39 – Fred DePalma (The MAIN Event) – The Hidden Value Of Martial Arts Business Events
Fred DePalma (The MAIN Event & DePalma Karate) shares his martial arts journey and the real value of business events.
- The benefits of implementing systems in your martial arts business
- Why social media marketing for business is no longer optional but a necessity
- How investing in instructor training helps ensure your school's success
- The unspoken benefit you get from martial arts business events
- A story that will remove all doubt about investing in your education
- And more
*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.
And it was an hour and a half long private class and that's a long time do to a private class, so we paid him the money and we wanted to learn this advanced Kenpo stuff that we couldn't find anywhere. And I watched a student come into his school and sign up for a private class for $40. And I looked at him, and I'm like, “How come you're charging us $300 and this guy $40?” He goes, “Because that's my student, that's already a paying member here. You're going to learn what I'm teaching you, drive back to Connecticut and sell it to students to make money off of it.”
GEORGE: Hi, this is George Fourie from martialartsmedia.com and welcome to another Martial Arts Media Business podcast, episode number 39. And today I have with me all the way from Arizona I believe, Kyoshi Fred Depalma. How are you doing today Fred?
FRED: I’m doing fantastic, thank you for having me.
GEORGE: Awesome. So Fred is an eighth degree black belt, started with martial arts in 1981, running his own school since 1986. So we're going to be talking a lot about how he got started, where he is now and exciting events that he's also hosting around the United States, as well as Australia. So first and foremost I guess, to just start from the beginning: who is Fred Depalma?
FRED: Well, I don't know, I'm still trying to figure that one out myself. I do live in Arizona, which for people who don't know where that is in Australia, it’s just inland California. So I like to tell everybody Arizona's all beach, just no ocean. As soon as California falls in, then I’ll have the beach on my property. But anyways, I'm in Arizona, I'm originally from Connecticut. Connecticut is the other side of the country, so Arizona's the west, Connecticut is on the east, it’s the northeast in New England, kind of the first states that were settled.
I grew up in Connecticut in Rhode Island. I actually started my first school there, that's where I did my training. In 1986., I opened up my first school in Naugatuck Connecticut that grew to 4 schools shortly after that. Packed up in 1990, sold my schools to my managers, took a year off, traveled across the country, like Arizona and started over.
So that's it, but my system is Kenpo, I've always trained Kenpo. I teach Kenpo, but to me, it’s really not the style that matters and everybody are in love with their style and they should be, because that's what you teach. I mean, it’s what you study, it’s what you do, you should love, but it’s really about being structured and that's being given more than the style, especially at the beginning for the students.
GEORGE: Awesome. So I want to go back there, just to your story. So you said you had 4 schools and then you packed up: does that mean that you started completely over, or was it… Did you sell that completely, or was it sort of a franchise that you extended further?
FRED: I sold them completely, I did finance them for the guys, but it was theirs. When I first moved to Arizona, I was flying back every month to oversee testing, which then turned into every other month, which then turned into four times a year, which turned into two times a year, which turned into I'm not going back. So it was just breaking away slowly, so that way they can be successful in what they're doing, but at the same time, I didn't do it as a franchise and I didn't do it as a name use at the time, I just did an upright sale and they would bring me back for seminars – that's more or less how I’d get paid to do anything, but I didn't have it setup like I have it setup now. I just wanted to… I knew I was going to be all the way across the country and back then, before the internet and all that: very hard to run a company on the other side of the country, without being able to email and so on and so on. I mean, this was all pre-email and pre-video and pre-cell phones, so…
GEORGE: For sure. But there's got to be another… you know, we're so used to the internet now, but it’s only been a couple of decades really. How do you think that actually helped you, because my thinking would be, you've got to be so accurate with your systems and instructions, because you don't have the advantage of this face to face and instant – I mean, look at us, talking from Perth to Arizona right now, you didn't have that? So how do you actually go, what can you take from that? Installing those systems and things?
FRED: From then to now?
FRED: Yeah, well if I had this capability then, I might have kept the schools. It might have been a little easier to oversee what was happening. I mean, that's when I had to use full time accountants and everything because it wasn’t a quickbooks or banking service, I mean, it wasn't credit cards, you know? So everything was done a little bit differently, which would have been – I felt at the time – a lot of work to do from here to over there, so that's why I sold the schools to the guys, so they can take care of it, they could make the profit and make a living off of it and make it or break it on their own.
