Which of the five conflict resolution techniques does each man prefer in handling his conflict? Is there another conflict resolution approach you would recommend? Why?

Buggy WarsTwo friends and neighbors arrange to go into business together and then become bitter rivals: This is the story of Bob Bell and Michael Sharpe, who once lived just four houses apart on Oxford Street in Guelph, Ontario. Bell and Sharpe thought they had a good idea for a new business venture—a bicycle trailer—but the good idea turned into a long, sizzling struggle. Bell invented the bicycle trailer. Shortly after coming up with the idea, he began to design and build the bicycle trailer in his garage. Once he shared his idea with Sharpe, both thought they could form a successful partnership by drawing upon each other’s expertise. Bell, an engineer by trade, would take on research and development; Sharpe, a former computer software sales manager and career manager, would focus on marketing. Sharpe put together the business plan—but before it was finalized, the deal fell apart.

The major point of conflict between Bell and Sharpe was royalties. Bell wanted to license the bicycle trailer design to Sharpe and collect a fee for each bicycle trailer produced. Sharpe wanted Bell to invest more in the venture and share the financial risk. However, Bell did not see any grounds for negotiation. Bell considered the bicycle trailer his idea. He had designed it, he had bought the materials to build it, and he had put in the time to develop the final product. When both parties hired lawyers and Bell demanded intellectual property rights, the great Canadian buggy war began.Bell planned a slow, steady campaign, working from the basement of his home with one employee. He started selling his cargo trailer, the WIKE, at the local farmers’ market. His goal was to sell 20 trailers the first year and 500 in the coming year. Bell continued his “go slow, get it right” campaign, selling locally and fine-tuning his trailer to carry children. However, he eventually decided that making every bicycle trailer himself was not a good strategy. By 2002, Bob Bell just wanted his life back.

Meanwhile, Sharpe had his own grand plan. He established his new company, Greenways, mortgaged his home, took a bank loan, rented a factory, and hired five employees.Sharpe began mass production of his version of the trailer, the Wonder Wagon, which accommodated small children. He projected sales of 2500 nationwide for the coming year. By the spring of 1994, Sharpe was selling to big specialty retailers and Toronto’s largest sporting goods store. Later, bike shops across the country and two national retailers were selling his wagon. He was even a corporate sponsor in Vancouver’s Ride for Life.So how did this end? Bell won the patent infringement case against Sharpe. Bell’s company has expanded to six different versions of the bicycle trailer. It also has a licensed manufacturer in China, from whom Bell collects royalties. Sharpe eventually abandoned the whole buggy idea, and switched careers to . . . the fitness industry.


1. What were the sources of conflict between Bell and Sharpe?

2. Which of the five conflict resolution techniques does each man prefer in handling his conflict? Is there another conflict resolution approach you would recommend? Why?

3. How would you have handled the conflict? Why?

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