Harnessing the Power of Mediation: Transforming SME Disputes Based on FSB Research


This article delves into the key findings of the FSB research, explores the advantages of mediation for SMEs, and highlights the importance of raising awareness about mediation as a viable dispute resolution mechanism.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) recently published a comprehensive study on the impact of disputes in the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) sector. The research highlighted the significant financial and emotional toll these disputes have on business owners and their companies. In response, the FSB has advocated for the use of mediation as an effective means to resolve conflicts, given its numerous benefits over traditional litigation.

FSB Research Findings

The FSB’s research uncovered several alarming statistics surrounding disputes in the SME sector:

  1. On average, each dispute costs a small business £13,000 in direct and indirect expenses, such as legal fees, management time, and lost opportunities.

  2. 70% of SMEs have experienced at least one dispute in the last five years, with the most common causes being late payment, breach of contract, and employment issues.

  3. These disputes have not only financial consequences but also severe emotional repercussions, with business owners reporting high levels of stress, anxiety, and lost productivity.


The Burden of Traditional Litigation

The traditional litigation process is often lengthy, costly, and adversarial. For SMEs, the financial burden can be particularly onerous, with legal fees, court costs, and the risk of damages often outweighing the benefits of pursuing a claim. Moreover, the adversarial nature of litigation may lead to a breakdown of relationships, which can have lasting effects on both parties.

Navigating the complexities of the legal system can also be challenging for SMEs that may lack the resources to hire dedicated legal counsel. This can result in a power imbalance between parties, putting SMEs at a disadvantage when facing larger organizations with more extensive legal support. Additionally, the uncertainty of litigation outcomes can lead to stress and anxiety for business owners, further exacerbating the negative impact of disputes on their well-being and productivity.

The Power of Mediation

In contrast, mediation offers a more efficient, cost-effective, and collaborative approach to resolving disputes. The key advantages of mediation in the SME sector include:

  1. Lower Costs: Mediation is typically less expensive than traditional litigation, as it avoids many of the legal fees and court costs associated with a trial. This can free up valuable resources for SMEs to invest in growth and development.
  2. Time Efficiency: The mediation process is generally faster than litigation, allowing parties to reach a resolution more quickly and move on from the dispute. This can be particularly beneficial for SMEs, as it minimizes the time spent dealing with conflicts and reduces the potential for lost productivity.
  3. Confidentiality: Mediation is a private and confidential process, which can help protect the reputation and sensitive information of the businesses involved. This is especially important for SMEs, as negative publicity can have a significant impact on their brand and customer base.
  4. Preserving Relationships: Unlike litigation, mediation encourages open communication and collaboration between parties, helping to maintain or even improve relationships. This can be vital for SMEs, as strong business relationships often underpin their success. By fostering a cooperative atmosphere, mediation can promote goodwill and understanding, even in the face of disputes.
  5. Tailored Solutions: Mediation allows parties to develop creative and mutually beneficial solutions that address the specific needs and interests of each party. This flexibility can be particularly advantageous for SMEs, as it enables them to find resolutions that better align with their unique circumstances. Mediation empowers parties to take control of the outcome and create agreements that reflect their values and priorities.
  6. Accessible Expertise: Mediators often possess industry-specific knowledge, which can be invaluable in facilitating negotiations and understanding the nuances of the dispute. This expertise can be particularly helpful for SMEs, who may not have access to the same level of legal support as larger organizations. Additionally, mediators are trained to manage complex interpersonal dynamics, ensuring that all parties are heard and that the process remains focused on reaching a resolution.
  7. Enhanced Compliance: Research has shown that parties are more likely to comply with agreements reached through mediation than with court-imposed judgments. This can result in a higher rate of successful outcomes for SMEs, reducing the likelihood of future disputes and legal challenges.

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The Importance of Raising Awareness

Despite the myriad advantages of mediation, many SMEs remain unaware of this dispute resolution mechanism or are hesitant to embrace it. To promote the use of mediation and ensure a brighter future for the SME sector, several actions can be taken:

  1. Education and Outreach: Providing information and resources on mediation to SMEs can help raise awareness about its benefits and dispel misconceptions. This can be achieved through workshops, seminars, and targeted marketing campaigns, as well as by partnering with trade associations and chambers of commerce.
  2. Government Support: Governments can play a crucial role in promoting mediation by offering incentives, such as reduced court fees or tax credits, to encourage its use. Furthermore, incorporating mediation clauses into public procurement contracts can lead by example and demonstrate commitment to alternative dispute resolution.
  3. Mediation Training: Encouraging business owners and managers to undergo mediation training can help build a culture of conflict resolution within the SME sector. By equipping SMEs with the skills to navigate disputes effectively, the reliance on litigation can be reduced.
  4. Accredited Mediation Providers: Establishing and promoting a network of accredited mediation providers can ensure that SMEs have access to reliable and professional mediators. This can help build trust in the mediation process and encourage its adoption as a viable dispute resolution mechanism.


As the FSB research has demonstrated, disputes in the SME sector can have serious financial and emotional consequences for business owners. By embracing mediation as a means to address conflicts, SMEs can mitigate these negative effects and focus on their core mission: growing and thriving in today’s competitive business landscape. By promoting the use of mediation and raising awareness of its benefits, stakeholders can ensure a brighter future for the SME sector and the broader economy.


Mediation has undoubtedly become an evolving reality today. The demand for trusted mediators has also been rapidly increasing. So, if you are also struggling with a dispute due to a conflict situation in your workplace or community don’t panic anymore.

Minute Mediation Ltd is experienced in facilitating disputes and finding the best possible solutions to help you and your partners find common ground and resolve issues.
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