Martial artists change lives. It’s what we do as teachers and school owners. That’s exactly why we created Spark, the industry-leading software for running and automating your school. And it’s why the martial arts industry will always be our home.
But there are parts of running a school that are soul-sucking and daunting. At times, they can even make you want to quit.
It makes total sense. We’re guessing that you became an instructor for the same reasons we did: You have a passion for spreading the martial arts – a passion for changing lives. You love to see the look on a parent’s face when a child finally shows respect. You’re ecstatic when you see an adult feel confident for the first time in his or her life.
We’re going to take another guess and say things like seeing to administrative tasks and transmitting emails and SMS follow-ups aren’t exactly what you feel excited to do when you wake up in the morning. “I...
by Cris Rodrigues
In March 2020, our industry was shaken to the core. COVID-19 hit us like a ton of bricks, leaving many school owners feeling helpless. For some, switching to online classes was pretty simple; for others, it probably felt like preparing for a quantum physics exam.
Resources that my team and I put out, like the Virtual Martial Arts Blueprint and the Ultimate Facebook Ads Workshop, flew off the shelves as school owners searched for digital tools to help them survive. Many schools, however, took a hard hit. Freeze requests poured in. Cancellation emails and phone calls happened daily. School owners watched as their tuition billing declined.
When a mass exodus of clients happens with any business, often the owner will have a knee-jerk reaction to eliminate expenses. Unfortunately, said owner frequently eliminates the one expense that actually can bring in more revenue, and that’s marketing.
With many of the traditional forms of marketing thrown out the...
by Frank Silverman, MAIA Executive Director
In February 2020, the stock market hit an all-time high of 29,348. Unemployment was at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. And the martial arts school business seemed to be riding an infinite wave of new student signups.
Then BAM! We were knocked on our collective butts by an invisible foe that has gone on to kill thousands of people, shut down the economy around the world, drive up the U.S. unemployment rate to an estimated 20 percent and, literally, terrorize people in ways not seen in modern times.
And that wave of student signups? It disappeared. Nearly every martial arts school in America was shuttered as cities and states implemented the recommended quarantine procedures.
It served as a stark reminder that life can — and sometimes does — change on a dime.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, I received countless email messages and voicemails from school owners:
“I don’t know what to do!”
IS STAYING INDEPENDENT AN OPTION?
There are still many school owners who choose to remain independent. Their reason – whether fully justified or not – is that by remaining independent, they will avoid teaching a “watered-down” style, or teaching solely for profit.
These independents feel that by not affiliating or franchising, they have more control over what is taught in their curriculum and how it is taught. Many schools that teach traditional styles remain independent to avoid modernization.
However valid their opinions on franchises may be, many school owners also have business reasons for staying small and independent. Many of them have realized that economies of scale do not always work out (i.e.: more/bigger schools for bigger profits). Simply put, bigger is not necessarily always better.
These successful-but-small martial arts school owners have figured out that in some industries getting bigger does not always means more money in your...
AFFILIATION VS. FRANCHISING
There are benefits to both affiliations and franchising, but close examination shows a sizable difference in the control of quality. Many organizations have voluntarily made the switch from affiliation to franchise, primarily to ensure better control of product quality.
The main difference between these two organizing entities is the legal ability to enforce conformity and quality. While some associations may try to instill control through the use of gradings and association “logos,” for the most part, the only true obligation the school owner has to the association is lip service. If the school owner has any disagreements with the affiliation, they need only provide nominal notice and then resign from the association.
On the other hand, the reason franchises have been successful in the past is due to the legal ramifications the franchiser can evoke if a franchisee does not adhere to the strict business model and requirements laid down...
A quick starting note: I did my initial research on this subject matter prior to the COVID-19 pandemic reaching North America. However, seeing the results of this crisis only reinforced my theory: Martial arts schools must consolidate, or will perish. There may be schools that are exceptions, but they are just that: exceptions.
Inconsistent Levels of Quality
A recent graph published in MASuccess showed that around 96% of all martial arts school owners own only one or two schools. Many of those second schools are small satellite locations (and usually located in an elementary school gym or a local community center). This indicates that there is a lack of consistency with respect to curriculum, standards, quality and legitimacy.
Unfortunately, this lack of conformity has resulted in numerous lawsuits against various schools, often due to some type of negligence on the part of the school owner. Whether this negligence was due to actions of the school owner or one of the...
by Dave Kovar
In the March/April 2020 issue of MASuccess, I discussed the first three keys to long-term success: Keep your center, value your relationships above all else and know where you’re going. Here, I will cover the final two.
4 Know How You’re Going to Get There
Once you know where you’re going (my third key), the next step is figuring out how you’re going to get there. You don’t need to know every detail; you just need to begin taking steps in the right direction. Remember that motivation follows action. There’s something magical about taking that first step. Plan out the next step, and the step after that, day by day. Before you know it, you will have made great progress.
There are so many applications for this practice in the business of running a martial arts school. Imagine if your goal is to get 20 new members in the next month. How are you going to get there?...
by Philip E. Goss Jr., Esq.
I’ve had the pleasure of writing this column for 19 years. The membership of the Martial Arts Industry Association has grown greatly during this time, both in size and sophistication.
There are many business subjects that have been and continue to be important to school owners. One is the issue of restrictive covenants and employment agreements, a hot topic from day one, circa 2001, and still worthy of attention.
Those who read my columns regularly know that I’ve always warned that the law typically moves at a glacial pace (“law” in this case referring to statutes that are enacted by legislatures and later defined by courts). The law is not equipped to react quickly to changing technology and social mores. By way of example, who among us in 2001 would have bet their lunch money that by today, marijuana use would be at least partially decriminalized in half of the Unites States or that same-sex marriage would be legal...
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...
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