Tuesday, June 21, 2011

BodyChance Challenges


What's news in Japan?

I know several of you that are interested in the goings on in Japan and have wondered when I will offer an update. This is it. What are the challenges?

Creating a profitable service industry company is the overriding challenge. Our salaries are currently at 54% of revenue - that makes it a challenge to generate meaningful profits. Why do we want profits? To expand stupid. No bank or investor will hand over actionable money to us without a record of gorgeous profits - such a record has yet to be established by BodyChance. It is the challenge facing us now. I've had conversations with very rich people who might, one day, be willing to invest - but step one is proving that there is a business model for Alexander Technique that makes money.

How are we meeting this challenge? Several ways.

1. Build a niche presence. We are repositioning BodyChance into a niche market. i.e. a service that talks to the needs of our potential clients. In Japan that market is katakori. Kata = shoulder, kori - pain to translate simply. It is huge in Japan - everyone and his dog is out to grab a piece of the action.

Last night we launched the second round of KST = Katakori Sayonara Trial. What's it a trial of? Our monthly continuity membership program - BodyChance Basic - offering you the opportunity of attending BodyChance groups morning, afternoon and evening 6 days a week. If you attended every one (one some do God less them) at market prices you are getting over $4,000 worth of group lessons. Yet for now we only charge $178 as the monthly membership fee. $197 if you adopt the individual lesson plan.

Welcome to Japan, especially Tokyo, one of the most fiercely competitive markets in the world. 30 million people within one hour's travel from our studio door, with an uncountable number of businesses combating each other for a piece of that consumer pie.

Last night, one our guests was a person who completed our first KST program in May this year. "I was completely cured" she declared when I identified her to the group. (Thank you, I thought, you are doing my job for me.) You could see the other people shift in their perception, and begin taking the idea more seriously. Later she signed up for BOTH our Oban Intensive and our month long trial. She's the lucky one.

On the niche strategy thing - once we get KST automated, we will add another niche. Once that is automated, another. I believe we need to build at least three such marketing niches to move into serious profits. These marketing machines automatically pour the punters into our studios - and we send them out happier, healthier and willing life long converts to the Alexander revolution - help us build the community please.

2. Build the community. As we graduate more teachers (only 30 in 12 years so far) we are in fact generating our own competitors. That's a good thing, but why would someone choose us over getting individual lessons when they want them, where they want them, with no commitment beyond the next lesson and probably paying less!? It's the community stupid. So we are busy building community. We have shifted our whole focus from individual lessons to group teaching. Guess where are retention rates are higher?

The individual lesson will eventually become a high end product, which means branding our company as "the place" to go if price is not part of your decision process.

But the groups is where bonding occurs. It is where people meet others than in normal Japanese society they would never cross paths. We create something unique in Japan - Alexander's discoveries cross boundaries in just about every kind of way you can imagine. It makes for a compelling community experience for the highly segmented lives of normal Japanese.

3. Another major change structurally for BodyChance has been introducing a team of full-time teacher managers. Burrowing a page from my other life, I decided that "Actor Managers" would work best at the moment i.e. to build a team of all rounders - people who can teach AT and be involved in the Marketing, Sales and Business building of BodyChance.

Our longer term plan is to open new BodyChance learning eco-systems in multiple locations. (Folks can read my article in DIRECTION for a more detailed description of how this education eco-system operates) Our studio in Osaka is now at the growth stage Tokyo reached three years ago, so we are currently active in finding bigger premises.

4. To manage all this we need better systems. So we have now embarked on the project of generating a detailed Operations Manual which would serve as the bible when opening new learning centres. This is all a struggle for many of our team members - all this business related technology is getting eyes popping and fears stimulated: what has this got to do with the Alexander Technique?

Well, lots if you actually want the work to go mainstream, which is my avowed intention. I reckon I have spent closet to $30,000 of my own money on education in the three skills of marketing, sales and business over the past 4 years. The best people, the actual doers, charge a lot - but who else should I be learning from?

It's starting to pay off, but like the work itself, the more you know the less you know you know. Hmm - that could be a good Facebook muse. Go find me now: www.facebook.com/chancejeremy

Friend me please - I dialogue with people there these days.

5. Strategically, we have decided to jump on to FaceBook and leverage our advantage in knowing that one day it will be huge in Japan, whereas right now the uptake is hovering around the 4/5% level. Only the innovators are on it, (for those familiar with the bell curve of diffusion of innovation) and I've noticed that the "innovators" also turn out to be BodyChance's clientele. Most of them are going on it. That tells me a lot. I wish we could grow as fast of FaceBook but there's the rub…

6. BC Pro - the mother of BC Basic. Professional teacher education. Of course this is THE heart and soul of BodyChance: our four year, full-time Teacher Education program. We have 80 enrolled now, and the challenge pedagogically is building an "Alexander college" as opposed to an Alexander Training School. Of course this is a snail - you can't rush Teacher Education, but there are amazing discoveries I am realised pedagogically which are beyond my ability to share in a few words in this blog.

The question I wonder about these days is this…

“How can BodyChance continuously educate the greatest number of teachers, along a graduated path of individual teaching competence, with the least amount of effort, in an optimum amount of time?”

Would love to see a panel at the Congress tackling that question. It might even tempt me to come!

Over the last few years I have been working to get the synthesis of my own views, and those of our 6 Associate Directors - most particularly Cathy Madden - out of my head and into a curriculum, one sufficiently comprehensible for other teachers to learn from, and be guided by. Now we have been going 12 years, FINALLY there are native Japanese teachers educated by us with the skills to carry on ProCourse Education but they want to know the plan!

This is like a dream come true. I am finally feeling freer from being shackled to the task of Teaching - something I see these days as just one part of my job description.

