Ep. 48: Common Mistakes That Sabotage Martial Art School Owners

The Martial Arts Business Podcast Episode 48

In this podcast episode, Mike reveals common mistakes martial arts school owners make that sabotage their financial success. And in The Tip of the Week, Mr. Massie tells you how to avoid wasting your hard-earned dollars paying gurus for information you can get free online.

Mentioned In This Episode:

Episode Transcript:



You’re listening to the Martial Arts Business podcast with your host, Small Dojo Big Profits author Mike Massie. Remember to go to Martial Arts Business Daily slash podcast for show notes, transcripts, links to martial arts business resources, and more. Now, here’s your host, Mike Massie.

Announcing The Martial Arts Business U Mobile App



Hey folks, Mike Massie here back with another edition of the Martial Arts Business Podcast. So this week, before I get into the actual podcast segment itself, I’d like to talk about a couple things. First thing is, I want to talk to you about the app, the new MA Biz U app that I created.

I have a group of developers that are working with me on this. We do have the app live in the Android store and also in the Apple Store. You can find it under martial arts business u, Mike Massie’s martial arts business u—“u” standing for university.

I’ve owned martial arts business u dot com for ages and actually hosted my coaching website at MAbizU dot com for a long time, at martial arts business u for a long time. So what I’m doing is, is I’m moving all of my content from a martial arts business university over to the app itself, so it’ll make it easier for people to access information, the app, access the courses, access all of the articles on my books.

My entire book library is actually in this app. There’s an e-reader within the app to where you can just open up the app, find the book you want, which is right there on the front page. Scroll down to the book, open it, and you can read my books in the app, you know, right, right from the app itself. So that should be a lot more convenient for people as well as the courses.

So basically what you’re going to be able to do is you’re going to be able to find everything that I teach, all my content, you know, all my courses, all my books, articles, everything right there in one place, the app itself.

Right now, we’re still working out some kinks. I’m working with the developers because we do still have some kinks in the app. Like I was testing the app, doing Android testing and Apple testing, iOS testing, iOS. And I found that there were some issues with videos like, you know, on certain videos, audio isn’t playing other videos. We have some display issues. So we’re working on those kinks right now, but you’re welcome to download the app to check it out.

You don’t have subscribe right away if you don’t want to, but it’s only 30 bucks a month, and 30 bucks a month is exceptionally cheap for the content that you’re going to get in the app, because what you’re going to get is you’re going to get weekly lessons from me. There’s some free lessons there you can actually check out. You’re going to get the Small Dojo Big Profits course, the complete course, including the ebook, the manual.

You’re also going to get my new Simplified Marketing Course. Which is basically a Pareto’s principle-based 80/20 approach to marketing your martial art studio. What I did was is I took my old marketing course, which was huge. I condensed it down into just the essential tasks that are really the stuff that’s working now for for 80% of the martial arts schools out there.

And these are the 20% of tasks that will get you to 80% of results in your school. And as far as getting new students and so forth. And, you know, I poll my my members, my closest coaching members who I know, the people in my private coaching group. I have a business coaching group, which will also eventually be available through the app at at an increased cost per month.

That coaching group has always run about a couple hundred bucks a month. That’s probably the best value in coaching that you’re going to get in the martial arts industry today. The people that are in that private coaching group of mine, that they are dedicated school owners, that they’re dedicated to doing well in their business, that they’re serious about running their schools and that they are serious about implementing the business systems that I teach.

I’ll poll them, you know, maybe twice a year to find out what’s working right now. I’ll ask, “What marketing methods are working for you right now in your martial arts studio?” And so the ones that always come out on top are pretty straightforward. And they’re all represented in that marketing course.

There are basically four separate tactics, some four separate strategies, marketing strategies that I focus on in that course, in that Simplified Dojo Marketing Course that’s available in the app for the subscription price.

I focus on all of those and, you know, give you a section where I go into depth on in depth on each one of them to help you learn how to market your school, how to solve those cashflow issues that so many martial arts school owners have in their martial arts studios.

You don’t have to worry about cash flow. You can solve basically 80% of your problems in your studio by fixing your cash flow issues. It’s a very straightforward course. I tried to make it as newbie proof as possible, because I know a lot of martial arts school owners are newbies to marketing newbies, to online marketing, to digital marketing.

I’ve been doing digital marketing, online marketing since the early 2000. I built my first website from a martial arts studio in 1999, believe it or not, and I got my first certification in my first SEO certification, Online Marketing certification.

About the year 2001 I started a digital marketing agency. Not too much longer after that, I started working with local business owners and I have been at it ever since, either marketing my own studios, helping other martial arts studio owners market their studios, or working with local business owners, doing SEO, doing web design, doing online copywriting, and so forth.

The information that you’re going to get in the course is definitely from a reliable source. So I recommend that you go get that, go download it, check it out, you know. And also feel free to contact me if you find it and kinks in it, any bugs in the app. Once again, we’re trying to work those out right now.

