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Why Alison Shaw made a career change to create change

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Alison Shaw practiced as a litigation lawyer for the past 20 years, however after a lightbulb moment in 2011, Ali knew it was time to step away from her career and forge a new one as a mediator. 

A career change that Ali was passionate about after feeling uncomfortable with the fees of the litigation process, as well as the time litigation takes to solve disputes. From this, SHAW Mediation Australia was born, with Ali stating that “SHAW is about giving businesses and people the best opportunity to resolve their disputes themselves without courts.”

It’s never easy to take that leap and make a career change to follow your passion, however with a strong vision of allowing disputes to be resolved without courts, Ali has pulled it off, building a business within an emerging marketing.

The SHAW Mediation process is simple and it solves a lot of problems for businesses and people with any type of dispute who don’t want to go to court. It also creates an alternative for mediators and lawyers for dispute resolution.

We had a chat with Ali to discuss the challenges and lessons that she has learnt through making a career change and building a service based business in an emerging market. 

What have been the biggest challenges since starting SHAW Mediation?
Two of my biggest challenges since starting have been paranoia, and product to market fit. 

Paranoia about what the legal profession is saying about me. This may just be a medical condition associated with the anxiety and the fear of success I feel in my tummy all the time. I know I have one chance at this and I have to get it right.

I need this ADR business to be credible, reliable and reputable from the start. It’s a delicate relationship with the lawyers, but I need them to know that our clients need them and their service, but perhaps not the courts.

Product to market fit was also a big challenge. Making sure that the SHAW Mediation Packages were what people want even though I am absolutely confident that it is what they need.

I tried to test the market before launching the product and sent out one of three surveys through Survey Monkey to over 4,000 connections and only 60 people responded to the survey.

I am not deterred because I know I just have to keep going and it will be the education of the market about mediation and the benefits of mediation for them that will sell the products. I will keep testing the market regularly.

What has been your biggest win?
My biggest win is definitely getting my mental health better in 2012. I had a professional burnout and hit a wall and slid down pretty badly.

I was struggling under the pressure and stress of being a partner of a law firm that I had founded with two colleagues in 2009, a lawyer and supervisor of junior lawyers, a wife who always lost track of time while at work, and a mother who was not home with her eight year old daughter and five year old son as much as I wanted.

So, after retiring from the legal partnership of BBS lawyers I decided to follow my lightbulb moment experienced in 2011 when I had studied to become a nationally accredited mediator and learned another way people can resolve their disputes themselves without courts.

I realised then that there are 3,000 nationally accredited mediators in a cottage industry well able to help people to resolve the dispute but no place to find them.

That’s when I knew that not only could I help people personally by mediating for them, but becoming the “go to place” for dispute resolution by nationally accredited legally trained mediators.


What advice would you give to others who are building their business in an emerging industry?
Just know that it is going to take time to educate the market and use social media to do that – videos, podcasts, blogs and tweets for the journos to start noticing you. Build your community every day.

Make sure you are credible and authoritative in your field and become the person recognised as an industry leader.

Also, from a very practical perspective, systemise every aspect of the business and everything you do with quality checks in place as soon as possible. Write what you do down, so you know how you do things and how you want your services to be delivered in the same way.

What impact has The Entourage and our community had on your business and your life.
I live my business when I’m not with my children. I think about it all the time, mornings at the gym, in the shower, packing school lunches, hanging the washing, ironing and at night it wakes me.

The Entourage has given me the business tools and strategies to think about and implement all day every day. The best impact for me has been articulating, after 20 years in the law, my true values which are not only my business values and work ethos, but my personal values and how I chose to live every day.

If you too are ready to take your business to the next level, or are ready to turn your idea into a reality then book in for a free business discovery session today to find out how you could benefit from joining our community.  


About The Entourage

The Entourage is Australia’s largest educator and community of entrepreneurs with over 100,000 members around the world.

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