I am a Master teacher - I know that. What I can do these days even surprises me. I say that because I get the evidence of it every day. What I am not, is a Master of Marketing, Sales and Business. Yet I know that BodyChance will amount to nothing more than an extension of this writer's blathering egocentric attempt to be someone "significant" UNLESS I establish mastery in those areas. I did it once, why not again?

Baring unexpected death, I give my self another productive 25 years to achieve that Mastery. Supposedly it takes 10,000 hours of application, around 10 years, so I should be hitting the mark in 2015! Will the ensuring 23 years be enough time to secure BodyChance as one of the world's game changing companies? Backed by the gold of Alexander's discoveries, I see no reason why not.

6. So I need to simplify my life. I am going into a cave called Japan these days. Gone is the grandiosity of world domination - making it in Japan will do for this life. I nixed my attendance to the Congress, withdrew from ATI, and these days refuse to do anything that doesn't fit into one of three categories - family life, business life, spiritual life. If I can't see a direct benefit from one of those angles - it's gone from my life. Part of me wonders why I am bothering writing this - ego really. We all have one. I love showing off, sorry if I come over badly. In the end, those who know me, understand this is deep.

I have to teach soon. To give you a "taste" of life in Japan for me these days, here is a list of the things I have scheduled during my next 14 days in Japan:

- 33 hours of ProCourse lessons covering 8 of the 12 different courses we run in Tokyo & Osaka.
- two interviews with magazines, one about how AT might help facial expressions with one of the leading women magazines of Japan (who ran me on the cover of a previous issue), the other with a martial arts magazine (we are getting a lot more men to BodyChance these days. They can feel the real possibility of a career in this work).
- one day filming a new DVD about our ProCourse Teacher Education for sale to the client base of the Producers of the video (no cost to BodyChance).
- taking a meeting to develop a new service specifically designed for the Fitness Industry in Japan (which we intend to make serious inroads into) through which I plan to generate another $100,000 in revenue next year.
- three one day meetings with BodyChance's 8 full-time staff. We cry, do business, "connect" a la NVC. You name it. What needs to be done, gets done. This is soul work as much as it is operations work.
- four classes specifically for BodyChance Graduates. No charge to them for this one, I ask instead that they frequent ProCourse to enrich the learning environment for our students. Walter's school inspired that idea. I loved how teachers would always visit his Constructive Teaching Centre in London, and I want to create that culture in BodyChance.
- Two business meetings with the Core team that administrate and implement decisions
- my personal coaching evening - the high end stuff. $970 for three evenings with Jeremy.
- attend two graduation parties (Osaka & Tokyo) for the graduates of our two year BodyThinking certificate programme. It is a part of the Alexander Technique Teacher Education, but the certificate entitles them to lead a one day BodyThinking workshop, which is about creating useful maps of our body's structure and movement. BodyMapping, but we don't call it that. Why? Branding stupid. Own the name, own the income stream.
- a featured class at Asahi Culture Centre in Shinjuku. My photo appeared in the leading national newspaper of the same name (they own the Centre) advertising "Alexander Technique". This is the work arriving in mainstream. They pay me peanuts - but it isn't about the money, its about being "legitimate." Ordinary Japanese worry about getting caught into "cults", and we used to smell a little bit like that at first contact.
- two BC Pro Information nights - Osaka and Tokyo - inviting people into Teacher Education.
- two Intros to our work, where I am letting people know about our new KST program in September.
- observing Cathy Madden start her 25 days of teaching for us in Osaka. I need to be a student too!
- spending an afternoon with Cathy observing the practise session of an A league Professional Baseball Teams before their evening play off at the Osaka dome. Invite from one of their coaches who got told by an American coach at the Beijing Olympics that AT is great for baseballers.
- a phone in with my internet coach in Australia, discussing our use of the website in generating leads and building our list.

And somewhere amidst all that, I write this, study my marketing books, make my daily FaceBook posts, meditate every morning and try to fall in love. No luck with that last one.

I so love the "we-don't-really-need-anyone-else" quality of Japan. It insulates our innovation - Japanese don't know how Alexander's discoveries are supposed to be taught. We are creating the boundaries. This is truly heaven for a maverick like me! When STAT knocked back my application for an approved school in Japan, they gave me a big favour.

So I really must get off and prepare my class. One thing I love about Marj's pedagogy is the student's responsibility for driving the learning process. Of course I always come up with a game and have one or two activities on standby if called for, but these days our students understand that they must come up with the topics for the class, not me. I respond, draw on my 40+ years of experience in this work, and the class does itself. So my plan for the class means creating a nice game/activity (I usually create something new - it is one of my teaching disciplines) and then think through what are the main teaching points I want to come through today.

I am teaching a ThinkingBody class, which - aside from exploring the application of Alexander's discoveries to everyday life - digs down into the learning process: 1. Purpose 2. Observation 3. Analysis 4. Support 5. Experimentation 6. Direction 7. Inhibition 8. Experience 9. Integration.

Don't understand it? It is based on Use of the Self, Chapter One "Evolution of a Technique" so why don't you come along and join our two year ThinkingBody course? Who knows, you might want to continue on when you finish that and do our BodyThinking course. And then, who knows, you might want to continue on after that and do our Teaching Methods course. And if you have done that much, then for sure you may as well decide to go to 2nd Stage and start your apprenticeship as a Teacher. And I mean, well - if you get that far, you may as well take your three assessments and graduate as a Teacher to 3rd Stage. Over 2 years, you only have to give 50 lessons and a workshop before you get a BodyChance Teacher Diploma.

How long will all that all take? Oh, about 9 years. But just 4 if you do it full-time.

As they say in Japan "bye bye".