The Top 5 Martial Arts Business Priorities For Financial Success

priorities for martial art school owners

If Ignorance Is Bliss, What Does Confusion Do For You?

Have you ever considered what your top priorities are as a new or aspiring martial arts school owner?

This is a topic that I’ve written about before, and I’m sure I’ll return to it again… probably because it’s something that new business owners confuse so often, and that confusion inevitably leads to disastrous consequences.

“And The Number One Priority For New Business Owners Is…”


This is something school owners get confused about – a lot. Too bad there aren’t big huge road signs pointing the way to what you should really be focused on – which is getting new students!

Increasing revenues. Period. No two ways about it.

The hard cold facts of reality dictate that if you can’t pay your rent and your salary, you aren’t going to have your doors open for very long.

And, this is why I get so frustrated with school owners who think they can get by without spending money on marketing their schools.

Of course to me, it’s just counter-intuitive to think you can get new students and increase your enrollment without marketing.

But then again, over the last 15 years or so I’ve learned a thing or two. If I squint real hard and cross my eyes, I can actually remember a time when I thought just the act of starting a martial arts program was enough to attract students.

You know, like there was some sort of new-student-attraction-chi-energy that instructors possess that negates the need for having a good solid marketing plan in place. (And please, don’t contact me to tell me you have a chi kung exercise for that.)

Well, I quickly found out otherwise… and I’ve been learning how to market effectively ever since.

Having A High-Foot Traffic Location Isn’t What It Used To Be

The days of opening schools in high-foot-traffic areas (like shopping malls) and expecting that to be enough to fill your classes are long gone. Even if you can afford that sort of location (and if you can, why aren’t you just living off your trust fund like a good little trust fund baby?) there are too many activities to compete with these days to rely on foot traffic alone to fill your school.

You need more than just a big sign on the front of your building to capture the attention of your market… more than ever, you need multiple contacts with potential buyers to ensure that they pick up the phone or go online and contact you first when they are ready to enroll.

Sure, if you’re located next to the local grocery store, they’re going to see your school every time they need a gallon of milk or a carton of eggs… but what are the chances they’ll remember your name and phone number when they finally make the decision to enroll their kid in classes?

So, they are going to have to look you up online… BINGO!

That’s where your marketing still has to come into play, because if they find your competitor’s contact information online FIRST – guess which school gets the call?

Everything Else Is Just An Excuse For Having Crummy Marketing

While you may think your number one priority is teaching great classes, or making you sure you get that shiny new certification, or affiliating with the most reputable high-ranking instructors and organizations, or joining the latest “inner-secret-social-knitting-circle-and-business-mentorship group” – you’re dead wrong.

Sure, any of the above can make you a better instructor, help you pad your resume so you appear to be better qualified as an instructor, and shore up your ego… but they don’t count for much in the way of real, concrete actions that will help keep your doors open and grow your school.

In short, only revenue-building activities have any weight on the scales of your success or failure in business.

These revenue-building activities include:

  1. Getting the phone to ring
  2. Getting your email inbox overflowing with new leads
  3. Getting new prospective students to walk through your front door
  4. Converting a high percentage of your leads to memberships
  5. Keeping a high percentage of the students you have enrolled

Now, students are always going to come and go – that’s a fact of life. No matter how dedicated they are, they move, get married, have kids, their job responsibilities change, etc.

So, you need to make getting a constant flow of new students through your front door your #1 priority.

Such A Simple Concept… So Why Do People Keep Getting It Confused?

I know, it seems so simple. So, why people keep getting it confused is anyone’s guess.

Of course, it wouldn’t have anything to do with the monthly mash-up of random martial arts management ideas that’s delivered to the front door of every school owner on the planet every month… would it?

Nah, it couldn’t be that. :)

For a simple-to-follow, easy-to-implement, just-what-you-need-to-succeed martial arts business coaching program, click here.


  1. Jeff on July 21, 2009 at 11:39 am

    So true Mike! As always, you provide sage advice!

  2. Kurt Schulenburg on July 21, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    As always, Mike, right on the money.
    I’ve expanded some of this in my own personal philosophy about business, whether you’re teaching front kicks or selling concrete manholes or giving sax lessons: everyone of them is about collecting the money. If you don’t do that, you’re not in business. Or at least, not for long. IF you CAN collect money, then it doesn’t really matter what it is you do. Doing “it” well, (whatever your business is) MAY help you collect some money in the future thru referrals – but MOST of the money will come from getting out there and asking for it!

  3. Mike Massie on July 21, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Glad you guys enjoyed the article/rant.

    It seems like I write an article like this about every 3-4 months or so…

    Which coincides with the time I’ve finally had it up to my eyeballs with people asking for advice on how to get their schools out of a rut – and then refusing to act on my recommendations!

    EVERY new business MUST advertise. And, if you’re established but struggling – shouldn’t that be an indication that you can’t continue doing what you’ve always done and expect different results?

    I guess in some ways it’s the business equivalent of natural selection. The good news is that, in a few years when the economy perks up again, there’ll be a lot less competition.

  4. Jason Stanley on July 21, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Hi Mike,

    Good article again.

    I hear your frustration… I had an instructor call me a while back asking me “How do you do it? Tell me how you built your school.”

    I went on to explain a little about the steps I took to take my school from nothing 6 years ago to around 130-140 students, and he barely listened…

    Instead he wanted to tell me about opening a new school because he could get a good deal on rent.

    I cautioned him to do the math before he went ahead.

    How many students do you have versus how much do you have to pay in rent (and other expenses)??

    But he ignored the advice I gave him and told me of his marketing plan which was to get 30 students in the first 30 days simply by walking around town giving out flyers and talking to people.

    Typically you might convert 1-2% of cold leads to come to your place if you’ve got some selling skills. Then you’ve got to convert them to customers… which might be 50%-80% depending on your “walk in the door” system.

    Do the math … Target 30 students. Assume a 50% conversion – that’s 60 through the door at a 2% response… which means he’d have to give out 3000 flyers!!

    That’s a lot of cold calling! Can you imagine how long it would take for him to personally talk to 3000 people one at a time?

    If you’re thinking about cold calling, or some other crazy random idea, forget it.

    The best way to success is to do what someone else has done.

    Do what Mike says… follow his advice and you’ll be good to go.

    – Jason

  5. Ron Pfeiffer on July 21, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Thanks Mike. You have a unique way of getting to the essence of what all of us are supposed to be doing. Keep it up!!

  6. Jason on July 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Hey Mike,

    This is one of the truest statements ever said. Actually, this advice should be given to not only martial arts school owners, but to ALL business owners. If you can’t get students/clients/customers/patients, there is one guarantee and it isn’t success. Great words of wisdom. Keep them coming…

    Jason Froehlich

  7. Mike Massie on July 22, 2009 at 5:46 am

    Jason, just the fact that you broke down the numbers in this situation demonstrates why you were able to build your school up to a stable level of enrollment.

    That story is also a good indication of why I decided to stop giving “free” advice. The people who want a piece of your time and expertise for free are most often the ones who will ignore it after it’s given.

  8. Mike Massie on July 22, 2009 at 5:47 am

    Will do, Ron.


  9. Mike Massie on July 22, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Appreciate the feedback, Jason.

    Thanks for the kind words.

    And, you’re right – this advice is pretty much universally applicable to all business owners.

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