Ep. 16: Tammy Lenski on Building a Focused Conflict Resolution Practice

Episode Overview

Dr. Tammy Lenski is a mediator, coach, speaker and the author of two conflict resolution books. Since 1997, Tammy has worked with individuals and organizations worldwide specializing in helping people master their reactions, handle difficult behaviors and create breakthrough conditions in conflicts. In 2012, Tammy received the Association for Conflict Resolution’s prestigious Mary Parker Follett Award for innovative and pioneering work in her field.

Key Takeaways

  • Narrowing the focus of your practice can be very rewarding, both personally and professionally. Serving a specific target market can make you happier and help your business thrive.
  • To foster success in the field of conflict resolution, you must cater your processes to the clients. Rather than forcing clients to fit the one process that you prefer, i.e.: mediation, “shape shift” to fit the client’s needs by cultivating a breadth of processes: coaching, consulting, mediating, facilitating, etc.
  • A tool should be simple, elegant and powerful. Lenski recommends the Workflowy app, a stripped down, list-making and notetaking app that she uses to map out projects, take notes, and create to-do lists.
  • Systematizing the things that don’t get us out of bed in the morning is crucial. A practice management system like Clio can make tasks like running bills simple and easy.
  • Automate before you delegate, and delegate before you do it yourself. Having such processes in place allows you to track and process your clients, yet focus your energy on your essential competencies.
  • People should not be labeled as “difficult” or “broken.” Make the assumption of normality, even when a client isn’t behaving well, and work to help them bring the best part of themselves to the conversation.
  • Make a commitment to your craft. Even the best marketing can’t sustain second-rate work.

Listen Here

Episode Transcript

Rackham:

Hey everyone! Rackham Karlsson here. Before we get into this episode of the ADR Initiative, I just want to let you know that this is actually the last episode for 2016. You can think of it sort of as the end of Season 1. There have been 16 episodes, one almost every week, and most have been interviews with various ADR and conflict resolution professionals. It’s been a lot of fun. But it also kind of makes sense to take a little bit of a break going to the holiday season. But, I don’t want to lose touch with you. So if you haven’t already, please go to zephyrlaw.com/initiative and enter your email on the sidebar. If you do that, then you’ll get a new email every time there’s new material available, whether it’s a podcast, an article or something else. So the end of Season 1 of the podcast isn’t the end of the ADR initiative by any means, and I do wanna keep in touch with you so go on and head over to zephyrlaw.com/initiative, and enter your email on the sidebar so we can stay in touch. And with that, here’s the final episode of season 1 of the ADR Initiative Episode 16.

 

Welcome to the ADR Initiative. This is the podcast where you’ll hear from successful mediators, arbitrators, collaborative law attorneys, coaches, and other alternative dispute resolution professionals about what they do, how they got here, and valuable lessons they’ve learned along the way. I’m your host, Rackham Karlsson. Today, I’m talking with Dr. Tammy Lenski. Tammy is a mediator, coach, speaker and the author of two conflict resolution books. Since 1997, Tammy has worked with individuals and organizations worldwide specializing in helping people master their reactions, handle difficult behaviors and create breakthrough conditions in conflicts. In 2012, Tammy received the Association for Conflict Resolution’s prestigious Mary Parker Follett Award for innovative and pioneering work in her field. Welcome to the show Tammy.

Tammy:

Thanks Rackham, I’m glad to be here with you.

Rackham:

Why don’t we start out with you describing a little bit more about the services that you provide in your business today.

Tammy:

Sure. You know my conflict resolution work, centers on working with people who are in ongoing relationships so those might be business relationships, other kinds of professional relationships even personal relationships, who need and want to sort out the differences that are getting in the way of that business or personal relationship. So that’s really, that’s what I do, and have been for about, hard to believe, 20 years now.

Rackham:

So business relationships, personal relationships, do you do divorce? Or when you talk about an ongoing relationship, are you talking about the transition between married to unmarried life, or is that not something that you do?

