149 – What Happens When All Your Martial Arts Leads Are “Tire-Kickers”

If you’re running Facebook ads and all your martial arts leads are tire-kickers, your problem might be two-fold. Here’s the fix.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • What’s potentially causing the wrong quality of martial arts leads
  • The pitfall of labeling your martial arts prospects as tire-kickers
  • How better Facebook ads attract better martial arts prospects
  • Fixing low-quality martial arts leads with paid trials
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Start Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Hey there, George Fourie here. Welcome to another Martial Arts Media™ Business podcast. Today, I want to talk about your martial arts leads being tire-kickers. What if they are all tire-kickers, non-responsive, or just the wrong demographic or bad quality when you are running Facebook ads, Google ads, or from any other marketing source?

I’m going to dive into the details with a few little twists to this conversation. For show notes and all the resources of this podcast, head over to martialartsmedia.com/149. Let's jump in.

What happens when all my leads are tire-kickers? They inquired via the website, Facebook ads, or Google ads. They've put their hand up, disappeared, or never put their hand up. We can't get hold of them, and that's that.  All the leads are tire-kickers, or they are responsive, but they're just the wrong type of lead.

They won't fit the culture of your club, or they won't be fit for the products that you have, the martial arts services that you offer, and the classes that you run. These are all things that can be fixed within your targeting, quality, and messaging.  But here's the danger. I want to address the danger of labeling all your prospects as tire-kickers.

A few of my members in our Partners group brought this up: I love you, and you're not being singled out. Actually, I can count about six or seven encounters where this has come up, and that's just this year. So, you're definitely not being singled out. This is done with love. I hope that this is helpful for you and for you, the listener, as well.

Labeling all your leads as tire-kickers. Here's the danger. Let's say you're running an ad campaign, and you've got 20 to 30 leads in your CRM. It's just a list of names. And you get one bad response, two bad, three, and all of a sudden, your sales mojo motivation dies out.

And you're like, “Oh, really?” They’re all tire-kickers.  Maybe it was only three, maybe it was five, but all of a sudden, you give everybody this unanimous label. Now, what if you took those 20 to 30 people off the list and put them all in a room together, all in a room together, or all on the mats? And you looked at all these people, all their faces, and they all put their hand up.

They responded to your ad, right? Can you look them all in the eye and say, “You're all tire-kickers. All of you are wasting my time. It's like all of you got together and collectively decided that you're going to waste my time.” A bit unrealistic, right? But it's very easy for us to look at a lead list and then throw a label out.

The danger that I want to address is it's their fault and not yours. So, immediately, you relinquish all responsibility for the leads, not furthering the conversation or signing up, and it's their fault and not yours. Now, I'm not here to debate whether that's true or not because there can be parts where it's their fault.

But if it's all their fault, you've got no room for improvement. They've got nothing that you can fix. You could never really say it's them. And yep, I come from an old school sales training where things were beaten down into my brain, not literally, but the message was enforced all the time—that it's never about the prospect.

You're the sales guy. It's your job to be persuasive, engaging, have charisma, and actually engage in a relationship. Sell the program and actually get them interested. Uncover the underlying objections or problems that they are facing and the reason why they put their hand up. Maybe they are super paranoid about taking this first step.

There's a lot there to unpack. This whole process between them putting their hand up and saying, “Hey, I'm interested,” and to actually go ahead, it can be a little fragile process.  And so, we have to take it with care that this person is stepping potentially into an unknown territory.

They've never trained in martial arts before. They don't know what it's about. They've seen people beating each other up at UFC. They've got these perceived concepts of what it can be like completely untrue, but they have all these things going on, or it's super personal, right? There's something that happened in their life that they really need this.

And sure, as hell, they're not going to tell you after one message or phone call. We have to respect that part of all this. So, how do you get better at this? Well, a 100% percent responsibility. 100% responsibility. It's your responsibility to fix it. Let's look at a few examples. All right.

Well, you are running an ad campaign. You're running an ad campaign, and maybe you have the luxury of getting hundreds of leads. But the quality is bad, and that could be for demographics. You live in an area that's a low socioeconomic area, and it's just the quality of leads that you get are not people that are going to afford your services.

If that's the case, well, then you've got to look at the options to mitigate that. A couple of things that you can do is have a good front-end paid trial offer, or we do things like in Messenger, where we use gated questions. We ask people if they can afford to invest in their health, the well-being of their kids, themselves, and so forth.

If that is a problem, we can address that and modify that as we go. If it's messaging, well, messaging can be fixed by knowing the process of how to take people from that first engagement and position yourself as an authority. Make sure you appear as a human being, not just a company logo.

I'm talking about Facebook ads here. If you're running Facebook ads, you're running it to a page; all that they see is a logo. They don't see a human. So, you got to insert some human elements in it—not just an AI bot, real human elements—so that people know that they're talking to a human, and that way, you get a cool human interaction.

A further danger I see with the disconnect is the more disconnected you want to be from the actual marketing, the more this belief of an unsatisfaction of the quality of the leads and labeling people as tire-kickers. It really comes up because, number one, if you're disconnected from the marketing, you might be getting some cookie-cutter ad from an ad agency or something that you saw somebody else do it, run on Facebook.

You thought that was cool. But a lot of that stuff misses a lot of depth. A lot of depth of who are you? What makes you unique? Especially if they're seeing a lot of martial arts ads, right? What makes you stand out? What makes you so special? What makes you better than all of them?

And then, if you've got somebody helping you with ads, well, there's got to be a bit of a feedback loop because if on the front-end, and we see this often, that we look at ads and it looks like the ads are doing great because of the numbers and we see like 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 leads come through. But on the back end, they're not converting.

If that's the case, there needs to be a feedback loop that you can speak to someone like a coach or an agency that addresses the objections that are coming up on the mats. You can take that and you can add that to your ads, and keep optimizing your message.

That is the only real way to do it. There's no magic flick of the switch. I believe it's good to have models of ads that work. I mean, that's how we start. When we start with our school owners in our Partners program, rolling out ads is easy because we've done it so many times. Getting started is really easy, and getting some traction is easy, but getting real, real traction takes some refinement and takes some depth.

So, what can you fix? Targeting, messaging. If you're getting the wrong quality of leads, make sure you increase that. If leads are non-responsive, then make sure that you have enough touch points available where you can follow up. We go Messenger, we go SMS, phone, as well as email. That is four places where we can actually communicate with them from four options.

Most of that is automated except for the phone call, but that gives you a lot of touch points where you can follow up and make sure that you get hold of your leads. If you're following up through text, then make sure that you are positioning yourself as the expert. You know how to ask the questions and move people from curious to serious to sign up.

For us in our Partners program, we use a system. We call The Messenger Signup Method, and it really, really works well in the sense of when people don't want to pick up the phone because maybe they don't like being sold, or I've had about four phone calls today that I haven't answered. It's just because I don't. It's great to fly under the radar.

If you know how to have a conversation via text and get your paid trials or appointments booked, it's definitely the way to go. Anyway, I hope that's helpful. I'll catch you in the next episode.

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Start Here.

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148 – 3 Ways To Increase Your Show-Up Rate For Martial Arts Trial Appointments

Here’s how using an irresistible martial arts offer can almost completely squash your no-show rate for martial arts trial appointments.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Adding a human touch to automated messages with martial arts prospects
  • How to write a successful follow-up email sequence
  • Comparing free and paid martial arts trials
  • Using high-converting landing pages when you’re time-poor
  • Using The Messenger Signup Method to sign up prospects
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Start Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Hey, it's George Fourie. Welcome to another Martial Arts Media™ Business podcast. Today, I'm going to be talking about how to reduce no-shows.  Prospect inquires, books a trial appointment with you, but then ghost you; they don't show up. And sometimes, it's really hard to re-engage and get the conversation back going and get them to reschedule. 

So, I'm going to be talking about a couple of ways that you can reduce no-shows, almost eliminate them completely. Some are going to be simpler, and some are going to be a little bit more complex. There's going to be a few options for you to consider. I'm going to cover those. Make sure to head over to martialartsmedia.com/148. That is where we've got the show notes, downloads, and everything for this episode. Head over there, and hey, let's jump in.

Okay, some context first. I was talking at a martial arts business event in Texas late last year, that’s 2023 and was chatting to a lot of martial arts business owners that were experiencing a lot of no-shows. A bunch of these guys was using different types of marketing agencies and just various problems that were coming up, mainly no-shows. 

Out of the 10 leads that they were getting, only three were actually showing up—three to four. I’m kind of shocked, to be honest. That's like a really, really high no-show, right? So, there are a few things that you can do to mitigate this now. There are a couple of dangers and a couple of things to consider here, right? 

If you are trying to automate things as much as possible and be as hands-off as possible, that might be the price that you're going to pay, right? Is that you're going to have some no-shows, and there's going to be little investment of time and following up and doing things, but you're going to get fewer leads. You're going to be paying a lot more for leads to show up. That's just going to be the nature of the beast for you.

But, if you're keen to be a bit more invested and thinking, “Well, I want to get my dollars’ worth.” Like, “I want to really reduce the cost per acquisition of getting these students in, really want to bring that cost down, control it.” There are a couple of things that you can do, so let's explore them. 

Number one is, first up, just looking at the automation that happens, your automated follow-up sequences. What happens once a new trial, a parent or an adult books a trial to come and take their first class with you? What happens from that point? 

Are they getting automated email messages instantly and then timed all the way to their appointment? Are they getting text messages or follow-ups? What else? Is there some personalization? Maybe it's a real quick, like a video message—something that is a bit more personal. Because, let's face it, we're living in a world of AI automation, and everything is getting automated. 

The more human elements are getting removed, the more kind of numb you get to the messaging, right? Because it's almost like you're not responsible for answering to a human. So, you feel off the hook if you don't stick to your word for the machine, right? The more personalization you're going to remove from that process, you're probably going to be experiencing some form of no-shows. So, that's the first thing to look at. 

Look at what you can automate, but rather than automate, is there some personalization that you can do? It could be just grabbing the phone, doing a quick video message, and saying, “Hey, Johnny, I saw you're booked in for a class on X, Y, Z day. I’m really looking forward to meeting you. So is the team.” Whatever you want to do, right? Or show them around, etc. 

If you don't want to be that specific, the way you can get out of that is to say, “Hey, George. I just wanted to say thanks so much for booking your class.” You can introduce yourself, but make it a bit more automated, but still have a personal feel to it. That's one thing you can do, right? Optimize your automation, but then insert some form of personalization that makes it a bit more personal if that’s what you want—human to human. All right. That's option number one. 

Option number two is to change your trial. Change your trial format to a paid trial system. If you're running free trials, this is pretty much what's going to be happening, right? Is that booking for the first appointment? When somebody is paying for the trial, and it's a paid trial, then that does change the concept. 

Now, I've spoken a lot about paid trials on this podcast, not going to go into that right now. I will leave some links in the show notes where you can access those. You know, just looking at the comparison of free and paid trials. But what the paid trial is going to do for you is if you are selling a paid trial and you actually focus on collecting the money upfront, now you've got a prospect that is first up a customer. They've given you money, and they're going to be way more committed, obviously, to show up. 

Using a paid trial, but then actually getting them to commit and making the payment before coming, that's going to really increase your shop. It's probably going to solve the problem 100% completely. Now, pros and cons to this: you've got to sell the trial and collect the money. How do you do this? 

Well, with our ads, what we mainly focus on is what we call The Messenger Signup Method, which is a system that we use to sign prospects up via text; flies under the radar, and you're going from taking prospects from curious to serious to signed up. That is a process we take. We sell the trial first, collect the money, and then get them to book the trial afterward, right? 

They’re already financially invested before booking the trial appointment. That changes the frame completely, right? Because if someone's giving you a couple of dollars, it means that the trust element is out of the way. They feel comfortable enough to actually give you money, and it's going to definitely increase your show-up rates.

Number three, what if you don't want to be messaging people and you don't want to be spending any time on the follow-up? This can be done, but you must be aware of the fact that you're going to need to spend some money to collect data to be able to optimize this process. What are we doing here? In this process, we are running a paid trial with the numbers here are important. 

We play with different numbers to make this a complete no-brainer offer and make it really easy for people to buy, and we send them directly to a landing page. So, they go directly to a landing page. The landing page does all the selling of the paid trial for you. It's got proof of testimonials. It’s got the irresistible offer worded in the right way so that it communicates value, and people can go to the page directly and buy the paid trial. 

So, the benefit here is you've taken all human elements out of it. The prospects have actually got to buy it. The cons are if you don't know how to structure a page with all the correct elements that are going to make it convert, then you're going to be testing for a long time. We've done a lot of tests on this. 

We stopped tracking that formula, that structure at about eight or 9000 trials. We stopped tracking it. Now, we've simplified it and we keep optimizing it a lot more. We've got a lot of data behind it. It is 100% doable. You've got to be in mind in the beginning, that you're probably going to pay a bit more to acquire a student because you've got to optimize the landing pages. 

The risky part of this is, if you don't know what you're doing, don't do it. I won't be like–what's the right word? I won't boast or say I know everything because I think I know enough to know that I still don't know anything because the data decides. Even for us, we can put our best foot forward, and our best tests, and then we still have to optimize. 

We still need to optimize every time there's a hundred clicks on every page. We still need to look, compare, and do optimization, but when you hit that sweet spot, it definitely is super helpful. Those are the strategies.

So, real quick, just for a recap: Improve your automation and add some human element to it. Number two, go for a paid trial and start supporting the sale via messenger by selling the paid trial. Number three is to get a well-designed landing page. You can ask us about how that works and which formulas, and concepts work, and go for it that way. 

A couple of things to note: Things that we've got that will definitely help our irresistible martial arts offer formula, how to structure a paid trial in the right way with the right numbers, and we've got a few shortcuts on the right numbers that convert the best, and then using The Messenger Signup Method and our landing page structure for paid trials. That's it. 

I hope that is helpful. Any questions should be a message where you listen to this episode and I'll catch you on the next one. 

Have a good one. Cheers.


*Need help growing your martial arts school? Start Here.

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147 – Buzz Durkin: The Martial Arts Master Of Lifetime Student Value


Discover how Buzz Durkin, the headmaster of Uechiryu Karate, effortlessly keeps martial arts students for as long as 52 years.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Internal marketing – a strategy used by Buzz Durkin to attract new students
  • Community building within a martial arts school
  • Teaching beyond physical skills and the importance of using the physical curriculum
  • What is AAA theory – Awareness, Appreciation, and Action, and how is it important to martial arts students
  • An overview of Buzz Durkin’s Success is Waiting: The Martial Arts School Owner's Guide to Teaching, Business, and Life book
  • Charging fair tuition for martial arts classes
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Start Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

GEORGE: Hey, it's George Fourie. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business podcast. Today, I am interviewing a true master in martial arts and business, Buzz Durkin. I was really fortunate to spend some time with Buzz when I hosted our Martial Arts Media™ Intensive event, which was part of the Bushi Ban Power Week hosted by none other than Grandmaster Zulfi Ahmed.

As part of the Bushi Ban Power Week, we hosted the Martial Arts Media™ Intensive, and I had Buzz share a talk in regards to retention and keeping students for life and how they basically work all their marketing from the ground up. I was so inspired by the speech; well, so was everyone else. He got a true standing ovation, and I invited him to speak at one of our events online, which is the Partners Intensive. Our members were just blown away by the information. I wanted to bring that over to you as part of the podcast, so I'm going to share a video on this page. If you want to go visit it, martialartsmedia.com/147.

Buzz shared a video during his talk showing how every Saturday, how much experience, and how many black belts they have. It ranged from four years to, I think, 44 years of experience, and I can't recall counting. There were at least 20, 30, got to be like 30 people at least.

Anyway, Buzz is truly a master at keeping it simple, keeping students for life, and he's got some valuable strategies to share. So, without further ado, jump in all the show notes on martialartsmedia.com/147. That’s the numbers one, four, seven. Jump in. Let's go.

GEORGE: Buzz Durkin, welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business podcast.

BUZZ: It's my pleasure to be here. I'm happy to be here with you, George.

GEORGE: Good to see you again, and we'll loop back to that story. But a question I always like to ask first is, what's the number one thing that you do to attract new students into your school?

BUZZ: Well, the number one thing we do after all these years that's evolved is internal marketing. We do internal marketing with some social presence, too. We do a lot of posting on Facebook, and Instagram, just about every day or at least every other day. Our main venue for acquiring new students is through internal marketing. Parent's nights out, pizza parties, and birthday parties, where we encourage our students to bring their friends, inviting their friends and school teachers to our black belt promotions.

So, we concentrate mainly on the student body that we have and how can we grow that family from within primarily.

GEORGE: Very interesting. So, everything from the inside out. And so, when it comes to promotions, you're still sort of doing a little bit of outbound because you're saying with the social and so forth, but the focus is what's happening internally and making that the message to attract more students?

BUZZ: Yes. We like to make our students raving fans, and we like to make our students want their friends to study and train with them, whether they’re five years old or 50 years old. So, we try and provide a high degree of value in every single class so that the students will want to talk about what a great experience they had. And like we say, we don't teach good classes here. Every class has to be a great class.

And I think the marketing– I think anything starts on the floor. I think it all starts with good instruction. You have to have something of substance that you're teaching, and you have to do it in an effective way. I think it all ebbs and flows on the quality of instruction on the floor. Everything should spring forth from that, I think.

GEORGE: I know you're the master at keeping students, and I want to tell this little backstory. So, we met officially for the first time at Grandmaster Zulfi's Bushi Ban Power Week, where we got to host our event during the Power Week, which was the Martial Arts Media™ Intensive. Buzz Durkin was one of the featured speakers. You shared a video during your talk that I can't recall how many students there were, and I'm probably, if that's okay with you, I'll share it within this podcast, just in the show notes so that people can see it.

But you had, I think I counted about at least 20, 25, 30 students that have been with you from four years to about 50 years. Is that right?

BUZZ: Yeah. Yeah. We let one junior black belt in there. There was one four years, yes, but that is correct. That's correct.

GEORGE: What keeps that level of community, unity, and commitment? Because I mean, yep.  We love martial arts, and we love dedicating ourselves to the art, but staying to the course for that long, there's got to be something more to that, right?

BUZZ: Well, I think a lot of teachers think of the martial arts, regardless of style, of being one dimensional, physical, develop that side kick, develop that armbar, develop that spinning back kick. It's multi-dimensional. My philosophy has always been that if through your physical curriculum, through the physical curriculum of doing the side kick, the punch, et cetera, if by doing that, if you can show your students or the people who are studying with you how to develop mental, emotional, and even spiritual strength, they'll stay with you forever.

And the reason is they need their mental strength. They need that emotional strength more than they need the physical strength out in the real world. I mean, what is a student more likely to use on a daily basis? A spinning back kick or courtesy or self-control? So, I think the secret for us has been that we're able to use our physical curriculum and, through the physical curriculum, make the students aware of the fact that it helps them mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. When I say spiritually, I don't mean in a religious sense but in an attitudinal sense.

I think having an approach that is multi-dimensional, and everything's based on the physical curriculum that's why they come to us. That's why they do martial arts. They want to learn how to defend themselves, and that's critical. But that's not the end all be all if you want to keep students making it a part of their lives.

I think what happens is there's so much negativity out in the world. It can drain your batteries. It can make you whether you're an adult who has an obnoxious boss at work or whether you're a young person who's having a tough time in school, the outside world can drain your energy. I like to think of the people who come down to the dojo. It's recharged their batteries. Recharging.

Why are they being recharged? They're being recharged because they’re being in a supportive group. They're being with friendly people. They're being with cooperative people. They're being with people who want to get better like them, sharing the same goals, and that stuff doesn't get old. So physical alone gets old.

I'm the best bar in the dojo. I can beat everybody up in the dojo. So what? In the scheme of life, what does that mean? It's important to have those skills. I'm not saying that it isn't, but it doesn't get all that.

I need my self-control. Someone cut me off in traffic driving the car. Do I lose my temper, or can I take a deep breath? If a good teacher relates what's going on on the floor with these types of incidents outside the dojo, I think it's going to make people want to keep coming back. It's really a unique community that we all have.

It's more than lifting weights. It's more than going to the gym. It's a unique community where the body, the mind, and the spirit are all developed. And we all know this. I don't want to sound cliches, but it's important.

