Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Do You Want to Be Starbucks or Seven-Eleven?

As I sat in the emergency room today with my fiancé, Peter, I thought about coffee. After all, it was 5:30 in the morning, and I needed the java jolt.

What I really thought about is why I like Starbucks coffee as opposed to say, Seven-Eleven's. Starbucks specializes in the 'coffee experience'. That's why we're all willing to pay $3 for a cup of joe. I know when I go there I'm gonna get something made especially for me- vente latte with skim milk. And, I know it's gonna be good because they do coffee- it's their main product.

Seven-Eleven is a different story. Browsing their aisles the other day, I found coffee filters, a lint brush, hot dogs, and great slurpees. It was a hodge-podge of everything. Truthfully, I won't buy things there (except the slurpees) because I know they have so many things in stock that nothing will be top quality.

Then it dawned on me that some people, a lot of ADR people, try to be like Seven-Eleven instead of Starbucks when attempting to build a profitable mediation practice.

Think about the practices you know about. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that the business owner lists mediation, caching, training, consulting and a host of other services. It's the old 'jack of all trades, master of none' thing. Hey, I'm guilty of it too. I offer all of those on and to a variety of industries.

When I think about it, it's no small wonder why it takes so long to build name recognition. I'm not distinct in the market, and I'm chasing too large of a market.

But all that changes now. Today, I vow to become the Starbucks of the Ombuds world! I'm shifting my practice to offer Ombuds services (design and implementation) to firms with under 200 employees. I'll specialize in the how Ombuds can transform the small firm experience.

To differentiate myself even further, and to have a manageable market, I'll pursue high tech firms and CPA firms. How's that for a 'double espresso shot with almond syrup'!

So, watch my site for changes over the next few months. (yes, it takes that long.) And, drop me a comment or two about your quest to be Starbucks.

Ciao, Dina

Monday, July 25, 2005

Reach Out and Talk to Someone

To paraphrase Janet Jackson, what have you done for your business lately? No, I don't mean planning, although it's a very important task. No, I don't mean research even though you'll need to be on top of news and trends. I mean, have you talked with someone about what you do?

It's simple. Our business is a people business. Word of mouth is one of our best marketing tools. Try to talk to two people a day about your business. You can email someone who has a website that is complementary to yours. Better yet, call someone in your niche (you do have a niche, right?) and ask what's keeping them up at night.

Sounds tough and it is. Nothing worth having is obtained easily. Just remember, you provide services that help people. That's something to talk about. Need more convincing? You'll get lots of benefits when you reach out:

  1. practice--this gets easier with practice.

  2. data about the challenges your prospective clients face

  3. feedback on what attracts clients to your services

Best of all, increasing your visibility in the marketplace will grow your mediation practice. Pick up the phone today, people!

Ciao, Dina

PS Every now and again I run across a good resource or two. You may want to subscribe to both of these newsletters to keep abreast.

Keith L. Seat publishes the Mediation News and Updates. He's a commercial mediation and works in the government and law sector. Diane Pfadenhauer publishes the Employment Practices Advisers- News and Updates, which I find invaluable in serving my clients with under 200 employees. Check them both out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Mediation Mentoring on the Rise

Things are getting hot, hot, hot! Not only because the mercury in Boston has reached an unbelievably humid 97 degrees, but because mentoring for mediators is hot now.

Recently I launched a no-cost mentoring program called Mensch's Mentees. It's my way to 'pay it forward' for the kindness people showed me. I also want to encourage more diversity--in non-traditional practices and non-typical practitioners. The emails from candidates are amazing... Be back soon with an announcement.

P.S. If you have an idea you want to sneak in under the wire, better hurry up!

But, I'm not the only one supporting new mediators. You remember Chuck Doran, one of the very first colleagues honored as a Trailblazer?

His Boston non-profit, Mediation Works, Inc., offers new mentors the rare opportunity to observe mediations and get feedback from industry leaders in his mentoring program. Both those benefits are significant as you already know.

I don't know these programs, but a quick google turns up these additional resources:

Connecticut Council of Divorce Mediators in Connecticut.
The Solutionist Group in Australia.
Southern California Mediation Program on the West Coast
(my first mediation company was also SCMA, too! Strategic Conflict Management Associates)

Before I go, one quick question:

What action did you take today to build your successful ADR practice??

Ciao, Dina

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Today's Trailblazer Interview

Today's Trailblazer: Moshe Cohen, President of The Negotiating Table.

Moshe Cohen is a mediator, trainer, writer, and consultant in the field of negotiation and conflict management.

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

I was an engineer, and before that a physicist. In the course of working as an engineer, I decided to move into management and got an MBA. While doing my MBA, I took a negotiation class that had a segment on mediation, and fell in love with mediation.

What best describes your title and what you do now?

I'm a mediator, trainer, and consultant in the field of negotiation and conflict management. I run my own business, mediating disputes, training in corporations and other organizations, teaching university classes, writing, public speaking, and consulting in the field.

