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Let’s Talk…Using Mediation as an Alternative Dispute Resolution

In 2010, while working within the exhibition industry, Angela Herberholz stumbled upon the world of commercial mediation and since then has obtained her international commercial mediation accreditation (CIArb) and founded the Young Mediators Initiative (YMI). I chatted to Angela about mediation and how this may be useful within our industry.

Tesi Baur: Please explain what B2B mediation is and what role it plays.

Angela Herberholz: Mediation is a way of solving disputes and differences without going to court or arbitration. Commercial mediation, also known as B2B mediation, can be beneficial when arguing about issues such as; non-performance of contracts, interpretation of contract provisions, untimely payments, abuse of intellectual property and problems related to business division, merger or acquisition.

Like an iceberg, people in dispute only reveal their “20% that is above the water”. The remaining hidden 80% is where settlement lies. Parties in dispute are unable to generate objective solutions. This is where mediation comes in. Mediators are communication facilitators not judges. They enable parties to take decisions on how to settle the dispute. The mediation process is designed to actively engage the parties in the dispute resolution process and to enable them to take a decision together on how they wish to settle.  The outcome of the mediation process is controlled by the parties themselves. No agreement can happen without mutual consent. As a result, relationships tend to remain intact which is always better – particularly between people in the same industry.

Tesi Baur: What inspired you to get involved with mediation?

Angela Herberholz: In 2010, I learnt about mediation through a friend. I started reading about it and was immediately hooked! After dedicating most of my weekends to mediation, eight months later I graduated from the commercial mediation course and since then my passion for mediation continues to grow stronger. Competency in mediation comes from a combination of personality, skills, motivation, training and experience and today it has become part of who I am.  Since then mediation has always accompanied me throughout my career within the exhibition industry and I feel privileged for the synergies that I continue to experience.

Tesi Baur: Is mediation common within the exhibition industry?

Angela Herberholz: In a survey I recently conducted “Mediation & the Exhibition Industry” I learned that the term mediation is broadly known among industry professionals however overall, 47% of the exhibition industry surveyed do not use mediation to deal with external conflicts, while 26.5% state that they use mediation to address disputes with industry partners. The remaining 26.5% are not aware of mediation being used for external conflict resolution.

With over 680,000 people holding full time equivalent jobs in the exhibitions industry, there is great potential for disagreements. While conflict is a normal part of any social and organizational setting the challenge lies in how one chooses to deal with it. Mediation is one of many conflict resolution processes, but I believe it can help the exhibition industry deal with conflicts in a sustainable way. In todays business world, more and more contracts include alternatives to litigation (court settlement of disputes) known as mediation.  However, the majority of the surveyed exhibition industry professionals state that commercial mediation is a conflict resolution mechanism not commonly used to treat B2B, external disputes.

Tesi Baur: Outside the industry, is mediation prominent in the current times, what role do you think it can play in today’s industry?

 Angela Herberholz: Mediation is very prominent in current times. In Europe, we can witness governments releasing new mediation directives almost on a regular basis. Mediation. The German Mediation Act was passed in 2012, after nearly all EU member states were required by a 2008 EU Directive to implement mediation legislation. In 2017, the  law on labour courts was adopted making mediation mandatory in certain types of labour disputes in Turkey. This process is ongoing, with new mediation laws and regimes being designed in a variety of countries including of course the new Mediation Acts in Greece and Ireland.  Since February 2018, France is experimenting with a procedure of compulsory mediation in civil service disputes and social disputes.

Even though mediation seems to be on an upswing, B2B mediation seems not to have reached the exhibition industry yet.  I invite you to take a look at the last contract that you signed and review the dispute resolution section. What are you bound to do when you or your business partner cannot deliver the service that you have agreed upon? The majority of these contracts do not advise to take the dispute to mediation before engaging in arbitration or even going to court.  In an industry where relationships define the success of our services and the future of our business, I truly believe that mediation is a suitable tool for dealing with disagreements. The potential of commercial mediation for the exhibition industry is huge but the industry has yet to discover it.

Tesi Baur: How would you like to see mediation influencing the exhibition industry in the future?

 Angela Herberholz: In the exhibition industry, healthy co-operation is key to future success and business relationships are built on trust. If trust is broken due to a conflict it is hard to gain it back. If you take the dispute to court, you will only be talking about the 20% of the iceberg visible at the surface. Someone will win and another will lose, the process is long and pricy and you lose any control of the outcome. After the verdict of the judge or the arbitrator, you will most likely not continue your business relationship with that other party.  You lose time, money, a business partner and maybe even the case.

I am as much a passionate commercial mediator as I am a member of the exhibition industry. Knowing both professions intimately, I strongly believe that mediation should be a fundamental tool used to address and solve conflicts within our industry. Few relationships survive the litigation process, hence I truly hope that mediation becomes the default approach when negotiations reach a standstill

(The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb). CIArb, is a leading professional membership organisation representing the interests of alternative dispute resolution practitioners worldwide. With over 15,000 members located in more than 133 countries, CIArb supports the global promotion, facilitation and development of all forms of private dispute resolution).

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