1 – WA Institute Of Martial Arts’ Journey To 3 Dojos And 1600 Students With Phil Britten And Graham McDonnell Part 1

Graham McDonnell and Phil Britten from The WA Institute Of Martial Arts and The Institute Of Martial Arts (TIMA) share their journey to 3 dojos and 1600 students.

WA Institute Of Martial Arts

IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:

  • Who is George Fourie and the twist that got him started in his Martial Arts journey
  • How Graham McDonnell and Phil Britten got funding to buy their martial arts school now known as The WA Institute Of Martial Arts (WAIMA). You can use some of these resources right now to open a martial arts school
  • The one thing you must have before going full time with your martial arts business
  • Why having your back against the wall is the best place to be for your business
  • Communicating your value and identity through your brand
  • Why losing your top students is not necessarily a bad thing
  • and more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.

Download the PDF transcription

TRANSCRIPTION:

GEORGE: Hi this is George Fourie, and welcome to the first official martial arts media podcast. Now, this is a big adventure for me and I'm sure it's gonna be one for you, because my goal with this podcast is to be interviewing top martial arts business experts, from around the globe, and dissecting their methods, their strategies, their frameworks, their mindset – everything that it takes for them to be successful.

And I'm gonna be going from, spoil the journey, from the beginning, how they got started, how they got the money, how they made the transition from part time school owner, or just martial arts student, to a martial arts business owner, and going through that process. And this first episode is really going to set the benchmark, because I am interviewing two industry experts, that run a top school – a top organization I'd rather say, because they've expanded from one school the day I met them, to now three, worth 1600 students all up.

And whether that is a goal for you or not, to have such a large organization, I can tell you what – they share some gold within the interview, which I'm  gonna have to break up into three parts, because we're in for a good hour and a half, going back and forth and learning their journey of how they got to where they are today.

But before we get into that, I want to give you a bit of background about me and how I got started with this whole podcast journey. A little more than five years ago, I was just a parent, sitting inside the dojo, on the side of the mats, watching my son go through his martial arts journey. At that point in time, I was not involved in martial arts whatsoever, although I've always been fascinated by it, I've always been impressed by the discipline, the methodologies around martial arts. And attending all his classes, I sort of had the opportunity to work on what was important to me, which is of course my business.

Doing digital marketing, building my online business and marketing my products online, and everything that I was doing at that point in time. And spending a lot of time at the dojo, I couldn't help but notice what they were trying to do with their online marketing. Getting their message out on Facebook, and social media, and they were trying blogging strategies at the time. And having a lot of experience with this, I thought, “You know what, these guys obviously need help – let me offer my advice.” And I went to the guys and said, “Look, there's a few things I think that you could really optimize and improve.

Why don't I just come see you guys and I'll just give you free consulting and such.” I had a meeting with them, and about a half an hour in, they asked me, “Look, could you just do the stuff for us?” And it was something I never contemplated, doing my marketing stuff as a service. I already had a growing business at that time, and I wasn't really looking to take on any clients.

But after some consideration, I decided, “You know what, this is gonna be a learning experience for me as well, so why not just take it on?” And I started doing all their – well, not all, but a couple of the digital marketing activities that they needed help with. As I got more involved with doing stuff for the club, I asked myself a question – why am I not doing martial arts? I had all the objections, maybe I'm too old, and I don't know if I'm fit enough and so forth, but after some quick consideration, I decided, well, why not?

I've always looked for something that could keep me fit, keep me healthy, maybe help with a bit of confidence, and just being a bit more active with my body, while learning a few self defense skills of course. So I started to train, and I gotta tell you, my first class, I was hooked. That was it. I started training twice a week, then it was three times, four times.  And my passion for martial arts just grew and grew. Along the side with that, the martial arts club where I was training just started to grow as well. They had about 600-700 students at the time I started training there.

And then they decided to open another school, then the third. I know at this point in time, they have 1600-1700 students. So, with all this happening, their demands for marketing their school grew, and my passion for martial arts grew, and we reached a point where, this part time gig, I either had to let it go, or turn it into a business. And of course, the logical step for me was, having two passions unite to do this and see how can I help other martial arts school owners do the same. 

