Zach Schaefer | Mediation and Communication Solutions

Mediation and Communication Solutions, LLC (MCS) was the product of a 10+ year journey seeking to understand how organizations effectively communicate with their various stakeholders. Since I was a kid, I had always engaged in entrepreneurial activities, trying to sell one thing or another to our neighbors, my family, and eventually the public. The experiences I gained from my undergraduate degree, Master’s Degree, and eventual Visiting Professorship at Saint Louis University provided me with the necessary experiences, courage, and knowledge to launch my own consulting business.

By the time I was a sophomore at SLU, I knew that I wanted to research Organizational Communication. I had two wonderful professors who sparked my interest in this area, not only because of their interactive and passionate teaching styles, but because they were organizational consultants who demonstrated the connection between theory and practice in class. They showed me how it is equally important to make effective organizational decisions and to know the reasons and concepts behind why the decisions are made. Upon entering my senior year at SLU, I knew that I wanted to be both an academic and a practitioner, because the experiences gained in each profession benefits the other.

These same SLU professors helped me get accepted to the top graduate school in my field, Texas A&M University, to continue studying Organizational Communication under the guidance of three leading scholars. While at A&M I earned a teaching assistantship and eventual fellowship, and I began working in the field of trial litigation as a “researcher for hire.” My research specialization began to focus on how individuals and organizations deal with conflict, and I earned a certification as a professional mediator to better understand how this process can be applied to organizational conflicts.

My brain must be hardwired to see the productive potential of conflict, because I have always been a natural problem solver, the person my friends and family would turn to when they were engaged in conflict. Becoming a professional mediator, conflict management consultant, and communication professor were natural steps for me.

Unfortunately, in many organizations “conflict” is a dirty word. I teach my clients that effective conflict management systems can differentiate innovative firms who harness the creative potential of their employees from firms who strive for mediocrity and avoid conflict. The organizations in the latter category have a limited understanding of conflict, because they treat all conflicts as equally destructive.

My goal as a conflict consultant is to teach managers and business professionals that conflict is normal, natural, and useful, and when proactively managed, it plays an indispensable role in successful organizations. Innovation doesn’t occur without disagreement, and I teach organizations how to productively disagree.

In short, to be a successful entrepreneur you have to do several things simultaneously: (a) be passionate about what you do; (b) fill a “pain point” that your competition ignores; (c) creatively set yourself apart from your competition; (d) figure out how to commercialize your pain-point-solution; and (e) continuously look for ways to improve your business.

What is nice about being a consultant is that the business grows as much as I allow it to. Because I am also a tenure track professor, I can only work with so many clients at a time. For now, I tend to work with 2-3 organizational clients while also coaching a few professionals one-on-one. MCS has a bright future ahead of it, as I plan to eventually hire a partner that will allow me to take-on more ambitious projects. I have two books in the works: one dealing with conflict management in organizational settings and one using the metaphor of gambling to make sense of mediation. I am developing a mobile application for the iOS market called Clash Coach™ that allows users to track, measure, and improve their conflict management styles. I love what I do because it always changes, it’s never stagnant. I would not be an entrepreneur or an Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville if it weren’t for the experiences, knowledge, networks, and courage that St. Louis University gave me.

Degree:                                                                       Graduation:

MA, Organizational Communication                            2006

BA, Communication                                                     2004