Thursday, June 30, 2005

Are you Blogging Yet?

No. Well, you're missing out, especially if your interest is in generating clients for your mediation or ADR practice.

My blog-buddy and dear friend, Diane J. Levin, publisher of The Online Guide to Mediation, recently wrote an article about the benefits of blogging for the ADR community.

She posits that bloggers and ADR professionals share an interest in building relationships and community. I want to riff on that for a moment. I see emotional engagement as one of the most crucial concepts for our community to master if we are ever going to create sustainable ADR businesses primed for growth.

Buying decisions are emotional. The decision to select a mediator is emotionally-driven. Seventy percent of sales are based on positive interaction with a human. Stop and think about that. 70% What are you doing now to create emotional engagement? What are potential clients learning about you as a person, and how?

Lisa T. Davis of Persuasion Architect calls this personality-rich communication. I call it common sense. My website,, is definitely a personality-rich communication. Reading it you can get a sense of who I am as a person and professional, which is what a caller told me just this week.

Writing a blog is an easy, low-risk way to enable clients to 'get to know you' as John Lovitz used to say on Saturday Night Live.

What about neutrality, you say? What about it. Blogging on general topics of interest to your target market is no more challenging to your neutrality than inviting clients into your office, where they can draw conclusions based on what's visible there. If you disagree, don't hesitate to post a comment.

Ciao, Dina

Monday, June 27, 2005

Observe Success!

Nothing succeeds like success. I couldn't agree more. In reading Blog Business World today I came across a novel idea that can really boost your mediation practice.

Paul Williams of Brand Autopsy had a unique idea for an imaginary board of directors. He suggests that you create a board of your hero's- past and present- to provide guidance and support as you face challenging business situations. Of course, you always have Mediation Mensch as a resource, but I say the more the better.

Just think you could have empire-builders like Fred Smith or Meg Whitman on your team. Maybe you'd add Anita Roddick for a bit of social change or Michael Jordan to focus on your competitive edge. Or maybe you'd like to build ADR companies like Eric Green.

Who would you put on your 'kitchen cabinet'?

Ciao, Dina

P.S. The next Trailblazer Interview with Moshe Cohen will be up just after July 1st and you don't want to miss it. Believe me.

Take the MIT Survey

Blogging is really catching on. I heard recently that there'll be an article on Blogging in the Boston Globe Parade section, which is about as mainstream as one can get. Special thanks to Andy Carvin and Berkman Thursdays for pointing that out.

I think it's incredibly important for us to learn all we can about this powerful communication channel and how it impacts our world. So, go ahead...make some science.

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Ciao, Dina

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Blogger Bash!

A big round of applause to Toby Bloomberg, known to all in the blogosphere as the Marketing Diva. Toby, who knows her way around a communication tool, gathered a very interesting, lively group of bloggers last night at te Calliterra Grille at the very posh Wyndham Hotel in downtown Boston to talk blogs.

Jill Fallon of Estate Legacy Vaults and I shared a thoughtful discussion about the decrease in media accountability. (if you have family you love, run over to Jill's site. I guarantee ou won't be disappointed.)

You know,it seems to me that as the influence of media (and I'm including bloggers as citizen journalists) grows, the sense of accountabiliy to consider the greater good decreases. The examples are countless but the Pam Anderson sex tape and Britney's blog jump right to mind. The saying used to be all the news that's fit to print. Now it's all the news --period. Whatever happened to standards? OK, enough ranting.

I had such a good time at the bash, I think we should keep this going. Here's the invitation: bloggers in the greater boston area let's unite! Drop me a comment saying you're down and where we can meet to form our own 'smart mob' (with parking, please).

Ciao, Dina

PS No, I haven't forgotten this blog is about building a mediation practice. Stay tuned because in early July I'll have the next installment in the Trailblazer series ready to go. Moshe Cohen is my hero when it comes to maximizing networking oportunities. He's probably got one of the most vibrant, expanded networks I've ever run across. And, what's really cool is that he plans his work so he can work with his wife, Barbara as often as possible. Check out MosheCohen

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Blogging :Good Times, Good Friends

It's official. I love blogging. It engages me on so many levels and presents a challenge that my 'can do' attitude just can't ignore: can I figure this all out?

So while I know you have tons to do to start out, don't ignore this fabulous opportunity. In fact, my friend, Toby Bloomberg, writes a very informative, fun blog called Marketing Diva. (Folks have called me a Dispute Diva and us divas like to stick together!)

Anyway, now is a great time to visit Toby's blog because she's embarking on an exciting project to refresh the look of her blog with the help of Peter Faschner of The Blog Studio. Not only will Peter help Toby but he can help you, too. Drop by for a read. You'll be glad you did.

