Friday, March 02, 2007

How To Start a Mediation Business (not Practice)

I got memed! For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it's viral marketing that works like a virtual game of tag.

Tammy tagged me to continue the conversation that Vicki started about starting a mediation practice. Who knew that Diane had the lottery g-ds to thank for her start, or that Geoff, my choice for IT, would talk about the solitude and rejection we all have faced. What a rich and rare discussion!

While I initially started with a mediation practice that included family, divorce and workplace disputes, I ended up with a very different kind of mediation practice as an external organizational Ombuds and a mediation marketing coach. More interesting to me is that I have a business that has value beyond my contributions and will produce income even after I retire.

What do I want to say about launching a mediation business? Plenty! If you're a regular reader of Mediation Mensch, you know I'll always have a comment, idea or wild suggestion for growing a practice into a self-sustaining business. For now, let me just say this:

It's Just as Easy to Build a Business as a Practice

It takes a good amount of effort, creativity and determination to establish a mediation or ADR practice we all know that. But did you know that you can build a lasting business with just a little more effort? Start your practice with the notion that you are creating something that will endure- with or without you.

Think big picture. Ask yourself: what products, tools, assessments, courses can I create in my business that would make it salable and to whom (alliance partner, competitor, startup)?

If you develop a business that doesn't depend on you entirely, your wisdom, knowledge, expertise and experience will live on to serve the world and serve you by providing a financial return via a sale or merger. And, yes, small companies do sell.

Leverage, Leverage, Leverage your Time

Time is a finite and precious commodity. Make every minute more productive by leveraging your time well. Create systems that recycle your activities, better known as repurposing.

For example, if you write a note responding to a listserv question that answer has the potential to become a full article on your website or blog, a more expanded question and answer document, an email tip or alert to those in your network, or the basis for a presentation. Automate everything possible from answering questions to billing to capturing leads. Create 'standard operating procedures' so someone else could run the business if you couldn't.

Think delegation. Ask yourself: can this task be done by someone else or is it the best use of my time? In most cases, you will be able to delegate with guidance so you can focus on something else.

And, yes, I agree that mediation itself is requires you. However, tasks like scheduling, prepping parties, sending out materials, marketing campaigns are best put in the hands of a capable virtual assistant. (we'll be doing a call on VAs in April so stay tuned). Your time and attention should be reserved for what you love doing most.

Get an MBA

You need an MBA- Mediation Business Advice. Before you became a mediator, you sought training and education on playing that role. The same attention to education is needed to learn to run a business.

Make it your mission to take a course on starting a business. Or hire a business coach who understands mediation. The information, perspective and contacts you receive will be invaluable as you work through challenges common to all business owners like attracting clients and setting fees ( if this area is frustrating for you, attend our Art of Pricing teleseminar on 3/22 at 1 p.m.)

Think investment. Ask yourself: what am I willing to invest in my education as an entrepreneur to ensure my goals? You initial investment might be small but the impact on your satisfaction and your business growth will be huge. And, if you think you can't afford it, well, then maybe a profitable practice really isn't your goal.

As Maya Angelou once said, "We delight in the beauty of a butterfly but rarely admit the changes it had to go through to achieve that beauty."

One last parting thought...

"Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we decided to boldly walk right through them."
O. Marden

Let me hear your thoughts....

Try. Fail. Learn. Grow!


PS Getting Referrals teleseminar is on Thursday at 12 noon EST



At 6:05 PM, Blogger Geoff Sharp said...

Great post on starting out. Can you devlope the theme of building a business rather than a practice. Most of us do the latter, in the sense what's there to leave behind if I go? If I stop mediating so does the business. If I hire others, ditto. How do we leverage the actual mediation as its so personal....?

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Dina Lynch, said...

Thanks, Geoff, for the inspiration to take this thought a bit further.

We do have an oppportunity to build businesses that are lasting beyond our years, but it requires some vision, planning and discipline.

I'll ponder a bit more while on the beach in Vieques, PR and post a new article upon my return.

Thanks again! Buenos dias! D

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Jonathan McTavish said...

Interesting article. I'm want to run my own business, and I'm interested in buying a business instead of starting one from scratch. I've been looking, but I haven't really found anything that I like. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks


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