My whole thing when I run schools, and even the schools I have now is, I make sure that my managers and my school's owners get paid the most, you know? I just need to collect a little bit from here and there, but they're the breadwinners of the school. But if I had this type of technology then, I probably would have kept the schools and continued to help them grow their schools for as long as I could. Without a doubt, this would have come in so handy back then, even when I was in Connecticut, I had my four locations, I mean, to get anything done, I had to drive to each school.
FRED: And now, with eight schools here, I don't know the last time I was at one of the other schools.
GEORGE: That's awesome.
FRED: My house is located right between two of my schools and each school is about a mile and a half from my house, so that would be like 3K, so I have a school 3 one way and 3 the other way and I drive by one of them to come here and I just kind of look to make sure it’s still there and I come right down, but I don't need to be there. And that's a good thing that I don't need to be there! If I don't need to be at the school, it means the manager and the team are doing perfect.
GEORGE: It means the system is working, that's it.
FRED: Right, and again, that's all about systems. A system is something that doesn't happen overnight with me, it was a long journey of developing. I think things that I learned in school, sometimes you go back and say, boy, what did I learn in school? I've got to tell you what: when I was in high school, I took two classes. I took a lot of classes, but I took two classes that matter now. I took typing on the old typewriter, you know one of those, just because I thought it was a great class to get an easy credit and meet girls.
So I took typing, because I needed the easy credit and then I took the school store, which was called Deca, which was where we sold candy bars and notebooks and the school jerseys and things like that – again, another easy credit. But I learned all about retail and I became president of the school store and I learned so much in that class, that I didn't plan on learning anything in, that carried over to what I do. So, I was lucky then.
I spent time in the marine corps, the USMC and learned a lot of self-discipline, tactics about not giving up and following through. I think with those three main things and a grandmother that raised me, a little bit hardcore, I didn't know how to quit, from running my martial arts school and banks and everybody else said, “You know what? You're not a real business, go get a job!” Some people might run the other way and I was like: challenge accepted. This is what I want to do, I'm not going to give up on it.
And I think nowadays, it's actually… well, it’s easier to run a school, but sometimes it’s harder to get it out there, especially in the US, because I have a school there, another one over there, another one over there: they're all around me, you know? And I work with them all too, I don't care, but they're all over the place, to when I used to be the only guy in town, people just knew it and would show up. Now that they're all over the place, you have to actually reach out there and let people know you're there, kind of through this internet, this thing that we do on the internet nowadays.
GEORGE: Listen – and I want to get back to that question, because this is something we talk about a lot in our Martial Arts Media Academy, you know, our focus is just really helping people on the marketing side of getting the word out and a big topic is really cutting through the noise, because as it's easier with all these internet tools, it’s also a lot harder, because there's so much more noise, there's so much more distraction, so you’ve really got to… to really make it at the end of the day, you've got to know your stuff and you've got to have a way to differentiate.
GEORGE: So how do you go about that?
FRED: I don't, I pass it on to somebody else. You know, seriously, my motorcycle right now is done being worked on. I’m really into motorcycles, dirt bikes, street bikes. I take off in a couple of weeks for a 10,000-mile motorcycle ride, which I’ll be gone for three weeks. I enjoy it, but when I'm at the motorcycle shop: I'm not a mechanic and he's explaining some things to me about my forks and I'm looking at him like, what? And he keeps trying to tell me about bushings and this step and I say, listen, listen, listen: if you want to learn how to kill somebody, come see me.; I want to get my motorcycle fixed, I'm seeing you. Let’s kind of stick to our profession.
Now, it’s just a funny thing, it’s a joke, we all kind of laughed, but it’s true. I’m not an expert on Facebook and social media and marketing. I know stuff on it because obviously, I have to understand what's happening, I get the opportunity to talk to a lot of people and I do it, I pass on their information, but I'm not an expert at that.
What I’m good at is gathering a lot of information from a lot of people and making sure the right people are doing the work for me. My wife does a lot of our social media stuff – she's not an expert in it either, but she does actually take classes on it to try to stay up, so that way, when she is talking to some of the people that do things above our pay grade, she gets what they're saying, she can communicate with them. So I think that's all important.
