To say Paul Ziter knows a thing or two about helping people find the perfect romantic partner would be an understatement. Thanks to his vision in founding Great Expectations, thousands of women and men are now travelling life’s journey hand-in-hand. So when the online dating world changed — and not for the better — Paul decided it was time to roll up his sleeves and get back to work helping people experience life more fully, and perhaps fall in love along the way. Professional matchmaker and relationship coach Julie Ferman recently got all the details about SingleWorks, Paul’s way to help people experience life more fully online and off.
JF: What inspired you to create SingleWorks?
PZ: It’s become crystal clear to me that the dating industry isn’t serving people very well, and it hasn’t for a long, long time. I hear an awful lot of grumbling about how the current avenues and “solutions” aren’t working as they were intended to, and I’m inspired to tackle the issues from a completely different approach.
JF: What worked for single men and women back in the 80’s and 90’s might be a bit dated now?
PZ: Ya think? I got into the dating biz in 1980. I opened one of the first dating services in the country, Great Expectations, in Houston Texas, and it took off like a bat outta hell.
JF: We do think of you as one of the Godfathers of the dating industry. Video dating – it was, back then, a really novel concept.
PZ: Dating agencies WERE a novel concept, back in the 80’s. I’ve been around the dating world since long before we had the Internet and home computers. My members had to come to a library in my office and look at pictures, profiles and videos to view other members.
JF: I remember video dating well. My sister and I both got married exactly this way. We loved that there were thousands of single, motivated, fully screened men lined up for us, available and accessible. Video dating beat the heck out of personal ads, which was the predecessor.
PZ: Great Expectations got HUGE quickly. Within 15 years, I had over 20 offices in 20 major cities. But with that explosive growth there was a huge downside. The bigger we got, the less intimate the relationship I had with my members. Customer service got worse and worse, the personal touch evaporated, and members got madder and madder.
As I watched this happen, by 2009, I realized that I didn’t like what I was seeing not only in my own offices but in the dating industry as a whole. So, I got out.
Think about it. Today there are thousands of dating services, used by millions of people and each year it gets less and less effective, the clients are more and more frustrated, and at the end of their dating service membership all they have is… less money in their bank accounts. There are dating sites for everything and everybody.
When I step back and look at what I’ve created, I cringe. Member complaints, class action lawsuits, scam sites, Attorneys General circling the wagons… WHAT A MESS!
So, timing is perfect. Just at the moment when single men and women are throwing their hands up in frustration, wondering why all of the current avenues for meeting the right people have failed them, I’m launching something refreshingly new for single adults. Think of it as Version 3.0.
Here’s what happened and what’s happening now.
Version 1.0: The Dating Service. The dating industry began revving up in the 80’s and 90’s with my company Great Expectations as well as Together, It’s Just Lunch and a few others. Let’s call this type of dating service Version 1.0. They were groundbreaking; for the first time in history, single men and women could pay to enter a community of people who had something BIG in common. The desire for a loving relationship and the willingness to invest hard-earned dough to better their chances. The agencies charged whopper upfront fees, providing clients with matchmaking referrals to each other or photo/video access with a mutual selection process. It was a novel idea, and I actually met and married my wife of 18 years at my office in Detroit. But it was expensive. It worked for some people but as it turned out, it didn’t work for a whole lot more.
Version 2.0: Online Dating. Then, in the late 90’s, building, growing and evolving to this day came The Internet and Online Dating. We’ll call this Version 2.0. What we had here was finally an inexpensive, easily accessible way for single men and women to find each other, access each other, connect with each other and hopefully meet each other.
JF: Online dating has changed the playing field entirely, but still, we have seen more failures than successes. Yet both Version 1.0 and 2.0 models survived… sort of. Single folks keep trying both avenues. Some do succeed, but let’s be honest — there have been far more online daters who ended their memberships empty-handed then there have been success stories. If you took all the people who have joined dating services (offline or online) over the years and then sort out the men and women who actually ended up in happy relationships, I think we’d find that number to be alarming low.
So, if the problem with dating and modern-day romance was a lack of access to other single love-seekers, then the traditional dating services or especially the online sites and the newer apps — the rapid-fire solutions — should have handled dating once and for all, right? But no… clearly, it’s not quite that easy, as we’ve found out.
What’s wrong? And How can we fix it?
PZ: Version 3.0: SingleWorks: So, after watching this virtual mess for the last six years, I’ve decided it’s time for a new approach, one that addresses the needs and desires of men and women TODAY.
Think of SingleWorks as a Total Resource Center. There’s a new and different vibe that’s becoming recognizable in our social culture, surrounding the whole notion of life as a single, uncoupled person. It’s simple, actually – it’s about how being single is finally… OK!
