How Knowledge Gaps Threaten Your Martial Arts Business Success

martial arts business success

A recent visit with my good friend Tom Whitaker reminded me that I’ve been helping people start and run successful martial art schools for quite some time now.

He was the first person that I ever coached through the process of starting and growing a school, over fifteen years ago. How time flies. (By the way, my interview with him was featured on podcast episode #33 – you definitely want to listen to that episode.)

Chatting with Tom caused me to reflect on the many people I’ve coached over the years, and on why some people succeed while others languish in mediocrity, and others do nothing at all. What this really boils down to is how large the individual’s knowledge gaps are, and how well they put what they learn to good use in their business.

Allow me to explain…

The Three Types of Martial Arts Business Info-Seekers

Over the last fifteen years or so, I’ve noticed that I get three kinds of people who come to me for advice and direction.

Type 1 – The Quitters

The first are people who get the information, and then do nothing with it, the quitters. These are the people who will continue to teach in part-time locations for the rest of their careers (and they’re almost always the same type of people who post on Facebook and in forums about how all financially successful schools are rip-offs, etc.)

They operate on a fear-based mentality. “What if I fail?” “What if I do this and my instructor/organization/guru doesn’t approve?” “What if I’m successful and people start labeling my school as a McDojo?”

Sadly, they allow fear to keep them from acting at all on their dreams. These are the exact type of people that Teddy Roosevelt criticized in his famous Sorbonne speech.

Type 2 – The Talkers

The second are people who are talkers. They treat the information like a buffet, picking and choosing items and tidbits here and there. These are the most common people you’ll find among school owners. They typically go to a lot of seminars, read a lot of martial arts business books, and purchase a lot of martial arts business materials.

These are also most often the people who are giving advice to other school owners on Facebook and in martial arts forums and groups online. However, they only apply what they learn in a piecemeal fashion, so they rarely have high-performing schools and tend to struggle to pay their bills.

They love to talk online and at events, impressing people with how much they know… but they’re all hat and no cattle, as we say in Texas. They operate on a pride based mentality, thinking they already know everything because they read a lot of books and have attended a lot of seminars. And that is their downfall.

Type 3 – The Doers

And then, there are the doers. These people typically find a system that is taught by a person with a record of success whom they can relate to, and they absorb all the knowledge and systems that person has to teach in their complete and unaltered form. They then implement that knowledge as taught, and only when they reach a point where they have a highly successful school do they start to experiment with new things.

These people are 80/20 achievers who stick with learning and applying the 20% of knowledge domains that deliver 80% of the results for school owners. They are primarily driven by humility, because they realize that reinventing the wheel is a long path to certain failure, and the quick way up the mountain is to follow the guy or gal who has done it already.

You will rarely find these people online in Facebook groups or martial arts forums. Why? Because they are too busy running their schools, turning a profit, and helping their many students reach their personal goals to find time to gossip online. In other words, they are too busy doing it to talk about doing it.

And, they stay humble, continuing to learn and grow as they enjoy financial success and having the resources to train with and learn from who they want, when they want. Because of this, they have the greatest impact on their communities over time, and the highest job satisfaction as school owners.

The Difference In The Three Types of Martial Arts Business Info-Seekers

There are two major differences among the three types of martial arts business info-seekers:

  1. Knowledge Gaps
  2. and Action Gaps

I’ve spoken about action gaps in great detail and at length previously in other articles. (And quite frankly, if you can’t find it in you to take action to get your business started and running, I can’t help you.)

But what if you’re taking the wrong actions? That’s where knowledge gaps come in – gaps in your knowledge will lead you to try to make things up as you go along, and you will make mistakes. Avoidable mistakes. These mistakes will cost you time and money, and personally it’s the former that, to me at least, is the most costly.

The smart school owner closes the gaps in their knowledge at the earliest opportunity, and they continue to fill in those gaps throughout their business career. And, they don’t just implement what they learn piecemeal. They take systems in their entirety and implement them in their entirety.

That’s because they are humble enough to realize that if someone has had success with a particular approach before, and if that approach doesn’t jeopardize their moral integrity, then there’s little reason for them to alter that approach (other than pride, and we all know what that precedes).

So, here’s the bottom line… By learning everything you can about the weak links in your knowledge of martial art school operations, you ensure that your knowledge gaps are small enough so they don’t jeopardize your success. (Incidentally, this is also why you need to keep stats – your stats point out where you have the greatest knowledge gaps. Know your numbers.)

Where To Go From Here

I’m only including this section because if I don’t, I’m going to get a ton of questions from my readers asking which of my products they should purchase. If you want to know what to purchase and in what order, go to the following page and it will tell you how to build a foundational level of knowledge in martial art school operations, and how to fill in your knowledge gaps so you don’t find yourself making things up as you go.

One Last Thing…

I know someone is going to contact me after reading this, either with a support request (that’s not for martial arts business questions, by the way) or by friending me and messaging me on Facebook (and if you “friend” me and then send me a flurry of MA biz questions, I would suggest that you’re not being very friendly) – and I know they’re going to say they can’t afford my business materials.

Trust me, if you want the information badly enough, you’ll find a way. Back more than twenty years ago, I was making near-minimum wage in my day job and had about ten students in my part-time class at the local elementary school. And I was struggling. Remember, this is more than two decades ago, and on those wages I was still able to come up with $200 bucks for Jim Mather’s business materials. And that initial expenditure changed my life (thanks Hanshi Mather).

So, if you can’t afford it, you’ll never afford it. I don’t know how else to put it. Good luck repeating what you did yesterday to get you where you are today, because if it didn’t work then it won’t work today or tomorrow, either. So either find the money, or don’t – it’s your call and in the end you’ll only have yourself to blame for staying poor.


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