This is a new thing for me, working with developers to develop software. So it’s kind of fun. It’s challenging, but it’s fun. And any input you can give me feedback-wise, you know, good, bad or otherwise, I welcome it.

Okay. The second thing that I want to talk about is I want to talk about this podcast. So one of the things I’m doing is, I am looking for people to come on the podcast and speak with me about the business of running a martial arts studio. I prefer to bring on my own clients, my own customers, my own readers, people that have read by my materials because I prefer to focus on the systems and approach that I teach.

Definitely I’m not going to rule out bringing on other people from outside of the Small Dojo Big Profits community to speak on the podcast, but I’m primarily looking for people who are avid listeners of this podcast, the people that were begging me to bring it back for years and years and years, you know, people that are in my Small Dojo Big Profits group, especially people that are in my martial arts business university coaching group, my personal coaching group.

So if any of you are interested in coming on the podcast, please let me know. Reach out to me on Facebook. It’s MartialArtsBusinessDaily on Facebook, or simply if you’re friends with me on Facebook, you know you can find me on Facebook pretty easily. Feel free to reach out there. That’s the easiest way to get a hold of me.

Common Mistakes That Sabotage Martial Arts School Owners

Okay, so let’s jump into the the actual podcast topic itself for this week. And this is a good one. It’s common mistakes that sabotage martial arts school owners. And this is something that I like to talk about. I like to talk about this particular topic because so often I see martial arts school owners who are struggling to start a school or grow a school.

Maybe that they’re struggling just to get off the ground to get their martial arts school open, or they’ve opened a martial arts studio. They’ve, you know, gone through the process of getting their first 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 students, and yet they can’t seem to get past a particular plateau in their business.

You know, maybe they’re doing a little bit better, maybe they’re at 100 students or whatever, which, you know, is a pretty good milestone ahead, but just can’t seem to get past that. And so many times, what I find is, is when I dig in and I do a coaching session with these instructors that they’re doing things to sabotage themselves without even realizing it.

Sometimes we sabotage ourselves. We unknowingly, unwittingly, and sometimes self-sabotage is something that we have to learn how to eliminate from our mindset. When we start off as entrepreneurs, because many of us have been taught to self sabotage or we do it subconsciously because we are secretly fearful of success and of making more money.

Brian Tracy in his Success Mastery University course, which is an old one, but I recommend it to people all the time, and people that have gone through it have thanked me for introducing them to that course.

But one of the things he talks about is, is he talks about how we have a an income level set point in our subconscious that’s basically the highest income level that you’ve ever earned in your life–that’s going to be your income level set point in your subconscious mind, and you’re going to self-sabotage unless you’re aware of it.

You could be self-sabotaging to keep yourself from earning past that income level. And I’ve experienced this myself until I took that course. And Brian Tracy, you know, his teaching kind of pointed out for me, wasn’t aware of this.

It’s one thing to understand that your self sabotaging it is another thing to understand how you’re self-sabotaging. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to get into the how. The awareness of it in dealing with the psychological issues, the mental issues, the attitude issues, you know, the kind of mindset stuff? That’s that’s on you.

But I’m going to tell you about certain things that I see happen over and over and over again that are very common, where I see martial arts studio owner self sabotaging. And hopefully this will help you to eliminate these problems from your business.

So the first one I want to talk about is taking on too much overhead. I talk about this one a lot because guess what? Small Dojo Big Profits, it’s all about, you know, keeping things small so you keep it all, right? I know that sounds really catchy, and I’m not the person who made up that saying, but it’s true.

You know, the smaller you keep your studio, the more likely you are to keep more profit from what you’re doing. And, you know, I talk a lot about paratus principle because I think it’s very applicable when you’re talking about running a small, profitable studio.

And what do I define as a small, profitable studio? Well, it’s a studio where your overhead cost are under 50%, and you can even get it as low as 40 or even 30%. If it studios were, my overhead costs were 25%. 1s And and it’s something that a studio that has a footprint that’s under 3000ft², ideally you’re going to be under 2500ft².

You might need to go a little bit larger if you’re a Jiu-Jitsu studio or you teach a grappling or mixed martial arts because you just need more space. When you’ve got people rolling around together, you know, if you’re teaching more of a traditional martial art, usually you can go smaller and you know you have high profit margins, small studio footprint, and you’re doing most of the work yourself. You’re operating as an owner operator.

That’s what I define as a successful, profitable small studio. And now those profit margins, I’m going to tell you something. They’re a unicorn and the martial arts industry for most school owners, especially among larger school owners, even though you hear people talking about and bragging about how they have huge schools with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of students, sometimes over a thousand students.

They have these huge square footage locations, you know, 6000, 8000, 10,000ft². When you get behind closed doors and you talk to people behind closed doors, either people who have been school owners that have owned large schools, which I’ve talked to a few who have been very prominent in the industry, who have been candid enough to share their experiences with me or people that have worked in those studios.

