Staying Focused On Your #1 Job In Your Martial Arts Business

This cat knows

This lioness knows where her attention should be focused on – she knows where the payoff is at…

It’s so easy to lose focus and get distracted from your primary mission in your martial arts business – especially if you haven’t defined it yet.

One of the most basic things I teach my members on the site is that, until you reach your ultimate enrollment goals, your primary job function as a school owner is NOT:

  • Revising curriculum and class content;
  • Customer service;
  • Cleaning your school;
  • Coaching students for tournaments;
  • Taking students to tournaments;
  • Winning tournaments;
  • Getting new certifications;
  • Getting more rank;
  • Or learning how to use some new-fangled school management software.

Instead, until you hit your ultimate enrollment goals, your number one primary job function is recruiting new students…

Or, more specifically, building revenue.

That’s it. Anything you do that doesn’t directly impact your enrollment and income numbers is secondary or tertiary – and, should subsequently be way down on your list of “to-do’s”.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you just ignore all those things… but what it does mean is that you need to focus the majority of your time and energy on getting more students.

Why? It should be obvious, but for those of you who haven’t clued in yet –

It’s because without a sufficient, stable, and steady income… your school is sunk!

It doesn’t matter how many trophies you win, how cool and complete your curriculum is, how fancy your school is, how cool your uniforms are, how sharp your demo team is, how tough your black belts are, or how worshipped you are by your students…

If you don’t have enough students to pay the bills and pay yourself at the end of the month, none of that other stuff is worth a hill of beans.

And the payoff is readily apparent

…and the payoff is readily apparent.

So, while you’re in your growth phase – and until you hit your ultimate enrollment goal, you’re always in your growth phase – stay focused on:

  • Marketing –
  • Advertising –
  • PR –
  • And getting referrals –

Whether you like it or not, and whether you accept it or not, your first job title as a school owner is “Professional Marketer”.

Accept it, embrace it, and watch your school thrive.

– Mike Massie

P.S. – My performance benchmarks for a growing martial art school start with getting 30 leads a month. And, the place to start in developing marketing systems that will generate 30 leads a month is with your martial art school website.


  1. Bill on April 8, 2009 at 11:34 am


    I am a new school owner and I teach all classes. I also have a full time commitment to another business that takes up 35 to 45 hours per week of my time. My current goal with the school is for it to be self supporting and to eventually become my full time job. I need some help with getting new students in the door. Every student that has taken me up on my free lessons has signed up and stayed so far. How can I up my foot traffic to show them the new school in town?

  2. Mike Massie on April 8, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    God bless you for pursuing your dreams, Bill.

    As for an answer to your question, well, you need to learn how to effectively market your school. Go to:

    …and try out the membership. It’s cheap, and so long as you read through and apply the ideas and material on the site you’re bound to see some results.

    Good luck!

  3. Brendan Cabral on April 8, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    I agree with all of this except one thing and it’s the one thing I have decided makes and breaks MOST businesses not just MA schools. CUSTOMER SERVICE.
    This is the name of the game when running a school. Face it… Handling contacts and prospects IS customer service, the way we present curriculum in class IS customer service, the way we behave around the school, in front of students and press, it is all customer service.
    Call backs, late bill collecting everything we do that has an interaction with our customers/ students is customer service.
    The reason I make such a big deal out of this is becuase you can be a mediocre martial artist but be great at customer service and run a successful school. Our ability to interact with our students and prospects is what determines how much income we can generate. I’ve studied with great martial artists that were amazing, but I hated to be around them and I wouldn’t want to take classes from them. I’d like to be great at both sides of the coin.

  4. Mike Massie on April 8, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    I agree Brendan…

    But the problem is that many school owners get hung up on trying improve their product and service when they need to be focused on just getting people through the door.

    If you’re a conscientious person, 90% of customer service will take care of itself – you’ll answer calls promptly and so on.

    But, the fact is that customer service is something that is easily delegated… whereas marketing and recruiting isn’t.