Now, doing all the stuff for them really discovered a few things that really worked. Some strategies that we implemented, that would generate 29-30 sign ups in a single week, and we just kept on evolving and testing things and started to form sort of real world type formulas, that we knew would work with other schools. And that's really what led it to this and made it a full time business for me, helping other martial arts school owners.

And that leads me to this interview, because this is really how it all got started for me. This was it, this was a club I started training at, this is where my martial arts journey started. I watched these guys evolve from one single school with 600-700 students, duplicate that model, more than doubling in size from the time that I was with them and witnessing what these guys have done and the strategies that they've implemented and the frameworks and systems that they have in place, is just phenomenal. And I can guarantee you, you are gonna get a lot from this interview. This is gonna be broken up into three different episodes, for easier listening, do keep a lookout for the future ones coming.

So for now, let me introduce you to Shihan Phil Britten and Shihan Graham McDonnell, from the WA Institute of Martial Arts.

All right guys, welcome to the show, the first show. I've got here with me Phil Britten.

PHIL: How are we going guys, it's all right?

GEORGE: Cool, and we've got Graham McDonnell.

GRAHAM: Hey guys, ready to rock, lets go.

GEORGE:Cool. So, first episode for me, and very appropriate of course, cause this was the start of my martial arts journey. Just being a parent, sitting on the side and watching initially and then got more involved in the club and started training myself and then thought of helping the guys with some marketing. And just seeing sort of where the guys have evolved. I'm sitting right now actually in what's called the head office, which next door was actually the dojo. So you know, when I started training here, there was one school – I can't recall, I think it was probably about 700-800 students?

GRAHAM: Maybe not even that much George, how long have you been with us now?

GEORGE: It's been about four years?

GRAHAM: Four years, so I reckon we probably would have been about, maybe 500 to 600 mark at that stage.

GEORGE: Yeah, OK. So that was sort of the beginning. And I'm sitting now with… Where you guys are at, which is three different schools, different locations, with about 1600-1700 students?

PHIL: Yep!

GEORGE: Right. And were not sitting in the dojo anymore, were actually sitting in the head office location.

PHIL: Oh yes! Forever growing and evolving mate, forever growing.

GEORGE: So, lots has happened. So, what I'm gonna try and do here today is go down the whole journey, just find out a bit more about Graham and Phil, where they sort of started, how they got going with all this and the obstacles they faced getting to where they are today, what they've done, the processes they've had to implement on the way, the changes they've had to make, their personal growth and all the rest. So, I guess, just to rewind the clock, let's start at the beginning. Phil, just a bit of background – who you are, where you started?

PHIL: Yeah. So, you know, long story, sort of short I guess, I grew up in a country town, Western Australia, Exmouth. And you know, my passions was really just sport. I wasn't  very well educated, or edumacated as they say. Definitely was not book smart or school smart, that just wasn't my thing. I was a sporty type guy. My direction in life really was just to play professional football – that was it. But at the age of 16, I was playing quite a high-level, but I wanted to get the edge.

And so I started martial arts, for two reasons: one, to get the edge, but also, what little kid didn't want to be bloody karate kid, you know? So I was trying to tick a couple of boxes there, I grew up with…You know, my mom's dressing gown, pinned around my waist as my black belt, did all that stuff, which I'm sure most of the listeners did as well. But yeah, martial arts for me was a tool to get the edge in sport.

But then I hit a bit of a road block and got injured and doctors said not to play football again. So I took up martial arts a bit more seriously and from sort of that day there, through to the year 2000, where I got my black belt, I was 20 years old. And it was at that point there, that I also… I guess, I think it happens a lot, especially now, being an instructor and a school owner, you see a whole lot of people hit that black belt level and then quit or move on, because they feel like they've achieved their goal. And I was a victim of that too, I actually did that. But I did that because my injuries got better and I was going back to play football. Two years had passed, with no martial arts and just playing football, and then, the story is that I was in the season football trip and got blown up in a terrorist attack.