What you find is or people have been on the boards of directors for, you know, large consulting companies and billing companies, which, you know, are almost a thing of the past now, but still exist. What you find is, is that people that have those large studios, their profit margins are razor thin.

Many times some of the studio owners who have turned into consultants in the industry, who boasted and bragged about having extremely large studios, they only built those studios and built them up to large numbers and got large square footage studios so they could show them off and use that as sort of a platform, you know, a jumping off point, if you will, a way of increasing their perceived authority in the industry so they could sell consulting and, and billing services simply because that’s where they knew the real money was.

I spoke with one individual who was a partner in a large studio operation in the northwest Pacific Northwest. And this person had gotten divorced, and they had retained some ownership of their studio from their spouse after the divorce, and they were the driving factor within their marriage for opening up a small studio as a satellite location from the large square footage studio with many, many hundreds of students that they had where their profit margins were razor thin because their overhead, their rent, their payroll, etcetera was just so high that they just worked their butts off in that studio and had razor thin profit margins.

And what this person told me was, they told me that their small studio that they ended up opening, that they had to fight their spouse to open in the first place, ended up becoming the most profitable part of their business, that that was the part of their business that drove most of their profit for them. And I’ve heard this story time and time and time again from school owners, what have also seen from multi school owners who have been very successful.

I knew one individual that I was acquainted with very well over a period of several years that owned nine schools and every single one of those schools, because I was very familiar with his operations, I used to go in and visit him at his studio and, and we would talk and chat. And he was very candid with me about his studio operations. His main studio was run basically as a Small Dojo Big Profits studio, and every single one of his studios was run that way.

It was run with minimal staff, small footprint locations. He ran very professional schools, was very good at marketing and sales and also very talented martial artist, had a great deal of respect for this person. But, you know, I mean, his nine studios, you know, all combined were bringing in over $3 million a year before he sold them.

He’s moved on to other things now. But that person was very successful. But the reason why he was successful running such a large martial arts teaching business, instructional business, such a large organization, was because he had mastered the basics and he knew how to keep a studio profitable by keeping it small.

And you’ll see this time and time and time again, I could mention other people in the industry who have been luminaries in the industry. And, you know, Steven Oliver is one of them. You know, if you look at the way Steven Oliver runs his studios, you know, I’ve talked with him at length. I interviewed him at length many years ago.

He’s a very good guy, in my opinion. I have nothing, nothing bad to say about Steven Oliver. I really like the guy and in my opinion, he runs his studios, you know, on the Small Dojo Big Profits principles in a way.

You know, I think he differs in some areas, you know, in the way he runs his business. But same thing. And he’s been successful in the industry for decades. Decades. He’s been successful in the industry longer than most people of most of the people who are trying to teach other people to run schools have been alive in this industry now.

All I’m saying is, is that there’s proof of concept out there, why you need to keep things small. And the thing is, here’s how you end up getting your studio your overhead to be a stumbling block in your business.

One of them is rent. That’s the primary way most martial arts instructors, what they’ll do is, is they’ll take on too much overhead too soon by getting too much space. Too soon. And like I teach in order to make profits. And you can go pick up the book at Small-Dojo-Big-Profits.com. It’s not that hard to find.

Or you can just download the app and you can read it within the app. But yeah, you don’t need anything in a traditional martial arts studio, or if you’re teaching primarily striking martial arts, you don’t need anything over, say, 2000ft². You really don’t.

My first dojo was 2000ft², you know, and back in the day, I paid like, man, I remember my first lease. I was paying $765 a month, I think, rent for 2000ft², which is awesome. The school was a man. It was a profit machine. And, you know, I found out that I didn’t need more square footage than that.

And I did get more square footage at one point, and it was a mistake. And I ended up ruling that back. And once I learned that lesson, I never went back.

And I’ve advised many, many instructors to keep their school small. Keep your square footage small so your overhead is low so you can maintain that maximum profit potential possible in your studio.

Second way people take on too much overhead too soon is in payroll. They hire too soon, and they hire or they hire too many people. Now I understand the principle that you want to duplicate yourself in your school. As a matter of fact, I recommend it.

The only problem is, is you can’t do it too soon. Most martial arts school owners, when they start their studios, they don’t have the cash flow to be able to afford to hire people. And many times they’ve financed their martial arts studios in a way that is, it’s not conducive to lasting in business for very long—to having a lasting, you know, survivability rate in business.

And so when you have a bunch of money going out the door in payroll for your studio, then guess what? You’re cutting your profitability down. You’re not able to reinvest in your studio, your overhead is too high, you’re not able to pay yourself.

Pretty soon you’re running a studio that is basically you’ve you’ve you’re paying to have another job. And, you know, honestly, it sucks. It’s horrible. And, you know, there are some lawsuits right now against a franchise which which will go nameless on this podcast because I don’t like to, to tear down or talk about, you know, other consultants or, you know, service providers in the industry.

