The Mediation Times


Mediation Business Summit – Phil Gerbyshak – Featured Speaker

by Amanda on September 12, 2010

It’s less than a week until the Mediation Business Summit starts on 16, September. In the run up to the teleconference, For those of you who don’t know him, I’d like to introduce you to Phil Gerbyshak – The Relationship Geek. Phil is hugely successful and highly regarded for his unique and effective approach to entrepreneurship.

Phil will be speaking on Friday, September 17th at 10:00am Eastern/3:00pm BST.

I “met” Phil through Twitter about 18 months ago.  Phil was one of the first people I followed and, more importantly,  he followed back and started a conversation which was interesting,  informative and fun.  So for me, Phil is responsible for showing me how Twitter could and should work. It came as no surprise to me when I heard that his latest book is just published called #Twitterworks, co-authored with Joe Sorge and Scott Baitinger. I am waiting for my copy to arrive!

We have maintained that great connection and I am delighted that he agreed to be a speaker for our Mediation Business Summit because he is a master at building relationships “one handshake at a time”.

This year, Phil moved from corporate life to self-employed. It occurred to me that it would be great for Summit participants to hear what his recent experience was of planning and setting up his own practice. Here’s what he had to say… and I am sure he will have many more gems to share on his call.

Amanda: From your experience, what was most overwhelming by when planning to start out on your own?

Phil: Details! You have to be really careful about what gets your attention and what really needs your attention. There is a big difference. You have to keep your eye on the business but then there are other things that creep in that you think are important and you end up paying too much attention to them. Don’t get so hung up on going exactly according to plan. Being flexible and accept that having other things that may not be part of the plan, is OK. You just have to be careful not to give too much attention to things that don’t increase your revenue or don’t build your brand.

Amanda: You have recent experience in this because you’ve made that great leap just this year from a corporate environment to full-time entrepreneur.  I’m sure people will be interested to know what that feels like now you are on the other side of it.

Phil: The biggest shift for me is that all the things I did before when I was still a a corporate citizen, now I can do them during the day as opposed to at night. I am used to having those 8 hours during the day gone and writing blog posts and speeches at night so it is really good to be able to spend the main part of the day on them now. It feels great. Being in corporate America you often focus on what others what you to focus on. Now, I can focus on what I want to focus on. That’s both a little bit exhilarating and a little bit scary, because now I only have me to blame for my success or failure. I can’t say “if my boss would only give me more time…” No, if you want time you have to take it. That’s a lesson I have learned too.

There's transparency and there's transparency...

There's transparency and there's transparency...

Amanda: Some of those attending the Mediation Business Summit might be thinking about looking to make the change to building their own business. How do you stay friends with your existing employer when they know that you have these outside interests? How do you avoid bad feeling from the perception that you are building your new business on the back of them?

Phil: I gave a two year notice not a two week notice. So two Octobers ago I was in my end of year review and my manager asked me “what’s next for you Phil?” Next for me is out of the organisation, next for me is transition. Next for me would be doing my own thing full-time. And she said ‘well that means you need to find a successor, you need to define what transition means, and you need to come up with a plan on how this is going to work.’

I came up with a plan and we talked about it.

Absolutely key is proper planning up front and being honest along the way and as things change. This is how to get promoted, how to keep a relationship it’s ‘ kick butt’ at what it is you are currently doing.

You mentioned ‘building it on the back of them’, well my business is so completely different from what I was doing (VP of IT for a financial services firm) that there was no competition. In fact,  I didn’t even have the name of the company on my LinkedIn profile until after I left. I built everything separately. I think that is more honest than trying to say that ‘I’m in a business and I want to build a business just like it except for me.’ It would be a bit like telling your significant other “well, you know, I love you, but I want to get another boyfriend just like you.”

You really have to be up front and to you have to give more lead time to the organisation so they can adjust their thinking, otherwise they are going to be surprised and you don’t want surprises for them. You don’t want them filling in the gaps with thoughts of you using their time and possibly running off with their customers.

Amanda: I have a sense that you were very transparent , very present in your job every day delivering so no one could say “hang on Phil, you’ve been doing other stuff and you’re not focused on the job” So there is a trust element there?

Phil: Absolutely!

They promised to give me time to build my business, so I had to be very clear about ‘what’ and ‘when’ and then be responsive and flexible. If I was out on a vacation day doing something for my new business and something important happened, I would call back into my day job to deal with it or talk about dealing with it appropriately.

Amanda: You must have done quite a lot of work around the boundaries of your values and intentions. Were you aware of that?

Phil: Not really. But I am clear about ‘let’s make it a great day’ not ‘let’s have an average day’! Everything I do has to be ‘great’ but that doesn’t mean perfect! It does mean giving my attention to the ‘right now’ and that means asking myself “do I have this hour or do I have to reschedule this for a better time?’  And sometimes I did reschedule. I didn’t grow my business as fast as I could have, had I cheated. but I was much more true to myself, my company, and my team who were relying on me.

Amanda: Is there something that you thought of  that didn’t happen and is there something that happened that you didn’t plan for – any surprises?

Phil: Yes!
Cash flow is an interesting animal! I still have some outstanding engagements coming in from earlier this year.  There are groups that haven’t fully made good on their word. That always surprises me and I am always shocked that organisations can hire someone to do the work and not pay them for a period of time for whatever reason. That surprised me. I expected it to be better, cleaner. I know I need to do a better job of invoicing: set aside say the 1st of month and send out the invoices in a focused way.

As far as what hasn’t happened: I expected things to be clearer, faster because I spent so long  planning it.

Amanda: Given you have just written a new book #Twitterworks, let’s talk a little bit about Twitter… Twitter is for kids isn’t it? It’s all about what your eating and where you are drinking coffee so how can that seriously help your business, particularly if you’re a professional services business?

Phil: Sure… Well if you think about Twitter as conversation, connection and rapport with people. Think about having a conversation with someone you may not be able to get in front of otherwise and how Twitter means you can pre-know their interests you can pre-know what they are doing.

For example, Foursquare, for some people, this is a great way to connect. Imagine I’m in London and I check in at some coffee shop near you and you would like 5 minutes of my time. If I have time to have a cup of coffee then you have time to meet with someone.

Twitter is about micro interactions that you can search on and have conversations, ask questions, build rapport. You have to go beyond 140 characters to have a relationship with someone but the great part about Twitter is that I can follow you and unless I am a total goofball you are not going to block me and I can see everything you say. You don’t have even have an account to take advantage of Twitter.

You have way more control over building personal brand and business relationships. You can be specific and you choose your way of introducing yourself. You also have to be very precise and say what you mean and mean what you say. I mean be smart, use your head because it lasts forever!  People are not always mindful about this.

It was great to talk to you, Phil! See you at the Summit for more insights and expertise!

If you want to hear more from Phil, then it’s not too late to register for 11 great voices on building a successful ADR practice.



  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Amanda Bucklow, Rusti-Ann Blanke. Rusti-Ann Blanke said: lookin fwd 2 it RT @AmandaBucklow: Mediation Business Summit. @PhilGerb Featured Speakr The Mediation Times via @Apture [...]

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