Nicola Crowther sat down with BusinessLive to answer their 10 questions

By 11th July 2023 No Comments

After a successful career practicing civil, commercial and family law in the North East for more than twelve years, Nicola retrained as a mediator in 2010. Crowther Mediation is a specialist in civil, family and workplace mediation.

What was your first job (and how much did it pay)?

When I was a teenager, I had a paper round and decided to diversify by walking a dog for an elderly lady at the same time – I doubled my income to a princely £6 per week without having to increase my effort! Looking back, I think I’ve always been enterprising and never like to miss an opportunity.

When I was doing my A levels, I worked as a waitress in a French restaurant in Whitley Bay. I recently met the then ‘dishwasher’ at a North East Chamber of Commerce event. He recognised me straight away, so I obviously haven’t changed a bit! It was really great to see how far we have both come.

What is the best advice or support you’ve been given in business?

‘Grow a thicker skin.’ This advice came from my husband, who has been running his own successful company for years and he knows me better than anyone – I’m a real softy. In my line of work, we deal with a lot of people going through a difficult time. Naturally, they can get frustrated at their situation and we become the direct target of a lot of misplaced anger, usually by email in the early hours of the morning. I still take each and every one of these emails to heart and address each of them personally. Clients are always apologetic, but I can sympathise with their situation. I sometimes think these personal touches are the key to our success.

Incidentally my husband has also been my biggest source of support. When I decided to give up my career in law (eight months pregnant with our first child) and retrain as a mediator, he didn’t falter. He stood right behind me and said go for it! I can never thank him enough for this.

What are the main changes you’ve seen in your business/sector, and what are the challenges you’re facing?

In the 13 years since I first trained as a mediator, I have seen huge changes in legislation for family mediation, making mediation part of our legal framework for families going through separation. It is my sincere wish that civil mediation will follow suit and more civil claims will be directed away from the courts and into alternative forms of dispute resolution.

As is the case with many industries these days, the main issue we face is funding. Crowther Mediation has always provided support for low income families going through separation. We’ve always had a legal aid contract which allows us to provide our services at no charge to families on low incomes. But we get paid very little from the government for this work. It really isn’t cost effective and sadly many mediation practices simply can’t afford to offer legal aid anymore. At Crowther Mediation we are committed to helping low income families for as long as possible.

How has the pandemic changed the way you work?

During the pandemic, much of our work was conducted online and the world suddenly became a smaller place. Working online is nothing new for civil and commercial mediations, but prior to the pandemic the Family Mediation Council insisted family mediation take place in person. Not only do remote mediations achieve better results for our clients (less stress, easier access etc) it also allows our mediators to work from home and achieve a better work/life balance, significantly reduces our carbon footprint and gives us greater scope to help more people both nationally and internationally.

Who is your role model in business?

I could choose from plenty of fearless, inspirational people in business who have become household names. But I think the role models I have followed have been closer to home. People I have dealt with first hand. Fortunately, the North East is a hotbed of talent to choose from and I couldn’t possibly pick just one!

What would your dream job be?

One day I would like to put all of my negotiation skills, mediation skills and conflict management training to good use working for organisations such as Amnesty International, negotiating the safe passage of aid through regions devastated by war or disaster. Right now, my children are too young, but to end my career on such a worthwhile note would be a real achievement for me and a fair reflection of a (hopefully) well executed career.

What advice would you give to someone starting out a career in your sector?

It’s not as easy as it looks – but it’s absolutely worth the perseverance. The qualifying process, particularly in family mediation, is quite onerous and many a trainee mediator has fallen by the wayside, not making it all the way to full accreditation. With this said, I am a firm believer in the accreditation process and the need for mediation to be recognised and taken seriously as a profession.

But like most things worth having, you have to work hard for it and the reward is just. I am one of those lucky people who really love their job. The team at Crowther will all say the same. There aren’t many things more worthwhile on this earth than creating peace.

What makes the North East a good place to do business?

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Leo Pearlman of Fulwell 73 speaking at an event held by NEECC. I have never heard a more passionate and accurate representation of the North East. If I could relay the whole speech here, I would!

He is absolutely right in identifying the hard working talent in the North East, which is often overlooked and grossly underestimated. This gives us a wonderful advantage over other regions – we work harder, faster, smarter, because we have to. We also need to champion each other to get ahead and this is something business leaders of the North East have embraced. By helping each other, we can achieve so much more as a region. I don’t always see this reflected in other parts of the UK where I work. We all just want each other to do well. It’s really that simple.

How important is it for business to play a role in society?

Massively. Encouraging innovation and creativity, leads to job opportunities and better standards of living for all. Inspiring the next generation and taking the time to give back to local communities is so important.

I think it’s crucial to support all sectors of our society to get involved in business, through access to education, funding and resources. The growth and success of our region depends on it.

Outside of work, what are you really good at?

I really want to say golf, but the question isn’t ‘What would you like to be really good at?’

I’m not one for bragging or boasting, so I find it very hard to say I am really good at anything! But if I was absolutely pushed I would say I am a really good mum to my two daughters aged 13 and 10. It is so important to me to lead by example. I tell them they can achieve anything if they work hard for it and they should never listen to anyone who tells them otherwise.

I set up my company when they were both very small, so they have grown with the business. They have seen me talking on ‘the world stage’, they have watched me establish a company in the Middle East, they have travelled with me for work and reaped the rewards. But at the end of the day, I’m just ‘mum’. I have established a business which allows me to do two school runs per day, put a home cooked meal on the table every evening, wash and iron their clothes, tidy their bedrooms and support their hobbies. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

They are my driving force and maybe, just maybe, I’d like to think I was an inspiration to them (well it’s a toss up between me and Kylie Jenner!).

View the full article on the BusinessLive website.