But the nature of that lawsuit, you can go look it up. You can find it pretty easily. The nature of the lawsuit is that people were told in this kind of small martial art school model that they were selling as a franchise. People were told that they could operate these martial arts studios as semi absentee owners, which basically means that they would only have to work a minimum amount of hours in their studio every, you know, every week. And then they would be able to hire people to run their studios for them.

The problem with that is, is that it just doesn’t work. That business model just does not work in a small studio operation. If you’re going to run a small studio operation, you’d better be willing to be an owner operator. You need to be a martial arts instructor. You need to be a competent martial arts instructor, and you need to be willing to do most of the work in your studio. If you’re not willing to do that, you’re going to have some serious issues in your business with profitability. I can guarantee it.

Third way that martial arts school owners, you know, kind of hamstring themselves when they’re opening up their studios by taking out too much overhead too soon, is in build out—spending more than you need to open your doors .

I think it’s cool that people want to open up a martial art studio and that they want to be as professional as possible, and I think that’s a good idea. Now, I’ve seen some studio build outs that were just phenomenal. You know, where people, you know, some of the jiu jitsu schools I’ve seen, they I’ve seen people open some jitsu schools with a really cool interior design with, you know, professional, like these cut metal signs, you know, with their logo on the wall and, you know, just the decoration and everything. It’s just amazing.

But, you know, one of the nicest martial arts studios I’ve ever seen was one that I trained at (note: I took private lessons from one of the head instructors) and that school owner spent… I want to say he told me he spent $70,000 building out his studio.

It was huge too. I was absolutely huge and they were successful for a while until the pandemic hit. Unfortunately, the pandemic put him under but $70,000 to build out a studio. Man, I think the most I’ve ever spent for preparing a studio to open was a couple thousand dollars.

And that’s because when I go out and I look for places to rent to open up a studio, what am I looking for? I’m looking for an empty box with a bathroom, possibly with an office, potentially with an office that has enough space in the front, the studio to put some chairs for a viewing area and to put a front counter. And the rest is going to be mats.

And what I’m going to do is I’m going to paint the place white, or I’m going to paint it in some neutral colors, and I’m going to do some, you know, fairly nice, you know, decorations in the school, you know, maybe add some plants and add some pictures and then do some other things, maybe get my logo on the wall with, you know, you know, a vinyl cutout or something like that from a local sign shop, then that’s going to be it. I’m going to open my doors.

I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on opening up my studio at first, because I got to make sure that studio is in the black as quickly as possible because I want profit, you know? So if you’re dropping 78,000 $100,000 on your build out, guess what? You’re not in the black until you pay all that money off and you know, how are you financing that? Are you paying that out of pocket or you get a loan?

All I’m saying is, is that sometimes school owners do too much too soon. You don’t need to have, you know, a a school that has the buildout expense of, you know, a, you know, a small restaurant or a large, you know, fitness, upscale fitness studio. In order to be successful, okay, you can get by with less and you can create a really nice studio, really nice space with less.

So the most money you should be spending on opening up your studio should be on your mats. Your mat should be your largest expense. You shouldn’t skimp on your mats because your mats, you know they need to last a long time. You need to have the best mats possible.

And not only does it make your school look better and nicer, but also it is actually in some way liability insurance for keeping your students getting injured.

So anyway, now also an honorable mention on this topic—not having enough startup capital. Martial Arts School owners start up and they don’t have enough startup capital. You know, they take out, you know, you know, high interest loans, they do credit cards and things like that to start their studio.

Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people come to me for consulting and they’re like, yeah, you know, my consultant that took me through the process, started my studio, told me to finance it on credit cards, and I just roll my eyes because I’m like, what a ______. I can’t say the word because this is a PG-rated podcast, but it just irritates me to know and it just really hacks me off. So don’t do that.

Get Small Dojo Big Profits. Read it. It’s an inexpensive… it’ll be the best 20 bucks you ever spent. Trust me. And follow the information that guide okay?

So now let’s talk about the next topic. The next thing that really tends to sabotage martial arts school owners when they’re getting started or when they’re trying to grow their studios. And that is avoiding the real work in running a small business, and the real work in running business.

I say this because, and I’m always telling martial arts school owners this and a lot of them don’t believe me or they want to fight me on it. But the honest truth is, is that when you become a small business owner your primary job now is running a small business. It’s not being a martial arts instructor, and I know that sounds contradictory when your business is teaching martial arts, but what I’m saying is, is that martial arts instructors tend to think that they can just focus on teaching martial arts and not focus on the business aspects of running a martial arts studio.

That’s what gets them in hot water. The first way they avoid the real work of running martial arts studios, is avoiding marketing, avoiding budgeting, planning, executing, tracking, and repeating your marketing. These are all things that you need to do on a regular basis.

If you’re not, you know, budgeting for your marketing plan and your marketing every week, executing your marketing every week, tracking your results, and then repeating what works, guess what? You’re not going to be successful. And I don’t care how much you hate marketing, you know how much you think marketing is sleazy or whatever. It’s not sleazy. It can be done, absolutely done in a classy manner that is absolutely done with integrity.