Ciao, Dina

PS I'm thinking of creating a blog for my website called Peace at Work. I get so many good ideas while reading about HR and small business dilemmas I need a good way to share them. Would you read Peace at Work? Do you like that name? Let me know by commenting..thanks.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Short Posts Rule

Ok so this isn't the next chapter in Reading, 'Riting... You know why? I forgot the cardinal rule of blogging: keep it short.

I don't know if you've noticed but I'm really torn between dumping everything I know about building a practice down onto the page in long sweeping text and following some sort of logical format. It's so tough.

Like today...I researched an article that introduces blogging to the ADR community that will be published in the NE-ACR newsletter this summer. There were so many great ideas and links to pass along to you.

Do consider using blogging as one of the major components of your marketing strategy. This ain't no fad, folks. Blogging is rapidly changing the landscape of business, and where there's change, conflict is sure to follow.

Google blogging (be prepared to spend a few hours reading) or visit

On to new topics...ciao, Dina

Friday, June 17, 2005

Down the Rabbit Hole

I'm alittle dizzy from all the spinning.

Of course, I should continue the article on writing with a post on promotional materials. ADR businesses faces a particularly nasty paradox when it comes to advertising our work. Many of our clients don't want anyone to know they had a problem--much less that they went to an 'outsider' like us to fix it. So, how do you demonstrate your credibility, expertise and provide real-life examples of the benefits of your work?

My answer is a work in progress, so why not write in and tell me yours? Truly, I want to know...and so does everyone else!

Anyway, I went down the blogging rabbit hole today in search of information about business blogs for a fantastic article I'm co-authoring with Diane Levin for the summer journal issue of the New England Chapter of the Association of Conflict Resolvers.
I found absolutely captivating stuff, like the statistic that says over 60% of Internet users have no idea what a blog is. Since you're reading this blog, I assume that you do. But if you want to enlighten your friends (please do) visit Blogshop as a very good first stop.

And just to be interesting, I've decided that business blogs need a special name like blawgs- a law blog. So hence forth, business blogs will be known, at least by me, as BIZOGS

Sounds edgy, doesn't it. Let' start writing that everywhere and see if it catches on.

Ciao, Dina

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

'Reading, 'Riting, Pt. 2

In the first part we talked about why it's important to read a healthy variety of business publications, and some my personal favorites. By the way, what are your favorites?

I'm serious. Write in and tell me, but let's limit it to print magazines or blogs only so we don't get too much of a good thing. Anyway, in part 2 I want to talk about the writing you'll need to do (or pay someone to do) for your practice. Now, I know you'd rather be writing well-crafted mediation agreements, but for now let's hit the basics. You'll need to write three types of documents:

  • Ones that describe you & your business -Identity Materials

  • Ones that build your brand and sales- Marketing Materials

  • Ones that help your business operate- Operational Materials.

Which docs are the most fun to write? Of course, the marketing and identity stuff. It's juicy and creative. However, the operational documents are the backbone of a successful mediation practice.

Operational materials consist of the policies, forms, reports, contract boilerplate, record-keeping ,notices, etc. These are the documents that a business requires to run profitably at a lower level of risk with higher client satisfaction and sales. You'll be more organized and better prepared for life's ups and downs if you take the time to compose them at the start of your practice.

You'll need documents like:

  • A client intake sheet

  • A client completed form checklist

  • Process Explanation Forms

  • Fee Documents

  • Agreement to Mediate Forms

  • Confidentiality Statement

You get the idea. Over time you'll grow your own list and language which will change as your practice matures and you get tips from other practitioners. This list is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive. Why not write in and suggest your very own 'must have documents'? That way, we'll all benefit.

In a hurry to start? Visit another great place (beside Mediation Mensch) where you can 'learn, build, grow'- Golden Media.

Natalie Armstrong, an ADR practitioner and marketer for over 10 years, founded Golden Media, a marketing firm devoted to ADR practices. Besides lots of informative articles and teleseminars, Golden features operational documents such as Cash Flow Worksheets as part of its membership package. I met Natalie a few years ago at an Association of Conflict Resolvers New England Chapter meeting- what a dynamo she is. Hopefully, Natalie will join the ranks of Trailblazers soon.

See what happens when I start talking? There are so many things to talk about-- I can't stop. Oy!

Ciao, Dina

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Today's Trailblazer Interview

Trailblazer: Charles Doran of Mediation Works, Inc.

Chuck Doran is a mediator who specializes in the resolution of workplace and business disputes. He is also founder and executive director of Mediation Works Incorporated (MWI) of Boston.

I'm curious. What did you do before your ADR work?

I was doing graduate work in dispute resolution at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. I guess I'm one of a new breed of practitioners who does not have a "POO" (Profession Of Origin) other than dispute resolution.