I mean heck, I remember when the internet first started to get out there and computers and I mean computers, because my original schools, that's how long we've been around, we took attendance and everything on a piece of paper. And then I bought a Commodore 64 that actually did nothing for me, but I actually had a computer then. I was told computers are going to make my life easier: all that's happened by me putting a computer in all my schools is it has made me busier, because now there are so many forms, there are so many graphs and charts and so much to do for each student to make it organized, you're doing so much more than you used to do. It didn't make life any easier – it made life a little bit more organized, but gave you a lot more work.
Look at all the software programs that are sold out there to run your martial arts school. I bet most martial arts school owners who are listening to this have a software to run their school because I do. You probably don't use 10% of that software, or you probably only need 10% of that software, the rest of it is just taking up your time to look at things that don't matter. Because if your classes suck, I don't care what your software does, it’s not going to keep your students. So that's it, but I think with all the… you say cut through the noise: before the internet advertising because it costs so little to do it. When I did newspaper advertising in the 80's and all through the 90's and at the beginning of 2000, we would average about $5000-$6000 per location in marketing, in the newspaper and direct mail. Now, all that doesn't work anymore.
We still have a presence on some little neighborhood things that don't cost us a lot, so it’s there, but people don't see it and come running in. We spend a lot less money on social media, but now, everybody is used to it and that's why you need to have the experts go through it because it used to be emails at first, right? Before Facebook and everything, let’s do an email account. Now, nobody opens their emails anymore, so that's in the past. We've got to continue to move on and move forward and now people like you, this is who everyone needs to be in touch with because this is what you do. It’s not what I do.
GEORGE: For sure.
FRED: I do the karate thing, I train managers to run schools, you know? I train staff. If I was going to do the social media thing and be in charge of all that, I’d close down the schools and focus on that. Let’s be a master in at least one thing.
GEORGE: Awesome. Alright, cool, and funny enough, we actually still get some good results with email when we structure them in a very personal way, but I want to go back, because this will be great for people listening: when you packed up and you moved over to Arizona and you decided to start fresh, you had a lot of experience, you had already run four schools. So, what're the key things that you actually did differently when you started your new journey with your new schools?
FRED: Well, number one is, I only wanted to own one school, I was done being a multi-school operator. I also used to throw big tournaments and I was done doing karate tournaments. I used to fight and compete and then I also threw some large tournaments, I said, I'm not going to do any of that anymore, I'm just going to run one school.
So there's an organization in Arizona called AZ MARRS, which is a state tournament organization – I own that now, so that failed on me, I ended up throwing tournaments and getting back into it because I just love it. And I only wanted to have one school, but we have eight. So, I guess I'm wired a little funny, but the things I learned, if you ever have an opportunity to start over, you always do it better than last time, you know? It’s kind of like hiking up a hill: the first time, you figure it out, the second time, you know what areas to avoid. It was the same thing: I knew I needed better staff right off the bat.
My first school, I was 18 years old, so I didn't know anything about training staff and I had some friends that helped me out, but I was learning as I went, so I opened up the next school and I wanted to make sure as we were building the location out for four or five months, I was training people four hours a day in the building to be my future employees. And they were trained in martial arts and they were trained in the history of our school, so that when people talked to them, they knew what they were talking about and they were trained in the regular business stuff that they were going to be doing, enrolling students and so on and so forth.
So they were working four hours a day, just not kicking and punching, that was maybe 3/4 of it, but the other 1/4 is a lot of the history and also the business side of the school, so when we opened, this location in Arizona, it was actually – I have a few schools in Gilbert, but my town when I opened here, it was 1991, the population was about low over 30,000; now it’s over 400,000 in the one town, so it grew really fast. In the decade in the 90s, it averaged a 100 new homes a month. I didn't know that going in, I was trying to open in a small, quiet town and it backfired in a good way for me. But you now, we just did a lot of training.
When we opened that school, on opening day, which was I think February 4th if I remember right, we had over 200 appointments before we even opened the door, because we were doing some pre-marketing. And that was newspaper marketing, I actually even have little things I cut out of the newspaper that was mailed in with your check for the trial program. That's how we get all of our starter students. So by the end of month two, we had over 200 active students, enrolled white belts.
FRED: So there was a lot of right place at the right time, I've never been able to duplicate that, I've never been able to do the exact same thing. You know, it would be great if I could, every time I opened my door to have the exact same result, but I think it was all about timing at the time, it just worked out for me. But yeah, the things that you learn from one to the next, without a doubt, it’s just like going to seminars, or training or fighting in the ring.