But you know, if you’re avoiding that that task, then guess what? You’re not a small business owner. You’re not an entrepreneur. You’re just somebody who who who bought a hobby. You know, you’re you’re basically buying your hobby. Congratulations. You could have done it for free.

Also selling. Selling is another way that people avoid the real work. And running a martial arts studio, you know, and you know, I’ll just say this as far as marketing goes and as far as selling goes, hooray for automation.

Okay, I know there are coaches out there that are telling people right now that they need to automate everything, that they should not be talking to anybody, that everything should be automated on the front of their businesses to onramp students.

Guess what? You’re still going to have to talk to people. Okay? You should automate as much as possible on the front end of your business. Yeah. That’s great. Automation is a wonderful thing. Technology is a wonderful thing. Use technology. I wish I would have had it when, you know, when I was running schools full time, you know, like before the pandemic and before I had cancer.

But, you know, now you have all these tools at your disposal. Use them, but you still have to talk to people, man. You still have to develop face to face selling skills. You still have to develop good marketing skills. You still have to know how to take somebody from being iffy about joining your school through conversation, to being 100% committed to joining your martial arts studio.

If you don’t have those skills, if you’re avoiding developing those skills and avoiding applying those skills, talking to people, you’re going have problems growing your school.

And then finally customer service. Customer service is another way that people avoid the real work in, you know, in running a martial arts studio. And part of that is following up on leads.

You know, customer service starts before somebody even becomes your customer. And these martial arts studio owners who are out there and trust me, I’ve I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it myself personally from the customer’s perspective. For example, when I was looking for a jiu-jitsu school to put my son in, you know, I would contact jiu jitsu schools in my area, I think there’s like six jiu jitsu schools in my area now, which is crazy because it’s not that big of a town.

And, you know, I’d contact these schools and, you know, leave messages, call, you know, fill out forms on websites, and nobody would call me back. And guess what? I ended up going with the people who contacted me first.

You know, the early bird gets the worm, right? That’s the old adage. Well, guess what? The martial arts school owner who contacts the person who is shopping for martial arts lists first, generally tends to get that person as a student.

So you need to be good at customer service from the get go and follow up on leads immediately. And also, you know, customer service for your existing students. You know your students, their customers. They’re not resources to be exploited. So you need to treat them as such. You need to treat them as customers. You need to treat them as clients. You need to treat them with respect.

When they have customer service issues, you need to deal with it immediately. You need to deal with those customer service issues with integrity.

Okay, now the next way people will sabotage themselves and hamstring themselves are running a martial arts studio is by being too hardcore with beginners and failing to be a good coach.

And here’s what I mean by that. Okay? And this one is huge. Yes, we do want to teach quality martial arts, but we also need to keep students around. If you’re not keeping students, if you’re not retaining students, you’re going to have a difficult time growing your school.

You might be able to be the type of school owner. And I hate this approach to to the business of teaching martial arts. There are a lot of people out there still teaching it. You might be able to get by being the type of martial arts school owner. Who cashes everybody out on the front end, because when you cache everybody on the front end, oh gosh, you’d have to worry about student retention. You know, you can just have a revolving door in your studio. Well, congratulations. You know, you are now a martial arts instructor who was all about being a used car salesman. Congratulations.

If that’s the type of school owner you want to be, find another podcast to listen to. Because I don’t have time for you, you know?

But if you want to be the type of martial arts instructor who cares about teaching, who cares about working with students who must be out on the floor every day improving people’s lives, then guess what? You need to work at retaining your students. You need to be tracking attendance and things like that, which is what I’m going to talk about in a minute.

And you need to be really working on being a good coach. Now, here’s the thing. You got to build your students up. If you’re not building your students up, if you’re not building them up internally and externally, then you’re not being a good coach.

Now, whether students realize or not, most are coming to you with confidence issues, and sometimes that’s overt. Parents bring their children in, you know, saying, hey, you know, my kid lacks self-esteem. You know, he needs confidence, and that’s fine.

But a lot of times, like your adult students are coming to you. I mean, you know, it’s interesting. I was just talking with my physician, and he has gotten the jiu-jitsu bug, and he is all into it. And, you know, he even he even stuck around at this school after getting a broken rib. He broke his rib in training. And he’s still training.

You know, he hasn’t quit because he’s got the bug. Those students are rare. The type of students that you normally get are people that are kind of iffy about it. They’re not really sure and they lack confidence.

Well, guess what? When you’re not building up their confidence, when you’re not telling them that they’re making progress in class, they’re not going to realize it. Most people, they want to be able to feel like when they left class that they made some progress or they learned something, or they’re getting better on a month by month basis.

And sometimes you get to point it out to them because they won’t realize it on, you know, on their own because they don’t have the experience, the wherewithal, the ability, or sometimes just the self-confidence to realize that, yes, they are getting better.

