by Eric P. Fleishman
Owning and operating your own dojo — a customized, picture-perfect hall of enlightenment, if you will — can be a dream come true for some. Having the opportunity to share the warrior’s way with the next generation is the ultimate honor for any black belt. Passing along the knowledge is a tradition as old as the martial arts themselves. But for this process to succeed, would-be teachers must first secure a building, purchase insurance and market themselves.
To create a thriving martial arts business, the next step is just as crucial: Assemble a staff. You might start out working solo, but to grow, you’ll need more people. These men and women are paramount to delivering knowledge and techniques to your students, as well as nurturing them through the struggles that always accompany personal growth. Finding the best instructors is essential, and keeping them happy and motivated will set you on the road to long-term success. The following are my suggestions for maintaining a ship-shape crew:
It pays to invest in the education of your staff. The best instructors are the most educated instructors. Send them to seminars. Bring them to hear a motivational speaker. Encourage them to register online for a certification and offer to cover the cost.
The excitement they take from learning something new will generate more enthusiasm from your students than you can imagine. And by broadening their skill set, you’re allowing your business to grow from the inside out, priming the pump so you eventually can promote from within. Part of what’s needed to grow your bottom line is growing your instructors along the way.
A fringe benefit is they will appreciate your investment in their future. It’s a win/win for everyone!
Everyone likes being acknowledged for his or her hard work, but effort often goes overlooked for weeks or even months in the daily grind of a busy dojo. Be sure to give shout-outs to your staff whenever they provide terrific service.
Also, refer to them by name when you’re being interviewed by local news crews. Brag about their accomplishments on social media. Call them onstage to be recognized during parent’s night festivities. Your praise will let them know how much you appreciate their dedication and commitment to excellence, and your students will realize how lucky they are to be at your school.
Many times when excellent instructors decide to permanently leave a dojo, they’ll tell you that they felt like their voice wasn’t being heard. That means their suggestions, opinions and needs were falling on deaf ears.
These people are intimately entwined with your business. Their perspective should be listened to and duly noted. Your dojo will benefit from their insights, and it’s likely that small changes can be made from their suggestions in a way that will benefit your school. Of course, not every suggestion must be implemented, but by simply taking the time to listen and granting them the respect of your undivided attention, your leadership abilities will rise.
It takes physical prowess to perform martial arts at a high level. However, many instructors fall out of shape because of busy schedules, outside stress and poor eating habits. This can have a negative effect on the dojo’s business and the students’ morale. Take a proactive approach by setting up a corporate membership at a local gym so all staff members can work out for one low price.
Besides helping their physical appearance, the endorphins that exercise releases will do wonders for everyone’s mental health. One way to accomplish this is to offer the SLEEK NINJA program at your school. It will help align your students’ exercise, diet and sleep patterns, and the transformations they undergo will inspire your instructors to get in shape, too.
Note: To accelerate this process, get rid of sugary granola bars and chips in your break room. Replace them with protein bars, fresh fruit and bottled water. When you present your school as a place that values health, you will see your members snap into shape.
How do you give your employees room to grow? Yes, eventually you will retire, and then one of them can advance to your role — but until then? They may believe that the only way to advance is to leave your dojo, and neither of you wants that.
Look for ways to expand your dojo by adding incentives, such as title changes. Being Head Instructor or Demo Team Coach adds appeal and merit. Encourage your instructors to become ambassadors of the school, helping increase membership and overall interest. Show them a solid path for career development, and they’ll remain your faithful foot soldiers deep into the battle.
Eric P. Fleishman — aka Eric the Trainer — is a Hollywood-based trainer of celebrities. In the 28 years he’s worked in the industry, he’s taught actors, musicians, MMA fighters and military personnel. He hosts a popular TV show called Celebrity Sweat, which is available on Amazon Prime. His message of healthy living has been adopted by many groups, most recently the American Culinary Federation.
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