2023 Recap: Q&A with John Miles, Founder and Chairman of Miles Mediation & Arbitration
In this month’s Thoughts From the Top, we speak with John Miles, founder and chairman of Miles Mediation & Arbitration, about how 2023 unfolded.
Q: First, what made you choose to name Parag Shah as the CEO of Miles in December 2022?
A: I always have been long on ambition and optimism, and I wanted to create something that was unique in the ADR space. At the beginning, Miles was my vision, and what really held it together was the force of that vision and my personality. I think at first the neutrals who were with Miles would say my confidence in what we were going to be was inseparable from their confidence in me. As we grew, I begin to realize that there were skills I didn’t have and with our first expansion into Savannah, the daily running of the operation became complicated by a factor of two.
Jake [Jake Miles, Miles’ CFO] came on in 2017 and his skill set is the financial and the ability to put together budgets and trends, and I could see a path forward to opening these offices, but I didn’t know how we would integrate them or build a staff who knew what we wanted to do. We tried several different approaches with limited success. Parag had joined Miles and was a very good mediator who quickly became a fulltime mediator.
When COVID-19 shut us down, it turbocharged my weaknesses. I’m not particularly good at operations and terrible at planning and anticipating trends. I didn’t even know what Zoom was. Parag stepped in to help with crisis management and in short order it became abundantly apparent that Parag was brilliant and a genius when it comes to motivating and leading, and identifying and recruiting top talent. Within 48 hours, he had all of our mediators up on Zoom, and Jake and I both said, “I think he’s our man.” While he started at CEO on January 1, 2023, the truth is he had been de facto CEO before that.
Q: What did you expect to see from Miles as a company in 2023?
A: Before Parag, and before Jake, I feel like we were the United States under the Articles of Confederation where the states retained all rights and all powers. Our neutrals were a group of sovereign autonomous companies that were loosely joined together; we had talented neutrals at the top but fundamentally there were a lot of individual brands who happened to come to our facility and happened to mediate there.
I always believed that would change and that the organization would provide value that would be perceived by the neutrals and by the public at large and we have done that. Since Parag, we’ve become the United States of America — our organization has a strong central brand that has been identified in the marketplace. In 2023, it was about continuing to build that foundation.
Q: How has the company grown in this past year?
A: It has become diverse, in every sense of that word. We’ve increased the diversity of our neutrals, and it would be very easy for me as chairman of the board or CEO to say, ‘here are 10 new African Americans or 10 new women,’ but one of the things that really improved over 2023 in terms of our diversity is that we have diverse neutrals among our top neutrals. We also have diversity of age — one of the things that sets us apart is that the vast majority of our neutrals are under 55. And our company is becoming more diverse in what we do with our Workplace Division and Education Division. We were able to transcend just being a mediation/arbitration company and truly be a company that delivers dispute resolution across the spectrum.
Our panel is not only diverse; it is made up of excellent neutrals. Half of the mediators on our panel mediate at least 5 cases/month; one-third mediate 10 or more; and 25 percent mediate 15 cases or more a month. What you find at other firms is that the top 20 percent mediate 80 percent of the cases, and that’s not the case at Miles. That’s a testament to that skill of our mediators and something I’m very proud of.
We’re becoming a national company, and our expansion is both organic and with acquisitions. We acquired USA&M because they are strong in areas we truly need, and they’re based in the Midwest [St. Louis]. They do a lot of special master and arbitration work, and they have really good mediators in some of our target areas — employment, medical malpractice, commercial, and construction.
Q: Tell me about ADR On-Demand.
A: ADR On-Demand is wholly owned by Miles now and the company is probably the classic example of our philosophy. Most ADR companies are brick-and-mortar places where good mediators come to mediate. Our professional services model is that we have extraordinary neutrals, and we provide the experience you’re looking for, whether that’s a large case or a smaller one.
For the first five to six years, most of Miles’ customer base were auto cases and slip-and-fall cases that went less than three hours and settled for less than $100,000 but as we grew, we could no longer mediate those cases economically. Yet there is a huge segment of people out there who are deserving of resolution. With our professional service model, we could come up with something that hadn’t been tried before in the marketplace and challenge the belief that customers wanted to select their own mediator and challenge the perception of the marketplace that mediation must be in person. In exchange, clients gained the ability to mediate as soon as they want and can mediate as many cases as they want. Now we have developed a product that has been widely successful int this space by addressing this need.
Q: What are your hopes for the company as we go forward?
A: I think for the first time in the history of the organization we have the foundation to be a national ADR company. We have an extraordinary team of professionals and our staff is at a level they’ve never been before.
The pieces are in place to make Miles a national ADR company. On a personal level, it gives me an extraordinary level of satisfaction to be able to sit back and watch people who love what they do and use their talents to move the company forward.
ABOUT MILES MEDIATION & ARBITRATION
Miles Mediation & Arbitration is shaping the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) industry with our comprehensive professional services model that combines the expertise of our highly skilled, diverse panel of neutrals with an unparalleled level of client support to guide and empower parties to fair, timely, and cost-effective resolution regardless of case size, specialization, or complexity. For more information, please call 888-305-3553 or email email@example.com.