I was there with nineteen of my friends, seven of them lost their lives, I got burned to 60% of my body and, needless to say, life was very, very tough. So, one thing that happened to me in my recovery was that, you know, I called upon, I guess skills that martial arts taught me, that I never knew I had.

Breathing techniques and mental strength, you know, all this sort of stuff that, as a young guy doing martial arts, it was probably never even in the forefront of my mind. But yet, I called upon it in my time of need. Then, in my recovery, I was really just trying to get back to normality, so I took up martial arts as a student. It sort of snowballed a little bit, you know, I fell back in love with training and training more and more often. And it just so happened that a staff member at the school where I was training went on holidays, so I filled in, just as a thing to help out. And it sort of kept happening and I just ended up starting teaching, and that's how I became an instructor, basically.

GEORGE: Excellent. There's a few things I'd like to go back on, but Graham – over to you.

GRAHAM: So, my martial arts experience started a little earlier in life. I was born in Ireland, and moved over to Australia, probably when I was just shy of six years old. And my very first encounter on this lovely country we have, was being punched square in the face by this other kid – for the listeners listening, I've got red hair, at the time I was a little weedy, you know, 20 kg, wet sort of kid, white skin and… Yeah, you know, funny talking accent. So I got punched in the face and pretty much knocked out four of my front teeth. And as a kid at six years old, just on, it's not too good a look when you've got your front teeth missing.

So, my dad pretty much took the active step – new country, new place, you're gonna have to learn to protect yourself. Forget the stigma, you're a redheaded little kid that needs to learn how to fight, but hey look, I did take up that journey. And for me, it just was another outlet, just another activity to do in a place where I was in a foreign land and really just became a part of a lifestyle. I very much trained consistently for ten years in that system, that first initial traditional karate system.

Unfortunately, I sort of hit a point there, where the school didn't allow me to grow any further from that. Again, being just on 17 years old just about, I had decided I wanna go explore something different, a different style. And happened to come across a school in Greenwood, the one that we now operate out of. And started just training and again, becoming addicted with something a little bit different and was fortunate enough that on my journey forward, I got an opportunity to be a part of an instructive course, never with the intention to ever be an instructor, but just something different.

And geez, wow, once I found the joy of helping others, it had become, not just a habit – it became a ritual part of me. Like breathing in and breathing out. And that's where, on that journey forward, as Phil sort of mentioned in his story, he came back and started training and our paths crossed. I was working in a part-time capacity, sort of full-time/part-time and  managed to bump into this buddy that sits beside me now. We really didn't have a hell of a lot to do with each other at the time, but as we've grown together going forward, he obviously jumped on board as an instructor and then we crowned our friendship from there. The starting of our company is a completely different story, but that's really sort of how we ended up training and starting a journey together. But it's been a while. I think I'm just pushing 30 years of training at the moment, so it's a lifelong journey, which is pretty cool.

GEORGE: That's awesome. So, both of you have mentioned that you sort of fell into this whole instructor role, accidentally. And it sounds like it wasn't really planned, but you just start doing it and then you got hooked in, sort of helping people and it evolved from this. So what is that hook that really got you stuck into… What is that satisfaction that you got from instructing?

Phil BrittenPHIL: I think for me… I was always a big believer, if you wanted to be really good at something, you've got to be able to verbalize it, you've got to be able to teach it. And that was something that I learned as an instructor, but the feeling you got from empowering or helping or teaching someone and seeing them improve – wow, that's addictive, that's like a natural drug. You know, that's just something that you can't get enough of, just seeing progression and growth in others. And in doing that, that also helps you grow as well.

And I think that's the – for me personally, that's what appealed to me is, I get to do something that I love, I'm passionate about martial arts. I stay fit and I'm healthy. I'm always growing and getting better as a martial artist and as a person. And I also get to help other people, which then, in turn, helps me again. So it's like, as I said, it's like a drug, you just can't get enough of it. Once you're hooked on teaching, and if you love doing it, you just can't get enough. And I think that's what kept coming back – for me, kept coming back as an instructor and growing from a part-time to a full-time to then wanting to jump into business.