We have the ability to do that through our wonderful martial arts. The teachers that do that will find the students want to keep coming back to recharge their batteries. Keep coming back to recharge, and they'll use your dojo and your school as a place to do that. So that's what I have found, and that's what's worked well for us. So, it's not unusual on a Saturday morning for us to have 30 plus black belts, all of whom have been studying for at least 25 years.

And these aren't senseis. These are just people– adults who want to enjoy it. Another thing that happens when you take that approach is you develop a wonderful sense of community, a wonderful sense of, not to be too corny, but a wonderful sense of family. People like to come in and develop friendships over the years.

Some of the best friendships are through the dojo, coming to a class, and seeing my buddy I haven't seen in a week or a couple of nights. It's wonderful.

GEORGE: I love that. In a practical sense, we've got the direction; it's more about not so much about the physical, well, it is about the physical, but way more high level.

BUZZ: Physical plus.

GEORGE: Physical plus, right? So, let's talk about that plus, like, in a practical sense. Because you've got your curriculum, and you've got the things that you're teaching.  How, on a practical level, do you teach all that on the mats?

BUZZ: Well, let's suppose we have a student who we know is lacking in confidence. We work with that student in developing confidence and saying how important confidence is in life, et cetera.  So, when the students are ready, we set them up for success. We might have that student perform individually in front of the entire class. Set everyone off to the side and have the student do a particular technique, a different kata or kumite, or whatever.

And just by doing that, getting up in front of supportive, friendly, happy people, they gain confidence. Before that student would leave the middle of the floor, we'd say, “Now, that's the same confidence you can use in doing your sales project or your sales presentation tomorrow.”

Same thing with the kids. If someone's shy or introverted, we set them up so that they can come out of that shell a little by doing something, maybe in front of the class or in front of several of the teachers. And we always relate that to, “You can use that in school tomorrow, can't you?” or “You can use that at work. You see how easy you could do it?”

So, using the physical curriculum– and I don't want to sell that short. I mean, the students have to be in shape.  If you teach fluff, they'll never come back. But if you can teach something that'll stick with them, mind, body, spirit. It's like, I really believe we need– everyone needs to be charged up.

There's so much that will drain. It’s support from one student to another. One of my favorite sayings is, “As the individual gets better, the class gets better.  As the class gets better, the individual gets better.” It's a mutually symbiotic thing that the class gets better, and I'm a member of that class.

I can't help but get better physically, and mentally, showing more self-control. I mean, the self-control that a black belt may use working with a junior student, we articulate. That's the same self-control you're going to use X, Y, and Z outside the dojo, you know. The same type of fear that's overcome by sparring with someone in a safe way in the dojo is the same kind of fear you'll overcome when you have to do a project at work or things like that.

I know I sound like a broken record. I keep going back to it, but I think it's so important if, through your physical curriculum, you can develop it in your student’s physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional strength. We all need emotional strength. Let's face it. I think you'll be well-served, and students appreciate that. Students have become aware of how much the dojo has helped them, and even people who leave will come back.

I mean, this week alone, we had two black belts come back. One of whom has been away for 13 years. The other has been away for four years. So, they felt the need to get back into the camaraderie of the dojo, the support of the dojo, and the physical excellence of the dojo.

GEORGE: I love it. So, it's really subtle in a way you're teaching the physical, but always noticing where this applies in life.

BUZZ: Yes. Yes. And I think that's very important. It's my opinion. If it's just physical, physical is important, but if it's just physical, that's not a reason to keep a 45-year-old man who's been with, you know, it's got to be more than physical. Along with the physical. Am I making any sense?

GEORGE: Hundred percent. You apply. Talking Pasadena.  I invited you over to speak to our Partners’ group online, and they were really thankful for that.  Again, Buzz, you were the favorite of the event. I just got to tell you that.

BUZZ: You say that to everyone.

GEORGE: No. Well, you know, I've got to say, like, I know, I know. I know, we don't have egos in martial arts, right?

BUZZ: We martial artists don't have any ego, right?

GEORGE: No. Nothing. Not at all. But when you put up a three-day event, and you put in all the effort, and you hear that, you know, you weren’t the favorite, it's something that you've got to process. I'm kidding. But yeah, our members were really thankful for you sharing all the strategies and philosophies. One thing that stuck was a three-step process that you use within awareness and taking action. Do you mind sharing that?

BUZZ: Yeah, we call it AAA theory, and you have an awareness of what's going on, an appreciation for what's going on, and you take action. I think it's so important to be aware of what's going on at your school. Don't hide behind a desk. Don't hide in the office with the door locked. Having an awareness of what's going on. By the way, isn't that what we teach? We teach awareness on how to become more aware. So, awareness, appreciation, and action.

Our teachers are always looking for reasons to do that. That I used was, and this was not too long ago, I walked by the men's changing room before a class, and one of our students, who's been with us for a while, said, “I bought a new truck.”  My ears picked up, and he was talking to his buddies in the changing room about how he's got this new truck. He's so thrilled with it. He's so happy with it. It's beautiful.

So, we came out to the dojo, and before class started, I said, “Hey, congratulations on your new truck. I heard you got a new truck.” “Oh, I did, Mr. Durkin. It was great.” I appreciated the fact that he was so enthusiastic about it, that he told his buddies about it, and that he was very excited about it. So, I showed an appreciation.

I said, “Congratulations. Good for you. I think that's wonderful.” Before I went home that night, I took out one of my little note cards and said– no, but I take it back. I took out one of my note cards and I said, “Congratulations, Dave, on your new truck.” The next morning, I went up to the local gas station up the street, and I got him a $50 gift card for a tank full of gas. Nowadays, a quarter tank full of gas.

I sent that $50 gift certificate with my personal little note, and I just wrote, “Happy motoring.” An old expression, happy motoring, and sent it off to him. And when he came in next week, he was telling everybody, “Oh my God. Look at what Mr. Durkin did. Look at the dojo did.” And I thought he was just so appreciative.

Now, here's the other side of the coin. He's a third-degree black belt. He's been with me a long time. His two children are junior black belts.  All the income they have paid to the dojo. What's $50? It's like nothing. It was a no-brainer. It's $50 out of pocket versus thousands of dollars that he's paid on martial arts training for his children.

Another example is awareness.  Not a class goes by.  I'm not teaching a junior class, for instance, and I'll still go out and shake hands with all the parents. I think that's critical. I welcome them like I'd welcome them if they came to my house.  And I saw a mother whose younger sibling was sitting next to her, who's not a student.

Her brother was on the floor as a youngster. And the mother said to me, “Look at little Joanie, she just got a Kindness Award. A Kindness Award from her class at her elementary school.” And I said, “That's great little Joanie. Congratulations.” I had an awareness. I was glad I found out about that. I showed appreciation for it.

I said, “That's very meaningful. That's what martial arts is about, too, being kind to people.” And before I went home for the night, I wrote a little note saying to Joanie care of her parents, of course. And I said, “Congratulations on getting your Kindness Award. That's wonderful.” Two, or three sentences.

Well, you would have thought the next time they came in that they won an Academy Award, you know, that the mother was thrilled and it was so nice. It's very interesting. I'm a strong believer in handwritten notes.  What do we get in the mail? In America, we get bills, junk mail, and very little personal mail.

What we have found is when we send out these notes, so often they end up on the home refrigerator, tacked to the refrigerator for everyone to see.  I call it the AAA, where you have an awareness of what's going on outside the school with your students and appreciate it. Take an appreciation for it even though it may not be that big a deal to you, and that's no good unless you take action and acknowledge it. I think we do a pretty good job of doing that, along with AAA theory – awareness, appreciation, and action.

GEORGE: It feels like the personal note always loops into this strategy, right? It’s always the thank you, the appreciation part. The action and appreciation part is always based on showing appreciation through physical notes. Almost always?

BUZZ: Almost always. I mean, depending on the situation. We'll make phone calls.  George, this is going to sound really weird, and I don't want people listening to think I'm too weird, but it's not unusual. On certain students’ birthdays, we'll call them up and have two or three members of the staff sing birthday to them.

GEORGE: That's epic.

BUZZ: Just why? Because it's fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. I think it’s important to be self-deprecating. Through cards, through phone calls, through messages, through private messages. I don’t think you can communicate too much, and I think you should not be afraid of communicating with your students. Everyone likes to feel special. You like to feel special, I'm sure.

I like to feel special. Every opportunity you have to make your student feel special, he's going to reaffirm the fact that, “Man, am I glad I'm here?”  I think every teacher who's teaching martial arts has the opportunity to make their students feel special. I'm not talking about rah-rah, way participation awards, yeah, yeah, yeah.

I'm talking about balancing that with something of substance, something that could save someone's life, something that could keep somebody out of trouble, and a place where someone develops so much confidence in themselves that they never have a need to fight. You can develop a place where they have so much confidence in themselves and they're having a great time doing it.

The students will just stay.  Again, I'll keep going back to multi-dimensional. Now, I come from very traditional styles called Uechi-Ryū, UECHI, Uechi-Ryū, it's an Okinawan style of karate. We have four kumites, two-person pre-arranged drills, and we have eight kata.

And that's all we have. That's what we do. But we're able to integrate all these things into what's happening outside the dojo walls than what's happening inside the dojo walls. You know, what's important and to keep people coming back is your belief as the sensei in what you do. Your belief in what you do.

The students, if they see something in you, they like. If they see something in you, they admire. If they see something in you, some skill that they want to have, and they realize that you got that skill through the curriculum you're teaching them, they'll buy into it.

GEORGE: Very cool.  I love it. I want to check just more about a little bit going into your history because I was looking– I saw that you opened your first martial arts school in ‘74. That's a good three years before I arrived on Earth. So, it goes back.

It feels like you've got this such a strong, obviously devotion to your martial arts, but then it feels like these traditions have– it's very simple what you do, but you do it so elegantly and with such focus and it's obviously just paid off heaps and bounds to your success in the industry and, mind, body, and spirit.

Where does all this originate from? Is it coming all the way back to the roots that this evolved from, or maybe I can ask it in a different way, and that is, where does Buzz Durkin get recharged?

BUZZ: Well, that's very interesting. I started my training in 1966, and times were very different then. Martial arts schools were small, dingy, dirty, and if you wanted to really train, you'd have to go up onto the fourth floor of a building to get to the dojo. You know, no one rented space on the first floor. It was too expensive, and it always bugged me that the martial arts schools were like that.

No showers, no good facilities.  They weren't ventilated properly. And yet health clubs at the time were springing up all over America and beautiful facilities. And why can't a martial arts school be like that? One of my missions was to build our own school and have it built to custom to our design and make it a place where a student would be proud to come. A place where a student would be proud to show their friends. This is where I work out.

In 1974, I opened the dojo. For 14 years, we rented a space of about 1800 square feet with the goal of someday building our own school. That dream came true in 1988. We built our own freestanding building, 8,000 square feet. It's beautiful. It's got hardwood floors, showers, locker rooms, the whole thing

Thirty-five years later – in 1988, it still holds up. People come in, and they think it's a new building.  I know, George, how much martial arts training helped me.  I know how much it helped me and what it's done for me in my life. And if I can give back just a fraction of that to even one student, I will consider my mission as a success.

I know how much it's helped me and what it's done for me and, as time has gone on, how it's enabled me to make a wonderful living, and, if I can have that happen to the students who study with me, that'd be great. You know, one thing I'm very proud of is that we have an association. 12 of my senior students own their own dojos. They make a wonderful living teaching. They're all professional martial artists, and it's just a wonderful thing to see. We all get together for seminars, black belt testing, and social events.  You know, I don't know. It's like everyone listening to this call: you love martial arts.

And in my opinion, there's nothing better than it. So, what got Buzz Durkin? I know how much it did for me when I grew up. I grew up in an upper-middle-class family, never got into fights, never got into– never was troublesome. I went into the service for a couple of years because I had to because everyone was doing it at that time. I just thought martial arts training karate would be something good to know as I go off into the military.

I never had a dream that I'd be doing it full-time 50-something years later. That's what happened, and I don't regret one single day of it.

GEORGE: Amazing. Buzz, before we wrap things up, I want to ask you about your book, Success is Waiting: The Martial Arts School Owner's Guide to Teaching, Business, and Life. I actually wanted to have a copy in my hand, but I don't.  It's in the mail.  There we go.  I love it.

BUZZ: I always have a copy of the book around somewhere.

GEORGE: Can you share a bit? What is in the book, and what are the philosophies around that? Knowing what I know of just being in your presence for two of your talks, is that sort of the foundation of the book, or tell us more about the book?

BUZZ: The book is a hundred percent truisms and all anecdotal stories that I have, anecdotal stories that I’ve learned, that I've lived through during the past, at the time I wrote the book several years ago, forty plus years of teaching and working with people, working with different people. The first part of the book is loaded with anecdotal stories that I'm sure every martial arts teacher has experienced.

I talk about how I dealt with that anecdotal experience and what it taught me. And how I learned about human nature because of this anecdotal experience that I had at the dojo. Another section of the dojo goes to examples of great customer service, how to be aware, and how to be appreciative.

We have a section there on outstanding student service. The last section is basically on running the business and techniques and skills to acquire a successful dojo, whether saving a certain percentage of your income every month or planning ahead. It's basically a little bit of my starts, my history of what got me interested in the martial arts, anecdotal stories that have happened through the years, student service tips, and, quite frankly, business tips

And, you know, one of the things that got me, it keeps me excited is I started my karate training in 1966 with George Mattson. I don't know if that name rings a bell. He was the first American to receive a black belt in weight in Okinawan Karate, Uechi-Ryū Karate, and believe it or not, he's 86 years old. He's still teaching two or three times a week down in Florida.

I still have my original teacher after all these years, which I think is, I'm very proud of. He's been an inspiration to me. I think primarily what I've learned from him is perseverance. You know, when we went ahead to– and my dream was to build our own school.

I was mocked and laughed at. Realtors, “You're crazy. You'll never get alone. You'll never get that kind of money to run a karate school.” In those days, karate schools were little storefronts, you know. You could roll up the rug, take down the heavy bag, and be gone

And from my teacher, primarily perseverance. Stick with what you want to do. Believe in what you want to do. Don't listen to the naysayers. I think that's great advice for every martial arts dojo owner.

If you want something, go for it. There's nothing that can hold you back except your own personal beliefs.  We teach people to believe in yourself and be self-confident. We have to be that. We can't be afraid to ask for X amount of dollars for tuition and say, “This is the greatest thing you'll ever do.”

And the lack of confidence to say, “This is what I should charge fairly.” That makes any sense. The other thing that I find as time goes on and we're celebrating our 50th anniversary, and I think all true martial artists will find this to be true, it's a joyful experience, and it gets more joyful as time goes by because you understand it more. The more you understand it, the happier it makes you.

I really believe that if a young school owner is out there, keep at it, stick with it, and plow through it. It's a wonderful experience, and we can do so much good for our communities by running a proper martial arts school. You can help so many people. It's just a wonderful, wonderful thing. I'm pretty excited about it.

GEORGE: I love it. I’m really glad that you mentioned charging your worth because I really feel you do a disservice when you don't charge your worth; where you might be.

BUZZ: I agree. A hundred percent, yeah.

GEORGE: –where you might be thinking you're doing people a favor, but you're not, because it's just true that when people pay, they pay attention. When they pay more, they value it more. You know, it can't be the best thing in the world if I'm paying next to nothing for it. So, there's got to be– it's got a way up; the financial, what I invest has got a way up with the quality of service that I'm getting.

BUZZ: Yeah. Yes. If you don't charge– if you charge a pittance, that shows you the value you think of it. I mean, I get that so many times when I talk to especially young school owners, “Well, I really should be charging more.” Well, charge more and make it worth, you know. But one little tip that we do whenever we have a tuition increase, whenever we do, we add some value to the program, whether it's an upgrade in the changing rooms, whether it's an advanced, an extra class, whether it's a more private lesson or whatever.

So, we never go up on tuition without adding some value to what's going on here.  But I think it's sad when teachers will think that, “This is the best thing since sliced bread. It's great. We have the best program, but I can't charge that. That's too much. I can't charge that.”

And a lot of times, people don't understand how they should charge. They pick a number out of the air and say, “That's a good number.” That's not the way to do it, you know. You write down your pros and cons, your expenses, your income, what you need to run, not only your school but your household, and come up with a figure.

If I have a hundred students, I have to charge this. If I have 300 students, I have to charge this to cover expenses, et cetera.  We add so much to the community. The martial arts school deserves to make a good living. Deserves to make a good living. Every bit as important as any doctor in the community, as any lawyer in the community, as any CPA in the community.

And they don't do half of what the good that we do. I would encourage every school owner, especially new school owners, to be bold and, you know, back up what you say by charging what is fair, right? People will appreciate that.  People will appreciate that.

And I think, probably the highest tuition around, we have probably the biggest school around. You said it earlier. If you charge something the fair price of value, people will value it. You know, as historically, as I look, when our tuition went up, our retention got better. Isn't that strange? People valued it more, you know.

GEORGE: There's a famous copywriter, Dan Kennedy. I don't know if you've read any of his books.

BUZZ: Yes, I know who he is. Yes.

GEORGE: Right. Dan Kennedy's philosophy on pricing is you're only strategic, competitive edge in the market is to be the most expensive, not the second most expensive, not the third, but the most. And when you're the most expensive, then you've set yourself as a category of one because why are you the most expensive? Then people start to ask questions, and it's like, if you had to walk into a Mercedes motor garage versus a Kia, they are both great vehicles; they both get you from A to B, but Mercedes is probably going to have a nicer floor.

Salespeople are maybe going to be dressed more professionally. It's going to be a different level of experience. You're going to get a feel of the experience. Because you're going to

BUZZ: That is so true. Bingo. A hundred percent. That is so articulated well. That's very, very, very true.

GEORGE: Awesome.

BUZZ: We have a wonderful thing going on. I know you do a tremendous amount of good through your teachings and the opportunities you present to other school owners, so kudos to you. It’s a wonderful thing that we do, and let's keep doing it

GEORGE: I love it. Well, Buzz, thanks so much for hanging out. I much appreciate your time and it's always a pleasure to be in your presence and learning from you and your philosophies. I walk away and recharged, so that's amazing. Where can people-

BUZZ: Well, thank you. Go ahead.

GEORGE: Sorry. Where can people go and learn about you and if they want to reach out to you if that's an option?

BUZZ: If anyone wants to talk to me, they can reach out to me. I'd be happy to talk to any school owners. If you're interested in my philosophy and stuff, the book is on Amazon, and it’s done pretty well, actually.  I value our friendship very much. It was a pleasure meeting you for the first time, and every time I meet with you, I like you more. So, everything's good.

GEORGE: That's awesome. Amazing. Buzz, thanks so much. Have a great evening, and I’ll speak to you soon.

BUZZ: My pleasure. Thank you very much for the opportunity. Bye bye.

GEORGE: Bye.

How epic was that? Did you get some value and some insight from Buzz Durkin? What is the one thing that you can grab from this and implement in your school today?  Reach out to me wherever you find me on social, on Facebook, look me up, or shoot me an email at george@martialartsmedia.com, and let me know what is the one thing that you got from this.

I would love to know, and if you got a lot of value out of this, do me a favor, and please share it with one of your martial arts friends, an instructor, a school owner, and even better if you can tag me where you do that, I will give you all the praise for sharing this episode and passing on the magic.

All right. Thanks so much for tuning in. Remember martialartsmedia.com/147. You'll find the show notes and all the videos that we spoke about right at the beginning of all the black belts, and if you need help growing and scaling your martial arts school, we have a great community. We call Partners where we get together every week, we mastermind and share some awesome marketing strategies, business growth strategies, and so forth.

If you want to know more, reach out to our website, go to our website, martialartsmedia.com/scale. This is a short little form. Tell me a bit about yourself, what you have going on, what you're working on, and where you're stuck, and I'll reach out and see if we can be of help.

All right. Thanks so much. I'll see you in the next episode. Cheers.


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146 – The Partners Intensive: A Deep Dive into Australia’s Premier Martial Arts Business Event

George Fourie explores the highlights and game-changing strategies shared from the Partners Intensive – a live martial arts business event held on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

IN THIS EPISODE:

  • What Was Covered At The Partners Intensive: A Premium Martial Arts Business Event
  • The 1 Thing That All Martial Arts Business Owners Desire
  • What’s Special About Hosting Martial Arts Business Events On The Sunshine Coast?
  • The Magic Delivered By Bushi-Ban International’s Grandmaster Zulfi Ahmed
  • The 90-Day Growth Plan That Eliminates Overwhelm, Clarify Goals, And Delivers Martial Arts Business Success

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Apply Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Hey, it's George Fourie. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast. Today, I'm going to be doing a bit of a review of an epic martial arts business event that we ran here on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. We are going to be talking about the highlights, epic, real cool things that we did. And most importantly, also talk about the next event that's coming up and how you can potentially be part of it.

