Consensus building to avoid disputes

I had a coffee today in the sunshine with an accountant I know. She was debriefing after a meeting with three directors of a start up company. Her intuition picked up that one of them was not comfortable with the arrangements being made ready to be given to the company's lawyer for drafting into a shareholders agreement. She asked him more than once if he agreed, to which he answered 'yes'. However his body language indicated otherwise.

This is a breeding ground for future disagreements, which left unchecked could grow into a full blown dispute and the death of what could have been a flourishing business. Plus, this is why it is important to take the time to build consensus at the start of a business relationship. Independent facilitators, like me, who are not acting for the company or for any one director or shareholder can help build that consensus. Lawyers who are trained in alternative dispute resolution possess the analytical skills and communication techniques so they are well suited to such facilitation. For example, check out Paul Sills' article in NZLS Lawtalk (September 2018 issue) on Consensus Building. The scenario described by Paul might not fit every start up's circumstances, but the benefits of a scaled down model of facilitation would help build a solid foundation for its future growth.