GRAHAM: For me, I think George, initially, I had no idea of the major benefits of sharing and helping people. It was more like an extended family, that clan, that comfortable place where you're around others. And when you've done martial arts, you can just… You can do a technique for example, that somebody looks upon and goes, “Wow, that was pretty cool! Can you show me that?” and you sort of share with them, whether you like it or not, that's instructing, that's sharing things.

And the more that people ask, the more you go, “Wow, actually, this is pretty cool, you know, I quite enjoy doing this.” But then you go with learning how to communicate better. Then you really do see the penny drop, when you share something with somebody, they get it and the joy and watching them start their journey is, as Phil pointed out, it's addictive, it's something that you just really love. So, I think it's been nothing better than improving yourself internally, externally, but also sharing and helping others is an amazing thing to be able to do.

I know that…Jeepers, I've got the numbers in my head, I know them myself and Phil. But just thinking back now and even in the instructing journey, we've, together, probably had contacted and helped and shared with over a million people in our martial arts journey, we've actually had an impact in their life. And that's an epic number.

GEORGE: That's huge.

GRAHAM: Yep.

GEORGE: All right. Ok, so the friendship started and you both trained at WA. So how did it happen that you guys became the owners, how did that evolve?

PHIL: Well, when Graham and I were working together, under our instructor, Graham was always 2IC (second in charge). He was, you know, the golden child of the school, and I knew I wanted more, and at that point, and I think it was 2006, I really thought, “I don't just want to be an employee, I want to give this a crack, I want to open up my own business and give it a crack.” So, in 2006, I started toying with this idea of opening up my own school. Came across somebody who also wanted to do the same thing, his name is Mike. And we started building this ideal of opening up a school together, and we did that in 2007.

So I sort of left Graham as partners in employment, and opened up my own school with a business partner in 2007. And I dropped everything, and the stories of people opening up schools, literally – I dropped every bit of income that I could, to do this business. And my girlfriend at the time supported me. I had my own house, bills. So she said, “I'll support you in this journey, I know how much it means to you,” and I was like, “Wow, you'd do that for me?” So I had this dream, you know, within 12 months, I have to make this profitable. And in that, sort of first 6 to 7 months. I worked really really really really hard. And, you know, as time went on, like anything, and this is I guess what we'll talk about later, is partnerships are a tough thing to do. And as time went on in that year and our business, we went very well, I think we grew to a 100 students in the first 12 months.

It was profitable, so we hit all the things, but something was missing for me. And it was at that time that  Graham, and he can probably talk about that story as well, it was about that time that I was having these feelings and still training, along with Graham and catching up with him, and he was like… Our instructor and his boss was saying, “Look, it's time for me too, you know, like I cannot keep being the 2IC (second in charge), I want my turn too, so either step aside type of thing, to some degree, you know, without being too blunt, or I wanna go and pursue this passion too.

GRAHAM: Definitely. Just to sort of go on with this George, the real catalyst there was obviously, myself and Phil, we're still great mates, even though he moved on in pursuing something different. The real stickler for me that sort of forced the hand, was that my wife was pregnant with our first child and I'm like, “I'm gonna make this happen.” And at the time I think, you know, from a career perspective, there was just no room for me to go on financially, there was just no way that I was able to do this of  a lackey's wage basically.

So I sort of said to the owner at the time, it was pretty much sort of, you know, dare I say, just run down from having 25 years in the biz, and just been tied. It was probably the stars aligned, I just said, “Hey – I need to step up or I'm gonna go step out.” and he just said, “Look, did you want to buy the school?  You know, I'm willing to sell it.” And at the time I was saying, “Holy s__, I can't do this by myself. I would love to have someone there, that we could work hand-in-hand together.” So, having chatted with Phil plenty of times, I said, “Mate, there's an opportunity for us to sort of, you know, bring it back home, so to speak, and for us to break this model apart and put it back together the way that we think it should be.” And in 2008, we took over this school, which was under a previous name and WAIMA, the WA institute of martial arts was born. And my goodness, what a ride it has been since then.

