How to Sell a Martial Art School

Selling a martial arts school can be difficult

That’s me in my first martial art school, circa 1997, teaching my character education program to a group of 4-6 year olds. I still miss that school, but mostly I just miss having a full head of hair…

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to sell a martial art school lately, so it’s obviously a topic that a lot of school owners are interested in and worthy of an article.

Over the last twenty years I’ve started, run, and sold three martial arts studios; two were full-time studios and one what I would consider a part-time studio (I only spent about 6-8 hours a week there, but still profited a few grand a month from the place).

So, I do know a little bit more than the average school owner about selling a martial art studio. Obviously, I can’t cover everything you need to know to have a successful sale in a few paragraphs, but what I can do is cover the basics to get you started in the right direction.

Why Sell a Martial Arts School?

Even if you’re not thinking of selling your martial arts school, this is still a topic that you need to know about. It goes hand-in-hand with my six-component coaching process, step #6, which is “Have an Exit Strategy“.

Why do you need an exit strategy? I’ve sold my schools over the years for multiple reasons, and there really is no simple answer to that question except that life happens, and you need to be prepared for it.

What if you get sick? What if your spouse gets a job that he or she simply can’t pass up in another state? What if you get burned out (entirely avoidable, but it happens)? What if you want to retire? What if you want to pursue other goals that don’t jive with owning a small business? These are all reasons why people I personally know have sold their martial art schools.

Besides that, you can’t teach forever. I know, I know – master so-and-so taught until his dying day. Well, did you ever think that was because master so-and-so was a crappy financial planner and money manager?

Believe me, teach long enough and there will come a day when you want to retire. Best that you start thinking about a succession strategy now so you’re ready when that day comes.

The Steps to Selling a Martial Art School

Step #1 – Make Sure This is What You Want

The very first thing you need to decide is whether or not selling your school is really what you want. I still have regrets about selling my first school, over ten years after the fact. I sold it for a good price, and things turned out pretty well for me afterwards (I wrote Small Dojo Big Profits after I sold it, mostly because I had no idea what to do with all the free time I suddenly had on my hands).

However, I do have regrets. It was my first successful studio, my baby, if you will. Also, issues came up during the succession that caused me to second-guess my choice of buyer (those were later hashed out before the sale was final). Finally, that school was a profit machine, and the factors that went into that would be difficult to reproduce again (very low rent in a high median income area, lots of kids around, etc).

Plus, there’s something else you need to consider, and that is how incredibly hard it is to start a successful business from scratch. I’ve started two other studios since, one during the onset and worst stages of the recent Great Recession. Quite honestly, at the time I started my second school I’d forgotten just how much time and work goes into starting a successful business.

That’s definitely something you need to factor into your decision. Starting a school from scratch gets harder the older you get, because youthful exuberance and enthusiasm tend to fade over time. If you ever decide you want to start another school, sure, you’ll have experience on your side…

But consider the circumstances that surrounded starting your martial art school. For me, I was young, single, and broke – three factors that made it easy to sacrifice everything to get my school off the ground. The second time around, I was married, and that changed things quite a bit. The third, I was a new father, and let me tell you that complicated matters even further (thus, the “micro-studio” approach that I took).

So, make sure it’s what you want before you sell. Don’t make any rash decisions but instead, take your time and mull it over for a good while before you decide.

Step #2 – Decide What It’s Worth

I don’t care what anyone tells you, there simply are no hard and fast rules for valuating a business, and anyone who tells you otherwise has either never sold a business, or has an ulterior motive.

There are several ways you can determine the value of a business. Let’s look at all the factors to consider when determining the value of a business and you can begin to see how complicated it can be:

