Listen Closely; Hurry Slowly


By George Block

Yesterday I got an email asking for ideas. “I am interested in getting a swim program off the ground with our Elementary/ Middle schools and quiet frankly don’t know how to get the ball rolling.”

It is getting more and more difficult to have programs like that, because laws like No Child Left Behind (along with the various state adaptations) mandate “seat time,” so taking even very young kids out of class is difficult.

On the other hand, AFTER SCHOOL activities are now REQUIRED by the Federal Government, especially fitness programs that reduce obesity. This might be the best approach.

When you are developing any new product or service offering, my recommendation is to spend 6 months doing “research.” Talk – individually – to your potential customers (in this case it is school board members, principals, administrators). See what THEY need (not what you want to do or sell). See what their obstacles are. Then spend the next 6 months coming up with a menu of different ways you can get around their obstacles and meet their needs. See if you can get them to pick one and try a pilot program.

They might need to get a grant to do a pilot, but obesity-related grants are out there. It could take some time to research, develop a menu of ideas, get (administrative) buy-off on one, get grant funding; etc.

Most people fail in developing a new product or service because (a) they to sell a product instead of meet a need;and (b) they aren’t patient enough to deal with organizational inertia. Every organization has inertia from a small family, to a huge, overly-regulated bureaucracy. If you can listen closely, and be patient enough to hurry slowly, you can grow a family or school district into a long-term customer.

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