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5 Ways to Stay Brilliant in the Basics

By Dave Kovar


In 1958, Vince Lombardi took over as head coach of the Green Bay Packers pro football team. The Packers had not done well since 1944. In a press conference, Mr. Lombardi was asked what he was going to do to turn around this bunch of mediocre players.


He responded by saying, “I’m not going to change anything. I’m just going to make them brilliant in the basics.”


From there the legend grew and, by 1967, the Packers had won five NFL championships and two Super Bowls.


The concept of being “brilliant in the basics“ is pretty universal and certainly applies to running a martial arts school and teaching great classes. I recently had a conversation with one of my clients who was contemplating closing his second location because his attendance was dwindling and he was losing money. We discussed a few strategies that he could implement to help him get turned around, and then he got to work.


A couple of months later, his active student count had gone from approximately 80 members to close to 150. Crazy growth rate, right? I asked him what he did to grow the school and he responded by saying, “I’m just doing all the things I’m supposed to.” He was simply being brilliant in the basics.


I have seen this phenomenon time and time again in my own schools, as well as others’. It’s important to understand that being brilliant in the basics is a simple concept to understand, but it is not easy for most people to implement on a long-term basis. I’m not sure exactly why this is. I think the reason is simply that people get sidetracked or bored and just start focusing on less important things. They forget to stay “brilliant in the basics.”


For this reason, I want to share with you “The Five Mindsets” that we focus on in our schools. Perhaps you’ve heard them before, but let’s review them anyway, because, after all, it is important to be “brilliant in the basics.”


1. “We are the friendliest place in town.” Are you making a conscious effort to cultivate an environment in your school that is friendly and welcoming? This culture should start at the top and work its way all the way down to new members.


People will go where they feel welcomed and appreciated. Let’s make our schools “that place.”


2. “We are the cleanest place in town.” Remember that cleanliness breeds professionalism and professionalism breeds trust. The flipside is also true. A messy environment breeds unprofessionalism and unprofessionalism breeds doubt.


There was a time when you might have been able to get away with having a dirty school. But those days are long gone. The public expects and deserves a clean school run in a professional manner.


3. “We only teach great classes, never just good classes.” Of course, not every class is going to be great, but that should be our intention. This can never be underestimated. Mediocre classes do not lead to good retention.


4. “We are excellent at student-parent communication.” I believe that this is our industry’s weakest area. If we can learn to give feedback to our students on what they’re doing well and how they can improve — and do this on a regular basis — we will keep them a lot longer. Remember, feedback is the “breakfast of champions.”


5. “Every day we look for opportunities to grow our school.” Recruiting new members should always be at the front of our minds. It’s crucial if you need more members, but it’s still important even if your school is packed.


These concepts might seem simple, but don’t underestimate their power. It’s great to have other, more sophisticated systems in place. Just make sure it’s not at the risk of being “Brilliant in the Basics.”


You can contact Master Dave Kovar at [email protected].


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