Tammy:

I don’t do any divorce work. The through line, the thread in my work is people who either need to be or want to be in ongoing relationship with each other so business partners who don’t want to dissolve the business, workplace teams that don’t want to fire or have someone leave. Couples who are stuck in conflict, don’t want to head to divorce and are trying to figure out how to sort out the dynamic the way they engage differences between each other, so that’s the through line.

Rackham:

Okay great.  And how did you sort of end up in this line of work? Can you take us back a little bit to the arch of your professional career and how you got into what you’re doing today?

Tammy:

Yeah. You know I was a College Dean and an Assistant Professor and I loved the people side of the work. I loved the people puzzles, sorting out you know how people change habits and behaviors, and I worked a lot of with students, and I taught classes around behavior and my doctoral work had been in habit formation and learning and behavior. And I started to get asked by my president to address conflicts in my divisions other than my own, and during this time I was promoted to VP. And then I started to get farmed out of by her to other college presidents. And I thought, you know, “I should probably learn something about mediation.” Because I was just sort of doing what I knew as someone who understands how people learn and change, but I never had any mediation training.

I took a basic mediation class, and I came home and said to my husband, “Uh oh. Now I’ve worked so hard to move-up in higher ed, I don’t wanna do that. I want to do this”. And I figuratively bit my nails for about a year because you know, I finally had a fairly decent income as a Vice President, and I loved a lot about my work, and I didn’t have any idea to run a business, and that scared me quite a bit. But then I did it! I took the plunge and left that work in higher ed, and I founded my conflict resolution practice over the period of a year, where I actually went back to school and studied mediation for a year. And so yeah, that’s how I got started on this path. And to my husband’s credit, he only kind of gulped once. Before he said, “Okay, we’ll figure out how to make this work”. And I just didn’t wanna be a college president. That was not an aspiration I’d ever have. It was not a job I was drawn to. And I realized that the work I loved was helping people problem-solve. And so. And you know, in retrospect, I’m kinda a little unemployable. I enjoy working for myself, and calling the shots for myself.

Rackham:

Yeah I don’t know if you’ve heard, there’s another podcast called “Unemployable," that’s hosted by a guy named Brian Clark and...

Tammy:

Yeah it’s a good podcast.

Rackham:

It’s fantastic. I think so many of us can relate to that. It will be very hard, not just as a practical matter, but as sort of personal matter to go and work for somebody else again.

Tammy:

Well, it’s so true, and you know the deal I cut with my husband when I said I wanted to walk away from my first career. I said, “Look, give me two years. And if I can’t make a go out of this, then I’ll go back. I’ll go back to higher ed administration and teaching." And no one is gonna say to me, “Oh I’m so sorry you took two years off to study conflict resolution”. You know I knew that I would be even more compelling as a manager and a leader and administrator, but the truth I never said this to him, but the truth is after those two years, I thought, “I really cannot go back and work for any long period of time for someone else." It’s just not in my nature.

Rackham:

Now do you work on your own or do you have staff?

Tammy:

I work on my own. I have a virtual staff. I have a virtual assistant who does a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff for me. But all the parts of my job and work that engage clients, that communicate and talking to and writing to clients are all things I handle directly.

Rackham:

Yeah I recently hired my first assistant, and I have to say that it’s nice being able to take some of those administrative pieces and hand them off. But it would be very hard for me right now – maybe down the road – but it would be very hard for me to start delegating those client-facing pieces of it.

Tammy:

You know I tried that. I first hired a virtual assistant probably 10 years ago. And she was very good, and I really did a lot when I was interviewing, and really talked a lot about, looking for someone with really strong interpersonal skills. And she had those. And yet, I still, it wasn’t the way she was handling clients. I think I finally realized that I want that direct connection early on with my clients. That doesn’t mean I am always the first person to answer the phone, because I travel so much, but pretty much from first significant interaction to the end, I’m gonna be the one to talk with them. That matters to me and I think it matters to my clients.

Rackham:

You mentioned you had a virtual assistant, is that through a virtual assistant company or just somebody who you hired independently as a contractor?

Tammy:

I’ve tried both. At the moment I have someone I hire who has her own virtual assistant company and so it’s just her. And there are pros and cons of both approaches but I, that’s where I started years ago, and then I tried some of these companies in between, then I went back to a solopreneur with her own business and really found that that was a good match for me.

