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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brake

Who Are Your School District’s Customers?

Updated: Feb 14

I recently asked a gathering of school board association executives “Who are your customers?”

It’s a simple question with a counterintuitive answer. The two most common answers from this group were:

  • Our kids (students)

  • The parents of our kids

These answers make sense if you consider that the service you are delivering is to the people that pay for it through taxes, bonds, and levies. But if you look at a school district as a developer of products for a rapidly changing marketplace, a different answer percolates into the conversation. Suddenly, students become the product and employers become the customers.

Taking it a step further, many students are destined to transcend the role of employee. They will become entrepreneurs, business owners, local and national leaders … the list goes on. From this perspective, these students will one day be providing services and products to the citizens of their community, their country, maybe even the world. This means that YOU may be the ultimate, if not literal, customers of your local school district. Even if you do not have kids, or kids in school. Even if you are retired. Even if you don’t really like kids and just want to be left alone.

This hit home for me recently when I purchased a house and needed some work done on the AC system, the roof, and the plumbing. I did some research, asked some neighbors for recommendations, and requested a few bids. In each case, I gave the business to those businesses that had good recommendations, but there was something else that was the deciding factor. How well did the AC person, roofer, plumber or customer-service person I interacted with communicate with me and give me tangible reasons to believe that their services would meet my expectations.

Honestly, a few of the companies with the best online reviews had me talk with people in their organizations that did not instill confidence. They may have ultimately done great work, but their representative lacked something that I needed before committing to what amounted to several thousand dollars of work. This experience made me reflect upon the importance of schools and the durable skills many of them aspire to instill in their students. 

It would have been a bit extreme of me to ask for a copy of each company representative’s high school transcripts … and probably not that helpful. But the things we call soft skills, durable skills or Portrait-of-a-graduate (POG) skills didn’t require a transcript. They were obviously there or obviously lacking.

As we concluded the work on the house, I was quite satisfied with the services performed. I also took a moment to ponder the fact that I had become a customer by default of the school districts that sent these folks into the world.

So, who are the customers of our country’s local school districts? You are. We all are. It’s as simple as that.


David Brake is the founder and CEO of The Grandview Group, a consulting firm that helps organizations engage their stakeholders and elevate impact. We would love to talk with you about how your organization is engaging stakeholders and elevating impact.

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