You realize: this doesn't work, I'm not going to do it anymore, or you realize, oh, I need to learn how to do that better, one or the other, you now? And that's what I did with opening the new schools: I was doing good in Connecticut, I had one school with 600 students, but I changed my model to smaller schools with less staff and less overhead and it just worked out great for us.
GEORGE: All right, awesome. So you have eight schools and you got back into the tournaments and you're also hosting events, is that right?
FRED: Yeah. So, Martial Arts First is the company that I run. It's more or less – and honestly, it’s a byproduct of running the schools. So with my schools, some of my managers have been working over 20 years managing these locations. They do a great job. Like I said, if I have to be at them, it means there's a problem. Now, that doesn't mean I don't want to be at them, I do. We do most of the extra activities or anything at this location, where my offices are, so I don't need to go to all of the schools. And we do all of our belt exams where we rent out gyms, so I get to see all of the students, I personally hand everybody a belt, so I don't have to physically be in their schools. So where we're we on that, just lost track?
GEORGE: Ok, so going just on the actual events?
FRED: So Martial Arts First, right.
GEORGE: Martial Arts First.
FRED: So what happens is, working with all of our managers – and there's a class going on with a whole bunch of kids in there right now, if I could turn this camera, it’s so hard, because my office is in the back, maybe we could see one or two kids. But there are about 60 kids on the floor right now and this is a school my son runs.
FRED: So he's out there doing that. Martial arts first is… I'm already dealing with the managers and what we’re working with them on managing and growing their schools, allows me the time to work with school owners. It’s kind of like, I'm not needed at the school and they kind of don't want me to be there to help them, they don't want dad looking over their shoulder with everything that they're doing, so it gives me the opportunity to work with anyone I want. And the way it started was in 2007, I had a local school owner come up to me and give me a compliment, “You're great at training your staff and instructors; do you mind if I bring my instructors down to your school and we do a combined instructor training?” And I was like, “Not at all.”
And he was in an area with 4 schools around him, he was in the middle. He was the type of guy, when you see him at a tournament, he'd always have a cup of coffee in his hand and he'd walk up and say, “Hey, I just wanted to say thanks.” I'm like, “For what?” “Because I signed up four new students last month.” I'm like, “Yeah?” “Yeah, they saw your commercial on TV and they came down to my school and signed up – idiot!” So he was just a really nice guy, so that's how we started with doing staff training together and we invited all the other local Arizona schools to join us.
After doing that a few times, the other school owners, since I had multiple schools, were like, can we stick around and talk shop? So it went from instructor training to also business training. That went on for a few years and then some people outside of Arizona just said, “Hey, can you open up outside of Arizona?” And that's where that began. I went to Australia and Europe and all around the US doing it. What I'm able to do is, besides working in an actual school, seeing what works, what doesn't work for us, being here, because a while ago, I actually had a corporate office in a beautiful corporate building with all glass walls and a big conference room.
And I loved it, it made you feel real special because all the other tenants were attorneys and so on. And I lost touch with the karate school because my guys were honest with me, they said, hey, the stuff that you're telling us to do – we just can't do it at the studio, let’s do it on paper. But it’s not practical, so that's when I closed that down and moved back into the school again, so we can stay in touch and everything. So what I'm able to do is, besides talking to our managers, because we have two meetings a week with them, but I'm also talking to other school owners around the world.
And I'm getting different bits and pieces of information from everybody, so when I'm talking to one school that's having this challenge or wants to know how to do something, I know somebody else in the same situation and I can find out what they did that worked and pass that along. And so it’s all about networking, but not everybody has the opportunity to call 55 schools to try to figure out how to network, so I'm just here to help people network with what we do. So that's that – I'm still teaching martial arts, I'm just teaching martial arts to martial artists instead.
GEORGE: All right, that's awesome. So you’re just taking your experience, what you're really doing day to day and you've created the main event, is that right?
FRED: Well, MA1 has events about every other month, but it’s just one day of events. We've got them in Australia too, where one time, my wife and I, my family, my boys, we went to Australia and we did a one-day event in Brisbane and then we actually drove to Sydney, because we like to drive, we have a really good time. We did a one-day event in Sydney and then we drove and the following week, we did a one-day event in Melbourne and then we tried to drive to Perth, but no car rental companies would rent me a car – want to do it once, you know?
