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 Mediate.com, 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. WorkWellTogether.com 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.