Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with David Falk, Partner and Senior Mediator of Facilitated Solutions, located in Winnipeg, MB, Canada`.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Facilitated Solutions (FS) is one of Canada’s leading professional mediation and conflict management firms. Our mission is to help people prevent, manage, and resolve conflict in the workplace. Facilitated Solutions has been dealing with confidential, complex workforce/employer issues and offering specialized services to Canadian workplaces since its inception in 2002.
Our clients range from large, unionized workplaces in areas such as healthcare, manufacturing, social services, education, and government to family-owned businesses, professional associations, and not-for-profit organizations. Each FS practitioner also brings extensive, relevant professional experience that predates their work with our firm.
Tell us about yourself
It is the transformative moments that frequently, but not always, happen during facilitated conversations that have kept me motivated to work in the dispute resolution field for over 30 years. These moments include those where people are able to recover from past misunderstandings and disagreements, value conflicts and actions of hurt/harm, and establish more functional and healthy ways of working with each other. Also, those moments where people realize that things are not recoverable for them at this time, and they choose to find a way to exit a difficult situation in a way that is liberating for them.
I was invited to Join Facilitated Solutions and become a partner in the firm in its second year of operations. Prior to this, I taught Conflict Resolution Studies at the University of Winnipeg for six years and spent a few years as a Conflict Management Consultant. All of these experiences provided me with the opportunity to develop the skills and ability to help FS clients face some of the most difficult workplace conflicts. Our firm has the depth of skills and knowledge to offer our clients individual and group mediation, coaching, and training services, as well as team/organizational assessments and conflict management-based strategic planning.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
One of our larger accomplishments was pivoting our business from an exclusively in-person service provider to working 100% online in the early months of the pandemic. In mid-March 2020, all of our ongoing projects and contracts were canceled, and the work/revenue pipeline dried up. After a few days of existential angst, we moved to action. As owners, we suspended our salaries and deferred our mortgage payments so we could keep paying our salaried staff. We then started to offer free weekly webinars entitled “Facilitation Fridays.” This was done with the intention of trying to support our community of clients during this anxious time while also developing our confidence and competence in delivering training and mediation services via the Zoom platform.
At the same time, one of my partners was contacted by Jennifer (one of our healthcare clients who had to cancel a multi-day training session with us). Jennifer reached out and asked if we could possibly send her a weekly reminder on how to lead well and be a decent human being during this extraordinarily complex and stressful time. This was a personal ask that had no budget. She simply had a need that she thought we could help her with. This request gave us a renewed sense of purpose as we rallied to respond to Jennifer. In consultation with her, this request moved from being a private email exchange to becoming an ongoing conversation between Jennifer and my business partner that was shared as a blog for the benefit of the many other “Jennifers” out there.
While these acts of generosity were appreciated by our clients, they provided a huge benefit to us as they gave us something positive to focus on in a time of uncertainty. By the end of 2020, our business was back on track and able to move from surviving to truly thriving. During this time, the FS practitioners also developed an asynchronous online training program, which is available in English to anyone at any time via the Facilitated Solutions Teachable website.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
One of the challenges of being a business owner, especially of a consulting business, is the ongoing tension between the need to serve the client’s needs (aka “billable” work) and the need to focus on building the business (aka non-billable work). It is easy to over-focus on serving the client’s needs and neglect the needed ownership attention to the non-billable aspects of sustaining and growing the business.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Figure out how to be helpful. Find an area of need that lines up with what you are skilled in/interested in.
- Be clear on your values, things that are core to how you operate as a company, and build your team with people who resonate with these values. For example, at Facilitated Solutions, our values are reflected in the following three statements:
- We love what we do
- Shit happens, it’s ok
- All voices matter
3. Build resilient, trusting relationships within your team and with your clients. It is important for all to develop the knowledge, skill, and will to prevent, manage, and resolve conflict effectively.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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