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

I developed relationships that turned into referrals. I never ate breakfast at home - I went to numerous networking meetings and cultivated relationships with referral sources such as accountants, attorneys, therapists, and business people.

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

Initially, my fees were $100 per hour.
Which books, websites, discussion groups, or organizations helped you get your foot in the door?

NACR (New England Chapter of Association of Conflict Resolvers), Chambers of commerce, lead groups,

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

I wish I had had more of a realistic business plan and sales experience. I wish I had thought more of the process of convening and managing cases rather than just mediating them.

OK, one silly question to wrap things up. A dispute resolver is like a (blank).
A dispute resolver is like tropical island, providing disputants with a safe environment and sustaining them as they move from conflict to agreement.

Moshe asks really hard questions. To invite him to ask you hard questions about your plans in the field, visit The

Monday, July 11, 2005

Great Idea- Yours Fr*e

As a parent of two teenagers I often find myself at the end of my rope when it comes to communicating and negotiating with Jared and Kaitlin. And, I'm a conflict expert. Imagine what it's like with no skills, training or experience to fall back upon?

That's why I think a workshop that teaches teens and parents to negotiate would be a big seller. Yes, there are lots of articles about communication for parents. Over six million the last time I googled. But a cursory search didn't reveal any training courses. Anyone interested in family law and mediation want to take this one on?

And, just think about the sponsors and alliance partners waiting for you. Disney, comes to mind. And, they actually have articles on their website that speak directly to the topic!

Feel free to expand or contract this idea as you desire. I can imagine a very narrow niche that caters to mother-daughter relationships. Or, working in conjunction with a school system to be their 'on-call' mediator. Middle schools, which have to handle all those newly raging emotions and hormones, would be staying in line for help.

So, don't just sit there! Go out and take this good idea for a spin!

Ciao, Dina

PS Just to be clear, I don't mean that parents who don't have mediation or negotiating training aren't capable of doing a great job. My mom never took a parenting course in her life, and well, I turned out OK. But if it can make things easier, why not?

PPS A big shout-out of thanks to my blogger friend, Jill Fallon, for mentioning the Mensch and my coaching offer in her blog, The Business of Life.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Today, Oops!

Hey, I got so excited about posting the new Trailblazer Interview I accidentally published. Yikes.

The interview with Moshe is coming shortly, and I know you'll find his style economical, yet useful. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I have a a proposition for you.

Are there two people interested in sharing their journey towards a profitable practice with the world?

Here's why I ask. I have tons of ideas, resources and tips to help your practice grow and thrive. Problem is, my delivery is kinda random. I'll read something for the new blog devoted to ADR professional, ADR Blog Buzz (you'll hear more about this soon) that sparks an idea or comment I want to make here.

While that's fine for me, I'm concerned that I'm not helping you in an organized way. So, I thought what if I coached two mediators through the early stages of startup. It'd be a win/win for everyone. This is the start of Mensch's Mentees!

If you are interested, drop me a note explaining who you are, what you hope to achieve and why coaching you will enrich everyone. I'd love to announce the new Mensch Mentees on August 15th.

Ciao, Dina

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Your Personal Independence Day

Independence Day means so many things to different people. I spent yesterday in the green mountains of Vermont, reading by a river, thinking, "This is the life." I felt happy, successful, and free.

Knowing me, you know my mind started to wander. Is this what comes from having a profitable business? Yes, I think so.

Your mediation practice is not simply a business. It's a vehicle that enables you to do many things that are important to you. So, here's my secret to building a profitable ADR practice. Defining profit is half way to being profitable.

First, let's look at the financial definition of profit. Here are some definitions I found on the Web.

  • The basic incentive for operating a business in capitalism; it consists of the amount of money left over after all costs are paid.

  • One of the commonly encountered instance of Profit is the value that is left over from any ongoing enterprise or business or business operations after costs are accounted for. In accounting, this is usually measured in monetary terms. In economics, profit is most often measured differently, since costs include opportunity costs. In economics profit after the opportunity costs is often termed as the Economic Value Added or EVA.

  • What is left over for the owners of a business after all expenses have been deducted from the revenues of a firm. Gross profit is the profit before corporate income taxes. Net profit is the final profit of the firm after taxes have been paid.

Pretty dry stuff, huh. So, let's look again from a different perspective. Here are a few broader definitions of profit.

  • derive a benefit from; "She profited from his vast experience"

  • the advantageous quality of being beneficial

Now, things get exciting. There's a greater range of options for success and profit. Ask yourself what profitable means to you in terms of non-financial benefits. If you achieve those goals, you'll be profitable.

For example, my ADR practice enables me to help other people live more satisfying lives. It also offers me the opportunities to learn something new everyday. More often than not I meet interesting people who have lives and professions that are different than my own. And, my practice allows me to travel near and far. It's a profitable business to me for all those reason (and I make money, too).

Let me hear from do you define profitable??

Ciao, Dina