I come from a farming background where strong ethics and values were installed, where the work was never finished, women worked as hard as the men and divorce was practically unknown until my parents split when I left home.
So no surprise then when my marriage was crumbling that I chose to ‘stay together for the sake of the children’ for as long as possible. But when a financial crisis hit and my ex-husband refused to downsize to ride it out, I no longer had a choice – I had to divorce him to regain financial control.
That experience took many years and was the springboard for my business. When a friend and business coach starting to call me his ‘divorce coach’ the name stuck and I realised there was a huge number of people out there looking for answers they couldn’t readily find.
People facing or going through divorce want and need answers that traditional divorce support can’t readily supply. These people often need answers fast because the pain of dealing with such huge issues means it is only when they are in a really hard place, with their backs up against the wall, that they ask questions such as ‘Can I stay in the family home?’ and ‘How can I afford to divorce?’ These are huge questions. Traditionally people would either take the problem to a family lawyer or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. In recent years, however, successive governments withdrawal of community funding for the majority of divorcing people, coupled with the well documented expense of family litigation and a dearth of information available about low-cost mediation solutions has meant that the average person facing serious relationship breakdown is in a very hard place indeed.
There’s something about getting through an acrimonious divorce which makes people sink or swim. I recognised that my new-found expertise had given me a unique perspective on the needs of divorcing people, so I set about creating the services I now knew divorcing and separating people really need: a bridge between what the legal experts supply and the shoulder your best friend might offer (if you’re lucky.) Our services also give the weakest link support to find a voice; this may be the partner without the financial means to ‘fight’ the financial settlement, or the arrangements for the children.
Recognising early that I was breaking a new market with the services I was offering, it was clear that word-of-mouth marketing strategies via the internet and local face-to-face networking were the most cost-effective ways to market my business. Thus began a very steep learning curve of developing a website where I could manage the content and make changes instantly.
Web marketing experts told me I should blog, so I developed one; in 2006 two marketers in the same week suggested I should look at Ecademy.com and I am so glad I did. I have learnt so much from the unique energy inside Ecademy where members largely share and support one another.
Earlier this month a number of members of the club I co-host on Ecademy – the Divorce Coaching and Support Club – got together with other divorce experts in my network to develop our business relationships and discuss how we can help one another leverage our respective businesses.
We are developing strategic alliances which really work across businesses with the aim of really helping couples breaking up. For example, the One-Stop Divorce Workshop I’m running in Wimbledon on 13 September is a unique example of how experts – for example, a family lawyer (Charlotte Adler, herself an Athena member,) financial consultants (including Athena member Gaynor Polirer, a wills and trust expert,) a relationship coach and a family mediator. We are developing a strategic alliance to give separating and divorcing people what they really need and want – good advice and information, fast and at low cost. But we are also human; we care and we want to help which is why people going away from the workshop do so feeling so much happier than when they arrived. One participant said ‘The workshop made me feel more positive. When I arrived I felt as if I was a going to a funeral; when I left I felt a lot more optimistic.’
We divorce coaches are still breaking the divorce coaching market but by leveraging our network on-line and face-to-face we are getting noticed and our clients are spreading the word about how we have helped them. It really does help to be prolific on-line networkers, both on established business networking sites like Ecademy and Linked In and social networking sites like Facebook.
Penny Power, founder of Ecademy writes: ‘In the 21st Century business people do not have to build big business to achieve big results, but they have to start with the right intention and use the tools available to spread the word.’
Whilst it is the internet which will deliver our unique messages to a wide audience, this also needs to be blended with face to face contact and support, best delivered at local level by being part of communities which genuinely believe in helping people – like the Athena network.
As someone who was brought up on a farm without a television (and certainly well before computers – let alone the internet) it’s a great feeling to be part of these communities, albeit far removed from the farming community of my childhood!
About the author:
The Divorce Coach
t: 020 8123 9046
www.itsMYdivorce.co.uk (in its infancy)
Kirsten Gronning, is regularly approached by coaches and therapists and – increasingly, family lawyers and mediators – to share and develop ideas and experiences. It is a struggle developing a new business concept, especially one which challenges traditional ways of thinking and in her article “Breaking a new market – divorce coaching” Kirsten shares one of the main secrets for success – building strategic alliances through networking.