To paraphrase former President Clinton, it’s a business, silly. Not a hobby, a cause or charity. Mediation practice is a business.
That’s the message that most mediators need to grasp as they grow from new mediator to competent, confident business owner. Mediation practices are businesses just like medical, dentistry or law practices. Being in the helping professions doesn’t mean we’re exempt from making sure the bottom line is healthy. Knowing how to run a business requires advice so here are a couple of suggestions for affordable assistance.
Getting Help to Get Started
I was woefully naive when I started my first training practice, Odyssey Seminar, way back in the 90’s. I had no idea about pricing, business analysis and only a vague idea about marketing. Certainly, I’ve learned a thing or two over the past 17 years that lead to a successful business, but it could’ve been a heck of a lot easier.
That’s why I strongly suggest that you find help to get started. What kind of help? Consulting that will enable you to understand what your practice needs, what you’re capable of doing, and when to outsource. Who doesn’t need that sounding board or nudge in the right direction that saves time and aggravation. I know I do, and I bet the same is true for you.
But isn’t that stuff expensive, I hear you asking? Well, that’s a relative question. I have saved tons of money doing my own research to find free or low cost consulting. On the other hand ,I probably spent my most valuable asset, my time, unwisely. The longer it takes me to find an answer, resource, tool, the more asking an expert (or at least someone more knowledgeable than me) seems like a bargain.
First Stop for Free Stuff
Into online resources? Check out sites like www.StartUpNation.com and www.Entrepreneur.com. Listen to the business podcasts on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio.com. These resources allow you to quickly, easily find what you need and digest it in a convenient way. Also consider joining an online group like Ladies Who Launch or the Entrpreneurs Organization to interact with other service providers who have similar challenges and goals.
Want to talk to someone? No problem. There are numerous non-profits devoted to helping all flavors of entrepreneurs. I eventually landed at the Center for Women and Enterprise in Boston, founded by Andrea Silbert, a staunch advocate for ending poverty by entrepreneurship. Their ‘turbo’ class reshaped my thinking; I grew a bigger vision. Best of all, I remain friends with the women I met in my peer coaching group and we meet each summer for a reunion.
Lately, I’m considering visiting my local Small Business Development Center. Linked with a local college or university, these centers offer consulting and services at low or no cost to emerging business owners. I’m launching a new blog, ThisMarriageThing.com, and want some help evaluating my market and deciding on what services to pursue. Coursework covers topics like understanding financial reports to deciding on business entity to getting financing and beyond. Find the nearest center to you by visiting www.asbdc-us.org.
A comes before Z
Don’t skip this step if you want to make real progress. I realize that recommending this course of action is tricky. For those of you who suffer from analysis paralysis, seeing a consultant can feel like permission to research endlessly without taking any real action. Resist the urge and demand that the consultant help you create and be accountable for an action plan.
For those of you who feel ready to jump right in, seeing a consultant is a reasonable way to test your theories and plans before you invest money or time in them. It’s great to be passionate about your services/niche, but don’t be mislead by those feelings. Get some constructive critique from someone whose been there before. That’s one of the best perks of the Practice Builder community- we share ideas and get feedback that’s useful and action-oriented.
Remember, you can’t help anyone if you’re not in business anymore, and the more your practice successfully grows the more people you can reach.
Try. Fail. Learn. Grow!
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