Ryan Lawler

2 March 2020

3 min read

This video is a part of our ClassroomX educational series on the nuts and bolts of building a startup today. From defining your business model to growth, product strategy, and building your community, these 15 lessons by domain experts aim to equip young founders with crucial insights to transform their early-stage products into viable businesses.

How to understand startup challenges that drive success

Running a startup is not easy. Hours are long, cash can be tight, and things don't always work out as planned. Disagreements happen and they can result in mental, physical, and emotional stress for entrepreneurs.

What you'll learn from this lesson:

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About Tracy Hinds

Tracy Hinds, Samsung NEXT's Head of Platform, began her career in mental health/addiction and healthcare administration. But after learning to code, she immersed herself in the world of tech and startups. Combining that knowledge, she is interested in looking at patterns of human behavior and using them to help manage and resolve broken collaboration and processes.

Tracy outlined five classic approaches for managing conflict and offered some simple yet effective suggestions for improving outcomes.

Avoid conflict

Running away from a problem might not sound constructive, but entrepreneurs should pick their battles wisely.

"When the value of investing time to resolve the conflict outweighs the benefit, or if the issue under negotiation is trivial to both parties, sometimes it's just not worth it to risk getting through conflicts and damaging relationships," said Tracy.

Still, avoiding conflict can be seen as passive-aggressive, she cautioned: "Whomever has the greatest urgency will usually end up with the short-end of the avoidance stick."

Make compromises

People often make compromises when it's impossible to avoid a conflict. That means deciding what you are willing to give up in order to meet more important goals.

"Instead of getting what you want, you have to give away something in order to help resolve the conflict," Tracy said.

But entrepreneurs should be careful to compromise only when it's necessary and, whenever possible, with trusted partners. "You want to make sure that you are winning on the right things and losing on the wrong things," she said.

Accommodate customers

No one likes to yield, but it can be appropriate in some situations, such as when it comes to customer service. "When you or your team or company are at fault, repairing that relationship is the priority," said Tracy. "It's really important to try and accommodate."

But compromise does not always work and, in some cases, it can be counter-productive. "With [some] negotiators, your generosity is going to be seen as a sign of weakness and they're going to take advantage of it," said Tracy.

Know when to compete

Some issues are too important to compromise on. "Competition is critical when you are certain that something is not negotiable and immediate compliance is required," said Tracy.

But an “I win, you lose" position can be perceived as very aggressive, and can be catastrophic for business relationships. Tracy's advice is to carefully consider business goals versus personal goals — and to strive for the best possible outcome.

Being overly confrontational also can be a roadblock to conflict resolution. "People will make assumptions about you when you're using this style too often," said Tracy. "They're not going to do things like compromise or collaborate, because they don't trust you."

Know when — and how — to collaborate

Collaboration is the best way to manage conflict, Tracy said. "This creates a symbiotic relationship, which means they're going to be more generous moving forward as you will too," she added.

While considering the feelings and deeper interests of everyone at the negotiating table is important, there can be risks in collaboration, too.

"Be careful not to collaborate with competitive style negotiators unless they agree to and can be held accountable to and live up to the agreement," Tracy said. "Otherwise they're going to exploit you."

Applied correctly, good negotiating techniques can help entrepreneurs work resolve most conflicts. The most important thing is to not allow a breakdown in communication. Teams and partners will more freely communicate their ideas when they trust that any conflict will be resolved, Tracy said. Disagreements and divergent points of view are part of a healthy process for problem-solving and brainstorming. The result, she said, can be “creative solutions leading to better products."