And then on the flip side, when students get injured, you’re not going to keep them either. And it’s surprising to me that my physician stuck it out at that jiu jitsu studio. I know some of you jiu jitsu practitioners instructors out there are listening to me say this, and you’re rolling your eyes like you’re going, “oh, well, it’s just it’s just part of the training. You’re going to get injured, you know, it’s just part of jiu jitsu.”

Yeah. I’m just going to say this if, if you think that students getting injured is just a part of the process, you’re a piss-poor coach. Honest to goodness. You are a piss-poor coach. Because you know what? There are ways of teaching students that minimize injury and the risk of injury, and that still use live training and still use sparring and still develop a high level of skill.

So you can argue with me on that all you want, but, you know, I’m going to tell you that that’s my position. So you need to find those methods. You need to be using those methods with your students. So you’re not cheating students or running them off by getting them injured. Because injured students don’t train, and students who don’t train and stop paying. It’s as simple as that.

If you’re having a hard time keeping your students around your school, maybe you need to look at what’s going on in the training floor and figure out if you’re being too hard on your students, if you’re not being a good coach, if you’re not finding ways to tell them that they’re improving in class every single day, if you’re not complimenting them every single day in class on the good things that they’re doing, like legitimate compliments, not like made up stuff that’s just blowing smoke up their rear.

Maybe your training environment is too harsh on beginners. Now, we know that as students progress toward black belt, that the training environment has to get harsher. It has to get more realistic if we want to turn out good black belts. It’s a given.

But beginners often aren’t ready for that. You need to teach beginners how to have the strength to survive, and they need time to do that. Okay. You know, so that’s that’s my take on that.

Now another way that instructors hamstring themselves, that they sabotage themselves in business is failing to budget, especially when it comes to marketing. I know already kind of talked about this, but let’s go a little deeper, okay. Failing to budget means that you are failing to market consistently, because when you don’t have a marketing budget set up in your studio, that means that you’re not spending money every month on marketing.

You need to spend that money where it counts to. Okay, that’s what my, you know, my 80/20 marketing course in my Simplified Dojo Marketing Course in the app is all about. It’s about showing you where to spend your money wisely in your marketing. And so you don’t spend it on stupid things like Yellow Pages ads or, you know, community maps and things like that that get sold to martial arts instructors all the time.

And I’m just like, oh my gosh, why are you spending money on that? So you need to have a budget. You need to spend it where it counts. And you know, you need to be budgeting so you can market consistently every single month.

And you need to spend that marketing budget every single month, okay. Make sure you’re spending on things that are getting your results. Now, another mistake that’s made is only marketing. When you need students, and I see martial arts instructors who don’t have a marketing budget, who aren’t marketing consistently, or aren’t tracking their results, do this because what’ll happen is they’ll start to see their monthly tuition collections check start to start to drop, and then they’re like, “oh my gosh, you know what’s going on?”

And then they start looking at their class attendance, and then they start looking at their active enrollment numbers. And then all of a sudden they’re like, “I need to start marketing so I can get some more income.” And that is a wrong way to go about it.

So I’m going to talk a little bit about metrics here in a second. But you know you already need to have those numbers. You know, kind of kind of nailed down. You need to know those numbers off the top of your head at all times. If you’re going to be successful in running a studio, also seeing marketing as an expense and not investment, that’s another one.

You need to change your mindset about that. You need to look at marketing as an investment, as an investment that has a high return on investment, a high ROI. If your marketing doesn’t have a high ROI, you need to fix it. Either you don’t know how to track your metrics properly because you’re not looking at how you’re getting return on investment for your marketing, or you’re simply bad at marketing. Well, you know what? You’re going to be bad at first anyway.

You need to be willing to spend some money to make some mistakes until you get better. But you also need to invest in your skills as a marketer, learning how to how to how to pick up skills you know that did allow you to market more effectively. There are plenty of people in the industry that are teaching skills right now. I think that’s perfectly fine. I’m going to tell you too. I’m going to talk about this a little later in the tip of the week.

But, you know, skills and tools that are easily picked up. Principles are the things that most people don’t teach, and I tend to deal in principles and teaching principles because principles are evergreen. Once you understand the principles that underlie it, or underpin a particular thing you need to do in your business, you know, whether its marketing, whether it’s retention or whatever, then you can always adapt to changing times, changing technology, changing tools.

So and then the last thing about budgeting is that martial arts school owners often will take too much profit out of their business. And actually, I saw this one time I knew that there was trouble brewing when I sold one of my martial arts studios to someone, and I saw that they were taking almost all the profit out of their business every single month then. And I knew that there was trouble brewing in that school died a slow, long, painful death.

Not only because of that reason, but also for other reasons. But I saw the trouble brewing early on, and I tried to tell the school owner, look, you know, you’ve got to reinvest back into your studio, you know, if you wanted to survive and you know, they didn’t. Pretty soon this video was on live support. So, you know. Make sure you’re not taking too much profit on your business. Make sure you’re not eating your profits, as I say.

