Ross Weisman | Crain's Phoenix

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Ross Weisman

Background:  

Phoenix-based Current Meditation opened its first studio in Phoenix last year and plans to open 175 meditation locations across the U.S. within the next three years. The company takes a modern approach to the ancient practice, with a simple format that makes meditation and mindfulness accessible to more people than ever before, says CEO Ross Weisman.

The Mistake:

I had allowed the brand to be overly influenced by experts.

About two years ago, we set out to create this concept. From the beginning, my partners and I were enamored with the idea of bringing meditation to millions of people. We knew that introducing the practice to new people would require a different way of thinking and that our unique approach would be instrumental in making it happen.

Over the course of a year, before we opened our doors, we invested a lot of time and money in going through a process of creation, figuring out how to bring this to people. We hired experts – people who were in the field, who understood the industry. They were practitioners themselves. We were relying on their input to help us flesh out the model and the brand.

What we found over the course of that year was that although it was valuable to have their perspectives, as incumbents in the industry their input ended up leading us down a path of playing it safe. Part of that stemmed from a concern about upsetting the industry and the expectations of meditation practitioners. A lot of that was speculative because it was based on their understanding of the industry today or even retrospectively, not what it could be going forward.

I recognized that I had allowed the brand to be overly influenced by those experts.

The Lesson:

We had a soft opening, with a few months of experimentation. I recognized that I had allowed the brand to be overly influenced by those experts. We changed our perspective, and we made sure to do so as a team, as it pertained to interpreting the input we got from experts in the industry.

We examined what parts of that were valuable to us. What we came to understand and have validated is that experts are often good representatives of what has been and what has happened, but not necessarily what can happen or how you create something new.

It affected how and when we relied on expert opinions. The lesson I learned was to avoid losing our grip on important parts of our model, our brand and the curriculum we’re building. In part, it was trusting our instincts, but it really came down to trusting the good work and good thought that we had done.

That should act as your guiding light, especially in situations when you’re going for original thought and you have no barometer. It helps you navigate those waters and steer the decisions you make.

There are a lot of great things happening in meditation and mindfulness. We want to act as an accelerator, essentially, and find a way to bring in more people. It’s not necessarily us coming in to change the entire way the practice is done. I think it would be really foolhardy to think that we would have the ability to do that or the need to do it. It’s a practice that’s been around for thousands of years. We respect that deeply.

It comes down to us solving the challenge of, "Why aren’t more people doing this?"

Follow Current Meditation on Twitter at @_becurrent.

Photo courtesy of Ross Weisman

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