All show notes can be found at martialartsmedia.com/146. Head over there and download everything, and you'll get all the resources on how you can potentially join us for the next event. All right, let's jump in.

A couple of months back, we hosted our Partners Intensive. Now, some context: you've heard me talk about Partners if you've been on the podcast. If you haven't, Partners is our martial arts business group that we work with, school owners from around the world. We get together online a lot, well, two to four times per week.

But it's also important to get together in person. And so, we put together the Partners Intensive, which was a three-day event that we hosted on the Sunshine Coast here in Australia. I've got to be honest; it way exceeded my expectations of how amazing it was. We had speakers from multiple parts of Australia and also Grand Master Zulfi Ahmed from Bushi Ban International, who flew over from the United States to come and join us for the event.

Martial Arts Media Partners Intensive

I'll tell you what. You've probably been to a business event, but if you haven't, it's the one thing that brings it all together, right? It's great that we've got all these online tools, and we can switch on Zoom and teleport virtually altogether from all different locations and connect fast.

And there’s nothing that beats that quick way of accessing information. But when it comes to human-to-human connection, we martial artists like to be around people, and the same goes with the events. Plus, you can get all the content that you want online, but it's that one conversation you have with a person who sits next to you, that insight that you get, that conversation that you're a part of where the magic happens.

And I want to say, whether it's my event or someone else's, but if you're going to go, look at the business, look at it as a nice little tax write-off to get away and do it because whatever you spend, you get back tenfold plus form awesome relationships with like-minded people, other martial arts, business owners, et cetera.

That was a universal plug for all events, including ours. Coming up. I want to give a bit of a rundown. I'll tell you what, a bit of insight from me. We moved across the country from Perth, which is in Western Australia, all the way to the East, which is the Sunshine Coast. For those of you, maybe if you're in the United States, that's the equivalent of moving from San Diego all the way through to New York, give or take.

So, opposite sides of the country, right? Of the, in our case, the continent. And I knew we had to put this event together. I was thinking, “Look, where do we go? Where do we go?” It's always good. I was putting this event together, and I was thinking, “Where do I host it around the country?”

Most events typically happen in a nice city, and people fly in from all over, so it's going to be easy to be accessible. At the time I was standing in this thought process, I was standing on a beach close by, Mooloolaba, that's how you say it. I got it wrong a few times anyway. My daughter's playing in the playground, which is down by the beach and the sand.

I'm standing there thinking, “We could do it on the Gold Coast. We could do it in Sydney.” As my daughter's playing, I look up and see, here's the Mantra Hotel. I look the other way, and I see the ocean, and I look back up at the hotel, and I'm like, “Well, it's got to be there, right?”

It's in my backyard. We moved here because I believe it’s one of the most beautiful places in the country, if not the world. And I thought, “Wow, wouldn't it be magnificent to bring martial arts school owners from all over the world to meet up on the Sunshine Coast?” And so that was it.

It was so successful that I've already booked the hotel for next year, June 2024. So, how did the event go down? All right. I played mostly part as a host, which is what I wanted to do. I think everybody in our group hears me talk a lot. I like the aspect of bringing so many people around and bringing people, having people from our community step up and share a lot of great insights.

Martial Arts Media Ross Cameron George Fourie

I think I'm just going to break it down from top to bottom. I kicked off the event, and straight after me, we had Ross Cameron, who spoke about the $20,000-a-month pro shop formula. This was a really exciting session. And, you know, when I was promoting the event, I promised that within day one, y

ou would walk away with six figures.

 

Strategies that would get you six figures in the bank if implemented within the next 12 months. And we did that on day one. A big part of this was Ross Cameron's $20,000-a-month pro shop formula.

That's generating $20,000 a month from your pro shop. Ross, being an engineer by trade, went down into all the aspects to look at and how to design your pro shop, from the layout, where it should be exactly, how to display the items, what to display, and where to source them from, changing stock.

There was so much to cover. It was a really, really impactful 90 minutes. Next up, we had Cheyne McMahon, who spoke about the open day—a six-figure open-day formula. That's something we've covered a lot. Shane's done really well with running open days. We call it the six-figure open day because that's what's generated on the day in student value.

Partners Intensive - Cheyne McMahon & George Fourie

For him, his record, I think, was 89 students signups on the day. When I moved up to the Sunshine Coast, Shane lives in Brisbane, and I knew he was running an open day. I thought, hang on, I want to get this on film. We've talked about the strategies and bounced it around, but I've never really been hands on a part of it.

I drove down to Brisbane, filmed the entire open day, and just watched him. Watch the whole process. It was great because we got to talk about it after, but we got to run through the open day live and break down exactly each strategy, what to do from the marketing, how to fill the room, what to do during the day, the demos, who to get involved, organic marketing through the community.

And so we did a rundown through the video and basically covered all the strategies from that. Awesome. Next up, this is all day one.

We had Lindsay Guy. Lindsay Guy was talking about retention boosting strategies, things that they've done within their school. When we started working with Lindsay Guy, it was reported that he's grown his business by 233% since being in the community.

Partners Intensive Lindsay Guy George Fourie

He attributes a lot of that to things he gets from our community. That's not “me and me. Give myself a pat on the shoulder”, but the weekly calls that we have where we have a bunch of martial arts school owners that get together. That's where the magic happens because that's where the ideas are shared.

The martial arts school owners that attend those calls are the ones that succeed the most because that's where you get the live feedback, right? There's nothing like bringing a problem to a call, and you've got someone that's been in the business 30, 40 years and has gone through those different phases and be able to share those insights with you.

How to create retention boosted customer experiences from first contact to walk-in to introduction to sign up. Awesome. We finished the day off a bit early, but we did something epic. We did a mastermind on a river cruise. We hired, what do you call them? A big boat cruiser. To do a river cruise through all the canals.

We also got a sponsor on board club works and martial arts software, and they got on board and contributed with gifts and just really enhancing the experience, which was really, really amazing. So anyway, it's sunset now; if you haven't seen the sunset around the Sunshine Coast, it's pretty spectacular.

I've got a video and some footage that I'll include below this post, martialartsmedia.com/146. Go check it out. It's pretty amazing. We had the river cruise. We got on board. It was networking, a bunch of drinks, a bunch of fun, and picked up a bunch of world-class seafood and had meals on board.

That wrapped up day one for us. Pretty amazing for day one. On day two, we had Grand Master Zulfi Ahmed. Now, there are a million things that I can say about working with Grand Master Zulfi Ahmed on the day and through the weekend. But I can say he completely blew everyone away with the value, the knowledge, his energy just unmatched.

Grand Master Zulfi is a unique individual. You've probably heard of him; if not, go look him up. Based in Pasadena, Texas. Bushi Ban International is his organization. And Master Zulfi, we spent the entire Saturday with him going through a bunch of topics, which I was actually sworn to secrecy and not allowed to share.

Partners Intensive Zulfi Ahmed

I can tell you that everybody in our group still talks about the experience that day, and he went over and above and delivered. After the event, we visited different schools around the Sunshine Coast in Brisbane, having lunch, having dinners, having talks. For me, it was just a super, really, really valuable experience.

The amount of knowledge that I gained spending a couple of days with Grand Master Zulfi Ahmed. That was Saturday, a jam-packed day. The next morning, Sunday, we started wrapping things up.

Grand Master Zulfi shared his insight, which was what he promised. His promise was that he would show you how to increase, give you a million-dollar idea, how to increase your trial-to-member conversions by more than 70%.

He demonstrated that with a bunch of school owners. They sat down, and he showed us the structure of how they do that, which was mind-blowing, pretty spectacular. Within that, we hosted what we call the Instructors’ Roundtable, but we had a bunch of top school owners who joined us and basically sat on the hot seat.

That was a great experience. We had Grand Master Ridvan Manav shares from the Australian Martial Arts Academy in Sydney—one of the largest martial arts schools within the world. Listening to the wealth of knowledge he brought to the table, being interactive with everyone in the group, being open and generous, and helping everybody within the group.

Also, Zak Jovanov from Premier Martial Arts in Perth sharing how they run thousands plus students between their two schools and just a wealth of knowledge, and it is great to have him on board. That almost brought us to the end of the day.

Then we had Kyl Reber. Kyl from Chikara Martial Arts in Brisbane. When I put all the event details together, I shared everything, and he sent me a message and said, “Hey George, I really love the lineup. It's all great on money-making strategies and everything. But if I could take 10, 30 minutes and share a couple of things that we do differently and how we've grown our school to 370 students plus by really focusing on community activities.”

And then another great community member, Kyl Reber, shared cultivating culture and community for retention. Kyl sent me a message after I put the lineup together for the Partners Intensive and said, “Hey, George really loved the lineup. Everything seems focused on money-generating activities, which is awesome, but we do things different.”

Martial Arts Media Partners Kyl Reber George Fourie

And organically, they've grown their martial arts school to 370 plus students without running ads but really focusing on their culture and community activities. Kyl said, “Look, if I've got 10, 30 minutes, I'd love to share.” And I said, “Well, you've got 90 minutes. Take it away.” It was a really amazing session and just brought a bit of a different flavor to the event.

Last but not least, I finished up with the 90-day growth plan. Every 90 days, we get together and work on a plan—a plan for what are the things that you need to do. And I guess for, I don't know about you, but sometimes you go to an event, and you get all this information and insight, and then you go home. You're so pumped with everything to do, but now I've got this long to-do list of things you've got to get done, and you don't have a plan on the most essential thing to do next.

It's great that you've got all these ideas, but if you're at a certain level and someone is at a completely another level to you, the insight that you might have gotten is great advice, but just not in the moment. The 90-day growth plan is all about taking all the things from the event and make sure that you get a plan structured and you know what to do as soon as you get home.

Anyway, that gives you a bit of an idea of what happened at the event. We've got a few events coming up, and I'd love to invite you to a few, depending on when you're listening to this. I'll be hosting the Martial Arts Media Intensive. I'm coming over to the United States. I'll be hosting the Martial Arts Media Intensive as part of the Bushi Ban Power Week, hosted by Grand Master Zulfi in Pasadena, Texas, which will be running between the 18th and the 22nd of October, 2023.

We'll be there Friday, the 20th. We're going to be hosting the event, and we've got five speakers covering over three different continents, right? Two speakers from the United States, two here from Australia, as well as from the United Kingdom. It's an epic week that Grand Master Zulfi hosts the Bushi Ban Power Week, which is their martial arts organization.

There's between gradings, martial arts seminars, and the martial arts workshop, business workshop. There's a lot happening. If you're in Texas or keen to travel, I'd love to meet you in the USA. First time back in five years, almost since the last time I spoke at an event. Three years, four years, something like that.

Anyway, we'd love to see you. On top of that, we have two martial arts business events happening. One online and one again in Australia in June 2024. I know online isn't as cool as in person, but the cool thing about online is that we've got access to speakers from around the globe, and we get double the work done in half the time.

And you don't have to travel, right? I know, yep, being in person is great, but in between, we run our online events too, which are awesome. And no matter where you are in the world, you could potentially join us.

Look, if you'd like to know anything about these events, shoot me an email at george@martialartsmedia.com or wherever you see this, comment below, whether it's on Facebook or Instagram, or wherever you see this, comment below and ask. I will reach out to you and share with you all the details of how you can attend the next event. Awesome. Look, thanks so much for watching or listening.

If you've got some great insights from this, please share this with someone, one of your martial arts school and friends, somebody who might get good value from this. I look forward to speaking to you on the next podcast. Go to martialartsmedia.com/146, and you'll find all the photos of the events, some videos, and a couple of cool resources.

Anyway, thanks so much. I'll speak to you soon. Cheers.

 

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Podcast Sponsored by Martial Arts Media™ Partners:

145 – How Kyl Reber’s Martial Arts School Serves 370+ Members – All Through Referrals

Kyl Reber shares his secrets to 27 years of successful growth in his martial arts school, driven by the power of organic marketing through word-of-mouth referrals.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • How Kyl grew his martial arts business through organic marketing, primarily via word-of-mouth referrals
  • The link between Imposter Syndrome and martial arts studio’s pricing strategies
  • Why martial arts school owners often undersell themselves and encounter growth challenges
  • Key areas to prioritize in your martial arts school beyond the curriculum
  • The history behind their martial arts school's empowering slogan, ‘Back Yourself’
  • And more

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

TRANSCRIPTION

Hey, it's George Fourie. Welcome to another Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast. Today I am interviewing one of our great clients, one of our members of our Partners community, Kyl Reber. Kyl is from Brisbane. Chikara Martial Arts. You can look them up. 

And this interview is a bit of an extension from the Partners Intensive, which is an event that we hosted here on the Sunshine at the beginning of June. And Kyl was one of the featured speakers talking about the things that they are doing in the community. 

And what is mind-blowing for many other school owners is Kyl and his team, they're just pushing past the 370-member mark. And at this point, they've only focused on organic marketing strategies. 

It's all about community. It's all about giving back. It's all about the things that they do in their school and the impact that they make within their community. 

And so I wanted to get Kyl on and dig a bit deeper, talk a bit more about the strategies, what they do. 

And the great thing is I've been working with Kyl for a little more than six months, and I haven't really tapped into that backstory about how he got started on this journey when they opened their school, what got him into martial arts and so this was a great opportunity for that. 

So jump into the episode. All the show notes and resources are on our website, martialrtsmedia.com/145. 

That's the numbers one, four, five. Head over there and download the transcript and resources. That's it. Let's get started. Jump in. 

GEORGE: Mr. Kyl Reber, welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business podcast.

Martial arts school marketing Kyl Reber

KYL: Thanks, George. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure and an honor to be here.

GEORGE: Awesome. Long time coming.

KYL: Long time coming. Third time lucky.

GEORGE: Third time lucky. Hey, so thanks for jumping on. I'm really excited about this conversation and what I'm excited about is I've known you for a little while, we've been working together for a little while and I haven't really tapped into the back story of you and how everything came about.

So I'm really excited to chat about that and just witness a lot of the things that you're doing in your school and how you approach things differently. But first up, I always like to kick off this being … We always talk about marketing and attract, increase, and retain strategies.

If you have to share, what is the one thing, your go-to strategy that's helped you grow the school the most, generated the most students, strategy that you always lean on, that you always go back to and repeat over time?

KYL: I guess our biggest strategy or our biggest way of generating business is it always has been referral. But I guess if you were to put that into a strategy, a strategy is our image and our standing in the community.

Because if we have a good image standing in the community and members come to join, they're very quick to refer to other people that they know about what we do. You and I have had conversations in the past about Facebook marketing and all that sort of stuff.

Without sounding arrogant, that's still quite foreign to us. And I guess we've been very lucky that we're able to build the club to where it has gotten purely by just referral, word of mouth. We'll have whole families train. We have people very willingly wanting to involve themselves more in what we do externally.

So I think, referral has been always something that's been very good for us to lean on, and it's something that's very important to us. Our culture and community are the real backbone of what we do.

It's something that we've really strived to, I guess you'd say protect. As every club has, we've had people come in the past over the years that haven't been fit for that culture and community and we've had to have conversations about maybe this isn't the place for you because it's such a strong thing that works so well for us and it's continuing to work.

Essentially from an advertising point of view, it's only in the last 12 months that we are really starting to look at Facebook ads and formal advertising. Prior to that, it was just community.

GEORGE: I love that. I think it would help just for listeners, the context of where you're at in the business because for most guys to get to the level of growth that where you're at, it's taken some substantial advertising, investing in Facebook marketing, etc. So where are you currently at with student numbers?

KYL: Student numbers we're hovering around probably … I think we're probably, as of this week, we're sitting around that 360, 370 mark. We've had some really great growth this year.

But I think the thing for that is we've also had years where we've grown quite slowly. But our numbers are very good. We're really focusing this year on our community and our culture and it works for us.

But yeah. Look, the club itself has been open for … This is our 28th … No, this is our 27th year. So it very certainly has not happened overnight, but I think we're finally getting a rhythm.

GEORGE: The 27-year overnight success.

KYL: Something like that. And look, for 11 of those years I was working full-time in another field that was incredibly demanding and it was full-time/seven days a week. Our lowest point ever of members was six. We had six members. So I think it's that when you're trying to grow …

I say to my instructors when they're complaining it's a quiet night or whatever, or we've only got 20 something in this class, and I say to them, “Guys, that used to be our whole club.” So it's trying to just chip away. I said at a weekend at a seminar, just hurry up and be patient.

GEORGE: I want to loop back into this, but I think it's good to then just go back to your beginnings. Because 27 years … Now, you're doing well. And I want to come back to what is this momentum.

What is driving this? But how did it all start for you? And you mentioned you were working a full-time job. There were six students.

KYL: Yeah. I started martial arts when I was 15. I turn 48 next week so add that up. I grew up in a country town in country Queensland. The martial art I started was purely based on what was closest to our house. I could walk there.

I was never a team sports person. I raced BMX semi-professionally when I was young as well. So I liked relying on me, me, and me. So I got into martial arts there. I moved to Brisbane when I was about 18, 19. Picked up Zen Do Kai. Ironically, my instructor grew up in my hometown and raced speedway with my dad.

Both our moms knew each other so it was kind of this aligning. And he moved back to Brisbane … Back to Maryborough, sorry, to work in 1996. At the time that club … So it was Zen Do Kai that we were doing predominantly then. There was a little bit of the BJC Muay Thai that we'd started doing as well.

There wasn't push as such. It was just an obligation. I have to move back. There were probably about 15 people at the club, just two nights a week in a scout hall in Western Brisbane. And it was just are you all right to take it over. And I can't even remember the conversation. I was just, yep, okay. And it just went from there.

I was working full in security, which started as a weekend gig, but I ended up being the operations manager of that company and I was with them for nearly 20 years. So our niche and our stuff was a lot of concerts and festivals.

So it was good because I was getting to practice everything on the weekend and then come back to the club during the week and go, so this works, this doesn't work, this works, this doesn't work. Don't do that because that happens. I would always call it, I was fast-tracking my students. And that job was great. I saw a lot. I did a lot.

But it meant that from a time point of view … And again, this is in the late '90s, early 2000s. I think you could have counted on one hand how many full-time schools were in Brisbane. I always think we can be sometimes 10-plus years behind the likes of Melbourne and Sydney.

So I was doing that job. My wife and I had not long had our second child. I was working more than I was sleeping. And it just got to a point where I was like, well, maybe if I create a new job. So I had this weird concept about going full-time. It was the dream and my wife and I talked about it extensively.

We just randomly found a shed for rent when we were coming home from Bunnings one Sunday morning and went in. It was a month-to-month lease and we ended up being there for eight and a half years in that place. And for the first 12 months I was working my full-time job still and trying to get CMA or Chikara Martial Arts as it was called back then, I was trying to get that off the ground.

So I was essentially working two jobs. And the idea was if we got to 50 and then if we maybe got to 100 or if we could manage … When we started the shed, we thought, okay, we've got a little bit in the bank, we can do six months rent and if doesn't work in six months, that's it. We're out.

And we were covering rent plus more in six weeks. So it just exploded. Our first Open Day … And we've spoken about Open Days before. It was probably the most archaic/embarrassing Open Day advertising you would've ever seen. And we signed up nearly 40 members in one day.

And for me back then I'm like, oh my God, what have I created? So I had stars in my eyes at the start and then I made the big decision. Because I started with that company that I was working with as a teenager and now I'm in my mid-30s. I had the same boss the whole time so we were a bit like a family.

So leaving that was hard. So for the first 12 months of leaving, I was working in the shed and then I was just working in a bottle shop, just making up the gap. So the growth has been very progressive.

After that 12 months, I managed to go full-time, or as a lot of people were calling it at the time I was retiring. But I think it's just been the hardest … I'm working the hardest I think I ever have. But I think now we moved into a second center …

Well, we moved in there in 2019 and we were in there for I think four months before Covid hit and we had to shut down. But that progressive move I think has been what has kept us around for 27 years. It's not without its dramas, but there are just so many good movements.

I guess as far as advice, I see so many martial arts instructors wanting to go full-time and they just want to go completely in right from the start. The full-time place right away, the best mats, the best gear, everything, and they start essentially … And then this is just the way I see it. They start on the back foot straight away.

