Blame the Idiots

blame the idiots

In my last blog, I introduced the Road Rash MBA, an approach to business strategy and competitive advantage based on the idea we can often learn more from our mistakes than our successes.

I’d like to start with one of the simplest and easiest to fix on my list of Road Rash mistakes. I call it “Blame the Idiots.”

Consider two different people we can find at any fitness facility:

  • One person knows almost everything there is to know about the facility — when it opens and closes, the busiest times, and “the way it’s done” when it comes to lockers, showers, using equipment and scheduling resources. He or she also has seen what type of person gets the most out of the facility, who they work with, how they schedule their time, which payment program they use, and what they do away from the facility to maximize their results.
  • The other person knows none of this. He or she is confused and apprehensive. Research shows he or she is also concerned about fitting in and doing the right thing, and is more likely to do nothing than do something that may lead to unexpected costs or ridicule.

We call this second person “the customer,” and too often we give them all of the responsibility for shaping their fitness facility experience and figuring out what it takes to get to a great outcome.

Then they get confused or frustrated. They show up at the wrong times, park in the wrong spots and use equipment the wrong way. Before you know it they stop coming back and too often we blame the idiots.

But who is the real idiot in this case?

I can summarize the entire scenario with this graph I modestly call “McLinden’s Law.”

What it shows is the less a customer knows the harder and more costly it is to serve them, because when people don’t understand how a system works, they get anxious, they make knee-jerk decisions and say crazy things. They’re more difficult and costly to serve, and harder to satisfy.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Over the years I’ve found that a little up-front investment in empathy and engagement easily pays for itself in reduced headaches and increased user satisfaction.

To help you do this, remember the Three P’s:

Paint the Picture of What’s Possible.

Help me imagine what success can look like. What’s easy? What’s hard? What’s quick? What takes more time? How do the smart members make the most of your facility? What trade-offs are possible to increase the value of my membership? Remember, this is not about upselling. It’s about helping the customer paint a vision of success they can get excited about and want to work to make a reality.

Provide a Path

Provide a path with clear steps for getting where the customer wants to go. Spell out how they’ll get from A to B, to wherever they want to go — what will be expected of them and what they can expect from you.

Show Progress

Check back regularly to make sure they’re seeing and experiencing what they expected to see and experience, and don’t be afraid to work together to course correct so little problems never have a chance to fester.

In short, remember when it comes to your Box, you’re the expert. You can either be your customer’s best advocate and guide to the ultimate experience, or you can blame the idiots.

Michael McLinden earns his road rash as a serial entrepreneur, and consultant to health, wellness and fitness related companies in the U.S. and Europe with a focus on market analysis, branding and value creation. He has held executive management and strategic planning responsibilities in a number of regional and global advertising and marketing firms, including Mc|K Healthcare, which he co-founded and ran until 2014. He holds an MS from Purdue University and an MBA from TIAS Nimbas business school in the Netherlands. Email him at