As I wrote about last time, last Wednesday’s New York Times Food section included an article titled “Ex-Partners Fight to Separate the Ingredients”. In it, Glenn Collins chronicled the business divorce ending the BLT restaurant empire partnership between Jimmy Haber and Laurent Tourondel. It’s hardly news that business partnerships can be tough and that the restaurant business is nearly always tough. As I said, instead there were two aspects of this conflict that intrigued me.
The first involved the fact that the partners had “signed a standard agreement” regarding proprietary rights to cuisine that Chef Tourondel created for the restaurant.
The second is a problem common to so many conflicts, whether or not they arise from a business partnership. “Disagreements over little things began adding up to big things, including a clash of temperaments.” Very few disputes escalate immediately from nothing to major blow-ups. In this business dispute, the small conflicts became big conflicts over time.
It’s a basic truth of conflict resolution that a small conflict is easier to resolve than a big one. As tempting as it may be to ignore a small dispute, to pretend that it doesn’t matter, or to hope that it will resolve itself, starting a conflict resolution process sooner rather than later is a smart idea. Mediation, especially, can lead to a better result, more quickly, when the parties come to the table before their dispute has become deeply entrenched.