Service Counts

service counts in a martial art school business

Would You Let This Doctor Treat You? (Bear With Me – It’ll Soon Make Sense)

Well, at least it’s not a doctor’s office…

Picture this…

You get a small cut and think you might need stitches. Not wanting to spend $800 on an emergency room visit – not to mention the drive across town – you Google family doctors in your area and find one that’s just around the corner.

So, you drive over and walk in the front lobby. As you walk in, you detect the distinct odor of dirty feet and stale mop water. The front waiting area is full of chipped floor tiles, stained ceiling tiles, the windows are dirty, there are cobwebs in the corners, there’s something sticky on the floor, and there are posters and fliers on the walls that are advertising events that happened months ago.

So far, not so good.

Realizing that you really should see a doctor to at least get a tetanus shot (when was the last time you got one?) you approach the front counter. No one is there. However, a nurse peeks her head into the waiting room, briefly glancing your way out from behind a closed door, looks you over and pops back behind the door without so much as a fare-thee-well.

Strike two.

Finally, the front desk attendant walks in and sits down behind the counter. “Are you here to see Dr. Mal Practice or Dr. Sue Delott? Fill out this form and have a seat.”

You fill out the form, and sit. And sit. And sit. And sit. 30 minutes pass. No one speaks to you. No one talks to you. You haven’t even seen a doctor yet, and yet you’re already pretty sure they’re both vets and that you must have Googled the wrong thing by accident.

At that moment, you decide $800 isn’t so much money after all and that the drive really isn’t all that far anyway, and you walk out the door to head over to the ER.

As You Might Have Guessed, It’s Not A Doctor’s Office I’m Talking About…

Ahem. Are you blushing yet?

If you’ve read this far, you know darned good and well I’m not talking about the doctor’s office here. What I’ve just described is the experience new students are treated to in thousands of martial arts schools across the country.

Here’s the thing; you might be the best martial arts instructor in three counties, or the whole darned state. You might have moves that would make a contortionist bionic ninja do a double-take. And, you might have a martial arts system and curriculum that is the martial arts equivalent of the Encyclopedia Brittanica and Wikipedia combined.

But all that doesn’t mean diddly-squat if your front-end enrollment process and business image is criminally bad. Honestly, if no one ever gets to the point where they actually are able to see how good you are, then what’s the point?

Forget About The McDojo Thing – You Could Really Learn Something From McDonald’s

Consider the lowly McDonald’s franchise. They serve a product that is, in my personal opinion, consistently less than mediocre. Grey meat slightly singed on a bun that tastes like sawdust bread. I have come to believe that the secret sauce and those condiments aren’t meant to enhance the flavor, they’re supposed to cover it up.

Yet, you can walk into any McDonald’s virtually anywhere in the U.S., and 99% of the time the floors will be freshly mopped, the tables will have been recently bussed and wiped down, the bathrooms will be serviceably clean, you could literally eat off the stainless steel counters in the kitchen, and the staff member behind the cash register will at least greet you verbally when you approach the counter.

As we all know, McDonald’s spends a large fortune on advertising. Their brand awareness is nearly unmatched. But, the reason why they make money hand over fist isn’t because of their advertising or brand awareness, and it’s certainly not because of their product. No, it’s because of the consistency of their service.

See, people want to know they are going to get the same thing whether they’re in Schenectady or San Antonio – which in the case of McDonald’s is a clean, dry, friendly place to sit down and have a burger, fries, and a Coke that is going to taste the same, every single time you go in there. Sure, it’s not the best meal, but there are ZERO surprises when you walk into a McDonald’s restaurant.

Honestly, I can’t say the same for any other fast food restaurant chain. Not a single one.

That’s Why The McDojo Down The Street Is Kicking Your Butt: Good Service

Most people wouldn’t know good martial arts if it smacked them upside the head. But, they do know that they want to train in a nice clean facility with friendly staff and instructors. Service counts.

That’s why it is absolutely critical for you to realize that once you figure out how to get leads, it’s only half the equation. The other half is providing consistently good and friendly service to your clients.

Get both halves of that coin stamped, and you’ve got yourself a winner. But, mess one or the other up, and you’ll be struggling in your business from now until you quit or it dies.

And what goes into good customer service in a martial art school? If you’re asking that question, I suggest you read Small Dojo Big Profits and The Profit-Boosting Principles to learn what that really entails.

Oh, and one more thing…

Disinfect your floors – that “bare feet” smell is bacterial growth.


  1. Sean Russell on November 19, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Mr. Massie, you are right as usual. People don’t want great martial arts and couldn’t tell the difference between good and bad martial arts. They want a feeling of accomplishment after a class! They want simple to the point lessons. Only those few students want the real deal, lots of work and repetition, over and over again and again on the same form to understand the movement. Then after lots of time practicing they can apply it in action. Nope, they DO NOT WANT THIS! They want easy and they want you to entertain them while they learn. So make it fun!

    Sean Russell
    Russell’s Kung Fu San Soo

  2. Mike Massie on November 19, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Yes… which is why it is YOUR job as a competent, professional martial arts instructor to BE PROFESSIONAL.

    I assume competence is a given, and that fly-by-nighters don’t read my blog, lol.

    So, if you’re a great martial arts instructor it’s your job to make sure you beat the under-qualified instructors by having great marketing and being more professional than they are in every single way.

  3. Mike Massie on November 19, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Oh, and Sean – people DO want competent martial arts instruction. Don’t assume your market doesn’t want good training – they absolutely do. However, what they don’t want is to be belittled, treated like a peon, to be used for volunteer free labor, etc.

    There are plenty of people who actually want to earn a rank that means something. Just look at all the people doing BJJ right now – it’s a hard workout and it takes forever and a day to get your first belt in a legitimate school.

    Yet, any BJJ instructor worth their salt with a halfway decent business acumen can have a full floor right now. That’s because BJJ has developed a rep for being “the real deal” in a martial art (thank the Gracies for that).

    For self-defense, people want to learn something effective that’s not watered down, but the fact is most people don’t want to do the Grasshopper thing to learn it.

  4. sean russell on November 25, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Mr. Massie, thanks for your business knowledge and sharing your tips. I thought, when I opened up in Sept. 2009, with my background in sales and business I could easily fill my school. Without this cocky attitude I would not have opened in this economy. Well, it’s been a tough year. I did not buy your program at first but your articles gave me just enough to keep going. I thought I would breeze through and be at 100 students already, I have 38 students. Not good growth but I am not disappointed. I opened in an area with 14.5% unemployment documented and a real unemployment of about 18%. It is not that I wasn’t listening to you but I had so much going on that I had to mature in the business a little to handle all the tasks necessary. I am now embracing the fact that YOU ARE RIGHT! I need to become a marketing/Advertising professional along with everything else.

    I recently started contracting people vs. Month to months. I haven’t lost but 5 students all year but I sure like knowing they will be their for a period of time, thanks. I guess in other words your advise is helping me organize my business and push my students twards goals (with testing fees, small but profitable).

    How about just THANKS!!

  5. Mike Massie on January 4, 2011 at 10:13 am

    You’re welcome, Sean. Keep up the good work – I’m proud of you!

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