by Kurt Klingenmeyer, MAIA Elite Consultant
Teaching martial arts is an honor. We instructors have the opportunity to instill confidence, focus and self-discipline in kids of all ages. Furthermore, we help adults learn how to protect themselves and, in the process, foster a sense of empowerment that will aid them in all areas of life. No other profession makes an equivalent impact on the community.
As fulfilling as making a positive impact is, a martial arts school is still a business. That means tasks need to be done, people need to be employed and bills need to be paid. In other words, you need to guarantee your revenue stream and ideally grow it. Perhaps the most efficient way to do that is to focus on the hours of the day when you’re not teaching your regular classes.
Think about what happens at your school during non-class hours. Yes, there are lesson plans to be written, cleaning to be done and miss-you calls to be made — all the normal duties that come with running a martial arts school. But all this typically takes place before your regular classes start at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.
Mention that to someone in a different line of work and the reaction likely will be one of incredulity: “You’re open for your customers only five or six hours a day? My business is open 12 hours a day, if not more!”
If you’re looking to increase your school’s revenue, you should take notice. Is there any reason not to use your school to make money from non-martial artists during the hours you don’t teach martial arts? No! In fact, doing what I just described can be a win-win for everyone. Listed below are five ways you can cultivate additional revenue streams for your school using precisely this methodology.
Launching a fitness program at your school is a no-brainer. For a variety of reasons, Americans today are more interested than ever in losing weight and getting in shape — which explains why the fitness industry is growing so rapidly. Look around and you’ll see loads of chains, including 9Round, CrossFit, Burn Boot Camp and SoulCycle.
These franchises are successful because entrepreneurs know that when someone has decided to get in shape, the person wants to have an incredible experience while doing that. That’s what boutique fitness centers offer as they create a community of like-minded individuals. It’s that atmosphere that keeps members coming back week after week — for the social interaction, as well as the workout.
Why not learn from their example and build your business by catering to this growing portion of the public? A martial arts-based fitness program can be an excellent fit for your school, and it can attract paying customers when you’re not teaching regular classes. You already have a reputation as your town’s martial arts expert; why not add a “fitness experience” to your facility?
Make sure your new fitness classes have a different feel than your regular martial arts classes do. I recommend spending time learning from two leaders of the fitness industry: Billy Blanks and Shaun T. Watch how these trainers engage with their students when they lead a class. It’s nearly impossible not to nod your head to the beat or punch the closest WaveMaster as they ply their trade.
Even though it’s not martial arts per se, your fitness class will benefit if you heed the advice of Bruce Lee when you’re designing it: “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”
What should you teach? I always recommend starting with what you’re already an expert in. If you’re a stand-up martial artist (karate, taekwondo, etc.), make cardio kickboxing the base of your fitness class. If you run a judo, jiu-jitsu or MMA school, formulate a ground-based fitness workout. If you’d rather adopt a pre-packaged program that offers lesson plans, advertising campaigns and so on, consider Cage Fitness.
No matter which path you choose, have your instructors and students wear branded athletic clothing and a logoed T-shirt during class. Devise a unique design for the clothes and offer them for sale only at your school — and only to people who are enrolled in the program. If you need help coming up with a fun design, contact Century Customs for a fast turnaround from an experienced crew.
Sell T-shirt two-packs to everyone who enrolls. They will like having an extra, and they might use that extra to convince a friend to join them in your class. Also offer heartrate monitors that are tuned to transmit to a TV screen that displays the user’s the heart rate and calories burned. This is a fun way for students to keep track of their progress, and it can encourage friendly competition in class — for example, a contest to see who can burn the most calories each day.
As I stated, the experience is the reason many people attend fitness classes, so make your classes fun. Play upbeat music — but remember that not everyone likes the same kind of music you do. Variety is the key here, as is the avoidance of songs with offensive language.
(Note that copyright laws apply to businesses that play music for their customers. This is why department stores like to play bland royalty-free music instead of top-10 hits. You can find companies that provide playlists specifically for fitness classes, typically using copyright-free tunes.)
Make sure you have enough training stations in your workout room to accommodate everyone who enrolls. That might entail acquiring more WaveMasters and BOBs for your cardio-kickboxing class. A fringe benefit is that you’ll be able to use the extra gear in your regular martial arts classes, as well.
Prominently display all these training tools so prospective students can see them. Also have gloves, the aforementioned T-shirt two-packs, shorts, wrist wraps, resistance bands and water bottles available, all branded when possible. You don’t have to carry large quantities, but you should make sure they’re visible. If you use the branded gear, your students will want it, too. It’ll make them feel like they’re part of a community.
