Thursday, June 28, 2007

Martial Arts Business Info (ala Tom Callos)

Short range; medium range; and long range –as martial artists we all understand the implications of these three distances when addressing a fight. Different techniques work at different ranges, period.

The idea of the three ranges could be expressed in three concentric circles, like in this picture:

But, the FIGHT is not any one of the circles, the fight is all of the ranges together –and each range is as important as the other in the context of a match. If you only work in one range you might find yourself in trouble if your opponent doesn’t give you the space you require. It is best to develop tools for all the ranges --and of course, that is stating the obvious, but the point is as follows:

Business is like this too.

You need to develop business and management skills that operate from any “distance” that relates to conducting a profitable and rewarding business (note: profitability is a factor of a rewarding business, but what profitability means depends on your own definition, goals, ambitions, needs, etc.).

The Inner Circle
Let’s say that the inner circle represents one aspect of your business, the basics. The basics are made of basic business protocol: appearance, cleanliness, procedures for greeting potential or current customers, dress codes, phone answering, client and prospect follow up, payroll, advertising and promotion, taxes, maintenance, profit and loss statements, etc. Very important stuff –and well-documented in the martial arts industry.

The Middle Circle
Let’s imagine that the next circle is personality based. This entails all the day-to-day interactions with potential students, current students, and former students. To be amazing at this range you have to have rapport-building skills –and a little charisma and charm don’t hurt either.

The Big Circle
The third circle, the big one, the long-range one, that’s about mission, direction, intent, vision –it’s all of the big-picture things. Why are you doing what you do? Are you a man or woman on a mission? Do you know exactly where you’re going? Do you have a selfish vision or a heroic one?

The little circle, most of it’s procedural; it’s how long you dip the French fries in the grease, it’s what color your uniform is, when you collect and pay taxes, it’s changing the retail display on Fridays, it’s everything that should and could be in a manual.

The middle circle is about smiling, focused, friendly, smart people. You can’t make a great people person by handing someone a business procedures book. You might help someone to learn some of the basics, but to master this range you need someone with a friendly, personable attitude.

The big circle? You need vision, you need purpose for being, and you need some wisdom.

You can buy a manual, you can hire good people, but for vision, well, for a vision that drives you, that serves you and everyone who works with you, you need to do “soul work.” You need to tap into a kind of thinking that is, well –visionary.

I believe that our industry is spending an inordinate amount of time focusing on short and medium range goals and ideas, both of which are vital, but incomplete if not backed up by big picture brilliance.

Making a profit, investing in moneymaking, wealth-building ventures, expanding your operation –these things are one fraction of what the biggest circle is made up of. Wealth building is the right hand of a 220-pound mixed martial arts fighter.

Spiritual awareness, community awareness, empathy for others, standing up against injustice, conscious consumption –these are just some of the big picture issues.

This is the realm of the Ultimate Black Belt Test and The 100. If you feel lost or like you’re too money-focused, if you easily lose your drive, if you wonder why you’re even doing what you do for a living –you are operating from a long-range perspective. This is the range I’m encouraging you to focus on, with at least one-third of your time as a businessperson.

If you want to talk about things in the small circle arena, turn to NAPMA, MAIA, EFC, UP, Member Solutions,, or any number of the other business groups ands information/content providers in the martial arts industry. They’re all good.

For medium range people-issues, learn how to develop good service providers by modeling companies that give amazing service, like Starbucks, like Pike’s Place Market, like Kovar’s Satori schools (PROMAC), Steve Lavallee’s schools in Florida, Tiger Schulman’s in New York, and almost any number of the larger martial arts schools in the world.

For vision? Look to people who are making a difference (or trying to) in the world. Like Olympic athletes, they aren’t EVERYWHERE, but they’re around. You may not stumble across one accidentally, but if you search you’ll find them.

One of the people that can help you with big picture stuff –is Thich Nhat Hahn. He’s going to be teaching at a week-long retreat in Estes Park, CO this August (for details, visit and go to TEST REQUIREMENTS, then to SPECIAL EVENTS).

My self-appointed job in the martial arts world is to leave the small and medium circle issues to my very competent friends and peers in the industry --and focus on the big circle. I see all of us, collectively, as part of the “team” of people who serve you, of which I am a part. They say it takes a village to raise a child –and I say it takes a village to raise a “master.”

I’d like to discuss, with you –the big picture. I’d like to help you develop long-range techniques –and I think you will find the work in this range to be just as important as good, solid business procedures and good people on the floor.

I am Tom Callos --and I may be reached at 530-903-0286 or

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