Okay. Now, finally, my fourth point on things that martial arts school owners do that sabotage them is failing to track metrics. And I know I already told you I was going to talk about this. Metrics, numbers. Knowing your stats, statistics and your business, whatever you want to call it. Okay, this is one of those boring parts of running a martial arts studio. It’s one of the things that is the real work in running a studio, however, and you really need to know your numbers when you’re in business for yourself. And it starts with accurate bookkeeping.

You know, I see so many martial arts instructors were, you know, they come to me and they want to do a coaching session. I say, okay, send me these numbers and I’ll give them specifics, you know, send me these, you know, these metrics. You know, I want to see your numbers tracked, you know, in these areas of your business. You know, I want to see your reports for the last three months, six months, a year, whatever. And they can’t produce the reports for me.

There’s just no excuse for this. Everybody should be using good bookkeeping software. You should be using a decent a functional martial arts school management software in your studio in addition to good bookkeeping software, because most martial arts studio management systems aren’t very good at bookkeeping. So you need to be using something like QuickBooks or, you know, Peachtree or something like that.

You know, you know, I think Xero’s another one, an online one, you know, you hire a bookkeeper online, somebody to help you with it if you can’t do it yourself. But, you know, bookkeeping has never been easier because everything’s digital now. And if you’re tracking point of sale and you’re tracking, you know, tuition collections and so forth, you’re tracking what’s going in and out of your bank account. It should be hard to do good bookkeeping.

So you need to be handling your bookkeeping. Then you need to be using your martial arts school management software to track all the metrics in your studio. And that includes like leads and inquiries, all dropouts every month, et cetera.

You know, there’s a whole lot of metrics you should track. All that stuff. I teach it in my courses, which again, I know I sound like a broken record, but they’re available within the app. You need to understand which metrics need to track because that’s what allows you to see problem areas in your business and fix them before they become dojo killing issues.

And the worst thing I can think of, the most heartbreaking thing that that I can possibly deal with as a consultant, as a coach to martial arts school owners in this industry is when somebody comes to me and they’re they’re coming to me too late. They have allowed issues in their school to go on for so long because they weren’t tracking metrics, or sometimes they just wanted to keep their head in the sand.

For some reason, some people are like that they don’t want to face, you know, cold, hard facts. And that’s what numbers are. Numbers are cold, hard facts. And then they come to me and it’s just too late. Their school’s too far gone and it’s just too late to help them. So don’t be that person. Don’t be that school or track your metrics, okay.

All right. So that’s it for this initial segment of this podcast, episode 48. And now we’re going to move on to the tip of the week.

The Tip Of The Week



The tip of the week. It’s time for our featured martial arts business tip of the week. For more great tips, be sure to visit Martial Arts Business Daily to subscribe to our newsletter. And while you’re there, click on the Business Resources tab for links to all Mike’s martial arts business books and courses. Now here’s your martial arts business tip of the week.



Okay, so this week’s tip of the week. This tip is not so much about what you can do in your business to grow, but it’s about things that you should avoid in your business. And the reason why I bring this up is because I see these things happen in cycles in the industry.

You know, I’ve been in this industry for, you know, as a martial artist for almost 40 years now. I think it’s going to be 40 years next year, if I’m not mistaken. And, you know, I taught professionally for over the course of three decades, very martial art schools, full time for 20 years.

I have been a consultant for the last 20 years to martial arts school owners, since I wrote Small Dojo Big Profits in 2003, and I see these cycles happen where you have people coming into the industry many times, they’ve never run martial arts studios.

Sometimes they’re martial artists. They’re martial artists that see an opportunity to sell things to people in the industry because they know there are a lot of, you know. 1s There are a lot of starving people out there in the industry.

And when I say starving people, what I mean is, is that when you’re a marketer, especially somebody who’s selling information, and if you ever read Dan Kennedy’s, you know, his his products, you’ve ever read his books, read his materials, you know, he talks about this a lot when he goes through the process of creating an info marketing business that one of the things you look for is you look for a hungry audience, you look for an audience with a desperate need.

And in the martial arts industry, the desperate need is pretty darn simple. It’s always how to get more students because almost, I’d say, 80-90% of the martial art schools out there have cash flow issues. You know, the the number of martial arts schools that are out there that are actually turning a solid profit all the time on a consistent basis, are very few. They’re the minority in the martial arts industry.

So there are a lot of people out there that are easy to sell products to. And the problem is right now is you have a lot of people who’ve entered the martial arts industry as coaches, consultants, advisors. et cetera. Many of them are really good at marketing. They’re really good at hyping themselves—at self hype. And, you know, they are pushing their own agendas.

And, you know, the thing is, in this industry, everybody has something to sell you. And and you know, so do I—Ihave something to sell you too.

The only difference is, is that, you know, I’m a real martial arts instructor who ran real martial arts studios, who did it over the course of many decades, who’s been in this industry for 20 years, who is focused on helping martial arts school owners who want to be actual instructors, who want to be out on the floor on a daily basis, changing lives through teaching martial arts. That’s the difference.