So we flew to Perth and did a one-day event there. So we do those all over in Australia, the US and over in Europe, but the main event is something that's again, another kind of by-product of everything. There's a lot of conventions here in the US, there's tons of them now, but there were only a few big ones at the time and we just wanted something a little bit different that offered instructor training as well, because most of them were just doing business training, which is important, but sometimes instructors, and even school owners, want a refresher course on what can they do to teach better, or where can I send my staff to learn to teach better. So MA1 is about martial arts first, so we made the main event a mixture that always has an instructor track and it has a business track, so we do it in the US and we've been doing it in the US now for five years and this is our second one in Australia. So we just finished ours here in may, at the beginning of May.
GEORGE: All right.
FRED: And that's just something else, it just goes together with MA1, since I've been able to work with so many schools, more or less my arm got twisted for somebody to put on this event and I guess everyone thinks I have the time to put it together, so that's what we did. And then in Australia, we like doing it because there's only a couple of them over there.
FRED: I’m a strong, strong believer – and I've said this to a lot of people, I'm sure people have heard me say this: my wife is always asking, why do you go to so many martial arts seminars and business seminars? You run all these schools, we're doing pretty good, what are you going to go learn? And I say, listen: I don't go to them to learn; I go to be around like minded people, to help get me motivated about what I do for a living. Because being a full-time martial artist, how many people do we know, that do what we do, that are in our circle of friends and people we grew up with, or even in our family? They all don't think we have a real job, or they don't get, for those that are out there, that have families, have kids of their own: how do you raise your kids when you run a martial arts school? It’s different, you work at night. And my wife and I work together, so we're both in a martial arts school where we have two boys, 19 and 16 now and we raise them with doing this.
So I want to be around like-minded people, but I’ll tell you what: I don't go to learn, I go to get motivated, be around friends, but I always learn something. And that's just the bonus. That's the bonus of going. You know? Getting myself motivated to get back to work is the key reason to be there; learning a little something, that's the bonus. And how can you not learn something being around other martial artists? I’m always going to pick something up, even if it’s something I already do, I'm going to learn how to do it once to get better. I mean, I've taught seminars where I've taught people in schools how to do certain things to bring students in, and then I go to the seminar and I talk to them two years later and they're doing it better than I was.
And now I'm learning from them how to get better at whatever it was. You know? So that's what it’s all about, got to share, got to network, got to learn, got to get motivated, got to get back to the studio, get back to work, whether it be staff training, working on yourself, on your business planning, retirement planning, merchandising, selling, lease negotiation. Whatever, you've got to get out there and learn this. Social media – you have to get out there and talk to people and figure out what's happening. If you stick to yourself and your own little school – that's fine, some people love them and be successful, but if you can rub shoulders with some other people that are like you, that's why it’s worth it. Be proud of what you do.
GEORGE: Fantastic. So, Fred, you've got an event coming up in Sydney and it’s the 15th to the 16th, the main event. And I believe it’s at the Marriott, in North Ryde?
FRED: North Ryde Marriott, yes.
GEORGE: There we go. For martial arts school owners, what can they expect to get from an event like this?
FRED: Well, number one, I can tell you that last year, when my wife and I flew there, we grabbed a taxi from the Sydney airport to the North Ryde for $110 and we realized afterwards that just up the road one block is the train and for $10, you get back to the airport a lot faster than with a taxi ride. So there, I just saved everybody a $100 this year by just hopping on the train. We don't have good train systems here like you guys do, that was just incredible. But anyways, again: it’s about rubbing shoulders.
I have my schedule right here, which is on our website right now too. And if I can say the website, in case the people want to write it down, it's the-main-event.com, but with dashes. And the schedule is up there, it’s probably about 99% accurate, there might be a couple of little tweaks we still have to do because I just went over to the computer guys and I haven't verified at all. But we keep it with two tracks. We have one side that's, it’s called instructors, but it’s for everybody. And it’s not always all physical – some of it is, and some of it isn't, but it’s about teaching. That side is about teaching, about your students, or about program directing, working with the people that are in your school.
The other side is more business, will be like social media, you're going to be there speaking and go over what you do and giving people tips on it. It’s going to be about retirement, it’s going to be about staff development, it’s going to be about staff payroll, it’s going to be about bringing in new staff, marketing.
