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Why Am I Not Growing?

By Kathy Olevsky


All martial arts schools go through phases of growth. Conversely, there are times when their numbers dwindle. The biggest lesson I have learned over the past 45 years in business is that you must properly analyze your numbers to find out why you are not growing and what you have done in the past that has promoted growth.

Prior to using my statistics, I simply went off what I thought was happening. This process of guesswork rarely helped me correct a curve in my business. However, as a small-business owner, I found it difficult to actually access the proper statistics.

Today, there are many software programs designed for martial arts schools. They can help guide business owners by providing all the necessary statistics to correct any depression in business. Before these programs became available, I kept track of our numbers using written charts, which I would periodically review to see what we might be overlooking or doing wrong. This might not be as convenient an option as using software, but it will still work. So, even if a school is too small to consider purchasing software, it is still very possible for the owner to keep track of the data.

Keep a list of your students, how they found out about you, how they are achieving rank, how often they are attending classes and how they are paying. If you do this, you will have most of the information you need.

When our enrollment is declining, we look at the number of leads we have gotten in the past three months, the number of leads who have converted to members and the sources from which they came. In a recent review, we found that we were down about 200 leads from the same period last year. We realized we had not run one particular event that had netted a large number of leads. We also found that someone had forgotten to mail out VIP referral passes to our current members.

Before examining the statistics, our manager thought that our social media leads were just not as good as they had been in the past. In fact, that was not true. The social media leads were doing better than the previous year’s had at the same time.

The same can be true about cancellations and non-renewals. We often think we know why we are not retaining students. But feelings are not factual. It is better to evaluate exact statistics and then draw conclusions based on facts.

We keep a “quit list” of the date of termination, rank and age of each student who leaves us. This information, combined with any explanation we get in an exit interview, assists us in determining if there are trends in our cancellations. In the past, we found that we had a high percentage of students quit at a particular rank. We addressed some teaching issues and changed that curve.

We all have students who move away or drop out to pursue other sports or activities. We must know for sure, though, that this is why they left. If your students are regularly dropping out for other activities, it might be a great idea to do a campaign in your school that focuses on the benefits of martial arts training. Many of these benefits do not exist in other activities.

No matter what the reason, you can correct these dips in business only if you have an accurate grasp of your statistics. Instead of just using your feelings to guide your business, start tracking your statistics so you can make educated decisions to grow your school.


Kathy Olevsky can be reached for questions or comments at [email protected]


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