GEORGE: Excellent! So just heading back to Phil quickly – you mentioned that you had support from your girlfriend financially. And I guess, for somebody starting out, that's probably the biggest barrier to cross. Because you're probably in a full time job, maybe you're part-time instructor and so now, you've got to get over this hump, financially. So, financially, and you've got to obviously make sure that, you know, if you've got a family or you've got somebody else in your life, or if you're about to have a kid, which is probably the biggest pressure point for any entrepreneurs, you know, to get your stuff together, it's gonna happen. But how did that conversation go? How was your conversation with you girlfriend at the time, to get behind you and support you?

PHIL: You know, I think the lesson here, and this is what I practice and preach to anyone in this boat, that is looking to go full time, or even part time, is: you need to actually have a plan and need to make sure that all your expenses are covered. Meaning, if you've got a house, you've got to be paying your mortgage. You've got your bills to pay, so you can't just go out on a whim and start a business and think it's gonna be great. Cause that's, you know, the statistic is, how many businesses do fail in the first year?

That wasn't an option, because, you know, I sort of burned the bridge, so to speak, the boat, you know. And I knew that, with her support, financially, that we could survive, although it was really, really tough. And then, you know, in that year as well, although the business wasn't making money, I was working tirelessly, doing PTs, private training sessions, you know. I had maybe 6,7,8 clients a week, all 60-90 minutes you know, and I was charging quite well, so I was getting some cash. I hope the tax man's not listening, but that's probably one of the ways that martial arts instructors can get a little bit of, you know, hit money, in the pocket.

And that's sort of what helped us get through that time, was just that we agreed, we'll give this a shot for a year, we're willing to battle it out. We've got enough finances to be able to cover the expenses and we're literally gonna burn the boat and just go hard. And that's really the decision that I made hit and that would be the decision I would ask others to do as well, is, if they're gonna make that jump, don't do it stupidly, don't do it uneducatedly. You've got to make the decision that, yes, my bases are covered, and I'm gonna give this a red hot go for 12, 18, 24 months, that's how much we've got, and we're gonna go hard, we're gonna burn the bridge! You know, and if that point comes, and you're not there yet, then you make another decision, you know – what's the worst thing you can say?

Live a life of regret or say, I gave it a shot and I failed, but, you know, I'm wiser and I'm more educated and I'm stronger as a person and a business person for doing that. So, there are no quick wins, there are no easy things in business or in life, but you can stack the odds in your favor and set up a plan. And then, you know, at the end of the day, my thing is, well – why not? Or, what now? We hit that point “What now,” let's make a decision now, we go left, we go right, we go straight.

GRAHAM: Just in that tune George, I know that, coming on board and creating this new company WAIMA, the unknowns, you know, I remortgaged my house. I was barely making enough to pay the repayments anyway, but to remortgage your house and take that leap of faith, having a new baby come on the scene, where your wife now no longer brings any income into the household. The unknown, whether you can pay the bills. But you've got to back yourself.

You've got to believe that you're worth it, you're good enough, having a good plan is vital, and I know that Phil was in a very similar boat, coming on board with a different partnership, you know, moving from one that he left behind, to a new one, was again another risk, you know, financially. We both had put some money, invested in, that was a good chance we would lose it, if we didn't work our butt off. And I guarantee you, there was not a waking moment in a day that we weren't both driven to make it succeed. That's a big drive, when you've got your back against the wall, you've got to fight for something, and that was something I think we found ourselves in that situation, where there was no option to go backwards.

Failure wasn't an option, you know, probably a cliche sort of there, but that's pretty much where we're at and I guarantee you, we made it happen. And, you know, we've got some great numbers and stories from how we made it happen and what we got within that first 12 months and the next 12 months. But a big part was, believe in yourself and as Phil  sort of said, you burn the boat, you can't go backwards, you can only go forwards.

GEORGE: Excellent. And I guess I just wanna go back and emphasize that, because I think, you know, every instructor has that opportunity, if they want to pursue it.

GRAHAM:Yeah.

GEORGE:You know, if that's the way they want to go, you know, they've really got access to an audience to do those part-time, you know, PT instruction gigs and to help fund… I guess help cover the majority of the expenses and just push forward with the classes and go for it.