Rackham:

Great. So you had this sort of pivotal moment where you did the mediation training, you went home, you said, “Uh oh. I think it’s time for me to do something different," and then you mentioned over the course of a year, you did some additional education and you built-up the business. What was one big mistake that you made in the course of building your business? Something that you learned from that you could share with other people who are setting up their own businesses.

Tammy:

You know the first few years were great. I managed, sort of by luck and desperation and studying how to run a business like this, I managed to get out of starting blocks pretty easily. But then about two or three years after I started my practice, we lived in the Burlington Vermont area at the time. My husband took, my husband’s a college professor, and he took a new teaching position at a university in Massachusetts. And so we moved, and we decided we wanted to live just a little north of the Aspen border, in southern New Hampshire.

At the time, I was teaching mediation at a college in Vermont. We needed to straddle those two geographic regions a little bit. We ended up in southern New Hampshire, in a much more rural region that we’d been in in the Burlington area. Now at Burlington, a lot of my clients at that time, were hospitals and universities, colleges and Burlington area was a really great place for that. Vermont, in general was a great place for that. But when we moved to this more rural area, I thought to myself, “Oh I don’t know if I can be as specific with my target market."

So I had sort of a brain cramp, and I thought, “I’ll just try to serve everybody, I’ll try generalize my practice," And I managed to get myself on the first probate court mediation panel in the state, I think it was one of the firsts in the country. I started serving families. I started doing you know, all sorts of, still doing workplace and organizations. I was a little bit of everything, and I was miserable. And the business didn’t tank but it really wasn’t growing either. And you know my income was okay, even if it was nothing to ride home about.

And one day I just woke up, I thought, “I have made a mistake here around thinking that because I’m in a more rural geographic area that I cannot have a really focused target market or set of target markets." And I went back to what I’ve been doing and things really took off, and grew from there again. And made me a whole lot happier because I was really serving the kind of clients that we talked about earlier, the ones that are in ongoing relationship either because they have to be, either because they want to be and that’s always what’s motivated me in this work. So that was, I managed luckily to recover from that really bad decision I made.

Rackham:

Yes, so you learned the hard way so that, I wanna say "conventional wisdom," but a lot of people are still learning it, that narrowing down the focus of your business and becoming specialized and putting all your energy into that one area can really be very rewarding both personally and professionally.

Tammy:

You know, yeah. In the book that I wrote back in ’08, "Making Mediation Your Day Job," I made a really strong case that the target market is really essential, particularly for mediators and coaches breaking into the market today, which is more crowded than it was when I started. But I do think a lot of people really struggle because they feel like, “Ah I can’t narrow down. I’m not getting enough work as it is." It feels counterintuitive, right? And the irony is you know that old marketing truism, if you try to market to everybody, you end up marketing to nobody. But yeah, it’s really crucial.

Rackham:

Yeah. I’m in the middle of reading a book kind of along those lines. I’m still in the middle of reading it so I can’t speak to it too much, it’s called "The Pumpkin Plan."

Tammy:

Oh I don’t know that one.

Rackham:

Yeah and so he, I’m drawing a blank on the author’s name, but I’ll put it in the show notes. What it’s based on is an observation he had that to grow the biggest award-winning pumpkins, farmers would get rid of the underperforming pumpkins.

Tammy:

Oh I see.

Rackham:

And so, it’s basically a book centered around the premise of firing clients, and really focusing on the areas where you can be of most value and most productive and most profitable.

Tammy:

You bet. Yep. Sounds like a good read, I’m gonna pick it up.

Rackham:

Yeah, "The Pumpkin Plan." Now on the flip side of that coin, what do you consider one of your best business decisions to date?

Tammy:

Well, let me sort of set up a backdrop to answering that question. The backdrop is that I have always believed the best way to succeed in the conflict resolution field is to be nimble with the kinds of processes and tools and skills that I have so that rather than forcing my clients to shapeshift into the one process that I might wanna do, mediation for example, that I should have a breadth of processes that I can turn to: coaching, consulting, mediating, facilitating, blah blah blah blah, that can help them with the specific kinds of sets of needs that they have, and that may differ across clients, so though I’m shapeshifting for them rather than forcing them to fit me.

