I‘ve been operating a martial arts school full-time for 39 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.
This is a time of year when we really need to be on our toes with our students if we don’t want to lose them to other activities. It is common for students to miss quite a few classes from late November to the end of December. Most people have other events that take up their time and steal them away from their martial arts classes. The holidays have a way of doing that.
So, it is our job to make them want to come to class and, when they aren’t there, to communicate about the things they missed and how we can help them make them up. If we don’t stay on top of them, January will roll around and they will have broken the habit of attendance.
If a student stops coming on the 15th of December, because of travel or just because they are busy, and we close from Christmas through New Year’s Day, we are creeping very close to three weeks without attendance! This is long enough for them to realize they can do other things with their time.
January should be filled with reasons to come back to the dojo, based on your student demographic. If you serve mostly children, then it’s time to remind parents about how great the kids were doing when they were coming regularly. Then, extend a way to get their children a little extra help on a short-term basis.
Everyone will accept cost-free extra help that doesn’t commit them to too much extra time. Use the extra help to rebuild the bond with the students.
If your program is supported by an adult population, this is a great time to talk about getting back on track. Most adults fall off track with modest exercise and excess food around the holidays. However, adults also tend to blame other things for the change in their fitness level.
Your classes may be what they decide to blame, unless they feel a strong pull to get back in to martial arts classes. This is the best time to reiterate the benefits of being in the martial arts and how adults can squeeze in their workouts. After all, there are many fitness options out there to adults, but, as martial arts school owners, we know that we have so much more to offer than the standard fitness workout.
With adults, contests work wonderfully. This is the time of year to offer 90-day fitness challenges. Those adults that are competitive will enjoy this option. It’s also a great time of year to change up the curriculum to add a few exciting drills or new themes for classes.
We have to compete with all of the other New Year resolutions out there. It doesn’t mean to stray from your curriculum. It just means to bump up the classes with some new material for a few months.
Training in the martial arts is always more successful with a friend. So, this is a great time to implement an offer of some type to bring a friend or family member for a short time, like 90 days, for free or at a reduced cost. It has to be different than other VIP-type programs, but doesn’t have to be longer than 90 days.
Let’s make our own resolutions to grow more and work smarter in the New Year!
Kathy Olevsky can be reached for questions or comments at [email protected]
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