So they're already having to get business loans, they're already however many thousands of dollars on the back foot from the start. It certainly wasn't intentional, but we've been lucky enough to never really have a …

We've never had a business loan. We've just progressively chipped away, built and built and built. Because I think I see a trend now in the industry. From where we are, within a 5K radius of us I think there are eight full-time martial arts schools.

So they're just everywhere now. I think you have to be very methodical and make sure you are just chipping away and doing something every day to grow.

GEORGE: Very cool. So what beliefs did you have to overcome? If I look at martial arts school owners that I talk to, there's so much in the mind that you've got to conquer first. Belief about your martial arts, belief about your value, belief about yourself. And then I think the big question is, how badly do you really want this?

It's okay to not want it, but I think you've got to be honest with yourself. It's nice to think, hey, I can have this full-time school and I can have this, but there's a big gap there between, well, I'm here and maybe …

We've got a lot of people in our group that have got high paying jobs, high careers, and the martial arts is just a side gig and it would be really hard to make that full-time switch.

And then there are others that that's the big aspiration. So if you were to go back to where you were, what are the things that you had to conquer just internally to get you to take those steps?

BJJ marketing Kyl Reber

KYL: One major thing I had to conquer was that as much as you're … And I'm still trying to conquer it to be totally honest. As much as you're plugging this community side of things … And it's important to you. Plugging it makes it sound like it's not important. It's probably the most important thing.

There are these guys at the club who have … My oldest daughter's 16, and my youngest one's nearly 13. They held them as babies and now they're teaching them as teenagers. Probably the biggest thing for me was switching from that. I always call ourselves a club, but at the end of the day, it is a business and your time is precious and your time is worth something.

I think for a lot of us, martial arts instructors, Imposter Syndrome is real. And I think if you're not dealing with that a little bit at some point, that could be something to do with maybe checking yourself in and having a look at your humility.

We are very good at what we do and if you put … I always say to some other smaller club owners that I mentor, if you were to write a resume of how much time and years that you've put into where you are, and then you equate that into another job, think about what you'd be getting paid.

So I had a conversation once a little while ago with an instructor in a suburban club, but very good. And I was sitting with one of my students who is a police officer. We were talking about time and money and how much your time is worth. And this guy had worked out that he'd been basically training and perfecting his craft for about 17 years.

So I said to the student of mine who was sitting there who was a police officer, I said, “So if we transferred that over to the police, what would that equate to financially and rank-wise?”

And she said, “Well, you'd be at least a senior constable and you'd probably be on the better part of 100 grand a year.” Yet this guy was having real trepidation with going from teaching 10 bucks a class to $15 a class.

So the big thing, I think, is underselling ourselves. And putting up our prices is just something that's still, for me … I know how much we're worth, but it's something that I still struggle with. I'm struggling with it less. But I think that, and you would see too, the amount of martial arts clubs and instructors that are just underselling themselves is ridiculous. That's probably a big one.

GEORGE: Why do you think that is?

KYL: I think because we doubt ourselves. And again, don't get me wrong, there are people out there that have this … And I envy them. I guess they're in touch with themselves more than they go, nope, I am worth this. This is good.

But I think we still have this … I don't know whether you'd call it a suburban mentality as opposed to, no, this is a business. I don't know. I think the community sometimes forgets that we are a business too.

In Australia especially. There have been full-time clubs in the States since the '50s and '60s, but in Australia, I think there is still that martial arts that you're just in that scout hall or community hall a couple of times a week. You just pay as you go. We've got bills to pay as well. I think we're breaking out of that.

In Queensland, we seem to be anyway. But I think the way I think makes it easier for us … And this is something that I'm always working on, and I'll admit I don't always get it right.

The more professional you are, the more when it comes to people paying for your services, they have less of an issue handing that over because I guess they're seeing what they get in return.

Like the suburban nights where the kids would show up for class and the instructor's not shown up or they're late from work or they're this and that.

So professionalism is a thing that's huge for me. I'm constantly trying to work on it because you have one slip up and you're like … But yeah. I think that's a big one for me. As I said, there are other instructors that I mentor, and that's the first thing that I'll say to them.

And it's flowing downhill from the conversations I've had with you about you could easily add X amount to this and no one would bat an eyelid. Because if people are training with you just for the price, then without sounding horrible, how much time are you spending on them for that amount price?

GEORGE: Yeah. 100%. I think for me because that's one of the first conversations I always have to have when we take on people into our Partners group, is charging. I always started with it's just the easy thing. Look, you've just got to up your prices.

But it's unpacking the beliefs that come with that. Sometimes it's just so ingrained in the culture. You've been told money doesn't grow on trees and then people flick around Mcdojo words that nobody even knows what it actually means. It's just a word that people can flick around.

Sometimes it's the Tall Poppy Syndrome, the crab in the bucket, other people are just dragging them down and it's like, you can charge more, just not more than me. I sometimes feel it's a comparison of what it is versus what it does.

If your pricing strategy is looking at what everybody else is pricing and what they do, then you're just one of everyone else. And so now you're comparing, well, I'm in a school hall and they're in a full-time center so I've got to charge less. But hang on, what if your value exceeds the club in the full-time location?

KYL: 100%.

GEORGE: What if the outcome that your martial arts deliver is more? This means if you can articulate that, you can charge more.

KYL: This is why I very rarely … I won't say I don't because sometimes I do. But I very rarely look at what other clubs are charging, look at what other clubs … Like their classes or that sort of thing. It's not to be arrogant. I'm not selling their product, I'm selling my own. So if I'm confident in what I'm doing and I'm confident in my instructors …

And I put a bit of pressure on them. I think if you focus on yourself and your growth and you focus on your professionalism, I know for a fact without getting into money too much, I know for a fact we are probably one of the higher-end fee schools in our area, and I don't lose any sleep over that. I think our product is strong. I think our community is strong. Our center is so clean I think it sometimes looks like a museum more than anything else.

It's air-conditioned. It's in a nice place. We have all these other things. Sure, there are things we always work on, but the number of people that walk into our place and go, “I didn't expect this place to be so clean, neat, tidy.” It's air-conditioned. We have a polite team at the desk. We have all this sort of stuff. That sells everything.

The parents that come in particular … Again, not to downplay them, but they're not there to check your -and check what you're teaching. You're doing this form at this rank. Why aren't you doing it at this rank? Are the instructors nice? Is the place clean and tidy? Do they come here and does their child feel safe? Tick, tick, tick. Okay, sign me up.

And I think that's one area that we miss. You see a lot of fight gyms or suburban clubs, for example … And God bless them. We were there once too. They focus so much on the training. The training is hard. Train this, train hard, hard, hard, hard.

But that's one reason maybe why your club's got only 10 students and you're training in someone's garage. It's not the fact that you're having to soften what you're doing in order to grow. You've just got to think more of the masses.

We do a lot of work … Well, I kind of fell into it. Do a lot of work with kids with autism, kids who have been bullied a lot at school, and mental health issues. And half the time, a lot of our stuff is we just chat with them. I do PTs with kids where I take them for a walk and they leave for the walk all angry, and then they come back and they're all rejuvenated and the parents go, “I'd pay three times what you charge for that.”

That's the sort of thing where you go, okay, we're doing something right across the board. You can have great martial arts and be awesome at what you do, but the backend stuff. And this is what I'm working on the most now in the business more than ever before.

The front end, I'm confident in. It's the backend stuff. That's a massive transition for people I think when they start going full-time that they have to actually get off the mat and sit in front of a computer more than they're willing to do.

GEORGE: 100%. So I want to loop back to the beginning of our conversation because you were talking about organic growth and where you got to without the advertising.

And I think a good transition for this, was when we hosted our Partners Intensive event, which we had for our mastermind group, and we had a few guests come along, we hosted it, Sunshine Coast. Grand Master Zulfi flew in from Houston, Texas.

It was amazing. And I had the whole lineup planned and ready to go. I recall you sending me a message and saying, “George, I love everything that you're doing. And I look at all the speakers and everything is driven for revenue and money and growth, which is fantastic.

But I think I can just add a different flavor to this because we've done all this growth without focusing on that stuff and just focusing on the things that we do.” And that led to you also having a great talk at the Partners Intensive and inspiring everybody with the things that you've done. So let's look back to that conversation.

Jiu jitsu marketing Kyl Reber

KYL: Firstly, thank you again for that opportunity because I deliberated over sending that message for well over a day. I didn't want to be that guy like this timetable's great, but where's my slot? I didn't want to think of it like that. I said to you, “Maybe if I just had 10 minutes just to explain this is what we do.”

And then you come back and go, “Oh no. What we'll do is we'll give you the 90-minute slot, you got to go this.” And I've just gone to my wife, “This escalated quickly.” I guess the thing that I noticed was … And as much as we've just spoken about, you've got to treat it like a business, you've got to make sure the money is right and everything there.

Because I know if you were to get in touch with my accountant, I think I'm in his top three. Top three people that he just literally sees my name pop up and doesn't want to deal with me. He goes, “God, you're lucky you can fight because this is not your forte.” And he's right. Because I focus on the other side of things.

But I think to answer your question, the thing I saw was how to do this and make a lot of money. How to do this and make a lot of money. How to do this and make a lot of money. The thing I thought was if you … Not that you're not wanting … It's hard to explain.

But not if you're not wanting to make a lot of money, but if you're focusing completely on something else that will make you a truckload of money. If that's the way you want to look at it. And I use this saying all the time. Let your passion pay the bills.

Because the last thing you want to be … If we think back to why we started martial arts, I think 1% of us started martial arts because we want to run a full-time school and be a millionaire. And if that's what you're doing, great, but I'm nowhere near that.

But the one thing I don't want to lose is I don't want to lose my passion for martial arts. And the more you get into the business, the more it goes up and down. Because yeah, I love doing martial arts and I want to train, but I got to have this meeting with the accountant. I got to do this. I got to do this. I got to do this.

So if you let your passion pay the bills, if you look at everything you're doing on the backend, people are literally … And it won't happen every single time, but for us, it happens a lot. People walk in, they see the way we treat each other. They see the way we treat them. They see the way we treat our staff. They see the way we treat everybody else. And they literally walk back after their trial lesson or whatever and go, “Sign me up. I want to be a part of this.”

We will rarely say to people join with us and we'll make you a world champion or this and that. Join us and we'll just make you a better person. So I think getting back to that community thing again, it was never a business strategy.

And to be honest, if you really want to go to the roots of it, the previous style I did, which was fine and great, you'd turn up on a Tuesday night and you'd train and I'd be, okay, see you Thursday. You turn up on a Thursday night, and you train. Okay, see you next Tuesday. And that was it.

As soon as I started Zen Do Kai, you weren't just training with these people. You were part of their lives. You'd become family, you'd become their friends. And it was this community that I really went to, I really like this. I want to be a part of this. And it was the major, major thing.

And going back to when I raced BMX. I raced BMX. I rode skateboards. I think the last time I played a team sport was under 11 soccer and that was it. I'm done. Because I hated the fact that if I let somebody down that the team suffered.

But I say to people now all the time, martial arts is a team sport and we have this community. It's so interesting to watch a kid come and do a trial and the parent walks in and then they realize there's another parent there that they know and they come over and they start chatting like, “I didn't know you came here.” “Yeah, I do. We love it. This is great.”

They just walk over. Or a random parent will come over and just start saying to this parent, “Oh yeah, this place is really good. We love it here.” They're selling it for us.

Those community pages where people go looking for recommendations for martial arts, they're advertising for us. Yeah, it always blows me away. And it's very humbling. As I said, like everything, there are times we stray away a bit and we drink the Kool-Aid, so to speak.

And the bigger we get, the bigger referral base we get. So yeah. We have whole school groups. Like a school, we go there, oh, these kids all train there. It's just interesting. And in a way, it's quite humbling. It wasn't ever the expectation.

GEORGE: I love that. And no amount of advertising can fix or inspire that.

KYL: And I think that's the thing for us. We put a digital flyer for example up on our socials. We might get … I don't know. Half a dozen likes or whatever. We put up a picture, this is such and such, they came to us, they were so timid, they wouldn't speak blah, blah, blah. Now they're one of our assistant instructors.

That gains so much more traction. And I think getting back to one of the reasons why you think sometimes school owners have issues growing. I think one reason is we have to find a line between being proud of what we do. I would say probably a little bit arrogant. You're not the best. There is no definition of the best.

But also you have all these momentous achievements. I just saw the other day, a kid I trained as a six-year-old, friends with him on Facebook. He just turned 30. And you just go, oh my God. But I ran into that same kid about two or three months ago just at a shopping center.

And he brought up, “I remember when I was a kid, you did this and this and this and you made me do these pushups. And I always look back on that.” And you laugh. Oh, yeah. I have no idea what you're talking about.

But just that one interaction you had with him, they remember that for the rest of their lives. And I think that's the thing that we need to celebrate and we also need to be proud of.

But again … And I talked about it before, that Imposter Syndrome. Oh, if I put that up, am I going to seem like I'm really up myself? Am I going to seem like I really rate myself? You're not. And that's the thing. We get it very confused with being proud of what we've done and basically broadcasting.

If you've got a student who when they came to you were that nervous and had that much anxiety that they didn't want to stand on the mat and now they're standing out in front of the class taking a warmup of adults, celebrate that. Because a parent will read that.

GEORGE: That's huge.

KYL: Yeah. A parent will read that. They will talk to their partner and they will go, “That's where we send our kid.” And do you know what? Not every kid that comes in … There are kids that have come in and for whatever reason it just doesn't click. There's a lot to do. So I think that's something you need to make sure you're celebrating as well.

GEORGE: So with this, right … And you're very articulated with your words, and I'll bring something up here in a minute. But I notice your slogan is Back yourself. How did that originate and how does this blend in with this community aspect?

KYL: Now I feel like I need to lay out on a leather couch. I'm feeling in that sort of position. All right. Look, to be totally honest and vulnerable, probably about six and a half years ago, probably about six years ago, the club and myself personally went through quite a rough time.

And there was a lot of doubt in me and what I had achieved and what I had done. And again, as I said, I keep coming back to that imposter syndrome because I think any humble instructor has it. And a long story short, we had a lot of instances where I was just going, I don't think this is working. I don't know if we can actually keep doing this. Where is the end?

A mentor of mine who I value deeply, just basically said to me in a conversation, she said, “I think the problem is you just need to back yourself. You just need to go, I can do this. This is me. This is what we do and you need to back yourself.”

I didn't click into marketing mode straight away. I told a couple of people about the conversation. And then we were redesigning our T-shirts because prior to that we'd had a couple of other slogans, which was great. And they were awesome.

And I just said to someone, “I think I'm going to use this saying, back yourself.” And they just went, “That's brilliant.” And I said, “I think it covers everything.” And this is, again, it's not about … 

Another piece of advice for martial arts school owners. It sounds so contradictory, but if you really want to market yourself and your club, make sure that you market, that you're not just teaching martial arts, you're teaching kids how to be better at life and adults. But also market that you're not infallible, that you every day will stuff something up.

And I see that so much in higher-ranked martial artists and I think that's one thing we need to make sure we're doing. We need to back ourselves. I'm going to give this a go. It may not work, but we'll see what happens.

So yeah, the back yourself slogan. We did a new run. We rebranded a little bit about, I think nearly two years ago now. And I tossed up getting rid of the back yourself. And I even had all the proofs and everything done up for the new T-shirts and whatever. And then I just at the last minute went, “Nah, I'm going to keep it.”

So yeah, we've kept it. It's humbling now because we've probably got about half a dozen people that have got the CMA tattoos or the kanji and they've got that kanji logo and I don't. One of them has #BackYourself tattooed on him. And I just go, I guess it's a reminder. So yeah. It was just a conversation that just really struck home. I can't see us changing it anytime soon.

GEORGE: It's such two powerful words. And I never knew the depth of it. It's the kind of two words that are so simple, but then you've got to repeat it to yourself and ponder over it. Okay, back yourself. Well, there are so many layers to that.

Martial arts marketing Kyl Reber

KYL: There is. And I think that's the problem as coaches. If you really want to be a good coach, you need to show whoever it is you are coaching that you are not perfect either and you make mistakes. My students say from a jujitsu point of view, there are kids that are doing jujitsu with me, say 19-year-old, 20-year-old blue and purple belts.

So when they were born, I'd already been doing Jujitsu for two or three years. I've got a black belt in their early 40s, the same sort of thing. They're handfuls. So I could just stand in the background and just not roll with them. Or with my body …

And we've all got our share of issues when we get to this age. I still move around with them. They'll tap me out. My body will just go on a spot. But I'm showing them that I'm still willing to jump in and do what I can and still move.

Because one day those guys will be at an age where they're having to look at that and the vulnerability to be that sort of person that is training and moving no matter what.

Again, you've just got to back yourself. And you find your students will respect you more the more honest you are, not just with them, but the more honest you are with yourself. If your students can see that there are days where you don't want to go to training, there are days where the alarm goes off and you go, I don't want to do this.

I think that makes them respect you more because I think maybe sometimes we feel a need as coaches to put ourselves one or two rungs higher than our students. I feel the more that they can see that you're going through your own stuff and you're more upfront with it, I think that gives you a lot more respect.

GEORGE: Love that. 100%. So Kyl, last couple of things. Your social media.

KYL: Yes.

GEORGE: Anyone listening, if Kyl accepts your friend, of course, I highly recommend looking Kyl up. Kyl Reber on Facebook. Kyl's got this thing that he writes and he's really prolific about it. I'll give you a glimpse of it.

So every week Kyl does this thing, it's called things I've been reminded of this week. And so I'll give you a quick glimpse. This was two days ago here on the Sunshine Coast. And thanks again for inviting me over to your gathering.

KYL: My pleasure.

GEORGE: It was great to visit and be able to add a little bit of value on a Saturday night.

KYL: Yeah. It was great. Thank you.

GEORGE: Back to this. So this was two days ago. Things I've been reminded of this week. It was a massive week.

Number one, keep your faith larger than your fears. Two, the greats never get bored with the basics. Three, facta non verba, deeds, not words. Four, review your definition of discipline. It's not what you may think it is. Five, if you're everywhere you are nowhere. Very cool.

Six, a character is fate. Seven, there's always room for more dessert. Eight, just train. Nine, there's magic in a sunrise. 10, friendship over everything else. 11, a coffee and a comfy seat can always solve all the problems in the world. 12, how you do one thing is how you do everything. 13, always be in search of the truth. And then there's a really cool photo. That's at Alex Beach, right?

KYL: Yeah. There's that grass area just next to the surf club there. Yeah, that was at sunrise.

GEORGE: That's such a magical little area because every night everybody just sits on that lawn and it just … There's something pretty special about that.

KYL: It is.

GEORGE: But I don't want to talk about that. I want to talk about these posts. Personally, I feel it needs to be a book.

KYL: That's on the list.

GEORGE: Because I know you've got the time. But where do these come from? During the week are you just keeping notes of things? Are you just jotting things down? Because you're prolific about it. Every week you do this and it's always so well-articulated and impactful.

KYL: It's funny. I was the guy in high school that if there was a book report due, I'd try and watch the movie of the same book or I'd literally pay off a couple of schoolmates to plagiarize their stuff. Sorry, Mrs. Claridge, my year 12 English teacher.

But I do love writing and these days I read. I read every day as much as I can. Sometimes it's 10 minutes, sometimes it's an hour. About that time of the back yourself thing … Incident. I don't know what you call it. Philosophy was something that I just fell into.

In particular stoicism. I love reading about these ancient people 2000 years ago, like Marcus Aurelius. How stuff that they went through and 2000 years ago they were going through the same stuff we were going through. They were going through all the same problems. And the words that they're writing 2000 years ago are still important now.

And there'll just be also just little interactions. So the facta non verba, I've heard that before. And I was at a school that we will be starting martial arts classes with, and I was looking up on the wall in reception and I saw their school motto, facta non verba. And I went deeds, not words. So important.

And there'll be just interactions and conversations. I'm a big person these days that as much as sometimes it's easier said than done, you have to sit back and reflect and think. We live in a society now where we move at four million miles an hour. We have something in our hand or in front of us literally every minute we're awake. We don't just sit and think and chill out.

I started that things I've been reminded of this week, I started that probably the better part of two years ago. I just wrote it for just something to do on a Sunday. I didn't intend for it to be an end-of-the-week thing. And it has just stuck.

