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Let Me Tell You Why So Few Mediators Make Money

This is a question that plagues our profession, don’t you think? It seems a mystery yet the answer is pretty straight-forward. So few mediators make money, in my opinion, because they lack the skills and mindset to be business people first and practitioners second.

Mediator Blah Blah

A great big thanks to Geoff Sharp over at Mediator Blah Blah , who always has the most insightful and interesting things to say, for giving me a heads up on this topic. Turns out that the Harvard Economics Department recently published an economic analysis of our little profession.

One Too Many Mediators

From my brief read of the abstract, I say it’s worth a longer look. The author, Urska Velikonja, hits the nail on the head. There is a glut of mediators. There is a problem with how mediators are trained. New mediators often overlook options to use their skills. I’m eager to read her suggestions on how to rectify these issues and urge you to do so, too.

I Beg to Disagree

I have to say I disagree strongly with the idea that there’s ‘excess entry’ as Urska puts it. Yes, there are tons of folks trying to be mediators with very little barrier to entry. But the argument that there are too many is spurious.

Give me Choices or Give me Death

Been to the supermarket lately? Now, there’s a glut. There’s at least 100 of choices for shampoo. Each product basically does the same job, however, we feel compelled to a special one. We love choice. That’s the beauty of mass personalization, folks. Everyone can have their solution- their way. That concept can work for mediators just as well as it works for Head & Shoulders or Pantene.

Maybe, if we take a look at market segmentation (that’s good, better, best) and combine it with mass personalization,we’d come up with an answer for what Urska calls uneven distribution in the market. By uneven, I think she means the top guys (and I do mean guys) get richer and more visibility than others in the field.

Behold the Red Herring

Certainly, the problems we face in marketing and growing practices include excess entry and uneven distribution. However, the real problem often goes unnoticed or undiscussed. The reason that mediators don’t make money is that mediators have inadequate drive and preparation to build a practice.

Of course, my view won’t be a surprise to anyone who reads the Mensch. I say it all the time because I see it in my coaching practice and in the questions I receive. But let me say it once again for anyone new: Mediators are small business owners. You have to be able to run a small business to success as a mediator. Ok, that may not have been what you envisioned when you took mediation training and fell in love with the profession, but those are the facts.

You, Too, Can Be an Owner!

Happily, learning to run a business isn’t too hard. When I started 18 years ago (yikes, that long ago?) I loved mediation but didn’t know a damned thing about business. It wasn’t until my third business, SCMA, that I actually got the hang of it, although I made money from the start. I made mistakes, learned and moved on. You can, too. The secret is not to make the same mistake twice. Variations on the mistake are fine, but not the exact same mistake.

I’m still learning. Mediation Mensch will be a podcast/blog soon because I wanted a more interactive way to communicate. So, I’ve been studying how to plan a podcast, write an editorial calendar, publish and promote. It’s overwhelming at times, sure, yet I know good business people innovate if they want to stay successful. As long as I eat this elephant one bite at a time, and don’t allow myself to judge me too harshly, I’ll be fine, and the Mensch will be great.

Wanna Make Money?

In case, you’re undecided the answer is YES. Why? Because you can’t help anyone or change the world if you are out of business. Making a healthy living doing what you love is perfectly acceptable, admirable even. Don’t stand in your own way. Grow yourself, your business, your life by all means possible.


Dina Beach Lynch

Dina Beach Lynch is a Workplace Mediator and Conflict Coach who supports professional practice groups. MORE >

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