So that's how we break it into two tracks, that's how we want it for the whole team. I mean, heck, the one we just did in the US, we had 40 people from our own schools go to it. From 12 and 13-year-old SWAT members all the way up to my master instructors, because the SWAT members are not going to be on the business side; they stayed in the workout side the whole time, they stay on the instructor side and they came back and they were on fire! And getting them on fire and that excited is getting my students excited. When my students get excited – retention. You know? So that's why.
I do it just so I could send my staff to it. Without a doubt, I'm selfish. But we have Paul Veldman come in and speak. Everyone in Australia knows Paul, he does a wonderful job with his schools. He's got some great topics, he does an honors' only topic about an existing plan, how to prepare, what are you going to do when it’s time to retire? A lot of school owners don't think about that, but my son who's 19 and who runs this school, this is his school, which happens to be where my office is, he's the head instructor: he just bought a house 2 weeks ago, you know?
And then, this past Saturday, he bought himself a new truck and I was sad because he's 19, but he's also starting to think about retirement. So he's smart like that at a young age, he spent a lot of money right now buying a house and a truck, but he's learning what he needs to put away so in 20, 30 years from now, he's comfortable, you know? He makes a good living, but if he spends it all, as most young people would, he’ll have nothing to show for it. So he's already, he's got some stocks and things, I mean, that's really important.
My wife Robin is going to be there speaking and she's, I think the reason I get jobs to speak at different events is that of all the stuff she does at our schools. But her whole job, the organization, besides being a 5th-degree black belt, she used to run her own school with us, is she oversees all the staff. She's in charge of all the instructor front counter training, SWAT, the events that happen on a yearly calendar… I mean, she puts it all together. And everyone goes to her before they come to me. So she's really the one that is on the ground running with everybody, so she's going to share that. And I'm bringing Henry Calantog with me.
I bring Henry everywhere with me, he's one of my black belts, he's been with me for well over 20 years, he runs one of our franchise stores that he owns. I brought him out last year, his first time in Australia, he did the instructor training – everybody who took the seminar requested that he comes back. It was 100% unanimous, they all wanted him back and then everybody wanted him after school to do a seminar, to work for their students, because he's just great on how he talks, how he motivates people and you can't miss him – I tell everybody all the time, he's a 6’3” Filipino. They don't normally grow them that big, but he is.
And just does a wonderful job and he is going to be in Melbourne, doing some seminars the week before and I think he still has one-day open, if there's anybody out there looking to have a student seminar with us, he's great at sparring techniques, with motivating the kids, with drills, so he is available, he's working at a couple of schools there. Rod Darling is coming out, Rod has been doing a great job with Facebook and he's going to be sharing some of his ways of doing that.
Let’s see… Danielle Drew from EFC will be there, working about the conflict. Heck, I'm even going to do a seminar or two on there! So, again: it’s not just about the people doing the seminars; it’s about getting what the other school owners that are there and networking. Here's one big thing that we do every year – whoop, my wife walked in. Do you mind if Robin speaks a little bit?
GEORGE: Please do!
FRED: Robin's office is in front of mine, so here she comes.
ROBIN: Hey! Hi, how are you doing?
GEORGE: Pleased to meet you.
ROBIN: I could help cover the expenses for our team to go to this, they put together fundraisers. So we had a little dragon tournament, they went around and taught seminars at each other’s locations, they did inter-school tournaments, they did raffles, and they raised all their money on their own to attend the event so it just helps get everybody there.
FRED: We give them the facility, they come up with some ideas on what they can do, and I’ll tell you what: our students and our families, when you tell them what you're doing and why, that they want to learn to be better instructors and go to a big international martial arts event, the students back them. We had one family at our surprise school walk up to the head instructor and give him a check for a $1000, and he goes, what's this for?
You know what, you've done wonderful things with our kids – and obviously, they must be well off to do to do that, and they said, we just want to support you and the team and the school to go to the event, and they hand him a $1000 check. I was like, maybe you should give it back to them, and the people didn't want that – just take it and go. So I'm thinking we don't charge enough! We need to charge a little bit more.
Speaking of that, one of the seminars I'm doing, because I just talked to people in passing about this before and everyone keeps asking me questions every time we go over it, is how we make over $20,000 in our free karate tournament. And it’s not about telling you guys or everybody else how to do a free tournament, but what goes with that is other events and activities that we do and it’s not about the free tournament, but it’s about how to do things that actually bring income for the school that benefit your students as you're doing it, and it doesn't seem like it's anything that's costing your students something, but we end up making a profit in the long run, because it has to benefit them and it has to benefit you at the same time. So we like to balance those out.
