Sometimes The Hardest Part of Martial Art School Management Is Giving Up Control

How many hats do you wear in a typical week at your martial art school?

Wearing too many hats

Wearing too many hats? Sometimes, you have to let go...

Three? Ten? A dozen or more?

I’m guessing closer to the latter number, since I know that in running my own schools I’ve been any and all of the following at any given time:

  • Instructor…
  • Clerk…
  • Stock boy…
  • Sales person…
  • Marketing exec…
  • Manager…
  • Mediator…
  • Bill collector…
  • Webmaster…
  • Janitor…
  • Graphic designer…
  • Sales copywriter…
  • Accountant/Bookkeeper…
  • CEO…
  • Human resources whatever…
  • and the list could go on and on…

Certainly, this points to the fact that it takes a very diverse skill set to start a martial art school. Or does it? Let’s think about this here for a minute… can’t the majority of the tasks above be outsourced?

Yes, many of them can. It’s not hard to find service providers and wiling employees to handle most of the tasks above for you… leaving you free to concentrate only on those tasks that actually make you money.

So, here’s the $100,000 question:

Which of the above duties actually and directly generate income for your school?

Prioritize, Outsource, Then Hire

You could cop out here and say, “All of them”, but that’s not a real answer.

See, the thing is you need to know how to prioritize, which also points to the #1 revenue-generating skill-set on the list above… CEO. CEOs are experts at leveraging the talents and skills of others in order to boost the bottom line profits of their companies.

But here’s the rub – the more you outsource, the more tasks and duties you hire out or assign to an employee, the less control you have over the process. And, guess what? Most of us martial artist types tend to be control freaks.

Yeah, I can see that “Who me?” look on your face right now. But you need to realize you can’t do everything in your school. Oh sure, at first you have to if you’re boot-strapping your school and following the Small Dojo Big Profits system. But once your school reaches a certain level of success, you won’t be able to handle it all anymore.

Letting Go…

Thankfully, by that point you’ll have the cash flow to start hiring others to do some of the above for you.

I suggest you start by outsourcing tasks like janitorial work (if you can find an inexpensive service), bookkeeping, graphic design, web design, and billing (automate it – hiring actual people to do this for you is unnecessarily redundant). That way, you can have someone else handling those tasks for you without having to deal with actually hiring an employee.

Eventually, you’ll want to hire employees to handle other tasks, such as sales, manning the front desk, and teaching some of the classes as your school and schedule expand.

Oh, it won’t be easy doing this – because not only do you have to train other people to replace yourself…

You also have to train yourself to let go of your immediate control over those processes. And, quite possibly that may be the hardest part.

3 Comments

  1. Jason Stanley on October 12, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Great article Mike…

    I struggled with the letting go part for a long time, with the mindset of “nobody can do this as well as me”.

    But as you say when you get busier and busier it’s difficult to keep up, and when you start falling behind, guess what? Your school doesn’t grow like it used to.

    I’m sure you know Michael Gerber wrote a great book called “The E-myth” which talks exactly about getting out of the “technician” mindset (I’m the only one who can do this) and systematizing, and then hiring, with the ultimate goal of the systems run the business and the people run the systems.

    To paraphrase Gerber, “The most successful franchise in the world (MacDonalds) is run by 15 year old kids”.



  2. Jason Stanley on October 12, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    One more thing I forgot to mention – The idea that a any martial arts school that becomes a successful business is often equated with becoming a “McDojo”, which in most people’s minds is a negative thing. Most people automatically think, low quality, mass quantity.

    I’m not saying for anyone to sell overpriced, low quality martial arts instruction. I’m saying Mickey D’s SYSTEM is excellent from a business standpoint. It’s ultimately up to you to determine the quality of what you offer.

    Systematizing your dojo will not mean that you’ll become a McDojo in the negative sense. If you already sell low quality, overpriced martial arts instruction, systematizing will allow you to sell more low quality, overpriced instruction.

    Likewise if you offer high quality martial arts instruction, and become systematized, you’ll be able to offer more high quality instruction.

    But one thing is for sure, as Mike points out – trying to do it all yourself is nearly impossible if you want to grow your school.

    Cheers,

    Jason



  3. Mike Massie on October 12, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    I agree Jason – implementing systems is the best way to run your school as it grows and still have a life.

    One thing you have to watch for… there are some very large martial art school chains and associations that have gotten so tied up in “systems” and replacing the owners with employees, they’re now in the habit of taking underqualified instructors and hiring them to teach classes and run schools.

    I kid you not – I was advised by a consultant at one of the billing companies to hire phys ed teachers with zero exp in martial arts, to teach classes in my schools. Why? Because someone who runs a very large chain of schools does it… so that must make it okay, right?

    That was one of the precipitating events that led to my writing Small Dojo Big Profits. Sooooo…

    Letting go and delegating is a balancing act – you have to balance quality with systems, constantly. Yet, it can be done!



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