Group of people symbolise company succession mediation

Compa­ny succes­si­on media­ti­on: support and resolu­ti­on of conflicts

Compa­ny succes­si­on is a sensi­ti­ve process, charac­te­ri­sed by emoti­ons and poten­ti­al conflicts. Media­ti­on plays a decisi­ve role in this context. It not only creates space for open commu­ni­ca­ti­on and finding soluti­ons, but also offers struc­tu­red approa­ches for balan­cing diffe­rent interests. This intro­duc­tion highlights the key role of media­ti­on in business succes­si­on, which helps to ensure conflict-free hando­vers and long-term success.

When is media­ti­on useful in compa­ny succession?

Compa­ny succes­si­on is a complex phase, accom­pa­nied by emoti­ons and poten­ti­al conflicts. A decisi­ve role is played here:

  • Under­stan­ding and overco­ming conflicts: Through open and respectful commu­ni­ca­ti­on, a struc­tu­red platform can be created to under­stand and clari­fy dispu­tes and find viable soluti­ons together. Neutral media­tors (ideal­ly with in-depth knowledge of the comple­xi­ty of compa­ny succes­si­on) promo­te an open dialo­gue and uncover hidden interests.
  • Balan­cing interests: Stake­hol­ders invol­ved often have diffe­rent views. Balan­cing these interests, identi­fy­ing common goals and streng­thening the long-term stabi­li­ty of the compa­ny are crucial.
  • Preser­va­ti­on of relati­onships: A harmo­nious succes­si­on is important for the compa­ny and inter­per­so­nal relati­onships. A respectful dialo­gue and focus on common interests preser­ve these relationships.
  • Time and cost savings: Early action prevents poten­ti­al conflicts and saves time and resour­ces. Compared to protra­c­ted legal dispu­tes, this effici­ent way of finding a soluti­on speeds up the succes­si­on process.

And also of great importance: Compa­nies with perma­nent conflicts in manage­ment suffer econo­mic­al­ly in the long term and values are destroyed.

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What are the advan­ta­ges of mediation?

Graphic on the advantages of company succession mediatiom

The use of media­ti­on in corpo­ra­te succes­si­on offers far-reaching advan­ta­ges beyond mere conflict resolu­ti­on. Here are some outstan­ding advantages:

  • Preser­va­ti­on of corpo­ra­te values: Media­ti­on enables diffe­rent perspec­ti­ves to be shared and common values to be identi­fied, thereby preser­ving the corpo­ra­te philo­so­phy and culture.
  • Flexi­bi­li­ty and indivi­dua­li­ty: In contrast to standar­di­sed legal proce­du­res, media­ti­on offers a flexi­ble and indivi­du­al approach to conflicts, tailo­red to the unique requi­re­ments of each compa­ny and the indivi­du­als involved.
  • Promo­ti­on of sustainable soluti­ons: By focus­sing on interests, media­ti­on enables the develo­p­ment of long-term sustainable soluti­ons in order to avoid future conflicts and ensure the stabi­li­ty of the compa­ny beyond the succession.
  • Maintai­ning inter­per­so­nal relati­onships: Media­ti­on empha­si­s­es respectful commu­ni­ca­ti­on and the preser­va­ti­on of inter­per­so­nal relati­onships, which is parti­cu­lar­ly important in family-run companies.
  • Accele­ra­ti­on of the succes­si­on process: Media­ti­on accele­ra­tes the entire succes­si­on process by finding effici­ent soluti­ons, which saves time and money compared to lengthy legal dispu­tes and enables a smooth handover.

How does compa­ny succes­si­on media­ti­on support speci­fic conflicts?

Compa­ny succes­si­on is often charac­te­ri­sed by dispu­tes, be it due to diffe­ring ideas about compa­ny manage­ment, distri­bu­ti­on of assets or under­stan­ding of roles. Media­ti­on offers effec­ti­ve solutions:

  • Clari­fi­ca­ti­on of misun­derstan­dings: Media­ti­on creates a space for open commu­ni­ca­ti­on in order to clari­fy misun­derstan­dings and diffe­ring inter­pre­ta­ti­ons. The struc­tu­red dialo­gue brings hidden assump­ti­ons to light and creates clari­ty for the successor.
  • Balan­cing of interests: Neutral Media­tors support the identi­fi­ca­ti­on and under­stan­ding of indivi­du­al interests. Focusing on common interests enables soluti­ons that take everyone’s needs into account.
  • Develo­p­ment of fair regula­ti­ons: Media­ti­on enables active parti­ci­pa­ti­on in finding soluti­ons. This promo­tes under­stan­ding for other perspec­ti­ves and facili­ta­tes the develo­p­ment of fair and sustainable solutions.
  • Reduc­tion of emotio­nal stress: In family-run compa­nies, where compa­ny succes­si­on is often emotio­nal­ly charged, media­ti­on offers a struc­tu­red frame­work to reduce emotio­nal stress and facili­ta­te respectful dialogue.
  • Avoid­ance of legal dispu­tes: Early media­ti­on prevents protra­c­ted legal dispu­tes, saves time and money and helps to preser­ve long-term relationships.

