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Teaching the Teacher

How do you know if you’re an effective teacher? Tonight provided an opportunity worth sharing. This was the eighth and last class of an entrepreneurship/business planning course. Normally the class presents their plans and issues and I lead the discussion. Tonight I flipped it.

The course offered through a community college failed to attract enough students to “make” its March schedule. Unlike businesses, schools offer products contingent on enough customers buying them in advance. As business person the course was my product. I do not like to offer a product under the terms of the school. Especially one as valuable as this course according to the participants.

So I asked them to critique my marketing plan to make sure we never lacked for customers again. What a joy! They walked me through my target customers, needs assessment, value proposition, distribution channel and collateral material design. When I tried to cut corners, they interrupted me and refocused me on the right priority.

So I am talking and writing and brainstorming with a  very diverse group in terms of background and experience when I realize they are teaching me what I had tried to communicate to them. Here’s where it gets really good.

Having gone through the analysis and come up with some solid plans they said, “Rick this may sound crazy but you need to put together something that will really shock the banker or small business person into looking at your course.” Having played them a Seth Godin audio interview, I realized that got it. They wanted my approach to be a purple cow. Totally remarkable!

And finally they said something that humbled me and left me smiling. They reminded me that the simplest approach I had never solicited. If each of them suggested to two of their friends the value of the course they felt certain the minimum number problem would never surface again.

Asking your customers to evaluate your business plan to reach more customers may seem backwards yet for me, this was best lesson of the year. My students taught me quite a bit tonight and I am grateful.

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