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You're Not Alone: Lessons Converting a Service to a Product

I sometimes feel like a basketball player as an entrepreneur. Top of the arc, high pressure in front of me with a hand waving in my face. One foot is planted.

The other is moving back and forth, pushing and turning to find the best direction to go. The very next dribble is critical, you see. 

I’ve been an athlete my whole life. Never pro, but always committed.

Still to this day I wake up early, run, lift, and move, learn new sports, and push my body hard.

Basketball for me was a break from soccer, volleyball, running, marathons and some of the other athletic pursuits that I held. But there’s no other sport like it.

And when we would play at the park, it got serious. We didn’t want to get schooled. And it just so happened that the place I grew up, PG County, was one of the best basketball counties in the nation, and has been considered to be a production machine for NBA players. 

Unlike some other of my sport pursuits, basketball’s rules lend way to ‘the pivot.’ Thankfully, I learned about the pivot before business, but I understand the sport of entrepreneurship way better because of this. So let’s observe the pivot a little today.

Let’s talk about how in entrepreneurship, the pivot isn’t ‘pushing and turning to find the best direction to go’ and is instead a company's forward momentum converted to a new direction - all happening while you try to keep at least one foot on the floor.

Inside the Ortus Academy production factory, we’ve made several pivots. 

We’ve grown from a pivot of service to product to a pivot into new markets. Both are complicated. 

Given COVID-19-land is requiring many entrepreneurs to pivot rapidly, frequently and without ability to test, this article is an open share of some of the mistakes we made while in the full sprint/change of direction that is an entrepreneurial pivot.

While we all want to receive the ball stable and choose which direction to go, right now, that is a luxury few can afford.

So, vulnerable, we will be. A few mistakes we made:


Converting a service to a product sounds relatively straightforward. But it can get complicated.

We made note of all that went into our service. The ethos, the functionality, the processes, the outcomes, and STILL made lots of mistakes. Namely, when we started converting online, we felt the need to conform. How else would people buy in? Wouldn’t the market play nicer if we just stick to what works?

We wanted to play by the rules of the education landscape. We wanted to adhere to what had been done. We desired functional approval by the organizations and systems we deployed into.

But when we were providing a service, we were confident in being different. 

What a mirror this experience was to my life - always trying to fit in as Aaron the _________(insert whatever everyone else was: athlete, artist, author, speaker, etc).

When I accepted me for me, the fact that I’m different, I could then look at our challenge as a business team differently. We were different. That was more than OK, that was important.

But let me make sure this point lands; It's bold and underlined: 

Being different is hard. 

What we learned was that converting our service to a product really meant that we had to keep navigating this commitment to our cause, mission, and vision with a surgical precision that was unparalleled before. Small details mattered big.

If you’re in the process of converting, take the time to really assess your service for what it is, not what you think will work. Mirror your values, mirror your mission and mirror what made the service special. If you try to convert and haven’t thought through that element, we’re happy to help - and whether or not we do, you should seek out some unbiased feedback on what the special sauce actually is.

Get committed to your service conversion by nailing down what’s really magical about it. Then, and only then, dive into the conversion.


We started as a youth education service - offering a sporting experience to young adults in the landscape of money. It was high energy and created some star power for us. Experiences and moments last so much longer than words in a lecture. 

But what could we do if we weren’t with someone? How could we make it personal?

Think about what makes education special. I don’t mean school - I mean learning. Learning is special when your professor or teacher shares their energy with you. You can feed on their passion - it’s visceral. 

So we decided - no powerpoints. If we used animations, they’d only be thrown in sparingly to change up the mix. Otherwise, we committed to being on camera and breaking the fourth wall. High quality, TED-talk style videos, with camera personalities larger than life. We had to make it seem like we were there with someone. That we cared. That we enjoyed the hell out of the process of making it. 

Because when you have a service, you’re there with a client. 

You can listen, learn, and see what makes them smile. You can adjust on the fly, you can intuit.

But when you make a product, you lose much of that.