What best describes your title and what you do now?

The footer of my email says "Mediator / Executive Director", which sums up how I spend my time. I love to mediate as well as run Mediation Works Incorporated, a dispute resolution organization that I founded in 1994. In addition to being a mediator and running a business, I train people to become mediators and help others improve their capacity to negotiate effectively. I also facilitate meetings that are expected to be contentious and/or complex.

What did you do to get your first 5 clients? How did you market then?

I got my first five clients the same way I got my last 50 clients, that is, by keeping in mind that they expect excellent service and each client provides an opportunity to exceed their expectations and hopefully use me again or recommend me to colleagues. I find that traditional advertising has little impact on one's success in this field. Referrals and reputation seem to be key. I feel fortunate to be in this field and I know that I can't take it for granted.

Getting down to brass tacks, what were your initial fees?

When I started mediating in 1992, my focus was on gaining experience and not on fees. As a result, I mediated hundreds of cases in district court and elsewhere at no charge. I found that I was charging anywhere from $25 to $250 per party, per hour a few years later. I'm still in that range, but luckily on the higher end these days.

Which books, websites, discussion groups, or organizations helped you get your foot in the door?

Organizations - The Harvard Mediation Program at Harvard Law School (where I got my start mediating and later was hired to manage their Advanced Mediation Program) was a great experience. Forums - I have found Cornell's Dispute-Res Listserv and the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution Listserv to be interesting forums for practitioners to share ideas.

Mistakes, I've made a few. What do you WISH you knew when you started out?

I learned a lot from observing more experienced mediators mediating. I wish I had done more when I had more time. I also know it's not too late.

OK, one silly question to wrap things up. A dispute resolver is like a (blank).

I think of a dispute resolver as like a host of a party. They invite people over, set a comfortable and conducive environment for conversation, and encourage guests to engage in new and interesting conversations. I guess two big differences are that this kind of party is not that much fun and there are no drinks involved.

Mediation Works Incorporated provides training and support to those interested in becoming active in the ADR field. and a range of dispute resolution services. To learn more, visit Mediation Works, Inc.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic: The Basics, Pt. 1

Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithematic Of Building a Mediation Practice

Reading is fundamental Once I started reading more of everything
my business ideas became more creative and better grounded in experience.

Read everything you can on the mediation and ADR.
If you aren't already getting a ezine from, subscribe. I learn alot
just seeing what others are writing about.

You can go wrong subscribing to the Online Guide to
penned by our own Trailblazer, Diane J. Levin. It's fun
to read and offers very interestinig perspectives on mediation
and tons of useful information like a recent post on other ADR blogs.

Reading business magazines may seem boring but you can't beat'em
for 'out of the box' ideas on management and sales. Reading how
Wachusetts Mountain, a ski lodge in Mass.,strategized to use its excess capacity at night in Inc. magazine inspired me to use my excess capacity and add training and speaking to my mix.

Enjoy reading at no cost to you. No, save your cash for other things. Take yourself to the public library and read their magazines. Or, make nice with the librarian and she'll save the back issues for you (the information is generally still good).

Search out some business and marketing blogs, too. Small Business Trends features a wealth of business blogs >and The Entrpreneurial Mind has a great post now on how to spot market opportunities.
(We talked about that, remember?)

For marketing, take a peek at Duck Tape Marketing Blog
. It's a blog channel for marketing discussions from 9 different marketing gurus
including selling to big companies with Jill Konrath.

Not only will you shorten your learning curve, you'll get lots
of story ideas for all those articles you're going to write to
promote your new mediation practice. Right?

WARNING: Blog reading can be addictive. In preparing this
post I must have spent hours researching and reading. Don't get so
caught up in researching that you forget to build your mediation practice!

Ciao, Dina

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Great Idea- Yours Fr*e

You know how, sometimes, a really annoying song
pops into your head,unbidden, and drives crazy
until you sing the lyrics just once?

Yesterday, while working on another article for my website, I had
a stray idea, a happy accident. Just a great idea that like that
annoying song I can't get rid of until I tell somebody.

Great Idea #1

Because mediators are more high touch than high tech, it
takes us a while to get tech comfy, much less savvy.

There is definitely a market for an emerging mediator with
a background in webmastering or online marketing to offer
services for blog or website maintanence.

No Joke. This came to me while I was collecting directories to submit
Mediation Mensch. It struck me that I'd really like to find
a comprenhensive list somewhere that I could easily adapt to
my specific purposes as an ADR provider.

Then I laughed and thought I'd be in heaven
if someone would submit to the list for me.
Viola! A customer need was identified! Hey, I'm not alone
in wishing this maintenance thing could be:

  • quicker to do

  • easier to understand

  • automated

Think of all the repetitive, technical stuff it takes to keep a
website or blog at the top of the search engines and
flush with traffic!

