Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Advice to the Martial Arts School Owner

My Advice to the Martial Arts School Owner Seeking Business Success –as of the Month of January, in the Year 2009

By Tom Callos

For a few minutes, please, take a break from what you have learned and know about the business of the martial arts. Empty your cup for this short report –and let’s see if I can refill it with something that, for you, rings the bell of truth.

If I succeed, then so be it. If I fail to offer you the direction or inspiration I think you ought to feel after reading this, then –at the worst –I will have wasted only a few minutes of your time.

Education is The Way

It begins with YOUR education. What do you know, what are you learning, and how are you USING it in your life, for your school, and for your community?

Warning: Through no fault of its own, as everyone involved originally intended to offer help to the industry, the martial arts business world has fallen in a rut of “make it easy.”

We have a mass of gimmick-promotions, a plethora of poorly designed ads, VIP pass disease, 200 “consultants” in every magazine who think this is their next meal-ticket (because the school-thing didn’t work out), and 90% (or more) of promotional strategies that cater to the laziest, least skilled, dumbest school owners on the planet.

Education is the new way to inspire, lead, promote, advertise, enroll, and retain. Whatever you do, from minute to minute during your work-day, in your classes, in your community, with your staff, and with your students, if it doesn’t involve education, it probably isn’t going to help your school grow.

Teach! Teach on 10 levels, no –on 20 levels! Teach fitness, teach health, teach wisdom, teach defense, teach compassion, teach humility, teach history, teach manners, teach kindness, teach goal-setting, teach communication, teach non-violence, and teach teamwork, leadership skills, and the power of education.

Point: If fitness, health, compassion, wisdom, history, humility, manners, kindness, and all the rest aren’t a part of YOUR daily life, if you do not live the practice of these ideas, then you’re trying to sell something you don’t really own. To teach it, you would be very wise to live it.

Yes, it’s a lot to ask. I’m sorry; I wish it were easier than that.

The inexperienced and uneducated teacher has a very small range of expertise and a very small range of wisdom and experience to share. Limited education and experience equals limited VALUE.

If the education you have isn’t getting you the students you need to thrive and survive, its time to learn and/or re-learn something new. It’s time to engage a new group of teachers and friends.

The Evolution of the Education We Provide

Would you recognize the future if you saw it? Here’s a bit of “the future” for you:

In the future (read: now), half of the education you provide (and, essentially, “sell” your students), will be imparted on the mat –and the other half will be delivered on your member’s only website.

The mat will be for TRAINING. The mat is for sweating, practicing, and polishing. Your member’s only website will have all the things you don’t have the time to impart on the mat; your site will have the philosophical lessons, the lessons in etiquette, the school’s history, the detailed (on video) curriculum, the interviews with the master, and everything anyone needs to know that you don’t want to have to say 1000 times on the mat.

Your member’s only website will be where you store the information, in part, that you’re SELLING to parents. It’s where you’ll store the video-lessons on manners, on anger control, on bullying, on healthy eating, on the value of education, and on everything a parent would want to know you’re going to teach their child.

“Out of the Dojo and Into the World” is The Magic Message of the Master Teacher

There was a time when “the industry” would say to you, “It doesn’t matter how good of a martial artist you are, if you don’t know how to market and manage your business, you’re going to fail as a school owner.”

That statement, in today’s world, no longer holds the water it used to.

The truth, today, is that the better of a martial artist you are, the BETTER your business will do. The issue is not setting your martial arts aside and being a “business-person,” the issue is expanding the definition of what a great martial artist is.

Do you want to be enormously successful (and YOU get to define what that is)? If you do, then your primary objective in your teaching and living is to practice whatever style you practice diligently and with tremendous focus –and then (and this is the main point), you must take what you are practicing on the mat and put it to work in the world.

“In the world” means you have to apply it to something other than a kick, punch, or throw; something outside of the school and outside of the physical aspects of the martial arts.

If you can do this, you can teach this. If you teach this, you have just elevated yourself above the huge quantity of martial arts teachers and schools who think the arts live and die with their forms, their methods of self-defense, and their tournament victories.

If you had a device which could turn mud into diamonds, you would be one popular (and wealthy) person. Teaching people to take what you live, teach and practice on the mat and apply it to their lives, to their communities, and to the world is the martial arts equivalent of turning mud into diamonds.

Things to Avoid

Imagine trying to sell someone the thrill of surfing when you’re not a surfer! Imagine trying to sell someone the benefits of the martial arts when you’re not really a martial artist.

It must be very difficult for these consultants to the martial art industry, you know, the ones who are more comfortable in a suit than in a gi, to advice an industry they know so little about (but claim to be experts in).

It must be very difficult to teach people how to promote the values and benefits of the martial arts when they don’t practice --or have never lived them themselves.

It’s no wonder they sell strategies for overcoming sales objections, it’s no wonder they dole out lame techniques for tricking people into “upgrades.” It’ no wonder that their ideas have, quite literally, got so many of us kicked out of the public school system! It’s no wonder that State legislators are looking our businesses over and trying to determine how much regulation we need.

You see, the martial arts world should operate in an entirely different realm than the health clubs, than the tricky bank contract-buying salesmen, and the water-it-down-until-any-20-year-old-can-teach-it profiteers. The martial arts world shouldn’t give a hoot about what kind of car you have your photo taken in front of –or the brand-name of the watch you wear on your wrist.

Success in 2009 is a return to The Way. Success will come with us looking deeply at how we can help the world –and in way that reflects the ultimate aim of the martial arts (remember what Funakoshi wrote: “The ultimate aim of the art of Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants").

What we need is an expansion of the definition of “martial arts” and our role in the world. Success in 2009 is in expanding our vocabulary and looking deeply at whether we are, truly, following a path that leads to mastery.

I, for one, refuse to give into the idea that our business success depends on hiding our prices, holding back our curriculum, getting people to say “Yes,” when they really aren’t sure, modeling “Wall-Mart” or “MacDonald's,” or any other giant corporate or franchise monster, selling long-term “get their money now” contracts, and/or the half-ass learning of some new curriculum that will appeal to kids or the masses so we can sign up more people.

I, for one, won’t be hanging up a Nintendo or Wi in my school trying to bribe people into bringing in their friends. I won’t be starting programs in my school just to “make money.” I won’t be selling a bunch of plastic crap at my front desk to “get my gross up.”

I’m going to stick with selling the genuine, deep-rooted, healthy practice of the martial arts –and the genuine, deep-rooted, healthy practice of applying the focus, the awareness, the self-discipline, and the courage we practice on the mat –to life, community, and the world.

Instead of spending your time listening to a bunch of business-people talking about how to maximize your profit potential, I’d like to suggest you look deeply at your habits, your practices, and your own life. Success will come with a life lived as an example of someone who is willing to be “The Teacher.”

The work we have to do to achieve any kind of worthwhile and fulfilling “success” in 2009, is to take where the old masters left off –and improve upon the ideas. We need to shape them to fit into today’s world. When someone writes or talks about the martial arts in the mainstream media, it ought to be with a voice of reverence.

We ought to be proving to the world that we do, indeed, teach people a lot more than kicks, punches, and throws. The evidence should be overwhelming (like this article).

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