Control Your Business and get into the driver’s seat

Control your Business

This article is about encouraging you to control your business affirmatively. It rejects the concept of passivism in business success and embraces positive, if unorthodox, steps.

Get into the driver’s seat

A common complaint amongst small business owners is that they have no control over a situation and feel like they are just a passenger to a lousy destination. This can happen in a variety of situations, whether it is large customers pushing for extended credit terms and stretching your cash flow or staff pushing unreasonable demands upon the employer. Most of you will have felt pushed at some stage and wondered Why is this happening to me?  Beware of feeling a victim of your circumstances, as this is tremendously disempowering regardless of the challenge.  It might be more useful to think How is this happening and how do I stop it? Let me use a quick example.

The wedding venue

Our law firm was approached to secure an interdict (in South Africa this is a court order requiring that somebody cease and desist from certain conduct) on behalf of a client to prevent a neighbouring property from making excessive noise nuisance, thereby severely limiting the use and enjoyment by our client of its property. The client was extremely frustrated as its property was used as a beautiful, residential weekend retreat from the mad rush of the weekday rat race.

Our client had owned its property for approximately 30 years and coexisted with its neighbour quite peacefully until the property was sold. The new owners had established a wedding and conference venue, which was not problematic in and of itself, but the noisy regular parties held every weekend until the small hours of the morning were a problem. Noise pollution is strictly regulated by law and while our client had no desire to spoil anybody’s wedding day, it required that noise levels be reduced in line with the local regulations, which could be simply achieved by the neighbouring venue implementing reasonable policies and sound-proofing measures.

Numerous approaches were made to the noisy neighbour over the course of eighteen months requesting that noise levels be reduced after 01h00 in the interests of decent neighbourly relations and as required by law, with no success. The assistance of the local police was eventually sought as a last resort. The local police were unable and unwilling to assist for reasons that go beyond the scope of this piece. The result of their ineptitude would soon spoil a number of weddings…

The wedding party

Ultimately, after exhausting all avenues available to common decency and thereafter failing to achieve the cooperation of law enforcement, the client instructed us to seek legal relief and the protection of its rights with a highly expensive court interdict. In principle, an interdict was entirely unnecessary in the light of the legislative and regulative framework in place on the issue – in fact, under ordinary circumstances and where a methodology exists to prevent or rectify the conduct complained of, an interdict would not be granted due to the existence of an alternative remedy.

The court granted the order sought and required that copies be delivered to the offending neighbouring property, as well as the local police service. That very weekend, the neighbouring property breached the court order and the local police were called in to shut down the noise (not the party itself, but merely the excessive noise nuisance) in compliance with the court order. The music was shut off and no sooner had the police departed than it was immediately booming again. This process was repeated with insane, cyclical, bang-your-head-against-the-wall predictability.

The court was approached again and a contempt of court order granted against the offending noise-makers for non-compliance with the interdict and directing the police to take action.

Nothing changed and the contemptuous attitude of the neighbours continued. Equally, the police lacked any real will to assist and finally, privately, conceded that they were not really in a position to assist meaningfully. Effectively, all legal options had come to nought.

The party pooper

At about this point – well actually, at precisely this point – a change of attitude and an enormous siren entered the fray.

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