the relationship. This can be as easy as putting a new rep on the account. It’s amazing how often a couple of fresh perspectives can ease communications and resolve seemingly unresolveable problems. On the other hand, replacing the people involved in the relationship is not always feasible.
But regardless of whether you are working with new people or the same people, there comes a time when it is especially important to take a fresh look at the big picture, and to look at the points of conflict as dispassionately as you possibly can. Try to break the equation into a series of components, and look across the full breadth of those components as a means of finding compromise or resolution. If your discussion gets isolate down into one single point of conflict, then it becomes nearly impossible to negotiate a win/win. And if one of the parties comes out of the discussion as the obvious loser, then the discussion is almost always a failure. Finding a successful resolution is almost always much easier when you can identify multiple areas of give-and-take.
Sometimes it may be necessary to bring a third party into the discussions. A mediator can be helpful in assisting in the negotiation at a non-binding level. In this context, the mediator has no actual authority to dictate terms. It’s up to the two parties to leverage whet they can from those discussions and decide an outcome for themselves. Another option would be binding arbitration, in which both parties make their case to a third party with the agreement that they will abide by the decision rendered. Beyond that, there is always the court system.
A win/win is always better, as I think everyone knows. But with a little creativity, some additional openness, and a willingness to see things from the other side does a lot more than extend our sense of humanity. It’s also good for business.