Planning and strategy
Think big! When I started my first martial arts academy back in 1994, I opened not one location, but two. Going back to my prior career or running a business part-time was not an option. My goal was to be a full-time professional martial artist. I read “The Magic of Thinking Big” by David Schwartz at the time and it got me motivated in a big way. My business plan called for ten locations in Sydney, which has now been exceeded. Shoot for the stars and you will succeed. Never be afraid to ask for what you want. Be assertive.
Learn everything you can about business. Finance, marketing, negotiating, etc., is the lifeblood of business. Marketing is key. The more you know about business, the better off you will be.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. We tried teaching self defence classes in high schools, providing classes at birthday parties, and lots of other activities. We learned a lot from our mistakes, and discovered many opportunities at the same time.
Specialize. Niches are easier to dominate and protect. Be the best at something; weapons, forms, grappling, etc. For us, it has been kids karate. My goal in starting the academy was to be a world leader in karate for kids. We have now moved into other areas, such as building a championship tournament team. Focus on one goal at a time. Be the best and word will spread fast to your potential customers.
Treat everyone you meet with respect and dignity. Make people feel welcome in your school. The martial arts academy is no place for racial or any other type of discrimination by instructors or students. When you see it, clamp down hard on it.
Hire people you trust. We do not hire people outside our system; they are all black belts who came up through the ranks in our schools. It definitely restricts our growth, but it is more important to have people who are loyal working in our organization. In addition, they know our methods and share our philosophy. Don’t over-manage them, let them learn from their mistakes, and they will grow into leaders.
Give your customers value for money, and listen to what they have to say. That means you have to strive to not only be a low-cost provider, but also to make sure your customers have a great experience with your company. We have made many improvements in our business through customer suggestions.
Go with the flow. You will not always feel like working. When you are tired, take a rest. When you feel like working, work like a dog! When we are in the zone, it is amazing how much we can get done.
Spend less than you earn. I have a 1995 Toyota truck that runs just fine. When it needs replacement, I’ll pay cash for a another one with the money I’ve saved on this one. I’m a karate instructor, not an investment banker. There is no point in trying to be something we’re not. Being conservative means you will be able to take advantage of financial opportunities when they arise.
The TV is a big time waster. Turn it off. Use that time to learn something new about your business. For me, it was time spent learning other arts outside my system, building my own website, and writing a book on children’s martial arts. I enjoyed every minute of this time, since I am passionate about my business. I do not look at it as a sacrifice.
Stay fit and learn new things. You will not inspire your students by waddling into the training hall because you cannot control your weight. You owe it to your students and to yourself to stay at the top of your game both mentally and physically. Keep learning to provide your instructors and students with new challenges. Be your best and your martial arts academy will be the best!
Eleven Ways to Build a Great Martial Arts Academy is an original article by Sensei Matt Klein.