Even better, your clients could trust you to represent
them in ethical and appropriate ways because you're a
mediator, too. Solo mediators would pay for
that kind of convenience, don't you think?

Somebody Please Take this Great Idea!

I mean it. Take this great idea and build a very profitable
mediation business. Don't forget to write and tell us all about
it. I can't wait to hear how you make out.

It's been my lifelong practice to give away good ideas, and this one
is for you. When you keep your fist closed nothing gets out, but
nothing gets in either.

Oy! Finally, I can think about someting else...Ciao, Dina

Monday, June 06, 2005

Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face

Recently, I sat on a panel with dear friends,Chuck Doran and Chris Kauders to discuss our various career choices during a Program on Negotiation lecture taught by David Seibel of Insight Partners.

The discussion was very animated with students asking about our styles as mediators and some of our toughest cases. Afterwards, a woman approached me to say my work teaching human resource professionals to use mediation techniques was sorely needed.

I agreed and asked what she did before becoming a mediator. Well, turns out she had 25 years as an HR person under her belt. Before I could ask more she said she was glad to be out of HR and looking for new challenges in mediation. She was quite happy to give up her entire body of work to start again. I was floored.

Is that you? Do you have expertise, experience, connections and friends you're willing to abandon to start anew as a mediator? If so, I have one question for you: WHY? Why start from nothing when you have a ready made platform? Why not see how you can use mediation to enhance or change the work you know so well? (Ok, so that was three questions.)

I imagine that woman was suffering from burn out. This, I can understand. I've felt burnt out many times. Each time I asked myself: what am I actually frustrated by, the problem, the people or the process?

I see my conflict work as a way to change the world. Idealisic, yet true. I'm still interested in solving the basic problem of how can people be more effective and feel more confident in managing conflict. I still like and admire the people I work with in the ADR world like Gail Packer, a master trainer and the executive director of Community Dispute Settlement Center. So, the burn-out was not about the people or the problem.

I struggled with the process- how I was finding and serving my clients. I was in the wrong environmnent. Once I changed that my passion, enthusiam and energy returned. Is it time for you to reconsider, too?

I feel so strongly about building a mediation practice that embraces your expertise- past and future- that I started this blog to help. Besides, there's no sense in you repeating mistakes when my friends and I can guide you around them.

Speaking of friends, Gail Packer has agreed to be interviewed for the Trailblazer Interview Series. Not only is Gail a tireless advocate for mediation in non-traditional families but she knows Ben Affleck personally. Stay tuned.

Ciao, Dina

Friday, June 03, 2005

What's Your Niche?

Ok, after a nice long break for Memorial Day, let's talk about niches.

New mediators often have a 'field of dreams' mentality about building a mediation practice. You know, if you hang out the shingle, clients will come. The underlying assumption that traps you is that people will automatically see the logic in using mediation and choose you.

Nice dream, but completely untrue. Yes, there's enough conflict in the world to keep everyone reasonably employed. The problem is two-fold: one, people aren't that logical when it comes to conflict. Conflict can be very emotional, leaving little room for common sense; and, two, mediation is still somewhat foreign to most folks in the mainstream. So, your average Joe wouldn't necessarily think, "Hmmm, I gotta get a mediator for this".

A quick visit to, a large clearinghouse of information on mediation, will offer a sampling of all the different practice areas there are in the mediation world (check the pull down menu that says sections). Business is one of the most popular areas.

Did you know that out of 1000 large corporations surveyed 88% use some type of ADR with mediation being the process of choice, according to a 1997 Cornell study? Corporations favor mediation because it saves time, money (it's often less expensive than arbitration), it's private and lessens exposure to risk. Over 100 companies have some type of integrated conflict resolution system. Get a copy of How Companies Manage Employment Disputes to learn more.

There are over a thousand members of the Workplace Section of ACR who are mediators, trainers, facilitators all in the service of resolving workplace conflict. If you choose this practice area you may choose to specialize even further in terms of type of conflict or a specific industry. For instance there are mediators who specialize in disputes involving American with Disabilities Act (ADA)claims like Julie Cohen.

My speciality is interpersonal disputes with bad clients or problem employees in small to mid-sized businesses. is my membership website that provides online tools to my clients. Because I've run several businesses and worked as an Ombuds, I have the experience and sensitivity to work well with this client base. They are my Ideal Clients. Did we talk about Ideal Clients yet? We will soon.

So, my question to you is what niche or segment are you going to serve? And, while this may be a career change for you don't be so quick to throw away your past connections and expertise. Getting clients is a lot easier with people who already know and trust you.

Ciao, Dina