The ZingTrain Curriculum

vision-seminar-web-mini-275x3002012 has been a year of much change at ZingTrain. We moved into our first-ever dedicated training space. We hired two wonderful new folks to join the ZingTrain team. We hosted our first guest speaker. And launched our series of free monthly call-ins. And that’s just listing the big stuff!

What has remained reassuringly consistent in 2012 is the core curriculum of our training, the foundation of all that we do here at ZingTrain – sharing Zingerman’s unique and uniquely successful approach to business through our seminars, workshops, and custom training.

It has been absolutely wonderful – during this time of much change – to hear over and over from our clients and seminar attendees that they find our training relevant, resonant and applicable, no matter what industry they work in.

Curricular Core and Constancy.

The intent behind ZingTrain and the ZingTrain curriculum has always been to share the tried and tested recipes, tips, techniques, and concepts that have worked for us over the years, and that we believe to be key to Zingerman’s success as a business.

Not surprisingly, the core content of our seminars and work- shops comes from material that is already being taught – formally and informally – to our staff. For our external seminars, we add content (and behind-the-scenes tours of our businesses) to make the Zingerman’s mission, values and culture explicit so that you can absorb our materials in the appropriate context – something we don’t do as formally in our internal training since our staff live in, are part of, and in fact create, our culture.

“Such an exceptional class. I loved the panel, Ann and Joanie did a wonderful job. Both days. Food was great. Room was comfortable. Information was life changing and applicable to all areas of my life.”  – Seminar attendee from U of M Hospitals and Health

Way back then, when we opened our doors 18 years ago, the ZingTrain seminars focused on the content we felt most confident in: The Zingerman’s Experience seminar – an overview of who we are and what makes us tick. The Art of Giving Great Service, which is based on an internal class of the same name that is still taught to every single employee we hire. Bottom Line Training, where we reveal our Training Compact, which is all about how to develop and administer training that positively affects your bottom lines and Award-Winning Merchandising, which was all about how we create our unique, nationally recognized look and feel.

Curricular Change.

With time, came change. In several different ways.
Teaching is the fourth level of learning. A happy outcome of creating and teaching our seminars was that as we taught the material, we learned it in a new way! So we tweaked the material to make it better – and then realized that we could and should – make those same changes to our internal training. And so the material evolved.

Some of the curricular changes were driven by recurring questions from seminar attendees that we did not have the time to answer meaningfully during the seminar. For example, Working with Zing!, which addresses HR related questions, was born from questions that we encountered most often in the Art of Giving Great Service and Bottom Line Training seminars.

But, true to our core intent, it wasn’t until we had had a strong Human Resources manager at Zingerman’s for several years that we launched a seminar that shared our (now tried and validated) HR systems with other businesses. It was much the same with our Fun, Flavorful Finance seminar. To launch that one, we waited until we had successfully practiced Open Book Management for a few years and deeply and organizationally understood the resources and training needed to make it succeed.

“Good practical solutions. Very welcoming and a great positive environment. Nice to be around other like minded people with similar issues.”
- Seminar attendee, June 2011

Other Changes Are Driven By, Well, Change.

In 2010, Ari wrote the first book in the Lapsed Anarchist Series: Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading – A Lapsed Anarchists Approach to Building a Great Business. In it, he articulated the 12 Natural Laws of Business. The more we used and taught the 12 Natural Laws within the day-to-day work we were doing at Zingerman’s, the more we realized that they were the distillation of all that we were doing here. And so The Zingerman’s Experience seminar was redesigned to be based on the foundation of the 12 Natural Laws of Business.

Evolution is also how the Award-Winning Merchandising seminar became the Zingerman’s Marketing Secrets seminar. When we first offered the seminar, it was focused on merchandising because merchandising was what we did. We barely did any intentional marketing – a few ads here and there – but really much more of a focus on in-store displays and signage. Over the years we started doing more Marketing (though not advertising, we’re still not big on that). We hired a Marketing Manager and became far more intentional about our presence in the media and leveraging it. And as we evolved, the seminar evolved too.

As media evolves yet again, we’re getting more and more questions about online and web-based marketing. While we can share our approach to those in the seminar, we know we are not the experts – so we are partnering with an Ann Arbor company, The Whole Brain Group, whose primary business is helping companies attract clients and customers online.

And So, Back To The Curricular Core.

The more we teach, the more we recognize that there is never enough time to cover every single thing we want to teach in any one seminar. We strive, then, to identify what information will create the most value to the most diverse group of attendees. And then we design the presentation of that content so that during any given seminar we have the flexibility to present additional material or explore a slightly different path to suit the inclinations of a certain seminar audience or client.

At the end of the day, however, the core of what we are trying to do here at ZingTrain is not at all about telling you what you should do. It’s all about telling you what we do, why we do it, and how we do it. And we want to tell you in a way that makes it easy for you to absorb it and then adapt it, and if it is a good fit, apply it when you go back to your business.

“These 2 days have clarified who I am, what I do best, and how I’ll be moving forward in my next 5 years of business and life, and I am incredibly thankful. Thank-you!!! I can- not recommend them highly enough. Plus, the food will rock your world. — Mark Matson, Norwegian Squeegee – Meticulous Window & Gutter Cleaning, www.hireaviking.com

And what we like best about having that as the core of who we are is this: when you go back and apply what you’ve learned to your business, and then tell us all about it, we see our own systems and tools used in a whole new way, and then we learn from you! And implement your learning to our business, and a brilliant cycle continues …

Join us for a seminar in 2013. Connect with us and tell us how you’ve implemented what you learned from us. Feed the learning cycle!