And it is now, it's a weekly thing to the point where a friend of mine who runs a community radio station in Victoria, reads them every Monday morning on his breakfast slot. I have people messaging me if I haven't put them up by 7:00 at night going, “Where are they? Have you forgotten?”

So yeah. I think sometimes it's not that we overthink or we assess ourselves too much, but getting back to that vulnerability thing, I think if we really want to grow as people, as coaches, as martial artists, as business people, if you're not checking yourself in and learning something more about yourself or what's around you every day, what's the saying?

You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Maybe you can. You have a chat with someone who says … Someone will say, “That person is so set in their ways.” They're referring to older people, not younger people. So I think it's good to sit back and reflect. And I've had a lot of good feedback about it to the point where I wouldn't say I feel obligated, but I go, this is a thing.

And yeah, another mentor of mine is getting very pushy with me saying, “You need to put these into a book.” So I am mucking around with a format of that. But yeah, it's cool. It's just something that I just enjoy doing.

GEORGE: Love it. When is the release date?

KYL: Oh God. 2037 or something. On my 60th birthday. I don't know. Sooner rather than later I hope.

GEORGE: Hey Kyl, it's been awesome. Thanks so much. Always a pleasure talking to you. Always insightful. I know you also have a podcast. Do you mind sharing? If it's launched and up and running, where can people find it and where can people learn more about you if they want to connect with you?

KYL: Yeah, sure. So the podcast will be out probably a couple of weeks soon. And it'll just be the Kyl Reber Podcast. On the business side of things, if you want to follow us on Facebook, it's just CMA, Chikara Martial Arts. Our Instagram tag would you believe is @JustBackYourself. Weird. And mine is @KylReber. K-Y-L, no E, R-E-B-E-R.

GEORGE: Love it. Awesome.

KYL: Awesome.

GEORGE: Thanks so much, Kyl.

KYL: Yeah, George, thank you very much. Thank you very much for the opportunity.

GEORGE: You're welcome.

KYL: See you mate.

GEORGE: Epic. How was that? Did you enjoy the episode? Did you get some good value out of it? Most importantly, is there one thing, one thing from this interview that you can take and implement in your business and go make an impact within your community?

Now, please do me a favor. If you got something great from this interview, please share it. Share it with another instructor, another martial arts school owner, or somebody that you know within the martial arts community who would get great value from this. And be so kind as to tag me wherever you do it on social and I'll be forever thankful for you doing it.

Now, if you do need some help growing your martial arts school or you're just looking for some ideas to fast-track your success, we have a great group of school owners that we work with called Partners.

It's a community of martial arts school owners here in Australia, the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand. So from all over the world we get together on a weekly basis, mastermind. We run events. A couple of cool things.

Now, if it sounds remotely intriguing and there are a few things that you need help with, reach out. Go to martialartsmedia.com/scale. There's a little form. Fill it out. Just tell me a little bit about your business, and what's going on. The few things that you need help with.

And I'll reach out and have a chat and see if there's something that we can help you with. Anyway, thanks a lot for listening. Thanks for tuning in and I'll see you in the next episode. Cheers.


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144 – Building A Strong Martial Arts Community: Insights From Professional Fighter And Gym Owner Damien Brown

Damien Brown, a UFC fighter-turned-gym owner, shares his journey of transitioning from the octagon to entrepreneurship. He reveals his secrets to success in both the fighting world and the martial arts business realm.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Base Training Centre’s most successful marketing strategy for generating students consistently
  • How short-term commitments, like training camps, work well for marketing jiu-jitsu
  • Damien Brown's journey from a UFC fighter and military man to a martial arts business owner
  • Opening new locations by gut instinct and finding the right partners and locations
  • How to ensure children between the ages of 4 to 13 love jiu-jitsu until they turn 16
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Start Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

My job is to make sure that any child between the age of four and 13 loves jiu-jitsu until they turn 16. If I'm too hard on them and they hate it and they don't like it, they leave. My job is to make sure that I teach them jiu-jitsu but I make sure they have enough fun that they want to stay in jiu-jitsu until they're 16.

When they're 16 they get graded as an adult, they start learning as an adult. It's a little bit different. They get to make their own choices. But if I can make them enjoy it that much that they stay from the age of four until 16, then I've now got a long-term member, I've got a kid that's done jiu-jitsu for 12 years that's now going to get a blue belt and go on to be a great adult addition to my gym.

GEORGE: Good day. George Fourie here. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast. Today I'm joined by a professional MMA fighter, UFC Fighter, and owner of Base Training Centre in Brisbane, Damien Brown. Welcome to the show.

DAMIEN: Hey, man. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

GEORGE: Good stuff. You've had a complete career between martial arts and your business. But before we get into the good stuff, a question I always like to ask upfront is, what's been your go-to marketing strategy, the thing that you guys do that generates the most students for you on a consistent basis? Consistently or that one thing that's the hook.

DAMIEN: Typically, the greatest marketing strategy we had was Facebook Ads. Social media is so big now. If you're not using it then you, you're either behind the times or you're just too stubborn to do it. Potentially, you don't know what you're doing so you outsource it. I'm a massive believer in outsourcing anything that's not your line of expertise. I just think that everyone should be advertising on social media.

GEORGE: Yes. Cool. Now, for you guys, when you do the ads, do you have specific offers that you run, like mini-courses or challenges, or just a straight free trial, or paid trial that works best?

Damien Brown

DAMIEN: We market training camp-type situations and people typically don't want to commit to longer, especially in martial arts because most people have a reasonable amount of anxiety with just starting, so the idea of doing it for 12 months is terrifying.

Any short-term commitment that is enough to help a person understand that they need to be accountable but also not long enough that it creates fear of being locked into something that's terrifying, I guess. You got to find a balance between that.

The thing with martial arts, particularly jiu-jitsu in our case, is that it takes you about three months to learn how to swim and that's without any knowledge. You just got to learn what's even going on.

Most people position-wise don't know what's going on, concept-wise don't know what's… Forget techniques. It takes you about 12 weeks to get your head around anything. I think that's a good timeframe to get people to commit to but even sometimes that can be too long.

I think from a business point of view, no lock-in contracts are ridiculous for adults. But from a martial arts point of view, 12-month contracts sometimes can be a big hump in the road to getting over. Somewhere in the middle, there is pretty good and we advertise it like training camps.

GEORGE: I love that, training camps. You guys focus on jiu-jitsu. I'll zoom back into a bit of the marketing chat and so forth, but give us a bit of a rundown. I've got a bit of an idea of your story, of where you started, but if you could give us a roundup. Where did it all begin and how did you get into the martial arts space?

DAMIEN: Martial arts for me was a non-negotiable from my dad when I was six, I think. I could play any sport I wanted as long as I did martial arts. I played football, and rugby league and did karate, particularly Zen Do Kai back then. I did that for about seven years. Early teens, we moved to somewhere where there was none so football it was for a few years.

Jiu-Jitsu

Then, I joined the army when I was 21 and I needed something to get my head straight and get back into fitness after some surgery in the military, so martial arts. I just turned to it again and I've been doing it ever since. In my early twenties, started kickboxing again and then went from kickboxing to jiu-jitsu, jiu-jitsu to MMA in a short period of time. And basically, that led me to 13 years later and two gyms.

GEORGE: Very cool. If you can go a bit deeper if we go back to just… You went from training then you started the MMA career. What pushed you to go to that level? And that was after the military, right?

DAMIEN: No, it was during the military time actually.

GEORGE: During the military.

DAMIEN: I didn't really know. When I did martial arts as a kid, I was very competitive. I competed every month in, as most people would know them, they're National All Styles Tournaments, they were around a long time ago. I don't know if they're still going but National All Styles was just basically a karate tournament and they ran everywhere.

And our karate school used to hire a minibus and we would drive at 3:00 AM down to Melbourne from Albury and compete all day and then drive back. It was the longest day ever at 3:00 in the morning, as a seven or eight-year-old, standing in the street waiting for the bus to pick us up. And then we'd get home sometimes at midnight on a Sunday night.

And that was my childhood. And I was super competitive. I played football, and everything was a competition for me, winning or losing. There was no such thing as anticipating and being rewarded for it, it was if you didn't win, you didn't win. I just had that in me.

When I turned back to martial arts for some fitness-based stuff and just to get my life a bit more sorted, then it only took about 10 months or something of kickboxing. And then, I started to feel like I wanted to have a fight. And then, I had one fight and won, and then I had another fight and won.

And then, the coach at the time, Ian Bone, talked me into doing jiu-jitsu. And then I was like, “I want to have an MMA fight.” We had an MMA fight, I lost that and then decided that I would never be submitted again, which actually turns out was bullshit because I did get submitted multiple times again.

But at the time in my head, being an infantry soldier, I was like 10-foot tall and bulletproof and I got humiliated, so to speak, or my pride was dented. I started doing jiu-jitsu six days a week, got right into it, and come back, 6-0 as a pro. And then, I made a lot of bad choices I guess, contract-wise and fight-wise, nothing that hurt me but just probably could have taken a better path in my career.

GEORGE: Can you give me an example?

Damien Brown

DAMIEN: Yes, just taking contracts in Europe where you fly yourself and stuff like that as opposed to… Typically, a fighter that fights outside of their hometown gets their flights and accommodation paid for. Sometimes you get a bit of food money and you get paid. And then, there are promotions across the world, they'll give you opportunities but you have to fly yourself and stuff like that. I did that sort of stuff.

I took a fight on two weeks' notice in Macau, on Legend FC just because I really wanted to fight internationally, and, rather than seeing the big picture and just hanging around for a bit and taking my time, I rushed into an overseas flight. I got injured within that two weeks and I still fought.

Fighting injured, real bad injuries like MCL tears and stuff, fighting through that stuff, I think when you're an up-and-comer and you're not already at the top, I don't think it's necessary. I think you can take your time. I feel like there are just some mistakes I made along the way that I could have had a much easier path. But I definitely wouldn't change my path. I've got a lot of lessons that I get to pass on to my members and staff now, so it's pretty good.

GEORGE: That's awesome. Coaching your students going through that journey, what are the guidelines that you put in place for them? What do you advise them on how to go about their path?

DAMIEN: I wouldn't so much say I advise them about how to go on their path. More like they just do what I tell them they do. I used to manage myself and stuff; I get all my own fights and stuff like that. Whereas, my guys fight who I put in front of them and, if I tell them they're not fighting, then they're not fighting.

And so, it's more just making sure that I don't leave them to their own advice. And allow them to make the mistakes that I made because they're not experienced. And instead, I make sure that I'm there for them, that I'm guiding their career, and that I'm helping them become better athletes or better martial artists in between fights. I think more for me is just making sure that I'm in charge so they don't make those inexperienced mistakes.

GEORGE: Cool. You got into the fighting, how did the UFC and all that come about? How did you progress further in your career?

Jiu-Jitsu

DAMIEN: I just started out 6-0 as a pro and it wasn't until I was 5-0 that I was like, “I could probably fight in the UFC one day.” But back then, it was difficult because when I was young it was more like trying to get into the UFC, you had to go overseas and train in America and be accessible, you had to have a visa.

And so, from that point of view, it was difficult for me because I had a job and my values were that I needed to support my family and my wife worked full-time but I still felt like I needed to be there for my family. Being the guy in my family that didn't earn any money, just didn't sit well with me.

I always had a full-time job. I didn't really think that quitting everything to move overseas was the right thing to do. Especially in a sport that's so young where you don't make enough money, you're fighting to support your family.

Maybe one year you make 100 grand, 150 grand with the bonuses or something, and the next year you'll make 10. And so, it just seems like a really unstable way of supporting your family. I never really looked at fighting as an income or a job but more as a side gig, which potentially is my issue.

Maybe I could have gone further quicker, who knows? But I don't regret it. I bought a house while I was fighting. I did everything that a normal everyday person should strive to do and I just committed a little bit extra of my time.

Instead of watching TV at night, I was at the gym and instead of going out on a piss on the weekend I was at the gym or I was asleep because I was too tired to go out anyway. I just did it as an extra on top of my job and that's just part of me. But getting in the UFC, once it became part of my mind and something that I thought was possible, then I didn't give up until I made it.

GEORGE: You made the right choices and you could have burnt all the bridges and just gone all in. But you decided to have the balance and it's obviously worked out really great for you. How did the schools then come about? How did you transition from all the focus on fighting to opening the schools? Let's talk about school number one.

DAMIEN: I always wanted to be in business. My dad's in business and other people in my family are in business. And I thought it was something in my future, it was going into business and I just didn't really have anything to do. If you drive a truck, you go into business, you typically buy trucks. And I was a baker, I was going to go into business when I was 21 and I pulled a pin on it, joined the army. You can't go into business with the army. It's like, “What can you do?”

It got to the end of my… Not the end of my fight career because I kept fighting but it got to the end of my UFC tenure and they released me and I thought to myself, spoke to my wife and said, “Now is my opportunity to either use what I've just done for the last nine or 10 years and teach it to the next generation and help people not make the same mistakes or I could throw it all out the window and work in my job at the jail for the next 32 years until I retire, and just job to maybe or stay there until I'm a bitter old, depressed prison guard and then try to retire happily but probably not because I got issues.”

I just thought I had two choices at that time and it was the perfect time in my life for me to go into business and to do something that I was not just qualified to do, but truly passionate about, which is teach martial arts. That was how it came about.

I just didn't want to do it while I was in the UFC but it had been on my mind, mainly because I didn't want to be tied down to coaching in the hours that I normally would train. I just come to a crossroads and pulled the trigger and that's how we opened the first one.

And then, we went from the first one, and in two years we opened the second one, which was just moving the first one to a building that was two and a half times the size. And we put massage and physio and everything in it. And we just got about three years in and I never really envisioned franchising or anything like that.

I thought it might be nice to have three or four schools but everything needed to make sense and I'm definitely a person that goes off my gut feeling and my gut feeling was telling me that it made sense to open another one.

Where we opened it, it wasn't where we were going to open it. We were going to go somewhere else, probably still will go there one day so I let the cat out of the bag. But just due to property options and whatnot in a pretty heavy market where there was only 5% of buildings that were available, trying to get something just seemed very difficult.

We opted for North Lakes. And my business partner up there, the second gym set up on a 50/50 type share situation and there's a management wage. And that's just how we set it up and it just made a lot of sense. I had the right person at the right time in the right location and we pulled the trigger on it. It's really good. I like it, it's taken off, and everything's working well.

GEORGE: But just give us a quick breakdown of the timeframe. One to 500 students, two locations, and that's over you said three years?

DAMIEN: Four.

GEORGE: Four years. Cool. How quickly did you grow the first one? And where's the first student-wise?

Martial Arts Marketing

DAMIEN: We grew it really slowly. Before we ever advertised anywhere, everything was organic and we grew to 100 members in a year. And then, we finally made a profit one month and I took that profit and I spent it on advertising and then we just kept growing from there. And we've got a few hundred members now in one location. It's pretty good.

GEORGE: Yes, cool. Congrats. From all the school owners I talked to, in four years to go to two locations and 500 odd students, that's remarkable. That's fantastic.

DAMIEN: Yes, it's definitely been an incredible experience. I think what's missing in a lot of martial arts schools is typically martial arts for most people is a second home. And actually, it's funny, I had a conversation this morning with someone about commercialization and trying to avoid commercializing martial arts to make sure that we maintain the original values and purpose of it, which are self-defense, respect, discipline, confidence, self-esteem, mental health, positive mental health and all of those values. You want to maintain those. But most of all, everyone gets into some martial arts for self-defense and confidence.

I feel like there's a balance between commercializing that and maintaining it. And martial arts gyms are typically a home away from home and, if you commercialize it too much, you lose that home away from home feel because everything becomes about money and not so much about the martial arts and the friendships and the relationships and stuff that are built there.

I just feel like we've been very fortunate that my values fall in line with… I'm teaching something that I love, but it's more about how many people I can help and how people feel when they walk through the door and how they feel when they walk out of it, as opposed to how much money they've paid me that week or whether they're going to pay me for grading and stuff like that. We don't charge for grading. I don't focus a lot on the money; I focus more on what I can give people. And I feel that has made a huge difference for us.

We're not just a gym; we've never just been a gym. That's not what it's been about. And you can read all the reviews and people feel like we're more than a gym, that's where it's at, that's where retention is built, that's where new members are built, they walk through, they can feel the vibe. That's where everything comes from. And so, I feel like that's been huge for us.

GEORGE: How do you feel you started creating that within the culture? Because obviously, it started out as you. But as the student base grows, people might be attracted to you and your experience, and so forth, but it becomes about the school, the vibe, and the culture. How do you replicate that?

Damien Brown

DAMIEN: It's like a tree. I was the seed and, as it grows, there are branches and, without the bottom branches, the next ones don't grow. I don't know what the average is, but there are probably 10 people that started in my gym that will get black belts out of the first 100. It's probably less than that, probably two out of the first 100 will get black belts because that's how many will stay.

But those two that stay, they form the foundation and then they pass it on to the next two out of the next 100 that stay. And all of a sudden, it's not just about me creating it. I got senior guys in this gym that, when I say senior, they've been here since the start, their kids are here, their wives train here, they train here.

And it's about on a Saturday; one will bring a car and a beer in and give one beer to everyone. And that's just who we are. “Do you want one? Do you want to hang out? Let's hang out after training and talk for half an hour.” And then, everyone goes their separate way. But no one has to go to the pub that night because everyone's just… We are our own family.

That goes, it starts at me, not that I'm promoting drinking or anything, but it's just an example, that's what one person could do. The other one would be like, “We haven't gone and done this for a while. We should organize that.” Or people said to me the other week, “We haven't had a barbecue for a while.” “You know what? You're right. We haven't. Been a few months, so let's have a barbecue.” It just starts with me and then it's others that recognize what I used to do and then we pass that on.

And I challenge my members at times, “This week, my challenge to you is to say hello to a person that you haven't spoken to or that you haven't seen or someone that you haven't talked to in the last three months.

Walk up to them, say, ‘Good day,' and ask them how they're going,” and that's going to change their day because you might be the guy on the other side of the room that they've seen for three months but never talked to.

And that happens when there are hundreds of members. Anyone that thinks a gym with 50 members in it is the same as a gym with 300 members in it or 500 members in it, it's kidding them.

It's just about when it's 50 members, it's me asking 50 people how they're going. When it's 100, it's me and 10 other people asking 100 people how they're going. If it was 1,000, I'd think that there are 50 members in that thousand that would've been with me long enough to go and ask the other 950 how they going.

And there's just a continuous flow from there. I feel like, as long as I started it with my values and my thoughts and what was close to me, which is giving more than you take, and then I'll attract people that do the same thing. And by doing that, it continuously gets passed along and that's how we maintain the culture.

GEORGE: That's amazing. Do you do things differently on the mat with that as well, within your classes and your teaching to really emphasize that, to put focus on building the culture?

DAMIEN: Yes, of course. I think any gym does, really. Sometimes I'll grab all the color belts and tell them they will roll with a white belt tonight. Sometimes I'll say, “Go with someone you haven't been with for three months.” Sometimes I'll get them in groups of three and make sure there's a white belt with every group.

And there are different ways that you can make people feel included. And at the end of the day, inclusivity is what everything's built on. If people feel excluded, then they'll go somewhere else. There are strategies that we put in place on the mat to make sure that those people who always go to one end of the mat, it's what happens with us, they all form up and then they go to one end of the mat. It's like all the white belts are down here and all the color belts are here.

I'll look around and sometimes we'll have 10 females in the room and typically females in the gym have a lot of anxiety about rolling with men and stuff like that. Particularly in jiu-jitsu rather than karate where there's a lot of contact. And jiu-jitsu really invades your personal space. Sometimes I'll particularly partner them up with people in the gym that I think are reasonably chill or super experienced and get them flowing because it's good for their confidence. And then, when their skillset matches their confidence, then they can hold their own and they'll roll with whoever they want. There are all different sorts of strategies for a coach.

I think one of the biggest assets you can have as a coach has been able to read your room. You've got to understand who is who, where they're at, what they're scared of, whether are they a threat, can they potentially hurt someone because they're dangerous with their skillset as in inexperienced with their skillset, they believe they're better than they are.

There are all sorts of things you got to be able to do to manage an environment like that. And my biggest job is trying to teach my coaches how to read the room. I feel like I do it reasonably well, but I've done a lot of instructing and military and stuff like that. And typically, you've got to always be able to read people. And I've worked in jobs where I've got to read people in confrontational-type situations as well.

