The granny farm
Two ladies were in partnership running a nursing home. One had provided virtually all of the capital to buy and convert a huge Victorian property; the other was a nurse, essential to the business, but they couldn’t work together any longer. They needed to sell the business, but couldn’t agree how to divide the proceeds.
The accountant mediator’s methodology
Chris set up a spreadsheet with all key figures from the business accounts, and as agreement was reached (with Chris’s help) on such matters as partners’ salaries, interest on capital, profit shares, who was to take which asset and which liability out of the partnership, their closing capital account balances were automatically calculated. Each was able to approach Chris with “what if” proposals – what if I agree to £x or £y?
The parties were able to reach agreement, knowing exactly how much each would be able to take out of the business, so they could now set about selling it and get on with their lives.
Cash for coal
A mother and son had been in partnership in a coal business in Northern Scotland. Son (a huge man who was thought to have more brawn than brain) delivered the coal and collected cash from customers, tipping it up to Mum who kept the books. But when Mum retired, the business profits increased and Son formed the view that Mum had stolen £250,000 in cash over past years from the partnership. He sued her, and the case was due to be heard in Edinburgh in three weeks’ time.
The mediator must use what he has, and find the parties’ true needs
In private discussions Chris learned two matters of importance. First, Son had done a forensic exercise to reach £250,000, which at first glance was persuasive. But one of the relatives attending as moral support for Mum was a tax expert. Chris saw this as a way of solving the dispute. So, “marking” Son’s homework, the tax expert showed him that the figures were exaggerated.
Second, the true needs of the parties were revealed. Son just wanted to take money off his Mum. Mum was terrified of appearing at court – she just wanted to go home – and she wanted if possible to rebuild the family relationships.
Everybody had their true needs met
After a long day and evening of negotiation, agreement was reached whereby Mum paid £9,000 towards Son’s costs of £10,000. It had cost him £1,000 to take a lump of money off Mum, so he felt justified. Mum was happy because she didn’t have to appear at court, and there was a chance that she would see her family again.
But there was a tragic end to the story. Some two years later, Chris was giving a lecture on mediation to the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh, and he met the advocate who had represented Mum. He gave Chris the sad news that, a few months after the mediation, a truck had run away in the coal yard and crushed Son to death. C’est la vie, main aussi ces’t la mort…