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Preventing disputes

Sometimes, things can go wrong while working with your customers and suppliers. It’s important to prepare yourself and your business before this happens and you may prevent disputes from occurring or greatly reduce their impact on you and your business.

Clear planning and understanding of agreements when working with suppliers and customers may save you time, money and stress later down the track. Resolving disputes can take a lot of time and effort, which could affect running your business.

Below are tips to help you prevent disputes or resolve disagreements faster with less impact to your business.


  • Agree in writing

    Getting agreements right at the start of your business relationships will mean fewer problems down the track.
    Agreements can be made either verbally or in writing. Whether your agreement is verbal or written, if you agree to provide a service, you have entered a contract. Unless you have proof to show what was agreed at the beginning of the business relationship, you may not be able to challenge it successfully later.
    A written contract can be a good risk management tool for your business. It can give you, your customers or your suppliers more certainty and clarity than a verbal contract. It should clearly set out the details of what was agreed such as details about materials, timeframes, payments and procedures to follow if there is a disagreement.
    It is advisable to seek legal advice when you are developing contracts.
    A verbal contract is less safe as it relies on peoples’ memory about what was agreed. If you prefer a verbal contract, you should keep paperwork that confirms your verbal agreement, such as quotes, emails and lists of specifications. These documents could help you if a problem occurs.
  • Review your contracts

    When you sign a contract, you are entering a legal agreement. It’s important that you review and understand what you’re agreeing to before you sign. Don’t rely on what the other party tells you. Also, consider seeking advice from a financial advisor, accountant or lawyer before signing any contracts.
  • Communicate well

    Good communication and relationships with your customers and suppliers will help to prevent misunderstandings and disputes.
    Let your suppliers and customers know how to provide feedback to you if something is not right and, if you do receive complaints, deal with them graciously and quickly.  Be honest if your business is at fault.
  • Get organised

    Keep important records like purchase orders, agreements and contracts somewhere you can easily find them.
    Consider using a system to remind you of key dates and commitments you make to suppliers and customers.
  • Understand your legal essentials

    If you’re running a business, you need to be aware of the legal essentials and obligations involved. Some of these are obvious when you start your business, and others emerge or become more important as your business grows.

Our friendly team is here to help

If you need any assistance with preventing or resolving disputes please call the Small Business Commissioner on 1800 072 722 or visit us at the Small Business Shopfront, 99 Gawler Place, Adelaide.