Another opportunity for daytime use of your facility is to host a martial arts-based program for toddlers or preschoolers. Most martial arts schools don’t consider teaching students until they’re at least 5 years old. However, many parents need activities for their children before they reach that age. That’s why moms and dads are always on the lookout for music classes, sports and other wholesome pursuits that will keep their kids active and social. The best ones usually provide an opportunity for the parents to socialize, as well.
It’s essential to remember that a program aimed at the very young will look significantly different from your regular classes. It likely will include a parent participating side-by-side with the child. Sure, there will be a martial arts component, but equally important are games, songs, storytelling, social-skill development and similar activities that make the class developmentally appropriate. If you’re not sure where to start, check out KinderKicks. It’s a great program with daily lesson plans, advertising materials and everything else you’ll need to get going.
A fringe benefit of offering a martial arts program for toddlers and preschoolers is that you’ll be presenting your school as a family-centered organization that offers something for everyone. I’ve seen students start as toddlers, transition to a regular martial arts program and eventually earn their black belts. It’s rewarding to witness a child’s development and growth and then see where a life of martial arts takes them.
If you own a sufficiently large facility — or your regular classes begin later in the evening — consider starting an afterschool martial arts program. These can be lucrative. At a previous Martial Arts SuperShow, I remember a speaker saying, “Why would you teach regular martial arts classes and charge $125 a month when you could teach an afterschool martial arts program and charge $125 a week?”
I recommend setting up workstations in the afternoon so kids can do school assignments, practice martial arts and engage in related sports. Make sure the parents pick them up before 5 p.m. so you can shift gears for your regular classes.
While such a program can generate revenue for your school, it does incur costs and responsibilities you normally wouldn’t have. You’ll need to engage the services of a transportation company to pick up kids from school unless you have vans and staff members to provide the service yourself. Also, you might need additional insurance coverage and a state-issued license that allows you to offer an afterschool program.
To borrow a Tony Robbins quote: “Turn decades into days.” While you easily could spend years building a new venture like this, finding a mentor will fast-track your success and help you avoid potential pitfalls. If you’re considering an afterschool program, reach out to MAIA consultant Adam Parman. When it comes to running afterschool programs and helping other martial arts school owners achieve the same incredible results, he’s among the best.
Since COVID-19 impacted our lives, homeschooling has become more popular than ever. Families are looking for athletic opportunities in which their kids can participate at home during normal school hours. For that reason, offering martial arts classes to kids who are homeschooling can be a great way to add students to your roster and revenue to your school.
Make people in your community aware of your homeschooling program by posting on parenting groups on Facebook, as well as homeschool co-op groups and other community-oriented social media pages. If you’re able to add two classes a week for homeschoolers and each class has 10 students who are paying $100 a month, you’ll generate $2,000 a month with no additional expenses. Furthermore, there will be no learning curve because you already know how to conduct virtual classes thanks to COVID.
Organizing workshops and topic-based seminars at your school can bring value to your community while boosting your bottom line. In many cities, kids’ workshops that focus on Stranger Danger, Bully Buster and the ABC’s of Success have become weekend staples for martial arts schools. Meanwhile, seminars that cover basic self-defense, carjacking prevention and active-shooter response address the needs of adults.
How do you create a solid revenue stream from these workshops? It’s simple: Start by scheduling a free 45-minute Stranger Danger workshop for your community on a Saturday or Sunday. At the end of the seminar, offer an enrollment special for the kids who attended. If you had 10 children participate and five of them enroll at $100 a month, you’ll generate an additional $6,000 over the next 12 months.
For any families of children who didn’t enroll, you need to follow up. Offer a low-cost starter program. Invite the parents to an adult martial arts workshop, perhaps on women’s self-defense or pepper-spray use. And don’t forget about the families that enrolled at your original kids’ workshop, along with families that are currently enrolled — invite those parents, too.
This is how you keep going full-circle. The workshops and seminars replenish themselves by adding consistent memberships and revenue for your martial arts school during what are traditionally your non-class hours. Bringing in extra money can change the way you’re able to operate your business — assuming you possess even modest entrepreneurial skills. If you don’t, the quickest way to procced is to find someone who’s already maximizing the revenue stream that interests you and learn as much as possible from that person. “Turn decades into days” and “absorb what is useful” — sage advice for anyone looking to grow his or her martial arts business.
Kurt Klingenmeyer is a MAIA Elite consultant who specializes in helping martial arts school owners grow their schools. To contact him, send an email to [email protected]
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