So I’ve always felt that way, I still feel that way. I say that to mediators all the time. You can’t just sell one process. The world doesn’t necessarily want that one process. So when I started out, I had a lot of those skills. You know I added mediating to that skill set I developed as a teacher, and as someone who has started learning and had a change, had been a career coach years before that when I first was out of grad school. So I had a sort of breadth of these tools and skills, and I made my practice in part by doing all those. And probably, I don’t know how long ago now, it’s been more than a few years. I realized that things like meeting facilitation and retreat facilitation, even strategic planning, which I have never been a big, never had a huge love of what I love is helping around the dynamics and the decision-making, but the strategic planning per se, I’m not, was never particularly interested in.

I took all of the services that just didn’t excite me and had me leaping out of the bed in the morning, and I stopped serving them. I started and people still call me today, because they know I do conflict resolution work, and they know that I’m a good process person. They heard my name from somebody else and they say, “Can you, you know, facilitate a 3-day strategic planning retreat?” And it’s tempting sometimes, the dynamics are gonna be a challenge but I ultimately know I just don’t get excited about that so I forward that kind of, those kind of requests to colleagues that I know who are good at it and do that work. And what that allowed me to do is just completely, completely love my work. And you know, I do really. I get up at 4 am most mornings, and I’m ready to go. People sometimes get emails from me at 5:30 and they think, “What is wrong with this woman?” And I’m already in the office! Because I love my work!

Rackham:

So do I understand correctly then that you still offer a variety of processes, you still tailor the process to the situation, but you don’t offer any possible process that is imaginable – there’s still some that are the ones that you offer and others you say, “I don’t do that?"

Tammy:

Exactly. Yep, well said Rackham.

Rackham:

I think that sort of the counterpoint of what we were saying earlier about having a niche practice. You know, I’m just sort of think out loud here. You can have a bakery that specializes in birthday cakes, but if you only make one kind of birthday cake, you’re not gonna get much business. You still have to be adaptable and be able to take your clients as they are.

Tammy:

Right. I’ve been telling a story for years. It’s somewhere in my website about, you know, a guy who loves apple pie so he takes an apple pie baking class, and he decides to open up an apple pie baking shop, and that’s the one thing he offers. And people come in, and some people like the pie and some people say, “Do you make apple turnovers?” And he says, “No, no, but let me show you why pie is so great." And some people come in and they say, “Do you make apple strudel?” He says, “No, no, apple pie! Let me show you! You will fall in love with it too." And of course, he loses a huge number of clients.

The problem also is that not only is he turning people away who he might, with just minor changes in his process and his skill set, he’s also got 10 other apple pie shops who opened you know within 50 miles of him. And so he’s fighting for a very tiny slice of a relatively fixed pie, and as you and I know that that’s a really hard thing to do. And I think that that’s the challenge that the mediation world is facing in terms of people building their practices. Everyone’s fighting over a fairly small pie. Instead of saying, “Wow! You know, here are all the things I can do," that don’t require necessarily extensive re-educating, but they do require a flexibility in how we serve our clients, and how we figure out how we can be of value to them.

Rackham:

Right, and it doesn’t mean giving up the focus of your practice either. Right? You can be, you just re-characterize it a bit. "I'm in the apple pastry business."

Tammy:

Right, exactly. Exactly. And that the target is who you’re serving. Right? You know if you find a group that you know extraordinarily well, and you know that they love apples in general then you’re gonna be in a fairly good shape in a way that you can serve them.

Rackham:

What’s one tool in your office, your computer, your mobile device that you recommend to other professionals?