GRAHAM: It's like bungee jumping or skydiving, there's always that risk of – is it gonna open? Is the string gonna break? You know, it's that gap, that fear of, you know, the security and Phil will talk all about comfort zones and whatnot. And most people will only ever live life on the edge, not even the edge of their comfort zone, they sort of stay in that center, where, “I can't do this, I can't do that.” You know, they're in a comfortable place and not willing to take that leap of faith and give it a go. And they can be quite surprised at, you know, how close they are to succeeding. But yet, they don't take that opportunity, that chance, so, that was something we did, bugger, we go and we check if the parachutes are in the backpack once we jumped, so…

PHIL: At the end of the day, there's no reward without risk, and that's what Grahams getting at, you know. Yes, we all mortgaged our houses, yes, we had families on the way, Graham had his child, I had probably one on the way at that time. You know, we worked day in, day out, 6 days a week. And on the Sunday that we didn't work, we were still thinking about work. You know, we'd come home at 10, 11 o'clock at night, and wed be at work at 10 in the morning, 9 in the morning. So, you kind of have that pod dream that everythings gonna be rosy straight away. If you want something bad enough, you've got to do whatever it takes to make it succeed.

GEORGE: Brilliant. Can you recall that first plan? You mentioned that you had a plan that you're gonna go, can you briefly describe what that plan was?

GRAHAM: Right, we were gonna make a truckload more money. Truckload more students, and were gonna do it this way. I think it was really just getting back to… Having an existing business in the shell there, the engine needed to be rebuilt basically, from the ground up. And we really did have a good look at the systems that were in place, there were some that were functioning, some that were just naturally outdated. Again, there was the culture of the school needed to change for us. And again, it's just then identifying what we wanted to brand ourselves as and market ourselves as. And that was a huge one, when you're looking to, I guess re-identifying yourself as a different entity, when you've stepped into a shell.

Graham McDonnell WA Institute Of Martial ArtsSo, we certainly did have quite a few things that we needed to do, and first and foremost was getting our identity and who we were and what we stood for. So, it allowed for us then to be able to market that image, that brand, that standpoint. And again, the energy that we brought to it, it was just really letting people know who we were and what we stand for, and that we would surpass all expectations in everything that we delivered, both quality of product, but the experience that you have, from the minute you speak to us, to the moment you walk out the door. So everything… We really pride ourselves on providing excellent service in everything. And that's sort of where the start point was. There's so many little factors that are in there, but it really was getting that clear vision on what we wanted to deliver and making sure that everything was in alignment with that.

GEORGE: OK. So, all right. So, you guys stepped in. What was the… So you kind of wanted to establish your values.

GRAHAM: Yep.

GEORGE: Ok. Was there any obstacle in doing that? Cause obviously there was the previous owner and, you know, things were set in certain ways.

GRAHAM: Yeah.

GEORGE: And in you guys come, although you're not new to the whole school, because you're the instructors. But were there any sort of stick points, you know, that happened, was there tension or anything at that point, when you guys took over?

GRAHAM: Yeah, we lost a ton of students, we lost a ton of our senior black belts, because we were… You know, the guys that were trained under the previous instructor were loyal to them and they certainly knew us. But when it came to us, making the decisions and steering the ship, for various reasons, they decided it wasn't the path they were gonna go down. I say this often, you gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelet, simple as that. You know, you gotta lose some people. An that was something that, as crappy as it was, you know, again, we're talking about finances here and were talking about struggling, and we're losing students.

But we knew that we would, the ones we had left, we were gonna share the vision where we were heading and that we would grow from that. So you gotta weed the garden to let the flowers bloom. Plenty of those phrases that you hear coming out, but really, that's sort of where it was at. We needed to get rid of things that weren't in alignment with where we were heading at. And unfortunately, that was sometimes students, sometimes it was staff, systems, so it was really just getting clarity on where we wanted to be in that 12, 24, 36 months, whatever it may be. 

PHIL: I think, for my point of view, and to go on quotes with Graham, a snake's gotta shed her skin. And, you know, we knew that, in our style, it takes about 4 years to get a black belt. So, one of our goals was to have our own black belts, through and through, so the day that we took over, when someone joined, you know, that would be the first line of black belts, that were trained purely by us. So yeah, through the journey, there was always gonna be people who dropped off and we knew that, but we got into that business, you know, head down, bum up. And just, like Graham said earlier, we rebuilt the engine, you know?

