Back To School: Why We Dumped Our Service Menu For A Core Curriculum

Hello, everyone! This is Isaac. Adam introduced me to all of you a month or so ago. I’m the interim design director at ARM Systems, as well as the interim manager of our indulgence practice–“indulgence” being our way of describing cuisine, apparel, publications, supplements, and other items that clients and customers can take home and enjoy as reward for all their hard work on the gym floor.

Recently, we’ve been getting lots of questions about our new curriculum, which replaces the relatively basic, standard, conventional menu of services that we used to offer. I totally understand; our curriculum may represent a quantum leap forward for the entire fitness industry; but it’s so new, so radical, so completely “out there” that it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around it.

It’s hard for us to wrap our heads around it as well sometimes. For example, we’re not offering “initial consultations” anymore. As you may know, in the fitness industry, “initial consultation” is code for “sales meeting”. When we did offer them, they were fairly basic. We would review our offerings with prospective clients, provide some evidence that we did great work, and attempt to convince as many of them as possible to sign contracts with us.

To be clear, I’m not ashamed to sell, and I don’t think anyone else at ARM is either. Businesses, after all, need to make money–or they fold. Plus we were honest, we never resorted to the vanities nor insecurities of our guests, and (in my opinion) we really were the best bet in town.

So why change?

Because we knew there was a better way–and I’m going to tell you what made us so confident about that.

Flash back to 2009. I was asked to write and design new promotional materials for a major university’s visual-arts programme. The dean said something to me I’ll never forget. It’s become my approach to absolutely everything I do as a writer, designer, and consultant–and now that I’ve shared it with everyone at ARM, it’s their approach too. Anyway, here’s what she said:

“This is a place of learning. I don’t want us to be selling anyone on anything. It’s cheap, it’s tacky, and it’s beneath us. Which means that your job is to be a teacher. You need to help prospective students understand what we do here and not just how we do it but why. And even that’s not good enough. You also have to provide them with an education in getting an education. You have to show them how to pick a school, what they should be looking for, how their choice is going to impact their future, and what it means to be an artist in the first place. If you do a great job, students will want to come here naturally. You won’t have to force them. But even for those who walk away and go somewhere else, you will have given them something they never had before–and that’s what matters.”

In other words, what I learned from that experience is that, for a certain type of service–ones that are critical, personal, intimate, requiring major commitments of time and money; services like ours–selling and convincing isn’t enough. Educating people–giving them something of value that’s theirs forever, no matter what–is where it’s at.

So that’s what we’re doing now, in two different ways. First, we’re using the metaphors of the education industry, not the fitness industry, to organize our business. There’s a curriculum, there are courses, each course has requirements, objectives, so on and so forth. It’s immediately familiar–and tasks like goal-setting and time management start to get easier. Second, even though it scares us, we’re ditching selling in favour of educating. We’re making a bet that when people are well-informed and empowered to choose for themselves, they’ll make the right choice more often than not. Third, we’re making sure we’re the right choice, by offering profound new insights and exceptional opportunities for growth every step of the way.

Thoughts? I want to hear from you; please let me know!

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