22 May Conflict Happens!
As a business owner, it is impossible to avoid conflict as challenging situations and problem-solving can be a daily occurrence. The most important aspect of a problem is how it is managed and resolved as this can be the difference between success and failure in business.
When faced with a challenging situation, employee or client, there are various ways to deal with the problem. Some people choose to get angry, argumentative, or simply ignore the situation completely. I have never found that any of these tactics work in the long run. My philosophy is simple “own it” which means take responsibility for what is within your control, be honest, and always remain calm. Doing your best to see the situation from the other person’s perspective is key, however, it is not always easy as it requires lots of patience. Most issues need a calm, reasonable and thoughtful approach to de-escalate the situation and, ultimately, solve the problem.
First, many conflicts can be prevented with effective communication of expectations and keeping a client or employee informed of progress and changes happening with the project and within the company. Human nature causes us to be curious and we appreciate being engaged and involved in the process. I believe engagement provides us with a feeling of control and reassurance.
Beyond prevention, the second step would be to understand the root of the conflict. In the contracting world, we must ask ourselves: is it the product, quality, schedule, communication, or perhaps a personality issue? My experience is that most people simply wish to be heard, therefore, you must actively listen to their explanation, keep emotion out of the situation, and truly respect their perspective. Once the client or employee has had the opportunity to talk or even vent, acknowledge their concerns and address them honestly and professionally.
Third, to resolve conflict you should always be honest and never exaggerate. Based on my experience as a husband, father, and business owner, I have always found that people understand more than we give them credit for and will appreciate honesty and reward it with trust and confidence. As a renovator, clients place their trust in us every day. The secret to keeping that trust is honesty and integrity which means always doing what is right for all parties involved. Having a sound moral compass will allow a company to be successful and grow long term; this is where the phrase “good will” comes from and it increases the value of a company beyond its assets and cash flow.
As previously mentioned, we must prevent issues as much as possible which includes sticking to our gut feeling. When meeting a client for the first time or interviewing an employee, you must try your best to weed out the difficult personalities as they may make issues personal or blow them out of proportion which is poison for a company and corporate culture. You often hear about the “80/20 rule”, where 80% of your problems come from 20% of your clients and staff and it is very true. Remember it is okay to fire a client or terminate an employee who is not working out. Even sometimes you must turn down the job because it will cause you too much grief. Life is short, surround yourself with clients, staff, and colleagues who become friends and business becomes a lot more rewarding beyond the financial statement.
I hope you found this article informative and helpful in your life and business.
Dan Monk, P.Eng. / Red Seal Carpenter
Owner – MONK Renovations