  • Net Profit – This is usually the first factor to consider, but it’s also not necessarily the only factor. However, if a business simply isn’t making any profit, it’s not going to be worth much to any buyer. That’s why a common method of valuation is taking a multiple of the most recent year’s net profit, or a multiple of the average of the most recent three year’s net.
  • Gross Profit – Gross profit is definitely something a wise buyer needs to consider. Often a savvy business person can take over a busy but poorly-managed business and increase the net profit significantly by slashing overhead. Still, I would be very wary of buying a business that wasn’t turning a profit.
  • Assets – The fact is, most martial arts schools are asset poor, because it simply doesn’t take a lot of equipment to open a martial art school compared to other businesses. Where you might have $50K invested in equipment in a small health club and $100K invested in equipment and fixtures in a modest food service franchise, I can open a martial art school with less than $2,500 invested in fixtures and equipment. That of course makes our business very attractive for folks who are looking for a business they can boot strap, but it doesn’t do much for boosting your sales price. Even so, be sure to calculate the cost of replacing all your equipment into your sales price.
  • Accounts Receivables – Accounts receivable (AR) is another factor to consider, and this is something a lot of martial art school owners forget. All that money your students owe to you on their contracts? That’s an asset; maybe not a physical asset, but one that needs to be factored into the sales price. For example, a martial art school that charges $150 a month with 100 students on contract for the next 12 months has $180,000 in accounts receivables. That’s a lot of money owed, and it’s an asset, so be sure to factor that into your valuation.
  • Goodwill – The goodwill of a business is an intangible asset that is difficult to put a price on but that definitely should factor into the valuation of any business. Basically, goodwill is your reputation in the market. A good reputation is something that is not easy to build, and a successful business that has been entrenched in a community for years with a solid reputation has value that a new business does not. This is one of those factors that will make the sales price of your business a negotiable number, and something you should also factor into your valuation.

Coming Next Week: How to Sell a Martial Art School, Part II

This is a lot of information to cover all in one sitting, so next week I’ll post part II of this article, where I’ll talk about finding a buyer and negotiating a sales price.

Questions? Comments? Feedback?

Feel free to post your questions and comments on how to sell a martial art school below…


  1. Terri Giamartino on February 27, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Intriguing so I wold like to hear more about how you did with your sale, your strategy for succession planning, etc.

  2. Mike Massie on February 28, 2017 at 6:45 am

    Terri, check the link at the bottom of the article for the rest of the series. There’s quite a bit more info. The sale of my first school went flawlessly, because the person who purchased it followed my suggestions to the “T” for the first two years. The sale of my second school didn’t go as smoothly. The guy who took it over developed some health issues about a year after he took it over, and that distracted him from running it properly. If I had known, I would have stepped back in and taken it over again. However, I didn’t find out until the school was on the brink of closure. I ended up being paid only about half of what it was worth after all was said and done. But the guy was a friend, so I forgave the debt and moved on. This is why I suggest that you either get paid everything up front, or if you’re going to finance part of the sale price for the new owner that you find someone who is closely aligned with the way you ran your school, and that you keep in close contact with them after the sale.

  3. Mike Massie on January 27, 2018 at 7:22 am

    From within our own school, among friends and contacts, and by putting out feelers in the community.

  4. Paul on July 19, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Trying to figure out the value of our school to buyout a parntner. Never done it before so trying to figure that out.

  5. John on April 10, 2020 at 3:36 am

    “That’s why a common method of valuation is taking a multiple of the most recent year’s net profit, or a multiple of the average of the most recent three year’s net.” Is there an estimated or typical multiple that is used for valuation in the industry?

  6. Mike Massie on April 10, 2020 at 8:31 am

    John, I’ve heard anywhere from one year to five years net, depending on the business, industry, and current economic conditions. Understand, selling a business is a lot like selling a house, as the value can fluctuate depending on the market and other factors. I’ve heard that from multiple sources, including certified business brokers and accountants who handle a lot of business valuations. The bottom line is that the more profitable your business is on paper (your Schedule C), the more it’s worth. The other half of that equation is finding a buyer who is willing to pay that much.

  7. Kyoshi Eddie on January 31, 2022 at 11:58 am

    I would live to discuss with you. Kyoshi Eddie

  8. Steve hunt on October 30, 2022 at 6:16 am

    Hi I have 3 martail arts schools and I am looking at selling them u have 65 students and it’s growing fast is there a site I can get a quote what the schools are worth as note sure if doing it myself is right

    Master Steve

  9. Mike Massie on November 7, 2022 at 5:50 am

    Read the entire series of articles. It explains what you need to do to find a price for your studio. That said, selling a studio that has only 65 students seems a bit premature.

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