These other people, they’ve never run studios. They never started a studio. They never launched a studio. They never grown a studio. They never managed a studio. What they know about the martial arts industry and running a martial arts school is being on the outside, looking in, in a sense.

What you have to do is you have to be aware of people who are giving you agenda-driven advice, that are giving you advice that’s based on their own agendas.

Some of these coaches, you know, they’re pushing various technologies right now as if they are the solution to your woes, be it your marketing challenges or otherwise. Unsurprisingly, most of these people, they’re selling courses and training on how to use those technologies. That’s why they’re pushing this technologies, because they know you don’t know how to go out and get the information necessary to use these technologies.

They also know that when technologies change at a rapid pace and it affects an industry like it has all industries, all small businesses, you know, everybody who’s out there right now, I think is is pretty much struggling in any industry where there are small business owners and entrepreneurs, people are struggling. They’re floundering because technological advances have—technology is advancing so rapidly that people just can’t keep up with it.

So there’s a market out there for showing people how to use new technologies, whatever they may be. And, you know, unfortunately, when somebody is selling you a course or training or something like that, and that is their primary source of income, that that’s how they make most of their money as selling courses, selling information, they’re not always going to give you the straight dope on how to get that information and where you can get it, and how important it is.

Now guess what? All these new geegaws, doodads, and shiny objects? These new technologies are just tools, and technological tools are transient in nature. They come and go. They come and go in cycles.

And guess what? You know, whether it’s the latest, you know, AI-driven tool, which is really hot right now, or the latest tool to help you deliver video content online. You know, and there are certain types, certain formats of video content that are really hot right now because social media algorithms are pushing that content simply because it’s where they’re getting the most eyeballs, clicks, shares, engagement, etcetera. And that’s how they sell advertisement.

Or, you know, whether it’s, you know, you know, the latest social media marketing platform, which is a related topic—these other shiny objects that are out there, they’re not going to solve your marketing challenges unless you understand the essential evergreen principles of effective marketing.

And you know what? A lot of people aren’t going to teach you that stuff simply because they know that once they teach you the principles that you no longer need them to teach you how to use the tools. I’ve told you this before in my podcast. More recently, in recent episodes, I have extrapolated on this.

One of the biggest secrets in consulting is that if you can come up with a complicated solution to a simple problem, you can prolong the client’s pain and therefore increase the amount of profit you make off of each client by keeping them around longer and keep them paying you more and more and more money. It’s just one of the greatest secrets in coaching and consulting, and it’s something that most people don’t know.

So, you know, the thing is, is that you need to learn marketing principles. You need to learn solid marketing principles, have a solid foundation in the whys of marketing before you start working on the house, or at least learn it as you’re working on learning how to use the technology and the tools and so forth. And as you’re learning how to how to become a marketer in the digital age, the thing is, once you understand these evergreen principles in marketing, the tools and technologies will be easier to use in your business and you’re not have to pay some guru, then you won’t have to pay some gurus hundreds or even thousands of dollars to regurgitate free info to you.

Because the thing is, any of these tools that are out there, you can learn how to use them effectively yourself. Number one, usually you can go to YouTube and you can find any information you need to use new technologies and tools that sometimes the information you’re going to get there is going to be better than what you’ll pay for in somebody’s trumped up course.

Or you can go to the actual app or tool or whatever. You can go to their native documentation and find the information you need to learn how to use those tools yourself. You don’t have to go to some guru to show you something that is 9/10ths common sense, you know, and one tenth know-how.

Okay, so learn the principles and then the tools are going to come easier to you. They’re going to be easier to use in your business.

All right. So that’s my tip for this week. Now that’s going to conclude this week’s podcast I want to wish you the best. Go out there. Be well go out there and kill it this week and I will see you in a future episode of the podcast.

Now, I’d like for you to find me on Facebook. If you go to Facebook.com/martialartsbusinessdaily, you can follow me on Facebook and you can get all my posts.

Of course, you know, unless you, you know, you follow me and then go to the page on regular basis and like and comment on posts and so forth, you’re probably not going to see that stuff in your feed because Facebook has killed organic reach. As many of you have found out, it’s a pay to play platform now.

So, you know, if any of these gurus are out there telling you that you’re going to get hundreds and hundreds of students from posting free organic content, I’m sorry to tell you, but you’re not now unless you’re boosting it and unless you’re paying to boost those ads.

But anyway, that’s where you can find me on Facebook at facebook.com slash martial arts business daily.

And then also be sure to download the new app at MAbizU.com. You’ll find all the information you need there. Just click on the tab that says Mobile App and you’ll find the information you need to download the app on Android or the from the Apple Store.

Okay, that’s it. I’ll see you in next week’s podcast. Have a good week and again, go out there and kill it.



You’ve been listening to the Martial Arts Business podcast with Mike Massie. Be sure to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and if you’ve enjoyed this show, leave us a positive review while you’re there. Thanks for your support and tune in again next time for more great martial arts business tips and advice from Martial Arts Business Daily.

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