Another big seminar that we enjoy doing is speed dating, is what we call it. People that were there last year know what this is: speed dating is not actual dating. If anyone's ever seen anything – I've never been to speed dating, but I've seen it on TV shows, it's where the bell rings, and you go to the next person and talk. Well, what we do is, we put everybody in groups in about 10 different groups and we have the different speakers who are split between all the groups. And they sit down for 10 minutes with that table and talk about whatever. Ask questions, have a subject – the bell rings, the speakers get up and move to the next table. And I like it because it makes it very intimate with each speaker to be there, to actually talk to you one on one and do it.
You know, this event is small, we can only fit 80 people in the room. We sell out at 80 people, so when somebody says, oh you guys are just scarcity selling: no, I have to, I can't get more than 80 people in the room, that’s it. So once we get the 80, we cut the ticket sales. We’re not in a gigantic ballroom, were in an 80 person room. Done deal, that's it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's 80 people, with tables and chairs, but it's 80 people, that's all we can fit in there. So we still have some tickets left and we’d love to sell all of them obviously, because the more there, the merrier, plus, I don't want a big bill from the hotel for not selling out. We've got to be honest, we want to be there, we want to share with everybody.
GEORGE: You want to be able to get better.
FRED: Yeah, and we want to do it again and maybe get a bigger place, but I don't mind it being smaller and intimate, I don't need to be 400 people. I like to be able to know everyone who's there.
GEORGE: Fantastic. So, everyone listening at the time – I'm recording this, there are how many tickets still left?
FRED: I think we're about 20, a little over 20 right now. I haven't looked at it today or yesterday, I was out of town all last week, but I did see a couple of more things come through. I haven't asked them what they might have done to come in, but I think there are a little over 20 tickets left.
GEORGE: All right, fantastic. Ok, so, the-main-event.com – so not .com.au. Cool, and yes, look forward to seeing you, I'm also going to be there, I'm going to have a booth, so you can ask me questions, anything related to internet marketing, social networking – anything on the tech side, I'm definitely not one there to teach about the martial art side, but that's my expertise is in all the digital stuff, so I’ll be happy to help. Any questions that you have and yeah, really looking forward to the event, it’s going to be exciting.
FRED: You know what, one thing I want to add about you being there at the booth too. We appreciate your support coming in because the event I do in the US is a little bit bigger and without the vendors coming in, it really helps split the part of the bill. It’s expensive to put these together and everyone who puts on events gets what you have to do at hotels. But at this event, since it's smaller, we can only have three vendors, you know? I have two, and so people are always afraid, I'm going to an event, and with all the vendors who are going to try and sell to me – listen, you're at your table.
If you have good information, they come up and they talk to you, but the people who are speaking – and I always talk to our speakers about this at all of my events, because I've been to events before, I sat in a room and really was excited to learn something and all I learned is, if I want the information, I can buy the guys book and video. And that was bad, I paid big money to be there. I run a company called Martial Arts First, but I'm not there to sign people up for MA1. I’m there to do from this schedule, whatever my subjects are, whatever her subjects are and give it all away.
If you enjoy what we have to say and you want to come and talk to me about MA1, then walk over and talk to me About it, but I'm not going to try and sell it to you. I’m like, anyone that's there and has a booth, or is a vendor and has something to sell, I tell all the speakers: were not selling our seminars. We’re sharing knowledge because people are paying to be there. And if you have something to sell, you do a great job sharing your knowledge, people are going to come and talk to you about it afterward – that's my belief.
FRED: So in that seminar, we've got that hour, it’s called A to Z – not A to H, and I’ll charge you a hundred bucks to get the rest of it. That's just my philosophy, you know? They've already paid, let's share. If they love you, they're going to talk to you. And I want everyone going to know that, you know? They're not going to have these hard sales going on, not that any of that ever happens at martial arts events, but we just want to make sure you know it doesn't happen here.
GEORGE: Yes, it is a big trend with free events that the free event is never really a free event; it’s just a foot in the door for something else and anyway, I run a weekly web class, where I teach things about martial arts – well, the marketing side of martial arts and people would know, the first thing I always say is, look, I give you what I can and some of you can take this knowledge and just go and apply it, because you can do that. And the others, you might need assistance, or you might need it done for you, then, raise your hand and I'm happy to discuss further. But, yeah, the knowledge is free, take it if you can. If you need help…
FRED: I've got to say something, I'm in a lot of martial arts chat rooms, and a lot of them just make me laugh. What is really funny is, all these school owners, they always want, want, want – nobody of course on this podcast, and nobody in Australia whatsoever. But from other places, and you answer some questions and you give. And then, if you really need one on one time with me, I have to charge, you know? I don't mind answering some questions, but if you want scheduled times, I have to charge.