We put our stamp on it. We changed the name, the branding, the niche client, the systems and procedures. So, we really did change the business in a way that we, we knew we were gonna drop people, but we did it on purpose, because you don't make changes in your business for the students you have – you make changes in your business for the students you WILL  have. The effects will affect the people who you currently have, but I'm thinking about… What about the guy who joins, or the girl, or the kid that joins now, what are they gonna be like in four years time?

Not the black belt now, because, you know, they've done their journey. So I wanna make sure that the changes I have is a long-term effect change in my business. And one of the things for Graham and I was like, we took over the business, we were on a certain wage that was gonna get us by. But we, again, we burnt the bridges and we said, we needed double numbers, you know. I think we took it over at about 300. So, you know, it's quite a decent sized school as well, but it wasn't enough for two people, two managers, to take the wage that we needed to survive. So, in that first year, to give you a bit of a background, after all the changes, after getting in there with enthusiasm, we're off going hard, hard.

We doubled student numbers and tripled revenue within 12 months. So we went from 300 to 600 and, you know, we don't need to throw numbers in monetary value, but, you know, we then went from almost a single persons wage, to a double persons wage, plus being able to employ more people as well, within the first 12 months.

GRAHAM: Some of the things George, that we really did and we focused on, prior to rewarding ourselves, was to reinvest back in the school and back in our students. So, there was a lot of things that didn't contribute to students and getting students, but getting new pads. Getting, you know, new coat of paint and this and that and the others. It was all those little things that was an expense going up, but it was for a  reason. It was that branding, it was that rebirth, rather than just stepping into the same shell and just trying to call it something different, it wasn't. It really did need to have that knock down and rebuild. Within reason, obviously, we couldn't knock the building down, but we pretty much gutted everything else out.

You know, that was something that we really wanted to be mindful of, really reinvesting back into our marketing, back into our systems, investing in our team and our staff, not taking shortcuts just to get that quick win. Because the thing is, if you took that shortcut and you're only there for the money, you probably would have reached that point, but there was no growth past that. So we really invested in building a really solid foundation to help us to grow into the hearts and lives that we wanted.

And I talk about this often with other people: if you look at a residential home, the slab or the foundation is only like 10 cm thick, on a single-story. And you can only, from that thickness, build a single-story house. If you want to build a skyscraper, it's almost… You need to go twice the depth of a skyscraper as it is going to be high, to make sure you can build that solid platform, so it's not gonna fall over.

In other words, we invested a hell of a lot back into the foundation of our business, before we focused on the growth. But it actually came almost secondary, the growth was just happening anyway. It just meant that we're up to a sustained growth, without getting too a point and having a catastrophic failure, by having too many students, and not enough staff and so on and so forth. So, that was a real big one that we wanted to do, we didn't wanna skimp on doing the right thing for everybody internal, and also mainly the students as well too.

GEORGE: That's the end of part one of the three parts series with Graham and Phil from the WA institute of martial arts. Tune back for the next episode, well be going a bit deeper down the journey and we're gonna be talking about opening up the funnel, why you should ditch your ego, why being the grand guru will kill your business, how to reach a bigger audience, why investing in coaches is imperative to your success, following a recipe and the number one thing you need to do before opening up your second school. So to make sure you get notified about the second episode, you can go to our website MartialArtsMedia.com and if you haven't yet, download the free business plan we have for online media.

That will get you on our email list and we'll send you a short notification when this episode is ready. If not, you can also go to Stitcher, Stitcher radio, if you're on an Android device, Android phone, or you can go to iTunes and subscribe from there. That's it! Looking forward to seeing you in the next episode. I'll talk to you then.

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George Fourie

Hi I'm George Fourie, the founder of MartialArtsMedia.com. When I'm not doing dad duties or training on the mats (which I manage to combine when my son is willing! :), I'm helping Martial Arts Gym owners grow their business through the power of online media.

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