Tammy:

You know when you told me you were gonna ask me this question, I thought, “ONE TOOL?! I have 900 that I love!” I have in the last, probably in the last year, have really fallen in love with an app called WorkFlowy. It’s not, I don’t know that it’s my favourite name for an app but it’s work, W-O-R-K-F-L-O-W-Y so 'workflow' with a ‘Y’ at the end of it. And what it is is you can access it via a webpage. You can access it via an app on your mobile device, and it’s a stripped down list-making and note-taking app. So I have it on my iPhone, I have it on my iPad, I have it on my Apple, my MacBook Air. When I first found or when I first discovered it, it was a little unclear because when you open it, it’s essentially a white blank page with only a few functions that it does; it does not have 9 million bells and whistles. It’s just got a simple core of things, that once you learn them, it’s drop dead simple to learn but once you learn them and you start fussing with them, you discover that you can do A LOT with this tool. So I use it to map-out projects. I use it to take notes when I’m at seminars or meetings. I use it as a to-do list for tracking what I have to cover in a day, to complete at the end of the day or the week. And it’s an incredibly elegant, simple, powerful tool. And kind of in my book, when you get all 3 of those, simple, elegant and powerful all in one tool, then it passes master with me. That’s kind of what I look for. So Workflowy, and I think the web address is workflowy.com. I’m not sure.

Rackham:

Workflowy, great. We’ll add that to the show notes. Is there an iOS app for that too or is it just an app?

Tammy:

Yes, there is. What’s your favourite? I wanna turn that question back on you.

Rackham:

My favourite tool?

Tammy:

Yeah.

Rackham:

For me, it’s Clio. Absolutely. You know, having a practice management system. I talk to other professionals who say they spend a full day or even two days a month running their bills. And you know I spend, twice a month, I spend half an hour to 45 minutes in the evening before I go to bed running my bills.

Tammy:

Yeah. Systematizing the things that don’t get us out of the bed in the morning is really crucial. 

Rackham:

Definitely. So that, and I’m also really big on task management. For a long time, I used a Mac and iOS app called OmniFocus. These days, I use Asana, which is web-based, subscription-based.

Tammy:

Yeah. Asana’s really great too.

Rackham:

I don’t know how people stay on top of their client work without some kind of task management system. I think that’s how people let clients fall through the gaps and you know, they say lack of communication is the biggest cause of bar complaints. And I honestly think it’s because people aren’t just creating a task to follow-up with their clients.

Tammy:

You know, as I listen to you, I totally agree with that. I got very lucky, when we were talking about virtual assistants awhile back, and I had that virtual assistant that I hired about 10 years ago. The first she asked me to do was to map out my processes so from the moment a client emailed me or called me, or left a voice message, what was the sequence of things that happened, you know, sort of in the pipeline from becoming a prospective client all the way to being a former client. And the act of mapping all that out made a huge difference in my practice, because as things got busier and busier and busier, it really helped me to make sure that I had automated what I could, and what I couldn’t automate that I was on top of or somebody or my VA was on top of, and it enabled those cracks not to happen. And it really is crucial that mediators, that anybody really, in the kinds of businesses that we’re in, have a way to track and process clients.

Rackham:

Yeah. I don’t know who came up with it first but there’s a saying that you should delegate what you can and you should automate all of that. Automate before you delegate. Delegate before you do it yourself as much as possible, so that you can focus what you do in your business on really your essential competencies.

Tammy:

Exactly. Yep.

Rackham:

So going a bit more low-tech now, I know you’ve written a couple books yourself, what’s one other book that you consider essential reading for anybody doing conflict resolution, dispute resolution work?

Tammy:

One of my favourite books, and I’m constantly encouraging conflict resolution professionals to read it and when I teach in grad programs, it’s usually on my required reading list. It’s this book by Ben and Rosamund Zander you might know, because you’re in the Boston area, Benjamin Zander, as the, I think he’s now the former director of the Boston Philharmonic. They wrote a book called "The Art of Possibility."  It’s a tiny little yellow paperback. A former student of mine actually gave it to me years ago, and it’s become one of my favourites of all time, and it’s a book about cultivating possibility. But more than that, it’s about helping people bring the best of who they are at the problems they face. And I think I have a concern as I watch the conflict resolution field evolve, that there is some movement toward helping people who are broken in all the ways that you know, people who are, have all of these very potentially clinical diagnoses, how to manage all of these difficult people. And I have become very very concerned about that, because it runs counterintuitive to I suppose my outlook on life and my outlook with my clients. I think my job is to take a more positive, a perhaps more appreciative view that most people aren’t broken. Most people, the vast majority, aren't broken but are occasionally stuck, and my task is to help them find, pull back and find that best parts of themselves to bring to the conversation. So that’s why I love that book so much.

