Achieving martial arts business success is much simpler when you focus on the right things. However, it’s easy to get distracted by things that really don’t matter, and that can definitely hurt your bottom line.
I’m speaking from experience here when I say that school owners often overlook the crucial in favor of the entertaining. And in doing so they often shoot themselves in the proverbial foot by chasing goals that have no measurable outcome, nor do they have any real meaning in the grand scheme of their school’s growth and continued financial health.
Balancing Fun And Profit
Granted, sometimes we do things for the fun of it – for example, learning a new art. However, as business owners we must always weigh the time and resource cost of an activity versus the actual benefit to our business. And by “benefit” I mean profits.
If I sound like I’m being a bit too money and profit oriented here, that’s only because I get tired of hearing martial arts school owners complain about not being able to make enough money to survive, all while they’re doing things that are killing their businesses. Learning obscure martial arts, hosting seminar instructors at a loss, and traveling to distant competitions; these are all things that are “cool” but not essential to a martial art school’s success.
This is how a hobbyist behaves, not a business owner. A hobbyist makes financial sacrifices in order to continue pursuing their hobby for reasons of personal satisfaction and instant gratification. On the other hand, a business owner makes personal sacrifices for financial reasons and delayed gratification. Big difference.
Changing Internally From Hobbyist to Business Owner
You see, the change is internal on a very deep level. A hobbyist might spend their monthly marketing budget to bring in an instructor they admire, gambling that they’ll make it back on the door. A business owner would simply never consider taking that sort of gamble with a portion of their operating budget. Instead, they’d figure out a way to make the extra money needed to bring the instructor in first.
And, a truly success-minded business owner would only bring them in if they were assured to make a profit on the door. I think you can see what I’m getting at here. Once you become a business owner internally, your priorities change drastically.
So if you want to be a successful business owner (a true professional) and not a hobbyist, you need to start thinking like a business owner. And that begins with the basic principles of running a successful business. With that in mind, here are three simple principles for martial arts business success that every true professional lives by.
Rule #1: Measure It
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an initial coaching call with a client and asked them to run down their stats for me, and heard back in return, “I don’t really track my numbers.”
Seriously? You mean that you risked everything to open a business, raided your kid’s college fund, maxed out your credit cards (bad entrepreneur!), and you can’t bring yourself to spend ten minutes a day tracking your numbers? It makes no sense.
Failing to track your numbers is the most common rookie mistake that school owners make, and it is likely the one that leads to the most hardship and failure. Here’s why – if you don’t measure, you can’t improve it. If you don’t know what you’re starting with, how can you find a way to make it better?
Would you invest in a company that didn’t track their sales numbers and profit margins? I’d hazard a guess to say that such a company wouldn’t be in business very long, and it certainly would be a poor choice for investment. Since you’re heavily invested in your own company, maybe you should tell the CEO he needs to report the company’s numbers to the chief stock holder regularly, hmmm?
Furthermore, how do you think a company like Apple got to be so big? That’s right, attention to detail, because I can assure you they didn’t do it by hiring a bunch of hipsters to talk up their products on Facebook. No, Apple got where it is today by tracking every single minute detail of their business and products, and they use that data to continually improve their processes and products.
That’s exactly what you have to do in your own business. And, you cannot do that without tracking your stats. So, if you’re not tracking them, start today. Like, right now… go set up a spreadsheet and start tracking them. Then come back here and read the rest of this article. (Pssst… how many leads did you get this week? Intros? Enrollments? Drop-outs and cancellations? If you have no idea, start there.)
Rule #2: Minimum Effective Dose
Why do school owners always seem to want to make things harder on themselves? Oh, that’s right – it’s because every year you go to those conventions and get sold new business systems and curricula that you don’t need. Silly you. Stop that.
Some of you wonder how I’ve run successful schools only working 20-25 hours a week with very minimal staff. Simplicity, that’s how. I keep things as simple as humanly possible.
Look, you don’t need more complexity in your life as a business owner. Moreover, this is a VERY simple business, and once you have the basics down, it’s not at all hard to stabilize your income and maintain with minimal systems in place to support your operations.
Here’s my rule on complexity – always seek to do your best with less. If you can do the same job just as well, with less time and effort, do that. Live for efficiency.
Rule #3: Serve The Market (And Especially Your Clients After The Sale)
Getting back to teaching obscure martial arts because you think they’re cool, let’s talk about that. Certainly, I want you to be happy in your business. And honestly, if Walrus-Style Kung Fu is your life’s passion, then I fully support you teaching that.
However, you need to find a way to cater what you’re doing to what the market is demanding. Now, you might have just read that and in your head it sounded like Massie just said, “You need to find out what the market wants, and give them that.” Not exactly, because sometimes what the market wants is crap that doesn’t fit your culture or image (Zumba, anyone? Ahem.)
No, instead you need to figure out what the market is asking for, and then figure out how what you offer fulfills that demand… and then use that information to sell the heck out of some memberships. But that’s not where it ends… no sirree. Uh-uh, that’s just where it begins.
Then, after the sale, you need to be freaking delivering on that promise you made when you sold them on your services.
Oh. Wow. Yeah, that.
So here’s the thing – you need to make sure you aren’t selling what you can’t deliver, and that you are selling what you can deliver to the market who wants it most. Now, I’m not going to get into an argument about the fighting effectiveness of any particular art, but if you’re a tai chi instructor, maybe you shouldn’t be trying to market your classes to the self-defense market. And, if you teach krav maga maybe you ought to not advertise your classes for stress relief (because I have yet to see a stress-free krav class – just sayin’).
Look, what this boils down to is attention to detail (the ones that count), simplicity, and honesty. That’s it. If you run your business on these three principles, I can assure you that you’ll be better off than 90% of the rest of the school owners out there.