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And I'm probably hyper-alert; it's probably the good thing my deployment did for me. I'm very hyper-alert, hypersensitive, so I'm always looking around, everything's going on. And so, one of the biggest things for me is probably trying to teach my coaches how to read the room and stuff like that. Most of us start out in a gym knowing the technique we're delivering and that's what gets us a coaching gig.

But coaching is more than that and everything comes over time. Probably trying to teach them is a big thing at the moment, and then get them to put strategies in place to be able to manage the room as well. Definitely, there's a lot to it, that's for sure.

GEORGE: Yes, I love the focus on the awareness and how you're in tune with who has got what fears, reading a room, breaking up the groups as they segregate into different parts.

Transferring your martial arts skills, that's one thing. But then, transferring skills that you picked up potentially in the military and you've got a different level of awareness of picking things up, do you find that really hard to transfer to your coaches?

DAMIEN: I think the hardest thing to transfer to other people or to teach other people is instincts. Anything that becomes common sense and instinctual is the hardest thing to pass on. Anything that's educational, there are ways to read a room, so to speak, or there are strategies, educational type stuff to read a room.

And then, there's just you can just see people and start to feel that people are… If you feel that someone's a problem or someone can go from zero to 3000 really quickly, there's no strategy to pick that up. You just got to be aware of your surroundings and be aware of who is on the mat and whatnot.

You can teach them how to put things in place to make sure that those people are controlled, but you can't teach them how to identify those people. That's just something they've got to have time in a coaching role to be able to do.

The more time they run classes, the more they're in charge of classes, and the more they'll pick up on certain people. But as far as the management of members and strategies for how to run a class, you can always teach them that stuff, and that's pretty easy.

GEORGE: Damien, great. I've got two more questions for you. You mentioned that your dad really enforced your martial arts journey. How have you adapted that with your kids? Is martial art a non-negotiable? And if it is, would there be a point where you maybe back off?

Martial Arts Business

DAMIEN: That's an interesting question because it horns a dilemma for me. Martial arts is a non-negotiable for my son, but it's not forced because this is my life and I want him to love it. He has to do jiu-jitsu no matter what, but I don't force him to do it 3, 4, or 5 times a week. We ask him if he wants to do it, every day there's a class on and, if he says no, we take him home and make him do his homework.

And if he says yes, we take him in and he does class. He had his first game when he was 22 months old and he used to just roll with me for a couple of years. And then, he asked to start classes so we put him in classes. And then, he went through a phase where he didn't want to do it so we took him out.

And I think my dad didn't have to force me but forced my sister. But he didn't have to force me because I loved it anyway. But it was a non-negotiable at the start like, “This is what you're doing.” I feel like the discipline, the respect, and everything that I got from doing martial arts, it's hard to put your finger on exactly what it was. But when people ask me how we teach them that, I feel like, particularly in this day and age, kids get the discipline, respect, and all that from listening to someone that's not their parent.

Teachers have no power. Anyone else in their life that's teaching them anything has no power. You put your kids in martial arts, you let them on the mat, you walk away, you sit upstairs, you sit outside, whatever it is, and you let that person teach your kids for the next 30 minutes in an environment where you basically sign off on allowing them to put them in lines, put them in ranks and pull them up for talking over people, pull them up for poking their friend on the mat or tripping a kid over.

That stuff needs to be chipped and there's just no one in this world that has any power to do it anymore. But even when we did, martial arts is just such a great teacher of all of those things because martial arts coaches typically don't just let kids get away with tripping kids over or talking over them.

Physical punishments, whatever it is you decide to do as in pushups, bear crawls around the mat, squats, something like that, it's all just more exercise and burning your kids out. But at the same time, they get that discipline and respect from that. By doing something fun to them, they're learning how to be respectful at the same time. And then, they get better and, with getting better, come confidence and higher self-esteem and stuff like that.

I think that just martial arts all around is amazing for kids. And so, my son has to do it, fully non-negotiable. But I can't force it because it's my life and I don't want him to grow up and hate it. I've definitely had multiple conversations with myself on what the best approach is and I just think just letting him do it when he wants to do it, if he hasn't done it for a while, we make him do it.

If he has a week off or he gets a week and a half in and he hasn't done a class, we just say, “Hey, mate. You haven't done a class for two weeks. If you go in tonight and you do class, you can stay for 20 minutes and play with your mates afterward.” And they come upstairs and play. And he gets to play with his mates. He's an only child so he loves playing with other kids and so he gets to play with his mates and does jiu-jitsu.

And he's good at it. He is done a comp already and got a couple of medals. We just don't force it. But he asked me a bunch of questions today, funny enough, on the way to school about jiu-jitsu and what he's got to do to get to the next belt and stuff like that.

He's starting to get interested in it. It's just taken time and he's not as good as some other kids at his age despite the fact that his dad's a black belt. And that's just because I feel like there's a fine line between balancing and forcing it onto your own child when it is your life. I don't want my son to hate coming to the gym with me.

GEORGE: Yes, the longevity of it. For myself. I'll probably force my son into Zen Do Kai from five to seven, and then Muay Thai, and then to the point that he turned around and said, “Dad, I don't want to do this anymore.” It's been a few years, but he's now 16, 17, and he's talking about Muay Thai again.

I'm confident it's going to loop back. My daughter, I forced her into jiu-jitsu and then we moved to the Sunshine Coast I took her to a place and she fell on her arms and she said, “No.” I was like, “Okay, it's time I back off just a little bit.”

Martial Arts Business

DAMIEN: Yes, it's just a funny one. And there was a lesson taught me by my mate Ian, was that our job as a coach is to make sure that kids between the age of whatever you start in your school, for us it's four to 13, the 14-year olds do our adults classes, but my job is to make sure that any child between the age of four and 13 loves jiu-jitsu until they turn 16.

If I'm too hard on them and they hate it and they don't like it, they leave. My job is to make sure that I teach them jiu-jitsu but I make sure they have enough fun that they want to stay in jiu-jitsu until they're 16.

When they're 16 they get graded as an adult, and they start learning as an adult. It's a little bit different. They get to make their own choices. But if I can make them enjoy it that much that they stay from the age of four until 16, then I've now got a long-term member, I've got a kid that's done jiu-jitsu for 12 years that's now going to get a blue belt and go on to be a great adult addition to my gym.

We focus on that, we want the kids to have fun, and we want them to learn jiu-jitsu, but we're not out here breaking their balls and making sure they do comps and being like, “You must be the best at jiu-jitsu.”

That's not why we're teaching kids jiu-jitsu, not why we're teaching kids martial arts. We're teaching kids martial arts so they can benefit from everything that martial arts offers. And to do that, they need to enjoy it long enough to do it. That's what we focus on.

GEORGE: That's so good. Damien, thanks so much for your time. Just one more question, what's next for you? Where are you headed with your journey in the martial arts and Base Training Centre?

DAMIEN: I don't know, man. I don't know.

GEORGE: Day by day?

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DAMIEN: I didn't start my first gym with a plan to open something bigger. I didn't start my second location with a plan of opening a second gym. I didn't start fighting so I could make it to the UFC. I just do something and then see where it takes me.

And we've got two now, maybe we have three, maybe we'll do Base Jiu-jitsu, maybe we'll do… I don't know. I don't know what's next really, to be honest with you. I just focus on the two I got, focus on the members I have and make sure that they enjoy martial arts.

And to be honest, I think every business in the country is probably feeling the pinch of the interest rates right now. My job right now is to make sure the members we have to stay and make sure that they enjoy the environment that we provide and the martial arts we provide. And then, go from there, see if we can ride it out.

GEORGE: Cool. I'll loop back into your journey down the line and we'll see where things are at.

DAMIEN: Sure, man. That'll be good.

GEORGE: Thanks, Damien. If anybody wants to reach out to you or get in touch with you, how would they do that? Your socials, etc.?

DAMIEN: People can reach out to me on all social media at beatdown155. But particularly, if you want to train in martial arts, you're in the North Brisbane area, so Brendale or North Lakes and surrounds, you can reach out to us at Base Training Centre on Instagram or Facebook, or check out our website base-training.com.au. We offer a free class for everyone to try out to make sure we're fit for you.

GEORGE: Love it. Cool. Thanks so much, Damien.

DAMIEN: No worries, man. Thanks a lot.

GEORGE: Speak to you soon. Cheers.

DAMIEN: Appreciate it. See you.


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143 – Increasing Your Martial Arts Lead Conversion From Trial To Member By 70% To 90% (With Zulfi Ahmed)

Zulfi Ahmed covers conversion-boosting strategies for your martial arts business and shares the content to be delivered at The Partners Intensive.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Creating a 100-day onboarding funnel to boost martial arts student retention
  • Master Zufli’s advice to martial arts school owners with over 100 students and pushing to 200
  • A powerful concept that can help increase martial arts lead conversions rate by 70% to 90%
  • Masterminding with your staff to create an amazing system for martial arts school success
  • How to set up an encouraging martial arts career path for your students
  • And more

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TRANSCRIPTION

I'm going to share with you a very powerful concept, only in the meeting, that will increase your lead to conversion, by up to 70% to 90%.

GEORGE: Master Zulfi, welcome back once again, back-to-back weeks to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast.

ZULFI: My pleasure. It's my pleasure.

GEORGE: Today I want to do, I guess just extend last week's Episode 142. We spoke about how to elevate your martial arts business to the next level. It was a bit of a teaser in the subject line, with Master Zulfi's Breakthrough Mindset Formula, and we didn't go that deep into it. 

So what I wanted to do today, was chat a bit about what that is, in a bit more detail, but also for anyone that's coming to The Partners Intensive on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, which will be the 2nd to the 4th of June. 

Master Zulfi is joining us all the way from Houston, Texas, about as far as you can travel, and he'll be spending the entire day today, going through a bunch of things that I want to learn about today, as well. 

I know it's going to be great. It's the challenge of, how we condense 50 years of knowledge into one day of impact, and that it's impactful for you as the school owner. So glad to have you back on.

Zulfi Ahmed

ZULFI: Thank you very much. It's my pleasure. And again, I'm super excited. Finally, get to go to Australia, meet my friends, make new friends, and share some of our successes and even failures. It's not all hunky dory, it's not all perfect.

I've experienced many failures and that itself is a part of the journey. What to do, what not to do, what to be cautious and mindful about? What to be careful of, and how to approach situations, which might be very challenging.

And George, all of us martial arts school owners, if you stay in the martial arts business for X number of years, there are certain things we are going to experience. Like in America, taxes, death, and health, it's inevitable in life. So same thing in the martial arts business timeframe, there will be challenges we know that we have experienced and we will experience.

So some of you folks out there, they might not have experienced these. So my job with my team and my group is, “Hey, be mindful, retention, instructor staff retention, instructor staff training. Sometimes deflection, people leave and go open a school down the street, some legal issues.

All things, which if you've been there for as long as I've been, you will experience, hopefully not negative, but if you are armed with the knowledge, information, and mentally aware, then you will deal with them at a much better rate.

Believe me, I've experienced a lot, good, bad, and even ugly and I've learned everything has been a lesson and everything has been a growth and it's just keeping us moving forward. So that is what I want to share.

As we were talking about, a little bit earlier, what am I going to do? So there are 2, or 3 different models where a presenter comes in and presents. So one is, with a big group, when we are in front of hundreds of people, you can go up on stage and do a PowerPoint and explain and share your information.

But with a smaller group, which I love, and I do that in the UK, Germany, Pakistan, I've got 30 to 40, 50 people that's more personalized, more intimate. And the way I like to share information and work and connect with them is number one, I will give a couple of presentations, which I feel will be very valuable and worth their time.

And then I like to open for a Q&A, we do a discussion, and we open communication, so I can understand everybody's position, phase, stage, age of business, wants, needs, fears, desires, hopes, strengths, weaknesses, challenges and we work as a team, as a think tank.

And then if somebody has a question or answer or concern or request of the set of information, whatever I can do, I will elaborate on that and then it works. It becomes a group interactive conversation with myself facilitating and leading in the area where I might be able to give more or different types of information.

So I love that and it really becomes extremely powerful and the takeaways and the breakthroughs and the moment of epiphanies become very powerful. So that's one of the models which we are going to use. Then we have that one-on-one or very small group, two people work with me. That's what I do when I go to an independent school owner.

So let's say I go to X, Y, or Z school, and in the morning or afternoon, we'll sit down for 2, 3 hours and we'll discuss. Because a lot of times there are things that you cannot or one does not like to discuss openly.

And no matter how close the group is, certain things are very private and we don't want others to know our challenges, but we don't mind sharing it one-on-one, with a person who we feel has the experience to first of all, communicate, get a second person point of view and maybe they can help you solve or resolve or overcome the challenge or the issue.

So that is very powerful on a one-on-one level. And believe me, when I go to these schools and when I do one-on-one, that powerful 2, or 3 hours is worth years of searching or trial and error or trying to figure it out themselves.

But when you have somebody who's done it, been there, seen it, and still growing, still learning, that hour or 2 hours, is worth years of searching challenges, and frustration. And when you can get that answer, that epiphany, that realization in a moment, it's well worth it.

And a lot of time people don't like to, even in small groups, unless it's one-on-one. So that's the second, third model, which I do and which I love because now I can work with you one-on-one and then we can be very open in the things we can talk about, we might not talk about them even a smaller group.

So that's another model which I will be available to do also. And then we have breakout sessions. Let's say when we do a breakout session, so we'll say we'll do a project, we might do a project, okay, let's build a funnel, just give an idea, onboarding. What are the steps that we need to do for the first 100-day onboarding, funnel, and process and nurturing? What do we need to do?

So we'll go to one group, one group, one group, two, three people in the group and we sit down and we work with the workbook or with an exercise and then we'll all come back together and say, “Okay, you give me your two points, you give me your two points, what did we come up with?” And together we all create an amazing system or process of procedure, based on solid principles and based on the input of the whole entire mastermind that we have over there.

And lo and behold, you'll see, within 45 minutes, we'll develop an amazing system, which anybody can take and incorporate. And we can help each other say, “Okay, now that didn't work. I tried it, but it didn't work, or I said this worked amazingly.” That's another format we can do. So I'll be there. I'm there for you guys.

GEORGE: I love that. It's funny you mentioned that. Yesterday in our Partners group, we did a similar thing called, the Instructor’s Roundtable. We just brought everybody in an online but roundtable setting and all instructors brought just questions, things that they struggle with, and used the power of the group to get answers and just everyone sharing the one attribute that really makes them stand out as an instructor.
But what I'm thinking we probably going to delay is, we are working on a 100-day Email Sequence for onboarding. And I think I might tell the group that we're going to wait a little bit because if we can have your hands-on input, that it'll make it so much more powerful.

Zulfi Ahmed

ZULFI: I would be happy to. So about nine years ago, I did a 52-week and a 104-week and I was working on the third tier of student onboarding, nurturing, from prospect to a member, to a blue belt, an email sequence. And as we speak right now, I'm creating a custom funnel, software for my organization, which will have to be automated.

So we've been using Constant Contact and Mailchimp, but hopefully, by the time I get to Australia, it will be finished and integrated software system with our Bushi Ban International website, where our curriculum is parked and it's a private website for only affiliates and licensed Bushi Ban schools. And this will have an onboarding and then member, 52-week nurturing process.

And just to give you an idea, it'll have emails, it'll have doodle videos, it'll have whiteboard videos, it'll have actual videos. So we've been working on that and right now we already do, I'm going to share with you a very powerful concept, only in the meeting, that will increase your lead to conversion by 70% to 90%.

And I'll bring you examples, just from lead to conversion because a lot of people get leads but they don't know what to do once they get the lead. They might do automated email. I'm going to share with you some powerful breakthrough ideas, what to do with the lead and you will see immediately, I guarantee you, that's my guarantee, otherwise I'll buy everybody lunch. All right? That it works, it works like a charm and immediately, they'll see a response. They'll see a response, a 90% response. So we'll share that, I'll share that with you guys. 

GEORGE: That's completely my language and so I'm loving that selfishly for me but obviously, for everyone that's going to be there, it's going to be awesome. I want to maybe just do an example. We were talking about the roundtable setting and working through school owners' problems.
And I'm also a big fan of this smaller type of event because this is where the transformations can happen. I feel it sometimes very impersonal, where you're at a big event and people are talking at you and the interaction feels a bit awkward and rushed.

So having that smaller type of setting, is really where you get the real breakthroughs because you get to dive deeper into what problems you're facing and what you're right about, the next thing is to take on.

So let's say, I'm going to start at the top this time and work our way down. But let's say, we took a scenario with two different school owners. Let's start with one at the top, let's say, they've got two to three locations and we're working with different situations. What is a common situation or problem that you will see faced, let's say, at about 2 to 3 locations, that you would typically work with?

ZULFI: So the first thing we do is, work on the structure of education. So I've got people who have 2, or 3 locations, how do they manage their calendar, their time, their staff training, and how do they interact with their staff with each location? What are the processes, procedures, events, training, and methodologies they have and how do they incorporate? I'm going to share my 10 points.

So every quarter we have our big staff meeting. So on May 17th, which is Wednesday, we will have about 40 to 50 people here at the headquarters and we start at 9:00 AM and we go through our staff training and these are not directors, these are instructors, managers, program directors, they'll all come together and we are going to share with them their duties and how can they be the key significant operator to help the business grow?

We give out actual tasks and responsibilities, how can they provide and produce for the business? So we have a clear outline and we share that with you and I'll give you that presentation that day. Please remind me, I'll give you 10 points, but when you have your key staff meeting, what is the mindset you want them to have?

Because they're all well-wishers, if they're working in your business, they want to be there. All right, so first we need to understand, they are not there to harm you, they're there to help you. But as a school owner, and as a business owner, what can we help them with so they know clearly, defined actions, methodologies, and systems that they can incorporate the next day and start making money and growing their business?

So I'll share those 10 points with you, so you can go and start teaching and I'll share how we do the staff meeting.

This is a big staff meeting, 40 to 50 people come in, different schools and we do the training staff and instructors, directors training, then we have lunch, we have some awards and prizes.

So I'll share that with you. So this will help the multi-school or even single-school owner, how to motivate, inspire, educate, and allocate tasks for each school or each staff member, so they can become a much more valuable component of your business success. They need to know, above and beyond their regular job description, what else can they do.

What do they need to see and understand to help you grow? That itself is extremely powerful. Once you understand that and your staff understands that, you will see an immediate change of culture, an immediate improvement in retention and new member acquisition, and upsells immediately. 

GEORGE: Very cool.

ZULFI: I hope that helps.

GEORGE: Yeah. Awesome. And so if we flip the script and say, the school owner was at just over 100 students, pushing to the next 200, what advice would you give and what obstacles are you typically dealing with, at that point?

ZULFI: So the advice is, start working on the systems now, which you will be needing six months, eight months, nine months. Understand what got you where you are, now what else do you need to add or delete from what you got to get you to the next level? Who are the key players to help you grow? Identify those players.

And what do you need to tease them, for them to help you grow to the next level? How do you help them go to the next level? That's what a staff meeting is. And what mindset and what systems you need to have or sometimes you need to eliminate.

See a lot of school owners don't realize, they might have, for example, a program or a class or a staff member, that might be hindering their forward progress. So how do you identify that and how do you either change that, or get rid of that?

So I'll give you a quick example. There are some schools, that would do the fitness kickboxing program and they've been doing it for years and years and years and they continue to truck along. I ask them, “How many people?” “I used to have 40 people, now I have about 5, 6 people.” “Well, why are you doing that?” “Well, we've been doing it for 20 years.” “Get rid of it. Well, what time is it?” “It's in prime time.” “And it's how many times a week?” “Four times a week.”

“I say, you are doing something which is no longer relevant in your business and it's no longer producing and providing you a forward, fast pace momentum, it's actually holding you back. You are availing your key time floor space, and your staff, to fulfill a dying program. If you just switch it around.”

So, a few schools did that and right away, boom, from five, they went to 25 people, just by switching that old method and realization of, “Hey, it's not working anymore or if it's working, it's not as productive as it used to be.” So being relevant, what is relevant now? What should the school do or look for and how do you tweak it, how do you change it? So sometimes, letting go is the biggest challenge. 

GEORGE: Right.

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts

ZULFI: Once we are used to something we've been doing for so many years, “No, I cannot do that.” “Well, yes you can.” You have to see the pros and cons, is this holding you back? Or maybe a staff member. That staff member no longer needs to be a staff member.