Rackham:

Yeah. That really goes hand in hand with something that Dan Bernstein said. I interviewed him a few episodes back, and his whole thing is about reshaping the conversation around mental health issues, and not labeling people because the moment you label somebody, as you said ‘broken’ or ‘mentally ill’, that can either just make you write them off or just cast a cloud over the whole process. So you know removing the label, looking at you know symptoms and circumstances rather than causes, and helping people as you said, move in a positive direction, and avoiding those labels is a really powerful message.

Tammy:

I think it’s an important message. I think there is a huge difference between managing difficult people and managing difficult behaviours. And I think very very very very few people fall into the category of difficult person. And I think more frequently, people get stuck in difficult behaviours because of the dynamics that they are trapped in with somebody. And I don’t know, I don’t wanna be diagnosed when someone’s working with me on something I need help with. Why would I do that to somebody else?  Especially if it’s not in my professional toolkit to have the really in-depth ability to do that, so yeah. I think Dan’s point about not labeling, I think it goes, for me, it goes beyond that.

For me, it’s not just labeling people as high conflict or this or that, passive-aggressive, whatever the list is that I’m seeing more and more, but working with making the assumption of normality even if people aren’t acting so great. That’s what we’re supposed to do! I mean that’s our job! We’re putting ourselves in the middle of people who aren’t acting so great, and it’s tempting to conclude that they aren’t great because we’re standing to see them not at their best. But you know there’s that work that Jeffrey Kottler did, a psychologist years ago, and he said, “You know you can’t look at someone that looks difficult to you without also looking at yourself because the dynamic is between you”, and that’s true for us as mediators and coaches too.

Rackham:

Yeah. It’s interesting too how much time we spend... You know, just a couple weeks ago I went to a seminar where we’re talking about the lizard brain and how that shapes people’s reactions. You know, if you’re going to recognize that people in conflict are being driven, in large part, by their lizard brain, then you can’t just write them off, right?

Tammy:

That’s right.

Rackham:

Because you have to recognize that that is what is going on. But knowing it and acting on it and certainly living it are different things.

Tammy:

Right. And well, I can be kind of lizardy at times. I recognize that in myself, right? And I guess for me is I don’t want to see the field move into a direction of riding in on a white horse to save people from who they are. That makes me very uncomfortable. And so I hope there’ll be more voices like yours and mine and Dan’s pushing that envelope and pushing people to take a different orientation. It’s kinda like I’ve said there’s that positive psychology movement, maybe there’s that positive conflict resolution movement.

Rackham:

Interesting. Yeah I like that. So shifting gears, for those just starting out or wanting to grow their conflict resolution practices, what have you found to be the best way to attract new clients?

Tammy:

Well you know mediators hire me to coach them on practice building or take one of my course, that’s sort of an add-on part, that’s not my central work but it’s something that I care deeply about. Because when I was teaching in the Master’s program in mediation up at a college in Burlington, the program is now housed in Burlington, in Champlain College in Burlington when I was teaching, and I remember students graduating with Master’s degrees in mediation right? I mean, an incredible, incredible level of skill and then they were going out and not being able to be successful in private practice because they didn’t know how to do that part of it. So you know I’ve been teaching this for a long time. So mediators still find me and I still do that as an add-on to my full-time work because I care about the success of the field.

So here’s what I tell these folks, I say to them, “You’ve gotta start by making a real commitment to your craft, well beyond the basic 40 hours." The best marketing can’t sustain second-rate work, and our field has a relatively low bar. In some places, in some cases, no bar at all. You know I say to my husband, “You can hang up a shingle and call yourself a mediator in most states and no one could stop you if you wanted to do that." Just because we have a low bar doesn’t mean that that’s what we should settle for. And I think frankly that some of the marketing challenges that people face is they haven’t yet really educated themselves deeply in their craft. So that’s the first thing, you gotta make a commitment to your craft, and decide you’re gonna be a really good mediator/coach, whatever label you wanna put on yourself. You gotta be a good one because a lot of our work comes from word of mouth and if we don’t get people referring to us after we’ve served them, we’re missing a huge part of the ability to build a practice. 