  5. Jason Stanley on April 8, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Right on Mike…

    Hey you forgot some other “busy work time wasters” like…

    – going to get a haircut you don’t really need
    – reorganizing your Outlook contacts
    – checking your email 30 times per day
    – reading 127 different blogs about the same thing and never doing anything productive
    – etc

    Perry Marshall ( did a webcast a while back about “Operation Moneysuck” – and as crude as that sounds, if you’re in business and want to stay in business, Operation Moneysuck must be at the top of your list!

  6. Mike Massie on April 9, 2009 at 3:43 am

    Or, reading the same old tired article in an industry magazine that’s been rehashed a couple of dozen times. :)

    Seriously though, by focusing just on recruiting and building revenue, and dedicating 80% of your efforts and time to those goals, you’d be surprised how much more effective you’ll be in building your school. That would mean that for every ten hours you spend at your business outside of class, eight of them have to be spent on some marketing activity:

    • Creating new ads
    • Coming up with new special offers and promotions
    • Working on website promotion
    • Returning calls FROM PROSPECTS
    • Running a leadbox campaign
    • Reactivating inactive students
    • And so on…

    Believe me, if you stay focused on it 24/7, you’ll be amazed at how creative you get in promoting your school.

    Now, let’s just see how long it takes for this to become an article in one of the industry mags…

  7. Dave Chesser on April 9, 2009 at 5:24 am

    Good grief. This was just what I needed to hear right now. I’ve let myself get distracted by other possibilities instead of focusing on enrollment. Thanks for the kick in the pants! :)

  8. Mark O'Dell on April 9, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Mike, you are right on the money (pun intended). The #1 job of every school owner is the recruitment of new students and servicing the ones they have. Without the constant infusion of new students to offset the natural attrition of the student body then even the most successful schools will ultimately fail. Meeting the bottom line is what keeps a school in business and that cannot be done without new students.
    With that said, I agree with Brendan Cabral about the importance of customer service. It does not make sense to focus all your attention on the front end of your business if you are losing them just as fast through the back. Years ago I learned the importance of this lesson while running a school for my former instructor. We had a huge influx of new students and tried to have a new instructor help with the workload. He was a good kid and a good martial artist but lacked enthusiasm. He was just too mild mannered to excite the students. As a result we were losing students as fast as they signed-up. During the short time he worked for us we lost at least 45 students because of him. By the time we realized what was going on it was too late. The loss of 45 students may not sound like much but if every student stays an average of 2-3 years or longer then we lost over $140 thousand in revenue.
    Every small business successes or fails based on the personality of the person in charge. The pitfalls involved at every stage of the business are so numerous that without good guidance and mentorship then the learning curve required to succeed is out of the grasp of the majority of us. Something as simple as smiling when someone new walks in our front door can subtly affect the outcome. I was told that it takes a lifetime to find a new student, but only a moment to lose one.

  9. Mike Massie on April 10, 2009 at 4:46 am


    Once again, your response is correct, as was Brendan’s.

    However, customer service is only as important as necessary to keep your attrition under 5%. Keeping accurate stats will help you keep tabs on this. There are many simple procedures schools can implement to keep attrition low (teaching good, high energy classes for one) that don’t require a lot of man hours or effort.

    My main concern is that I see instructors putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Many times, martial art school owners get distracted with trying to implement new programs and integrate new ideas in their curriculum and spend the majority of their time trying to fix something that isn’t broken. All the while, they could have been investing that time and energy into getting new students.

    In addition, instructors can get “shiny object” syndrome, always chasing after the latest shiny new thing that hits the market, whether it’s a new add-on program, a character development curriculum, new school management software, etc. They subsequently spend valuable and limited financial resources on acquiring these low-priority “things” that should have instead been invested in student recruitment (marketing).

    School owners usually only have two resources when they first start out: time and money (and usually both are extremely limited). Wasting either one on things that don’t build revenue is setting a course for disaster.

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