Typical points of conten­ti­on and problems with compa­ny succession

Compa­ny succes­si­on harbours typical points of conten­ti­on and problems that need to be addres­sed at an early stage to ensure a smooth hando­ver. Here are a few examples:

  • Uncer­tain future prospects: Uncer­tain­ty about the future direc­tion of the compa­ny, which can lead to diffe­ren­ces of opini­on regar­ding strate­gic decis­i­ons, market positio­ning and innova­ti­on requirements. 
    • Examp­le: Two succes­sors look at a signpost with diffe­rent direc­tion­al arrows, one for innova­ti­on and diver­si­fi­ca­ti­on, the other for tradi­ti­on and stability.
  • Distri­bu­ti­on of roles and compe­ten­ces: Clear defini­ti­on of roles and compe­ten­ces of succes­sors to avoid power imbalan­ces and diffe­ren­ces of opini­on. Clear commu­ni­ca­ti­on at an early stage is essential.
  • Tensi­ons within the family: Family-run compa­nies are suscep­ti­ble to inter­nal tensi­ons due to diffe­rent perspec­ti­ves and expec­ta­ti­ons of family members.
  • Distri­bu­ti­on of assets:  The fair distri­bu­ti­on of assets, shares and finan­cial resour­ces among the succes­sors can lead to tensi­ons and conflicts. 
    • Examp­le: A fair balan­ce with compa­ny shares, finan­cial resour­ces and assets that have to be distri­bu­ted between diffe­rent successors.
  • Lack of commu­ni­ca­ti­on: A common problem in compa­ny succes­si­on is when infor­ma­ti­on is not shared trans­par­ent­ly or decis­i­ons are made without suffi­ci­ent consultation.

The role of the media­tor in finding a solution

The media­tor plays a crucial role in compa­ny succes­si­on by acting as a neutral inter­me­dia­ry and promo­ting construc­ti­ve soluti­ons. Key aspects of their role include

  • Neutra­li­ty and impar­tia­li­ty: The media­tor is a neutral third party with no perso­nal interests in order to provi­de a balan­ced view of the conflict situation.
  • Struc­tu­red dialo­gue: Through a targe­ted frame­work, the media­tor promo­tes open commu­ni­ca­ti­on and helps to clari­fy misun­derstan­dings and identi­fy the causes of conflicts. Depen­ding on the content of the dispu­te and the pace of the parties invol­ved, a media­ti­on process can be comple­ted successful­ly after just a few appointments.
  • Focus on interests: Instead of focus­sing on positi­ons, the media­tor concen­tra­tes on the interests of the parties invol­ved in order to identi­fy common goals.
  • Creati­ve problem solving: The promo­ti­on of creati­ve and flexi­ble soluti­ons through diffe­rent perspec­ti­ves contri­bu­tes to innova­ti­ve approa­ches to compa­ny succession.
  • Promo­ting commu­ni­ca­ti­on and under­stan­ding: The media­tor creates a space for respectful commu­ni­ca­ti­on in order to deepen under­stan­ding between the parties.
  • Enforceable agree­ments: Support in drawing up clear, fair and enforceable agree­ments to avoid conflicts in the long term.

The course of a media­ti­on proce­du­re in compa­ny succession

Diagram of the mediation process for company succession

The media­ti­on process in business succes­si­on follows a struc­tu­red proce­du­re aimed at resol­ving dispu­tes and working out viable agree­ments. The typical course of a media­ti­on process in this context is outlined below:

Step 1: Initi­al meeting and contract conclu­si­on: The process begins with an initi­al meeting in which the media­tor explains the process to the parties and discus­ses the basic princi­ples of media­ti­on. Once all parties have agreed (volun­t­a­ri­ne­ss is the overri­ding princi­ple), a media­ti­on contract is signed which sets out the frame­work condi­ti­ons, confi­den­tia­li­ty rules and the volun­t­a­ry nature of the process.

Step 2: Clari­fi­ca­ti­on of the initi­al situa­ti­on: The media­tor obtains an overview of the initi­al situa­ti­on and the people invol­ved. The most important issues and points of conflict are also identi­fied in order to deter­mi­ne the focus of the media­ti­on process.

Step 3: Indivi­du­al inter­views (optio­nal): Indivi­du­al discus­sions can be held with those invol­ved as requi­red. These serve to under­stand indivi­du­al perspec­ti­ves and needs before the joint dialo­gue begins.

Step 4: Struc­tu­red dialo­gue and problem analy­sis: The actual media­ti­on starts with a struc­tu­red dialo­gue between the parties. The media­tor encou­ra­ges open commu­ni­ca­ti­on, clari­fies misun­derstan­dings and analy­ses the under­ly­ing problems in order to identi­fy common interests and goals. It invol­ves a lot of ‘inter­pre­ter work’ and under­stan­ding of the other party’s point of view.

Step 5: Develo­p­ment of soluti­on options: Based on the identi­fied interests, soluti­on options are develo­ped together. The media­tor supports the parties in finding creati­ve approa­ches and discus­sing alter­na­ti­ves. A joint­ly develo­ped soluti­on has a comple­te­ly diffe­rent energy for further coope­ra­ti­on than a soluti­on propo­sed from outside.

Step 6: Agree­ment and imple­men­ta­ti­on: As soon as an agree­ment is reached, a written agree­ment is drawn up. This includes the arran­ge­ments made and is signed by all parties invol­ved. The media­tor can also support the reali­sa­ti­on and imple­men­ta­ti­on of the agreement.

Step 7: Finali­sa­ti­on and follow-up: The media­ti­on process ends with a final discus­sion in which the agree­ment reached is reflec­ted upon. If neces­sa­ry, follow-up measu­res can be agreed to ensure that the agree­ments reached are effec­ti­ve in the long term. A proto­col is recommended.

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The use of media­ti­on in business succes­si­on is a crucial contri­bu­ti­on to overco­ming the complex challenges of this process. Media­ti­on not only enables the under­stan­ding and manage­ment of conflicts, but also promo­tes the balan­ce of diffe­rent interests, preser­ves inter­per­so­nal relati­onships, accele­ra­tes the succes­si­on process and offers far-reaching benefits for the preser­va­ti­on of compa­ny values and sustainable soluti­ons. Overall, media­ti­on creates a struc­tu­red frame­work to ensure a successful and harmo­nious business hando­ver. Safe, secure, faster and more cost-effective.