Organizing Your Martial Arts Business with a Plan

After you’ve written your business plan and organized the necessary components for your venture: Personnel, finances, methods and procedures, materials and so on.  Wait, what methods and procedures?

            Here is an important aspect of business we must talk about.  A method is a means by which in the business sense is a way to get things done.  As a business owner your business is important to you and no one will know it better.  The ability of a good manager is knowing when and how to relinquish some of their authority and duties to others.  This ability is necessary especially in a martial arts school.  You as a school owner can’t be the receptionist, teacher, bookkeeper, manager, and bill collector.  Each of these functions need to be addressed in some detail.

            Receptionist – this is not a position alone of just answering the telephone, it is knowing how to answer the telephone, being cheerful and remaining positive.  A telemarketing expert we once hired told us we need to smile into the telephone when we talk, sounded odd to me too.  When we did this it reflected a positive side of us to the person on the other end, it put the caller at ease and made our task of conversing easier.  This positive method of relaxation yielded a greater number of appointments.

            You as a school owner will sometimes find it necessary to speak with a caller and you as well as your staff should be well practiced on how to answer the telephone, take down information vital to setting up an appointment for the potential client to come into the school.  Remember on the telephone this comfortable personalized approach will usually disarm a negative or skeptical person and will get them to commit to a visit on your turf where they can see the camaraderie that exists and feel the positive reinforcement you extend.

            Teacher – This is a most important part.  You as a teacher of the martial arts, what is a teacher in reality but one who transfers knowledge by verbal and or physical example.  Especially in our business the adage that those who can’t do – teach.  Are you in physical shape, do you project a professional attitude and appearance.

            The entire concept of the professional martial arts instructor is a relatively new idea.  The martial arts themselves are relatively new to the United States, with less than a fifty year history.  The professional aspect of teaching and operating as a business is no more than a few years old.  The two main reasons for this difference in age is that American instructors are just now beginning to achieve significant rank, skill, and knowledge necessary to understand their art.  The concept of free enterprise is just beginning to mix with martial arts instruction.

            The combination of East meets West is now more evident than ever.  The Eastern philosophy of the martial arts combined with the Western concept of business and professionalism will give the instructor a unique balance.  While professionalism may not be in evidence in both areas, it can be learned through time.  The business world is the most serious place to practice your art.  The cost of opening and operating a professional full-time school is higher than ever. A successful school can be rewarding, from training to teaching to obtaining the necessary security we’ll all need in later life.

            Learning to bring these two aspects together can be a challenge, are you up to the challenge?  These can be met with confidence and assurance when you bring these two aspects of professionalism into balance.

            Bookkeeping – While owning a business has its accountability side also you must become aware of the need for careful and diligent record keeping.  Knowing when your money comes in is the first aspect so you can plan a realistic budget of income and the outflow of fixed expenses.

            Being able to balance the checkbook is more than just a necessity.  When dealing with your accountability it is advised that you hire a bookkeeper to handle the monthly checks and balances, while costing a few dollars it is funds well spent.

            Bill Collector – Even the sound of the word makes peoples hair stand on end.  But the reality that people must pay their obligations to you in order for you to meet your financial needs is eminent.

            In order to maintain a good student-instructor relationship it is a recommended policy that you utilize an outside agency to do your monthly collections.  There is a cost of doing this transacting of between 10-15%, but it is a deductible service expense.  This outside agency or billing company and there are several in the industry catering to martial arts schools, is the most feasible alternative to keep you out of the bill collecting loop.  You remain the good guy and let the professionals you pay for their service be the bad guys.

            Manager – This might be one job you must do single handily early in business.  Some managers keep a firm grasp on everything.  They maintain bases where power, authority, and tight supervisory controls are centralized.  This tends to breakdown rather rapidly.  Others choose to decentralize to the point where they have delegated to a capable group who in turn manages a certain aspect of the business.  This concept of decentralization – organizing a business around self-governing profit centers – maximizes individual initiative, ensures localized decision making, and facilitates the pinpointing of responsibility.

            How do you go about delegating work?  Its really quite simple.  You do it slowly, giving others on your staff areas of responsibility.  In a martial arts school there exist many areas where individual responsibility could yield higher profits: Merchandising – the ability for a person to oversee the buying and selling of uniforms, apparel, jackets, T-shirts, weapons, sparring gear, novelty items, and even refreshments for after class.

            You must work to a greater degree to carefully plan this merchandising program with an easy to follow checklist to control inventory reduction and replacement.

            As a business owner you must share your knowledge about how you expect your business to function, where you want these profit centers to be.  Another and main profit center is introductory lessons.  This is when you get a person into the school for an introductory lesson, you motivate, praise, and have fun with the prospective student.  A certain level of confidence is achieved and if motivated correctly in a positive reinforcement mode – A SALE!

One of the most difficult areas of management is the ability to tolerate mistakes made by others and the ability to adequately train others.


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