David Gage: Mediating and Preventing Partnership and Closely-Held Business Disputes

Dear Subscribers,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an episode, but I  have a strong line-up of content coming your way so, please stay tuned.  During my break, without my doing a thing, The Peacebuilding Podcast: Strategies to Build Common Ground subscriber list has grown quite significantly. I get excited by the viral nature of the internet and the possibility of creating a global repository of the best ideas on how to facilitate planetary cooperation, in spite of large differences of income and worldview.  I do believe our collective children and grandchildren need this information.

Yesterday, I did a pre-interview of Michael Gillenwater, a climate change specialist who had a front row seat during the Paris climate change negotiations. He told me that the bombing in Paris right at that time seemed a motivating factor in bringing 195 countries together.  It does seem that everywhere we turn there is evidence that planetary ecosystems are getting more volatile -- and with them us humans.  Michael has been one of the saints out there creating the know-how of how to intelligently deal with climate change so that when things do get really bad and the topic goes to the top of the planetary agenda, there will be a “scaffold” of knowledge to take intelligent action. I have a similar hope for these podcast interviews – that they will be a useful resource as pressure grows for all of us to figure out how to live together. As the United States’ President Obama said in a recent speech, “we need to fight for common ground no matter how elusive that might be.”

In this episode, we will explore a very practical application of building common ground – partnership and small business mediation. In the 1980’s, mediation took the Western world by storm. Many people, including myself, decided to dedicate their professional aspirations to “alternative dispute resolution.”  The field has grown tremendously since that time but, as is true of all social change movements, so has huge resistance to it. This has come both from those who profit or prefer adversarial dispute processes – political impasse, litigation, polarization, destructive conflict – and from the limitations of our evolution and desire to create a more peaceful planet. Nonetheless, I am fundamentally an optimist and believe we will headed in the right direction. Among the many quotable statements from the Mahatma (Gandhi) this one comes to mind:

"When I Despair, I remember all through history, the way of truth and love has always won.  There have been murderers and tyrants and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always."

So, in this episode, I interview David Gage who is both a dear friend and one of my oldest colleagues. I have worked with David for many years doing partnership and family business mediation as well as facilitating partnership charters – which David describes in this podcast.  While a lot of mediation has turned into what I call “settlement conferencing”, just simply shuttling between the parties to get them to agree to a compromise position, partnerships and small businesses are a place where there are real relationships, high interdependence and often a greater desire to repair or part well.  Like some divorcing couples they can be an excellent place to practice true mediation where exploring the underlying interests of the parties as well as other techniques can really be applied.

David Gage, is a clinical psychologist, business mediator, entrepreneur and author. Twenty-five years ago, he founded what is still one of the only multidisciplinary mediation firms in the country that specializes in resolving conflicts among co-owners of businesses. Family and non-family closely held businesses make up the vast majority of the businesses globally, but until David wrote his book on partners, there was nothing written on the whole range of discussions, negotiations and agreements people need to have in order to lower the risks inherent in having partners. From resolving partner conflicts, David moved into conflict prevention with the publication of his book, The Partnership Charter: How To Start Out Right with Your New Business Partnership (or Fix the One You’re In). The Partnership Charter Workbook, based on the book, helps potential and existing partners plan their partnerships thoroughly, improve collaboration and reduce the risk of conflict.

In this episode, David describes how and why he founded his firm, gives some useful background on closely-held companies, and explains why mediation is such a perfect approach to resolve partner disputes. He also describes the Partnership Charter process, a kind of “collaborative pre-nup” for co-owners. With over two decades of resolving and preventing business partner disputes, David may be the most knowledgeable person on the planet on how to reduce conflict and promote collaboration in this niche population that controls so much of our global economic activity.  If you are a mediator or someone who works in a co-owned business, this will be 45 minutes very well spent. Listen to the episode here.

As always, thanks for your support and following of the podcast.  Upcoming episodes include:  Kamal Mouzawak who started the first farmers market in Beirut, Lebanon and has been using food to bring groups together throughout a country that was so polarized with civil war, Jim Zimmerman from the US space agency NASA who will talk about the history of space exploration and how it has moved from a competitive model to one now of global cooperation, Michael Gillenwater about the Paris climate change negotiations, Sandra Janoff, one of the founders of the Future Search Network and one of the most intelligent innovators about strategies to build common ground, and many others.

I do believe that what we focus on grows. Hopefully these podcasts can contribute to imagining what is possible.


Kamal Mouzawak: Making Food Not War in Lebanon

Greetings from South Sudan