They need to either change their designation or tell them bye-bye. They're just hurting you, they're not helping you. Or a staff member that you need to utilize their maximum potential. They might be ready to be in a high-level producing leadership position and you're not giving them that opportunity or there's a program out there and you should add that program or a system, you've not done that.

Those are the things that we need to discuss and realize and find out and investigate, so we can identify and then see what we can do to implement. So those are the things that they need to be aware of.

And as a coach, a consultant, a mentor, a guide, and a facilitator, it becomes my responsibility, or anybody in my position, to find out the needs and the challenges. Not just come in, blah, what I think works for me but I need to know what needs to happen to you. See, what is working for me, might be totally alien to you.

So to grow your student, you must know your student. Don't grow them up thinking this is what is right for them but first find out. The same thing to the Mastermind, to help the Mastermind grow, I need to know the Mastermind, the key players, and what are their challenges, what are their needs, what are their desires, what are their fears, what are their weaknesses, what are their strengths. And once we can define and identify, then we can catapult the information to the next level.

GEORGE: I love it. I wanted to ask you one question before I wrap it up. And this is for my members yesterday because it's relevant to this and it's a question that came up. You've got all these locations and students that have evolved into instructors.

And I recall at the virtual intensive that you spoke at a few years ago, you spoke about creating the career path from day one, from day one, you start talking about the journey. How do you structure that? How do you create a career path for students, that they actually want to become instructors? And then how do you face the challenge that maybe they go to university and they go study and now all these other options are on the table and how do you make martial arts the priority for them?

ZULFI: That's a great question. There's no easy answer, but I'll share some of the things with you. So martial arts is a lifestyle. So Bushi Ban is a lifestyle, martial arts and that's what we start from day one. Bushi Ban, my system, is a lifestyle, martial arts. We have programs, and we have memberships, but our whole objective is to make that individual who comes in, to learn, fall in love, and pursue martial arts as a lifestyle and there are small steps we have to go through.

I'll share with you, just now, about 45 minutes ago, I had a grandfather, this is my third generation person, Mr. Vicary, he just came in, his son is my black belt but he's now 30 something years old. His grandson who's 16, he'll turn 16 soon, Caleb Garcia. So Caleb is right now is doing swimming and he has not been to class for the last nine months and grandfather wants him to be here, grandmother wants him, Mom and Dad, but he's got into water polo and swimming and he's got the varsity jacket.

So we are very proud of him and Caleb is my second-degree black belt, really good at martial arts. He started with me at four and a half years old. So he came, he had some boards, we do board breaking, Tameshiwari. So grandfather, Mr. Vicary, brought some board. He said, “They've been lying around, I just want to drop them by you.”

I said, “Hey, when am I going to see my boy Caleb?” He said, “Well, he's swimming and I want him to be there. I just bought this new Mercedes, come and take a look at it.” And I'm going and sitting in it and I told him, “Hey, I've got a three o'clock podcast, I need to talk to my friend in Australia. Hey, by the way, I'm leaving for my international trip. I'll be in Thailand and Australia.” And I shared with him, on May 21st I'll be back.

He said, he called me Zulfi, he's much older. “Zulfi, I want the same for Caleb. I've been telling him.” But I say, “Hey, he's only 15, 16 years old. He's on his path, let him do it. But he's been indoctrinated in the Bushi Ban system.” And he said, “I'm a multimillionaire.” I said, “I know you are.” He said, “I will put any money to help Caleb because I see your lifestyle.

I want this for my grandson and I will invest.” I said, “No problem, it's already in his DNA.” And he said, “I wanted this for Josh but Josh went a different route but I want this for Caleb.” And so to make a long story short, it's not to impress anybody but impress upon that, it's in the culture and lifestyle curriculum and lifestyle system, that students and their grandparents and their parents want to become part of this ongoing journey and become lifelong martial artist.

And once you identify, the school owner, that this person, it'll be good for them. So again, it's all about the student. What needs to help the student, will help you. Don't think of selfish gains, first give.

And I told him, “Caleb is extremely talented and I see him being a school owner and I will help whatever I can do, give him my brand, give him my detail, give him my systems, I'm there for you.” He said, “I want him to do it.” So because I know Caleb will be a great, great martial arts instructor, he's a great martial artist, young man, but he got a long way to go.

So is it part of your system? So for example, I'll show you. So this is a book, I've written several books, Wisdom of the Masters. So this is written by, it's part of a project for our Senior Masters, to share their wisdom with our young people. This next book is Reflection of the Grandmasters. These are life lessons that we teach our leadership team.

This is a book I wrote, I Quit, to overcome the challenges. And we give this out to a lot of our members and parents, so they understand that there'll be a time that a child might want to quit and how to overcome that. Then most of you have seen this, Signs and Secrets of Becoming a Master. So we plant the seed early. I want them to think like a master instructor early.

Zulfi Ahmed Bushi Ban

So what is the support material? How is it entrenched in your curriculum, lifestyle, and martial arts? How do you indoctrinate your students into thinking at one time to become instructors, first serious students, to black belts, to junior instructors, instructors, and school owners? What processes do you have, procedures do you have? What opportunities they can see and what examples are they seeing?

See, that's very important. Are they seeing examples, real-life examples of people converting from a black belt, into a master instructor, into a school owner? Are there examples that they can follow and what is their support system and how are you nurturing their mindset and the heart set and how are you showing them the benefits and the value? Not just being a black belt, but being a school owner and how sincerely and authentically, you are helping them find the path? So it is part of the culture, lifestyle, and martial arts. 

GEORGE: A good note to wrap it up. Zulfi, thanks so much. I look forward to seeing you in Australia. It's going to be great. It's going to be great to hear you.

ZULFI: I'm looking forward to it. God willing, I'll be there in one piece and I can't wait. I'm excited and I appreciate it, thank you so much for your kind invitation and hospitality. I'm really honored and I'm really, really inspired and I appreciate it and I'm grateful to you for even thinking that I can come and help out and I look forward to it. 

GEORGE: Of course.

ZULFI: And I can't wait. I'm excited to meet my old friends and to make new friends and to share and give whatever I can give and share, that's it, and enjoy Australia. 

GEORGE: 100%, there's lots to enjoy. That's great.

ZULFI: Thank you so much. 

GEORGE: Thank you Zulfi. So just a quick wrap-up. So 2 to 4, June, The Partners Intensive. It's formally a private mastermind, we offer guest tickets available. So if you would like to attend, just shoot me a message, at george@matialartsmedia.com or find me on Facebook.

Also, just want to give a shout-out to some of our members that will be talking on the first day and the last day. So Ross Cameron, Cheyne McMahon, Lindsay Guy, and also Kyl Reber will be on Sunday. So just a shout-out to our Australian members and love to hear from you. If you got any questions about the event, just reach out and Master Zulfi, have an excellent day and I'll speak to you soon.

ZULFI: Thank you. All the best.

GEORGE: Thank you.


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142 – Elevate Your Martial Arts Business To The Next Level With Zulfi Ahmed’s Breakthrough Mindset Formula

Zulfi Ahmed is coming to Australia to share his breakthrough mindset formula that’s responsible for his martial arts business empire.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • When is the perfect time to scale your martial arts school?
  • How is Purpose defined for martial arts school owners in Partners?
  • The teachings to anticipate from Master Zulfi Ahmed during the Partners Intensive in June 2023
  • Zulfi recounts his martial arts journey from childhood to a master instructor and successful school owner
  • Finding the right balance between your martial arts passion and business purpose
  • A breakthrough formula that will take your martial arts school to the next level
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Start Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

It's not just the idea. It's not just the clarity. It's the process, procedures, and steps that people need to take to get through to the next level. We might know that I want to get 400 students, but I want to get 600 students. Well, I need to advertise more. No, there's more than that, but I will give you that process.

GEORGE: Master Zulfi Ahmed, welcome back to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast.

ZULFI: My pleasure. Thank you for having me. Happy to be back.

GEORGE: Awesome, so I think it's good for us to just go back down in the history of the journey on the podcast and then we'll jump into the big reason we're chatting today. So, we spoke back, I was looking earlier, in February 2018. We spoke about The Real Secret To Success With Your Martial Arts Business. I believe this was just before Fred DePalma‘s event in San Diego where we met for the first time.

Then in episode 110, we spoke about How To Become A Master Martial Arts Instructor. Actually, just when your book came out, we had a chat about that. And today, we're back. We're back for episode 142 because you're coming to Australia. How good is that?

ZULFI: Yes, I'm excited. Thank you very much for the kind invitation and I'm super excited. I can't wait to get on the plane and go and meet you again and all the friends in Australia. I have some very good friends, and fellow martial artists in Australia. I would love to see them and make new friends. And I am excited, super excited.

GEORGE: I think it'd be good, even though this is the third time around on the podcast, it'd be good to go back to your story. But a story I want to share quickly, which was really, I think a pivotal point where we really connected is at Fred DePalma's event. You spoke at the event and I really loved your chat and your knowledge. 

And I remember you making a lot of Jay Abraham references, which I thought, “Oh, that's really good.” For those of you that don't know Jay Abraham, look him up. And in the morning when we were flying back, we were all waiting down in the lobby at breakfast. We were all waiting for our trip back. 

And we just got into a conversation. And it was one of the most valuable conversations I've had in martial arts and martial arts business, and you just openly shared things that I can do in my business, how I should approach it, and how I should approach the American market differently. Yeah, so I want to thank you for that because I took a lot away from that.

ZULFI: My pleasure.

GEORGE: And so, we've always kept in touch. And so, the conversation came up and I know we mentioned it, somewhere along the line we mentioned, maybe sometime you'll come to Australia. And so, we host this event for our members once a year. We call it The Partners Intensive. We did one in Brisbane last year. 

I just moved to the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Australia and I thought, “If I'm ever going to do a great event in Australia, it's got to be here because it's beautiful.” And we're planning one for the US later in the year. And lucky enough, our dates have aligned well, and I'm really excited that you're going to be joining us for the event.

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts

ZULFI: Me too. It's a pleasure. I can't wait to do this. I've been wanting to go to Australia for many, many years. Actually, in 1979, I'm originally from Pakistan, so we had a Pakistani Burmese kickboxing team. We were going to go to Australia for a tournament in 1979. 

And we had some visa problems at that time. So half the members of the team got the visa, half the members didn't get the visa. I was one of the people who could have gotten the visa, but I was very young, so my parents said, “No, we have to have the whole team go otherwise …”

So, lo and behold, the trip got canceled. And we came to find out that the promoter, an Australian promoter, unfortunately, went through a heart attack, so the whole event got canceled, and postponed. So since then, since 1979, I've been looking forward to going to Australia. 

And I have some friends who live in Perth and Sydney, and then you are there. And there are some great martial artists like Ridvan and Hakan who are good friends of mine. And we have Phil and Graham also. I think they're in Sydney.

GEORGE: They'd be both in Perth.

ZULFI: Perth. So, they came and visited Bushi Ban headquarters and I just connected with my Aussie friends. So yes. And again, thank you for this kind invitation and I look forward to that.

GEORGE: So on that, and thanks for the brief intro, but I think even though you've been on the podcast before, I know a lot of martial artists that I mentioned were really excited that you're coming to Australia for the first time. And then there are a few that aren't that familiar with you and what you do in the space. So I think it'd be good to just recap on that. Just give us a bit of a background, your history in martial arts, Bushi Ban International, and so forth.

ZULFI: Sure, happy to. So, I'm originally from Pakistan. Most of you know where Pakistan is. But at age 23, I migrated to the United States and I grew up in martial arts. My history in martial arts is wrestling, Indo-Pakistani wrestling. As a little kid, it's like soccer in America, baseball, and almost everybody is exposed to Indo-Pakistani wrestling.

Actually, my father was a patron, and a big fan of wrestling, and my grandfather was a patron and fan of wrestling. The Great Gama, one of the greatest wrestlers who ever lived, my grandfather's family sponsored him, and they had a special pit, the akhara, we call it akhara wrestling pit, in my grandfather's land, where Gama would come and do what we call ZOR, wrestling, wrestle away. And my grandfather's family sponsored him through some of his fights. So it goes back into my history, my ancestors. And one of my uncles was a wrestler.

Then as a young kid, my father would take me to Pakistan, the Bholu wrestling pit and we would go see the matches and they would take me as a five, six-year-old, go, just roll around in the pit and hang out with the wrestlers and learn a few tricks and take-downs and all this cool stuff. And then as you get older, you get into other sports, hockey, and cricket and all this stuff. 

Zulfi Ahmed

Then I started at a very early age judo. My brother was a military cadet and he would come and beat me up from the military college when he would come home and do judo and boxing. And then I got into neighborhood boxing and my brother's friend was a judo brown belt. So he would teach us judo and we would take comforters from the house. We didn't have mats, so we put them down in the backyard and they were my judo mats.

And we learned some basic judo from him. And then in 1975, a Burmese grand master, Grand Master Ma Tai, migrated from Burma to East Pakistan, which is Bangladesh now and into Pakistan, and he started teaching Burmese Bando, Burmese martial arts. Lethwei is bare-knuckle kickboxing. Naban is the Burmese wrestling, Bando, Banshay, Thaing. He's still around, he still teaches, and he's still my teacher. 

And so I enrolled in his school. That was the first official school that I enrolled in Eastern martial arts. My father didn't care much for boxing, so I would have a few boxing matches when he found out I was doing boxing, he didn't think it was good for me, too much trauma. Bando Lethwei was even worse. But we didn't know back home, it was new. Nobody knew, we said it's karate, we're doing Bando karate. So okay, karate is good, you go train.

So I started training at a very early age, actually nine years of age. And then I'm still his student to this day. Whenever I go back, I of course give my love and respect to him and learn and visit with him. I was very fortunate to be on the Pakistani team, the martial arts team the first time we ever went outside Pakistan, the national team. 

We went to Malaysia to compete in the Keijo Hanan International Karate Championship, in 37 countries. I was the youngest competitor ever, and I won a gold medal in kata and weapons. And I got disqualified from fighting because our style of fighting was different from traditional karate. We were more Bando contact people. 

So I broke somebody's nose, and I got disqualified. So 14 years, little bitty, stinky little kid. And so from that time when we went to Malaysia, I was exposed to other martial arts, Shotokan, Ken Shin Kai, Goju-Ryu, and Malay Silat, and we were there for two months, Singapore, Malaysia.

And we traveled. All we did was soaked in martial arts, the whole team was a five-member team. We would train in the morning at the Kung Fu Kwoon up on the rooftop. We would go to GT Mings Dojo, learn Goju-Ryu, we would go to the Ken Shin Kai dojo, we'd go to KBI, Karate Budokan International, which by the way I believe has a big following in Australia. 

KBI, Karate Budokan International. And the Grand Master was Chew Choo Soot. So I would go train at his dojo in Malaysia. We were ranked in Shotokan, Ken Shin Kai under his organization. We became black belts under his certification ranking.

Then, as a 14-year-old, traveling, and competing just opened my mind. And I just fell in love even more with martial arts. And thanks to my father's support, and my family's support, I started traveling all over the Southeast Asian countries, Philippines, Thailand, Burma, India, you name it, I've been to the Far East and competed, trained, learned, and sometimes taught also. 

So my journey started internationally at age 14. Then I moved, and I migrated to the United States, to Houston, Texas. In 1985, I came to New York and then from New York to Texas, went to school here, San Jacinto College, Texas Southern University. But I had been teaching professionally starting at age 14. I used to teach in my school, my junior high school as a young person and I had 60, 70 students.

So I would teach, of course with the blessing of my teacher, Grand Master Tai. Then in 1979, I got the youngest title of black belt in Burmese Bando. And then I got permission to travel more from my teacher. And then in 1980 – '81, I opened my own school and started my own system called Bushi Ban and started Zulfi's Academy of Martial Arts. 

It was a blend of different styles, which I'd learned throughout my years, traveling all over competing, but at the same time connected to my teacher with his blessing. He was very open-minded and even though very traditional, yet open-minded. He gave me his blessing. I opened my own style, Bushi Ban. The evolution of Bushi Ban started in '80 – '81. And I'm still learning. It's evolving, it's a live system. We always learn, incorporate, and improve.

I was also fortunate to fight on the undercard where in 1976 or 75, Antonio Inoki, the great god of wrestling from Japan, and the great Akram, Akram Pahalwan. They had a freestyle fight in the National Stadium in Karachi, and there were like 42,000 spectators live broadcast. 

You can still find that match on YouTube Inoki versus Akram. That was my first-time exposure to mixed martial arts. Mixed Martial Arts in that part of the world have been around, but it was not called MMA, it was called freestyle wrestling.

And it would be all strikes. And there's the first time in public, somebody got arm barred. So Inoki beat Akram and broke his shoulder with an arm bar. Okay, so now for that fight, the wrestlers came and trained in Burmese Bando with my teacher. So my teacher was the striking coach, but unfortunately, Inoki arm-barred Akram, because Inoki was really good at grappling. 

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts

So that's when we started doing judo. And our exposure to jiu-jitsu started in 1977. There's a family in India called the Barodawalla family, which has a very, very cool history. It's just like the Gracie family. 

Parallel to Gracie family, the same story because the Indian army, the Japanese came to India in the Second World War and created some spies and they taught jiu-jitsu to some of those Indian spies. So they also started teaching and recruiting martial artists. So Dr. Barodawalla was a judo master, so he was also taught jiu-jitsu.

So his sons came to Pakistan for a visit and we were introduced to jiu-jitsu close to the way it started in the Gracie tradition. And that was my first exposure to jiu-jitsu. And they were teaching in the police academy. Anyway, I was exposed to grappling, wrestling, and judo, at an early age. So I continued training. 

When I came to America, I was under the mentorship of the Great Grand Master, Dr. Maung Gyi. He is the head of the American Bando Association, a highly respected, worldwide authority in martial arts. He introduced kickboxing to the United States. He's a mentor, was a mentor to the great Joe Lewis, and worked with Ed Parker and Robert Trias. His history is amazing. 

So he's still alive, 94 – 95 years of age. I just saw him last October. He's still my teacher. He's my mentor. He's the one who awarded me a 10th-degree black belt in 2017 under the American Bando Association.

So currently my own system is called Bushi Ban. I hold a 10th-degree black belt under the American Bando Association flag. I train every day as much as I can. I  teach every day. I oversee about 40 plus, 50 martial arts schools. They're not mine, but I guide them, I mentor them, and I coach them all over the world, not only in the United States. 

We have 13 Bushi Ban schools in America. We have many affiliate schools in America. They use my curriculum methodology system, and they have their own unique brand, but they incorporate the Bushi Ban system. From the financial part of it, which is just a byproduct, I don't know if you know what EFC, Educational Funding Company, is part of our billing company. And my headquarters was number one in EFC collections, for over 10 years. Number one grossing school in the United States.

And then other schools come up with this wonderful evolution. We are still with EFC, and we're still a very high-grossing school, but now we don't share all our numbers with everybody. Each one of our schools is very profitable. We believe our system, our style, and our curriculum is very robust and very timely. 

We learn to adjust to what are the needs, wants, desires, and fears of our clients. And we cater to our philosophy, students first, martial arts second, and business third. So first there is always the student, their wants, needs, desires, and what we can do for the student by way of martial arts. And then because we have the business, the business of martial arts changes lives. So students are always first. 

I continue my journey. I've competed all over the world. I've competed in grappling tournaments. I'm no world champion in grappling or Muay Thai. I've been beaten more than I've won, but I've been to over 300 competitions, tournaments, matches, and fights from all different styles.

I've fought in Thailand. I've done grappling, jiu-jitsu tournaments, boxing tournaments, sports karate tournaments, kickboxing tournaments, kata, and weapons. I've had two world titles in weapons and kata and lightweight sparring. So I believe I'm a well-rounded martial artist, but I still continue to learn and grow. 

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts

And my system, the Bushi Ban system, is what we call a supra system. It's a mega system with many integrated concepts, principles, and philosophies. So it's an eclectic integrated system with a traditional value base. So we have the traditional values, we have the traditional structure, but the modern approach. 

Now I know a lot of schools nowadays are claiming the same thing, but I believe that we are one of the pioneers of this mindset and this structure, which we started many, many, many years ago. And if we've gone through a lot of trials and errors and where we are, I believe many schools are starting where we were 20 years ago.

