By Kathy Olevsky
I've been operating a martial arts school full time for 35 years. I think I may have made every mistake that can be made in this business. The reason I'm still in business, I believe, is because I asked for help. I learned quickly that others before me had already found solutions. In this reality-based column, I'll point out key mistakes I made in my business career, which are common errors among school owners, both large and small, throughout our industry. Then I’ll share the solutions I applied to overcome them.
How many times has something negative been said about you by another martial arts school owner or by the student of another school in your area? I’ve heard this complaint from various martial arts school owners. Some degree of rivalry is inevitable, but it can lead some people to aggressively criticize others. In reality, this is a form of adult bullying.
I have had this happen multiple times over the years. Most often, the comments were harmless enough that it was easiest and best to just overlook them. There are times when we have to take the high road. But then there are others that require taking corrective action.
On one occasion, for example, a local martial arts school put signs out in front of our school and all up and down the road. My husband decided this was a little too much, so he picked up the signs and took them to the other school. He asked them to respect some boundaries and not populate our road with signs for their school. They were actually quite apologetic and it never happened again.
Social media is a source of all kinds of competitive posts for some martial arts schools. It is easy to get caught up in the defense of a principle or opinion. I heard from a great business mentor, many years ago, that I should think about how fast-food chains open up right next door to other competitors. In food courts at the mall, there are multiple fast-food vendors. The general concept is that there are enough customers to go around and, if you have a good product, you will get repeat customers.
If we all decide that competition breeds success, then we will have many more productive days and fewer issues that take our time away from becoming successful. I have enjoyed a great relationship with other martial arts school owners since adopting this strategy.
Rather than criticize other schools in your area, work on making your school the most attractive option.
Are you open and ready to handle an inquiry from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily? Are you answering your phone? If someone walks in your door, will he/she be so impressed they won’t need to visit any other school? If they do visit more than one, would they pick you? Are your social media outlets and your website set up to look inviting to new students, or were they designed in 1995 and filled with your titles, awards and accolades?
These are the questions we need to spend time on, rather than finding fault in others.
There will always be that one individual who spends too much time discussing every competitor around them and not enough time making themselves the better choice. This is one of those times we must take the high road. They have not found enough value in themselves, so their only option is to denigrate others. It is not likely they will change their behavior, so it’s up to us to decide that their opinion carries no weight.
As martial artists, we all know by now that students come in to our schools with all kinds of problems and leave feeling much better after a great workout. We must take our own advice and get a good workout and remember we’re in this business to build character and to create healthier students.
Kathy Olevsky can be reached for questions or comments at [email protected]
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