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An Effective Mediation Business Model

An Effective Mediation Business Model

What did you find to be the most effective mediation business model in this environment?



Full Transcript

We experimented with different models. In the beginning, we were just not able to get the kind of fees commensurate with the value we felt we were giving, but we always gave more than was expected of us, and this is true in training or in our consulting work. We went out of the way to the best of our understanding to deliver quality. And I can safely say we delivered quality a way that the client never expected it. Now it took us about four to five years, but then we started recognising that we were bust. We were totally broke, and I was borrowing money commercially from banks in order to keep going sometimes twice a year in order to pay my bills and salaries. And I decided to just kind of shift gears, and say ‘You know what, we’ve been around for six years now and I’m not going to do work for any commercial organisation that doesn’t pay me about the same level as you would pay a high-end management consultant, and I was absolutely brutal about it. I would say, ‘If you’re a commercial organization, your executors own houses, you send your children to private schools, you have vacations, you have savings. Neither I nor my team have any of that. If you want us, pay us.’ But we had a very different model from the non-profits, and for the government, we basically did completely free work, and that’s the model that we follow now.


I never sold myself as a mediator. I always say, ‘I’m a conflict resolution consultant or professional.’ I see mediation as one of our modalities. It’s like dialogue facilitation is a modality, consensus building is a modality, but I don’t sell myself as a facilitator or as a mediator. I am a consultant who does intervention and sometimes that intervention is mediation, sometimes it’s facilitation, sometimes it’s giving advice, and giving coaching, but I don’t give coaching in terms of leadership. I give coaching only in terms of conflict. That’s the positioning, very, very specific.


In summary, in the beginning, we really focused on classic mediation, and it didn’t get us anything. Neither did facilitation. Even though the kind of work we were offering to the public hasn’t changed. I came to Bangalore very clear that this wasn’t going to be a mediation agency. This was going to be a conflict resolution organisation that offers all those three, consensus building, dialogue facilitation and mediation. So I was very clear about that, but we did style ourselves as mediators, and I discovered in a couple of years that wasn’t going to get us anything. So now we’re consultants.

About the mediator

Ashok Panikkar Profile Pic

Ashok is fond of saying that, while he is no Mother Theresa or Gautama Buddha, he is utterly fascinated by the intricacies and nuances of conflict resolution and peacemaking. A facilitator for 25 years, he has been called many names, including “agent provocateur.” The many hats he wears include mediator, facilitator, educator, and office clown. When asked why he does this work, he says: ‘Conflicts are early warning signals that things ar... View Mediator