And they're like, oh, I'm not going to pay for that, and I say, well, how much do you charge your students? Do you give away free private classes? Well, no. Well then, why do you expect everybody else to help you do it? Now, you, me, everybody else: we'll give out stuff, as much as we can, but there's a time I need to go home and be with my family. And I can't constantly, nonstop… It’s just one of those things that always makes me chuckle, I'm sure a lot of people listening understand that because they've been in those chat rooms and they see it. Nobody in Australia ever does that, but you know, with other countries.
GEORGE: You see it everywhere. I always tell people, if you look at what the student is worth to you and you look at the lifetime value of that student, whether that's $1500, $2000, $3000 – if you learn one or two things and you can get that return on investment, you know, why not? And for the price of a ticket for an event, and if you can walk away with one idea that gets you, one student, it’s your money back tenfold, right there.
FRED: In the late 80s, mid-80s, whatever, I was taking a private class with my instructor, from a guy called Joe Palanzo, that was grand master Joe Palanzo from Kenpo he was one of Ed Parker’s top guys and he was in Maryland. And we drove all the way down to do a private class and it was $300. Now, in the 80s, that's a lot of money. And it was an hour and a half long private class and that's a long time do to a private class, so we paid him the money and we wanted to learn this advanced Kenpo stuff that we couldn't find anywhere. And I watched a student come into his school and sign up for a private class for $40. And I looked at him, and I'm like, “How come you're charging us $300 and this guy $40?” He goes, “Because that's my student, that's already a paying member here. You're going to learn what I'm teaching you, drive back to Connecticut and sell it to students to make money off of it.” And I go, “You're right.”
FRED: So he was teaching me so I can turn around and teach more people, who I charge for and his student was his student, you know? So that makes complete sense to me. I know I'm a little bit off subject, but that is true how we have to think about things sometimes: what are you going to do with the information you get?
GEORGE: I’d say really it’s probably on topic because that's what people have to consider: if I'm going to invest in your education, you've got to look at it from a big picture. There's obviously the one student that you might get, or the 2, 3, 4, or 10, 20, 30 students, but what is that going to be your value in the long term? If you look at the knowledge that you take and you apply it, what's it going to be worth to you over five years? Is it going to help you open another school, is it going to… so there’s a lot of value in gaining new knowledge and applying it.
FRED: When Robin and I are there in Australia at the main event, we are on open book. So when we’re not doing the seminar, we’re there talking to people. We have a mixer that's on… what night is that, Saturday night. Saturday night we do a little mixer downstairs and that's where we want everyone to come down and chat. And it’s like, listen: ask questions. I have nothing to do. When I'm tired of answering questions, I’ll go to bed.
But the thing is, we’re an open book. We’ll explain more than you ever want to hear if you ask us one question, OK? And that's what we’re there to do. We’ll be there, I think we get on Thursday. We get in a whole week earlier, but we're doing some seminars around first, around Sydney. I think I have one day left available: anybody in the Sydney area looking for something? We're there just to work with people and then Sunday when it gets done, we're there all day Sunday and Monday morning – we’re gone. We’re gone all the way to the cruise ship off of Sydney.
GEORGE: That's nice to hear.
FRED: It’s a tough life that we have to lead, but since we already flew that far, we might as well take a vacation while we’re there.
GEORGE: Exactly, exactly.
FRED: But that's the whole thing: ask questions. Ask us, ask the other speakers, ask yourself, or ask the other schools that are there. So take advantage of just talking and networking, because I'm going to! And I’ll tell you what: if somebody asks me a question, I’ll probably learn a lot more than you do from my answer. Because it really makes me think it all the way through, it makes sure that I'm doing it myself.
GEORGE: Fantastic. Fred – it’s been great chatting to you and Robin as well and the-main-event.com. Thanks, thanks for being on today and I will see you in Sydney!
FRED: All right, thanks for having us on and it was a lot of fun.
FRED: We’ll see you guys.
GEORGE: Thank you.
FRED: All right, bye now.
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