I also say kind of what we talked about a little bit about earlier which is stop tying your value to a single process like mediation. That forces people to shapeshift to us instead of the other way around. And I think you become much more valuable and much more employable, in a hiring soft of, in a client kind of way when you can serve people in conflict resolution as supposed to a single process like mediation.

I also say you gotta stop fighting over the same small pie. The litigated case is a small pie. Years ago, a Supreme Court Justice here in New Hampshire said to me, “With all due respect Dr. Lenski, I don’t want people like you to get any of the court-related work. You know if it’s court-affiliated, it should go to attorneys, go to retired judges." And I happened to be on my game that day so I have this great story to tell, I might not have been but I turned to him and said, “That’s totally fine." And he looked at me like I had just, like I was an idiot and I said, “I’ll take the other 98% of conflict out there."

And I see attorneys and people who come from other fields of origin fighting over that – I’m making that up, I don’t know if it’s 2% – but you know, a very very small percentage of conflict ever leads to anyone picking up a phone and calling an attorney. So there’s a world of opportunity out there but people don’t pursue it and there are lots of reasons I think why that happens but you know I just say stop fighting over the same small pie and stop selling a process. You know the truth is, people don’t want a process, they want results. They want that something that that process will give them. We, as mediators and coaches view the process as something incredibly important and it is, but because we do it and we believe in it doesn’t mean that that’s the thing that people buy, and I really don’t think it is. It’s not hard to figure out what your target market wants so badly, they’ll pay for it but you’ve gotta make the commitment to figuring that out.

Rackham:

So I’m hearing a couple things. One is figuring out the implication here. You have to figure out who your target market is and making sure that that target market has room for another professional. You know one thing that I considered awhile back was, would it be possible for me to do only premarital agreements? And you know I did a little bit of research. So I looked at marriage rates declining and the percentage of marriages that have premarital agreements. And I realized, well yeah, if I could get 50% of all the premarital work in the Boston area that would be a viable business.

Tammy:

Well I do think sometimes it is looking. Sometimes mediators will email me and say, “How do I? Should I pick this target market?” I don’t know if they should pick that target market. I don’t know all target markets in all parts of the world. But I’ll send back, here’s how you know, start with the numbers, how many of them are there? And people don’t really know how to find that information. But it is findable. It is. I always say, “Go to your local university’s reference library, they get out of bed in the morning to help answer questions like that” So all of those questions, start with the numbers and take it from there.

Rackham:

Yeah. Focus your business but don’t focus so narrowly that you focus your way out of a viable business.

Tammy:

That’s right. Right. It’s that trick. It’s like finding that sweet spot, not so broad that you’re playing vanilla to every, in trying to address everybody, but not so narrow that there are so few people that you couldn’t sustain yourself on it. Yeah.

Rackham:

Yeah. Well Tammy, thank you so much for your time today. Before we go, what’s the best way for someone interested in your services to reach you?

Tammy:

I’m on the web at Lenski.com and I always say, “It’s L-E-N, as in negotiation, S-K-I dot com”.

Rackham:

Perfect. Thank you again Tammy.

Tammy:

Thank you Rackham, it’s been a pleasure.

Rackham:

That’s today’s show! Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please leave a review on iTunes. You can find show notes for this episode including links to new books and other resources mentioned at zephyrlaw.com/initiative. And again, this is the last episode of Season 1. So please go to zephyrlaw.com/initiative and enter your email address on the sidebar. That way you’ll get notified right away if there’s new material at the ADR initiative, whether it’s a podcast, an article or anything else. And feel free to reach out to me by email. My email address is rackham@zephyrlaw.com, that’s R-A-C-K-H-A-M at zephyrlaw dot com. Thanks again for listening.