What To Do If You’re Facing Tough Times In Your Martial Art School

commitment to excellence

Facing Down Hard Times In Your School?

Facing down hard times? You’re not alone. I’ve heard from more than a few school owners who are feeling the crunch during this recession.

Here are some tips for those of you who may be struggling to keep your school open in the down economy.

The Mental Side – Survival Strategies

First off, focus on the positives – it’s the only way you’ll get through. Just keep doing that – your attitude is what will bring people into your school.

People are attracted to upbeat personalities. If you’re happy and energetic, it will really make you stand out and people will be drawn to it. Remember, your energy drives your school.

The Financial Side – Making It Through

First off, cut back on everything EXCEPT your marketing budget. Anything you don’t need to operate or survive should be cut from your budget.

However, it is imperative that you step-up your marketing activities, rather than slow them down. Those school owners that I coach who are growing in this economy are not doing so because they are lucky, located in “good” areas, or because they are martial arts superstars…

They are growing because they spend 80% of their work hours outside of class on their marketing – and they do this consistently, every single month.

Even so, you still need to make sure you’re spending your marketing dollars wisely. So, go through your marketing expenditures with a fine-tooth comb. If any marketing method is costing you more than it’s bringing in, cancel it and shift those funds to something that is actually giving you a good return on your investment.

A good rule of thumb here is that every dollar you spend on marketing should return $1 in revenue during the same marketing cycle (in our industry, 30 days).

However, I like to get $2 back on every dollar I spend within a 30-day time frame. You need those fast profits and high rates of return on your marketing dollars, because a martial arts school relies on cash flow for survival. So, your every marketing promotion should bring back a return of 200% within 30 days of running it.

Focus your efforts and resources only on those promotions that meet that criteria. And if you’re broke, focus on low-cost and high-return marketing activities like online marketing and door-to-door flier distribution. They take more time to implement, but they’re cheap and effective when done properly.

Click here to get your marketing in gear…

Keep Your Head In The Game

commitment to excellenceFinally, be present! If you check out on your school and students because things are not going so well, guess what? They’ll sense it and you’ll only be making the situation worse.

Remain fully invested in your students, regardless of what happens. Loyalty breeds loyalty, and you’ll be surprised at how many of them will be cheering for you and will stick with you, even if things don’t work out…

The Long View – What If Things Don’t Work Out?

“A mistake is a future benefit, the full value of which is yet to be realized.”

– Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera

First off, it’s not the end of the world if you have to go back to teaching part-time. So, don’t be ashamed of finding a part-time teaching location, ending your lease, and moving your classes somewhere without all the overhead and high rent.

Also, know when to call it quits on having a full-time location. Is it worth it to force yourself into major debt or bankruptcy, just so you don’t feel like a failure?

Well, guess what? All entrepreneurs fail at some point in their careers as business owners. It’s part and parcel for the game. Don’t feel bad if things don’t work out this time around. Just roll with it, regroup, and the next time around you’ll be wiser for your experience.

Remember, there’s ALWAYS another opportunity waiting just around the corner. The past is just a memory, and come tomorrow today will be the past.

You will recover and you will be able to start over again. So, stay positive and just keep looking for those opportunities as you move forward.


  1. lanjul on March 5, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Hi a really good read.

    So as an example if your part time – how long months/ years would you try getting it full time before calling it quits and re-grouping?
    Also how much money personal or borrowed?


  2. Scott Ward on March 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Mike, I am glad you mentioned the 1:1 to better 200% return on advertising. I was just contacted by a local publication. I requested there price list. about $350 for 1/8 b/w ad. Honestly I don’t think they will return $350 of business in 30 days, and that’s at full rates, introductory rates would require doubling the new students.

    That’s the real head scratcher, where to advertise and get a return on your dollar.


  3. Mike Massie on March 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Scott, a lot of times I’ll run an ad to see if it returns 1:1. If it does, and I am hitting on all 8 cylinders with enrollments (most always) then I know I’ll make that money back with the next month’s tuition payments.

    Remember, you really only have to break even to keep running those ads. Then, it’s up to you to tweak and tune them so you increase your response.

    Check in with me on the forums to let me know more details about the ad publication. It may or may not be worth it, and you’re the best judge of that – but maybe I can provide some insight based on experience.

  4. Mike Massie on March 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    I hate spending borrowed money to start a school. I did it this last time (and spent my own cash on hand) and it still irks me something terrible that I didn’t do it strictly the Small Dojo Big Profits way…

    But then again, I wanted to see if I could start a school from scratch on borrowed money with zero students, and still get it profitable within a short period of time.

    Guess what? I found out I can, and I’ll never do it that way again. :)

    Back to your question – it took me two years to go from zero to full-time the first time around.

    Plus, I failed three times prior to that. So, if you’re teaching part-time and your school is paying its own bills, then I’d say keep plugging away until you make it.

    But, in a full-time location when you’re bleeding money, you need to be able to pull the plug if need be to avoid financial ruin. No sense in going bankrupt just to save face.

    I’ve had some major challenges in my own schools, and when the economy went sour and my health took a nose-dive at the same time, I had to fight tooth and nail to make it.

    But, that’s how you grow. I’m a much better marketer now than I was in 2006. Sure, I have some scars to show, but those are just bragging rights.

    Hang in there.

  5. sean russell on March 5, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    CONGRATULATIONS Mr. Massie on you new baby!! What a blessing and priveledge to be a father.

    Thanks for another great article!

    Sean Russell
    Russell’s Kung fu San Soo

  6. Mike Massie on March 5, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Thanks Sean – I’m having a blast with it. :)

  7. Gary Huddleston - Lees Summit Martial Arts on March 8, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Great post Mike!

    Thanks for posting this.

  8. Mike Massie on March 8, 2010 at 11:49 am

    You’re welcome, Gary!

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