JF: I can definitely feel a shift that’s coming about in our culture. Like a rising level of social acceptance that feels much more inviting for men and women who are doing life solo. And I’m excited to see adaptations being made by business owners – like how common it is now to see community tables popping up at restaurants.
PZ: Exactly. And have you seen the creative vacation packages that are now becoming available for solo travelers? At SingleWorks, we celebrate this philosophy of inclusivity.
BEING SOLO IS OK – Can you feel the undercurrent? It’s the message that’s filtering through the noise and confusion of the dating environment and the message is starting to resonate and take hold. The new reality is that it’s not only OK to live life solo, but that it’s perfectly fine and for many… simply better than trying to fit into yesterday’s mold – a mold of “couplehood” that still works for plenty of people, but is completely broken and outdated for others.
SingleWorks is all about being happy now. It’s about celebrating and developing you as a whole, complete, healthy, satisfied person now, not someday if and when an ideal partner shows up.
“There is more to being single than just getting a date.”
At SingleWorks, the mission is to bring a new, deeper, richer level of happiness to men and women who have the freedom to live life any way they choose. At SingleWorks we celebrate the fact that today we don’t necessarily need a committed relationship in order to experience life fully. Marriage or committed partnership is just one of many options for living successfully in today’s crazy world.
We’re interested in developing a version of you that is always growing, always expanding, always daring to adventure. We’re here to encourage you to try something you’ve never tried before. How about starting with the decision to be truly happy… now!
JF: It’s ironic, actually, because you and I both know that the extra added benefit is that through the very process of growing, expanding, learning, living and loving more fully – the natural byproduct is that you evolve into a more desirable and marketable version of yourself. You might end up with more dating opportunities simply by changing the focus.
PZ: The booby prize for having the courage to be happy now, to stretch and grow in new ways, is that you become more interesting, more magnetic and much more desirable.
JF: This is a different approach. The idea is, you’re going to be growing and developing for you, not just in order to find or attract that elusive person out there. So Paul, what is the SingleWorks invitation?
PZ: The invitation is to live your life full-out, to achieve your goals, to enjoy every chapter of life’s journey, alongside other adventurous, together people who are also living life solo and who are fully engaged in living their expansive lives. Our mission is for you to live happily, with joy and great health among other growth-oriented, adventurous and openhearted people.
JF: So, SingleWorks is about celebrating life, enhancing life, and enjoying life thoroughly NOW.
PZ: Right, not someday, when some magical person might show up to make you happy.
JF: It’s a simple but powerful concept, I can see it. It’s about being happy already, choosing to be happy now, and to make our future life decisions from that place of being OK and happy already.
PZ: SingleWorks represents version 3.0 in the dating industry. It’s an online community, but… not an online dating service. You’ll have the chance to interface with all kinds of dating experts, but…it’s not a matchmaking service.
SingleWorks is about evolving…. through personal development and through sharing adventures with other eyes-wide-open single journey-ists. It’s about thriving, with or without a primary romantic relationship.
JF: I remember that you always loved adventure travel for singles and you were always doing something innovative.
PZ: I was the first in the industry to introduce social activities and travel. The members loved them. River rafting, co-ed sports, sailing trips, pub crawls, seminars on everything from improving your personal image to how to cook healthy, you name it. The travel adventures always were my favorite. I’d take 30 people to the Bahamas or Colorado skiing. I loved being the activity director to make sure everything went smoothly. I set up the dinners, the activities in advance and loved watching the trip evolve through the member’s eyes. Everyone would show up at the airport a little nervous because they didn’t know anyone. They were checking each other out wondering which person might become the love of their life.
By the second day, everyone was having more fun just being friends. They all hung out together, traded stories, laughed a lot and by the time the trip was over … everyone had a new set of friends. They would always trade phone numbers and get together at someone’s house to look at all the photos. I had so many of my members tell me they had never had so much fun and even those who weren’t doing that well at the dating part of Great Expectations would renew their memberships just for the activities and the travel.
JF: What can we expect from SingleWorks?
PZ: Watch for invitations to live events, small-group travel adventures, opportunities to engage in health and fitness activities and all kinds of learning and personal growth avenues.
SingleWorks is my brainchild. I’ve spent 30 years working with singles. I’ve seen the rise and the fall of the dating services of yesteryear and I’ve witnessed the explosion of online and dating apps, without much change in the “happiness quotient” out there in the trenches.
My overarching message? Let’s focus less on the search for love or the hunt for partnership. Instead, let’s pause and take a deeper look at what we have control over, which is: The day we’re living today. We’re going to break new ground for the men and women who are living life solo.
JF: Timing seems right for this approach. For the first time in human history, there are more adults living solo than there are living together as married couples.
PZ: So if you aren’t coupled up, you’re in good company – YOU are the new normal, and we’re here to celebrate YOU.