A Professional Duty
Imagine something you really, really want, something that would make your life immeasurably better. Now imagine that you can’t find it anywhere. And, when you finally do find it, you’re not 100% sure you can trust the person selling it.
As a business owner, the seller has a duty to make it easy for customers – like you, who can benefit from what they do, to find what they’re looking for and feel confident in their decision to buy.
As a mediator who owns their own practice, you have that same duty.
Unfortunately, many qualified mediators give up on building their practices after a short time, because they hit unexpected challenges and worry they won’t reach the income they desire. Chances are, these mediators just didn’t know how to approach their duty as a seller.
If you want to build a rewarding mediation career, you should take time to learn about the business challenges you will face and how to overcome them.
Although some challenges will depend on personal variables, including location, area of practice, and length of time the practice has been in business, we will discuss some of the most common challenges today.
When you’re just starting out, it can be difficult to be confident in your abilities. But, the only way to build your confidence is through experience. Hang in there and keep going! The more mediations you conduct, the clearer it will become that you really do have the tools to mediate successfully.
The more confidently you can talk about your skills and experience, the easier it will be to convince new clients that you can resolve their dispute. This will help build trust, in turn, making their decision to hire you much easier.
Number of Clients
Almost no one starts a business with a proverbial rolodex filled with clients ready to pay for their services. Like any business owner, mediators need to create a marketing plan to attract new clients to their business.
It’s important to remember that marketing isn’t a one-and-done activity; mediators must constantly engage in marketing activities to remain visible to potential clients.
A good place to start is by identifying your target market and the personal attributes that make you an ideal fit for their specific needs.
Make sure to think about the things you can offer clients that competing mediators can not or do not currently offer. If you only advertise the abilities that are common to all mediators in your specialty, it will not sufficiently reveal what makes you the right choice.
You’ll also need to think about the channels you use to communicate this message. Do you have a website? Are you on social media? Do you use print ads? Do you write a blog?
No matter how you display your skills, the message should be clear and consistent for all of them.
Online visibility is very important. It’s how most people search for the products and services they need. At a minimum, a skilled mediator should have a professional-looking and useful website, and learn how to write an effective mediator profile.
Like a confident attitude, the ability to prove you have put time into your craft through training goes a long way to build trust with potential clients.
But because of the dynamic nature of mediation, it can be hard to quantify sufficient training.
Some states require minimal training, while other states do not mandate training requirements for mediators at all. This, unfortunately, leads to unskilled people calling themselves mediators, and potentially risking their personal reputation and the reputation of mediation in general.
Even mediators who seek out training can find themselves unprepared, since there is no universally accepted standard for training in the United States.
So how do you learn the right skills?
Finding a 40-hour basic mediation training that you trust to provide adequate instruction is a good place to start. This is usually enough to be recognized by the courts as qualified to mediate, if that is the goal, but is really very minimal.
Dispute resolution training providers, colleges, and universities are all resources for more advanced training. You can also find educational and training opportunities at industry conferences and workshops. These types of opportunities are often more agile in their content, allowing them to capture the constantly evolving philosophies in mediation.
Being a relatively new discipline, there are plenty of professionals working in the court system around the country who don’t understand how beneficial mediation can be for individuals involved in a lawsuit.
When supporting entities don’t have confidence in mediation, it can be much harder to convince disputants and their lawyers to take advantage of it.
You can tackle this challenge by being an advocate for mediation in the legal community. Get to know the lawyers and judges in your area, perhaps by holding an open house in your practice. Or, volunteer to give a talk at a conference or meeting for legal professionals.
Be open to talk about the benefits of mediation, and be prepared with concrete examples of those benefits. Put your mediator’s calm and trustworthy demeanor to use by persuasively discussing why mediation is such a promising tool for disputes.
The relationships you build may just change everything!
As we suggested in the opening paragraphs of this article, many mediators give up when they don’t initially see the results they were looking for.
You will face many challenges in every step of your business journey, but the secret to finding success is to seek out trusted advice when you hit a roadblock, then keep plowing through it.
Just keep working, keep marketing, keep learning, and keep communicating, and you will be unstoppable!