And I help a lot of schools refine and define their brand and their presence and their methodologies because I feel there're many multi-program schools, but they are kind of confused about how to integrate, how to layer, how to structure, how to bring the chain of difference, so their schools are doing programs. There'll be a school doing Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and Krav Maga. 

Wonderful, but it's not system-based, it's program-based. We take pride in that we are a system-based organization where our system, and structure are eclectic and timely with traditional values. I don't know if that makes much sense. This is a tradition for modern times.

GEORGE: Yeah, I'd love to just dive a bit deeper into that. But first just congratulations on the journey.

ZULFI: Thank you very much. And still learning, still growing.

GEORGE: You say you're still learning, you're still evolving every day. So it's not like every day you reach a plateau, in a comfort zone where you're at. Just to dive a bit deeper into that, you were referring to a brand identity where schools can be confused. 

We got guys in our group that are one style and that's what they do and that's their focus. And then multiple styles, multiple demographics, and so forth. How do you feel about the difference between being able to brand yourself as a multi-style school? And do you feel that there's a point where you should kind of delay it before you add too many styles so that you create a culture and an identity for your brand first? Or how do you approach that generally?

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts Media

ZULFI: So there are actually two schools of thought. One is the linear school. That means that they have their brand, style, and system as one. For example, Taekwondo, they know what they know, they are good at it, they're experts at it and they are successful with that, more power to them. 

Then there's a school, which is a multi-dimensional school with different products. If you go to banking, they say different products. They have jiu-jitsu, they have Muay Thai, they have whatever they do, fitness. And which is another model, which one is better? 

I've seen mega success in model A and I've seen mega success in model B. So the key is what is the leadership mindset? How clear is the leadership on the journey on the route they're taking? If you are a linear school, that means one style with multiple functions.

So you can have Taekwondo, but you can have fitness Taekwondo, self-defense Taekwondo. But it all depends on the leader, their stage, and the phase of their life where they are. So if you are a mature school, in which you've grown up with a mature brand and you are successful, more power to you. 

Keep doing what you're doing if you're successful and if you're happy. People can be successful, but they might not be content. And people can be content, but they might not have the success of “hundreds of students and thousands of dollars.” 

So you find your bliss, you find where it makes you tranquil, where you feel harmony with your brand and your success and what you are comfortable with. What is your key lifestyle comfort zone? Or are you constantly ambitious, constantly wanting more, more, more?

So that is a very private personal in-depth question, which when I work with my students, like coach a lot of school owners, let's define that. Let's find out where you are, where you want to be, and how we are going to get there. So you need to know your inner self first before the external extrinsic, we need to define that. 

Okay, I need 500 students, I need to make a quarter million dollars. You might be doing that but might not be content. You might be in turmoil, stressed away all day, and can't sleep. Or you might have 100, or 200 students. You make good enough money, you have a beautiful family, and you are happy.

So we need to find it from the top. It's defined from the top. The school methodologies and the school structure is secondary. First, let's see what the leadership is looking for, searching for, and where they find it. Then we break down, okay, linear school or multidimensional school. And in that, there are some pros and cons in both of them also. 

So we decipher that. We find out, I know some people who are mega-successful with linear schools and I know people who are mega-successful with multidimensional schools, but it depends on the stage and age and phase of their life also. So this is a question that is customized to each individual. I cannot give you a general question, it has to be customized.

GEORGE: 100%. Interesting that when we take people through the audition process in our Partners group, we always start with a purpose. And the way I always mention to school owners the purpose can be vague, but everyone's purpose is different because you might want to have multiple schools, multiple styles, or you just want the lifestyle business. 

We break the purpose down into three levels, the income you desire, the impact you want to create through your martial arts, and the lifestyle you want to live. And it's different for everyone because you'll get some that say, “Look, well, I've had this job forever, this other business, I need the income to do this thing.”

And others are just, “Well, I really want the impact. I want to make a difference in my martial arts.” And then others want the lifestyle, someone to live, eat, breathe, and sleep on the mats and others want balance. So I love how you define that starting with the end in mind.

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts Media

ZULFI: The key is clarity. Are you clear about it? We all have a purpose. Our purpose might be to make a lot of money. Nothing wrong with that. I love to make a lot of money and make a big impact. I love to make a big impact. I love this lifestyle. 

But how clear are we with our framework? How clear are we with our vision? How clear is the vision? How clear is the mission? How clear are our values which align with the business? How clear are we where we are in the stage and phase of our development and our maturity, our capabilities, our abilities, our roadblocks, our challenges, and our ambitions? How hot is the fire? Where is the fire taking us?

So some people are super ambitious but have no clarity. Some people are very clear, but they don't have the fire and desire. They want this but they don't want to work hard. So we have to find that balance. And if the balance is not there, we have to create leverages to build that balance. 

So we need to find, okay, your passion is this, your purpose is this. Let's be clear there's your ambition and let's find out the mechanics of how we align that. So clarity is very important.

GEORGE: I love that. So Master Zulfi, twofold question, when did you get that clarity? Was it from day one, you knew that this was going to be where you wanted to go or did it evolve? And then once you knew where you wanted to go, and you already had that first location, how did you develop that to scale it from two all the way to 13 the way you did? That's probably a loaded question.

ZULFI: I was very clear at orange belt level, I was nine or 10 years old or 11, I was very clear that this is going to be my lifestyle because I was influenced and I was around people who inspired me, influenced me, motivated me, not by telling me that you'll become a martial arts master or grand master or school owner just by the way of life, the role model which I had, it inspired me and it gave me a living model of where I wanted to be, who I wanted to be, who would be my example of lifestyle. 

So I saw that at a very early age because Grand Master Tai's school had hundreds of students in one class. There was a class that had 800 students in one session. It's unheard of for 800 students. People might be saying this guy is lying. No, I have photographs of proof.

And this was 1975, 1976. I saw how successful a martial artist can be, but it was not the money. I was very young. It was the impact and it was the respect that person was receiving the love that person was receiving and the love he was giving back to his students by way of him being a mentor master, a grand master, and the way he taught students and changed lives. 

One of them is me, even though I come from a very educated, high-value, accomplished family, very academic, and very high-minded. I have doctors, engineers, and lawyers, but I chose martial arts because that man inspired me by being a role model.

So it was at a very early age. And then I pursued and as I grew older and as I traveled early at an early age, 14, 15, 16, 17, and I was exposed to martial arts in the early '70s, mid-'70s, late '70s, all over the southeast Asian continent, I just fell in love and I knew this is what I was going to do, even though I went to college, university, but this has been my passion. 

The clarity of my purpose has been there. The structure has come through learning as well as trial and error. A lot of it was trial and error, experimentation, creative thought process, and then aligning myself with the right mentors.

Great Grand Master Maung Gyi is extremely learned. He has a double Ph.D. He taught at Harvard University. He's an intellectual extreme. So his guidance, my parents' guidance, my other teacher's guidance. Who we are is a product of our surroundings and our influences plus what we do on our own journey of inquisitiveness, experimentation, learning, and discovery. 

Now 13, we've had more schools, some schools changed the brand and went to a different style, which is okay, and some schools closed down in COVID. So we have 13 locations right now in America and many, many in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, we have affiliates in Thailand, also Canada, and we are all around and have a lot of affiliates.

So to answer, it's been a journey. It's been a constant evolution. Constant breakthrough. So when you get stuck with 200 students, you’ve got to learn what your next breakthrough point is. So you discovered it through experimentation, learning, and going to seminars. 

And then you found that breakthrough, then you go to 300 students, then there's another breakthrough, then you go to two schools, then you go to three schools. So each stage and phase, we must come through a breakthrough realization of processes, procedures, philosophies, mindsets, values, systems, and of course actions. That is what gets us to the next level. But first, we have to be clear about where we want to go.

GEORGE: Love it. So if we were to take that into a seminar and a workshop for those that'll be attending us in Australia on the Sunshine Coast, 2 to 4 June 2023, depending on when you're listening to this. What can people expect on the day?

Zulfi Ahmed Bushi Ban

ZULFI: I'm going to give you one big claim, all right? I don't like to give big claims. I'm going to share with your attendees a massive breakthrough mindset, which people might know but never have seen or heard of clearly. They might practice it, but without this structure which I'm going to give them. 

I'm going to break down how they can break through if they are stuck in one level or one stage. And I promise you that they will have an epiphany, a realization that they've never had before. And I'm going to give them a formula, an actual formula which they can go and start applying the next day into the business. 

And I can almost, I'm not going to give a written guarantee, assure you and guarantee that if we meet next year and if they apply what I'm giving them, the secrets, the breakthrough secrets, realizations, their school will be on a whole other level. Their whole culture will be at another level. I promise you that.

GEORGE: Love it.

ZULFI: I know it is because when I teach this to my schools, the people who've been in business 30 years, and when they hear this structure, this methodology, they say, “Oh my goodness, now I understand. I knew it, but now I see it clearly. Oh my goodness, I never thought of it like this. Wow, what a great realization. Why didn't I think of it before?” But it's not a thought, it's a process.

I will share step one, step two, and step three processes. We are going to roll up our sleeves, and we're going to do a workshop. It'll take about two hours to get the whole system down. And I promise you, by the time we are done with this system, the attendees, whoever the lucky person is attending, he or she will have epiphanies, and clarity they've never had before. It's a big claim and I'll stand behind that claim.

GEORGE: I love that. And just to back that up, I just want to illustrate that or put emphasis on that. It's a workshop environment. We are a small high-level group.

ZULFI: I love it.

GEORGE: Interactive. I know sometimes, maybe not in the martial arts space, but you go to these events and there's one guy standing at the top and telling you this big hero's journey story and then three little things that you can do and you never get the context. This is not that. In a workshop environment, it's interactive. It's going to be structured for you to get the breakthroughs and be able to ask questions and work on your business.

Zulfi Ahmed

ZULFI: And it's going not only on for martial arts, this system, which I've created and I've learned through my trial and errors, pains and hurts and successes, which when I share, people might have heard or seen it in some form of way, but not in this methodology, not in this way. And we'll do an actual exercise per each dimension of this system. And by the time we get to the final stage, they will realize, wow, I'm going to start doing this tomorrow. 

Some of them might be doing this in some way or form, but the way clarity's going to happen and it's going to become a system for them. And that system is a secret to the next level of breakthrough. It's not just the idea, it's not just the clarity. It's the process, procedures, and steps that people need to take to get through to the next level.

We might know that I want to get 400 students, I want to get 600 students, and I need to advertise more. No, there's more to it than that. But I will give you that process. And when you start applying that process, you will see a systematic rise in your numbers, improvement in your lifestyle, and satisfaction in your lifestyle. 

Your staff retention is going to grow by leaps and bounds. Your staff loyalty is going to grow by leaps and bounds. Your staff commitment is going to grow by leaps and bounds because staff retention, staff loyalty, and staff commitment are one of the biggest areas that martial arts schools are faced with. And I will give you the secret to how to deal with that. I have students, I have staff that has been with me 20 plus years. Happy staff. The guy who made their deal, he's been with me 20, 22, 23 years, I've got people with me 30 years, students will be with 40 plus years.

So there's a system. The first thing has to come from the heart. It cannot be artificial, it cannot be fake, and it has to be from the heart. And I'll share that with you. So I look forward to sharing this and much more. Many, many more breakthrough ideas, which I guarantee will take your schools to the next level. 

No matter where you are, no matter if you're making a quarter of a million dollars a month, you will increase that by 20 to 30%. No matter if you're making $20,000 a month. You'll increase there by 20 to 30%, but you have to apply the system. I have to give you the system that you have to apply.

GEORGE: I love that, Zulfi. I'm now more excited than I was when we first had the chat.

Zulfi Ahmed Bushi Ban

ZULFI: I'm coming all the way to Australia, I'm not going to come and waste your time or my time. My time is gold, and valuable. I want to share what has worked for me. I want to share what I've shared with a lot of top promoters, and top producers in the martial arts industry. 

I'm honored to help them, grow them, guide them, and it helps them every day. I'm excited. So they'll be my gift to my Australian fellow martial artists and friends. And for whatever it's worth, if you apply, I know because it's changed my life. 

These systems, these ideas, these principles, practices, and philosophies have changed my life and I'm happy to share because when I travel so far and when you invest so much in me, and when I invest so much in you, it has to be worth everybody's time. It has to be valuable, enriching, nurturing, productive, and transformational. Otherwise, it's a waste of everybody's time. And I value my time as much as I value your time and I want to give as much as I can.

So again, thank you for inviting me, and thank you for doing all that you do. And I really look forward to it. I know we have a few people who have asked for me to go and do private mentoring for them and coaching, and I'm really looking forward to some tough guys out there, some from Australia. 

I said, “Wow, man.” And I'm honored, the guys who you connected me with, and I'm honored and I can't wait to go and share whatever I can with them. And some very good martial artists out there, I'm just really looking forward to being part of your organization.

GEORGE: That's awesome. Zulfi, thanks so much for your time. And yes, so if you like what you've heard today and you want to join us, we started this event as an exclusive members-only event. We've opened it up to the public for only a few tickets available for that. 

So we are looking at 2 to 4 June, right on the beach, Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast. Beautiful location. Reach out to me, george@martialartsmedia.com, if you would like to host LF at your school for a private workshop. Anything from instructor training to parent workshops. Give us a quick snippet on that, Zulfi, just so that everyone's familiar.

Zulfi Ahmed

ZULFI: So the structure which I have, I do for my affiliate schools or people who invite me into their school. I have a day or day and a half schedule where I do one-on-one private mentoring with the owner only or the key owners or the key. It's a private, two-hour brainstorming mastermind session with them and we try to find out, investigate and then see how we can improve, tweak, and start to start with the leadership. 

Then I also do group instructor training from instructor to master level or from junior instructor depending on the maturity of the school. We also do martial arts training for their student body. It could be from weapons to self-defense to striking to the ground. You name it. We can work with them. We also do children's workshops with what we call combative games and it’s really, really fun. The kids love it.

We also do a parent workshop and that is one of the keys which I want to share with the school owners, how to conduct a powerful parents' workshop or parents' teacher meeting in social. That in itself is immensely valuable when the schools start doing structured, properly organized parent-teacher meetings, workshops, and social, and I'll share that with you. 

So I do that for some schools also where the parents come in and I motivate them and inspire them to get into the martial arts. I show them the values and benefits of keeping their kids, not that they don't know it, but when it comes from a third party, from another authority, or from outside your school, it just creates a bigger impact. It just creates a bigger story. And we get the parents to connect with the school.

So my job is to help you build your brand to even the next level, to even take it to the next level. I'm not there to sell me, I'm there to sell you even more to your student body. So they see you as the ultimate authority, the ultimate brand, the ultimate go-to source. 

So my job is to be your aid to grow your school and grow your student body and bring them closer to you, the parents and the students, and the staff so that you all can create a bigger, stronger brand.

GEORGE: Awesome. Zulfi, thanks so much for your time, and really looking forward to having you over. If anyone wants to host Zulfi at their school, just email me, george@martialartsmedia.com. Thanks so much. Really looking forward to seeing you and we'll chat soon.

ZULFI: Thank you, everyone. Thank you, George.

GEORGE: Thanks, Zulfi.

ZULFI: And stay in touch soon. All the best. OSS.


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140 – Signing Up New Martial Arts Students With Dead Leads

Here’s a proven strategy to revive old prospects and re-sign former martial arts students through email, SMS, and Facebook Messenger.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • How leads collected via Facebook Messenger, email, and walk-in prospects can be a valuable resource to reach out to nonresponsive leads
  • Having a conversation strategy that caters to potential martial arts students that are not ready to commit yet
  • How to restart a conversation with dead martial arts leads using The Conversation Carrots
  • The pitfall to avoid when reconnecting with dead leads and what to do instead
  • Using the 9-word Bullet Boomerang to boost student signups
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Start Here.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Hey, it's George Fourie. Welcome back to another Martial Arts Media™ Business podcast. Today I'm going to be talking about signing up students with dead leads or leads that you have just forgotten about.

Leads that have inquired, they never signed up, or you were having a conversation with them and they ghosted you or just disappeared. Or perhaps you have those old students that left unless they left on bad terms and you don't want them back.

But otherwise, just students that left and something life got in the way and you didn't hear from them again and they left. So we're going to talk about a few simple strategies to restart the conversations with those dead leads, all students that have left, super simple but super profitable.

Hang around to the end. I've got a great resource for you, a PDF that we call Conversation Carrots. It's one of the most popular resources we have in our Partners Program, a really simple way to engage and start conversations. I'll give you the details at the end of the podcast, and how to access that. All right, let's jump in.

All right, before we get into the good stuff, a quick life update for any of you that have followed the podcast for a while and know that I haven't posted much on social in a while and done a podcast, this will take 30 seconds approximately.

So I'm recording this in 2023, February. In October last year, we decided to move the family from Perth to the Sunshine Coast. If you're not from Australia, that's equivalent to moving from San Diego to New York, it's that far, and that's what we did.

What decided us to move? Well in the mid-last year, we came here on holiday. I was hosting our first Partners Intensive, which is an event that we run for our Partners group. And we came on holiday the week before.

Absolutely loved it here, loved the beaches, and just loved the vibe of it. And we decided we wanted to do something new, that I'm closer to hosting events on this side of the country but also close to the states for travel and events that we want to host over there. And so we made the big move. That's it. 

Now, we're back and on track. The other thing that's been keeping us busy the last couple of months is onboarding new clients and working on a few cool things that I'm going to announce in the next month, a couple of weeks or so. Update done, right?

Let's jump into the good stuff. So how does one sign up students from dead leads?

All right, so let's look at a few scenarios. You have leads piled up in your Messenger. If you collect leads via Facebook Messenger, perhaps you have inquiries via Messenger or you have them from your website. So you have email leads, and you have them in your database, preferred.

We'll talk about that maybe a little bit. Maybe people walked in and you took down their details, whatever the scenario, you had people that were inquired but never joined. 

Now, if you had to track back the last few months, the last few years, how many of these people do you have in your database? If you still have them, we've got a few cool things that we can do with them and I'll chat about that in just a bit. 

All right, so these perfect prospects inquired, but they never joined. Now, I guess a dangerous thing for us to do is to make some assumptions about them, that they inquired, but now they're just not interested. Well, it could be, but it could also be just something else that happened that we can't control. 

Life got in the way. Maybe they were tied up in some other engagement and they just haven't had Covid, or maybe it's something deeper, right? There's a fear of what this whole martial life thing is about and they're just not comfortable stepping up and taking action on starting their training yet. 

Or one more option could be they just don't know who you are and they're just not sure about you. So they're just still doing a bit of their research, googling about having a look, trying to see if they can talk to people following, stalking you on all your social profiles, etc. That's them. 

Now, we could put them in the category of, look, they didn't inquire the first time and why would we need to talk to them? I mean, they inquired and they're not interested. Well, as we just discussed, that may not be the case. 

And so your prospects are going to fall into one of two categories. They're either ready now or they're not ready now. And the majority is probably not ready now. And so it's important that we capitalize on the ones that are ready to join, but then there's also the big bulk of prospects that come into your world and they're just not ready. 

Now, if you're doing paid Facebook advertising or any Google advertising, any marketing for that matter, you've invested some money into getting these leads. 

And so it's important that you have a marketing strategy that doesn't just cater to those that are ready now, but also those that are in your pipeline that might join later. So I want to talk about that strategy. 

So when you have people in your pipeline, well, how do you restart the conversation? Here's what I think is a bad way to do it. A bad way from my perspective would just be to shove more offers down their throat, never asking any questions, never starting a conversation, and just making an offer to offer, to offer. 

Now that might happen, but your chances of repulsing them and exiting your world by about offer number two or three is very, very likely. 

So what is a better way to do it? Well, let's look at how conversions work. Typically, before your prospects start training and start joining there is a conversation, right? There's got to be a conversation that's going to lead to them getting started. 

So if it's all about conversations, and we've spoken about this before, then why don't we just sell more conversations, because conversations will lead to the actual conversions? So how do we start conversations? How do we sell more conversations on email and social? 

Well, it's really, really simple, and we've spoken about these on a few podcast episodes, I believe on podcast episode number 44, is we start a conversation, we ask a real simple question. 

Now, there are a lot of names for these people, call them 9-word emails. We used to call them a Bullet Boomerang because a bullet sort of pierces through and then comes back, the conversation. 

But they've been termed in our Partners group as Conversation Carrots. Conversation Carrots, meaning it's a conversation, they're like something that you're dangling to start a conversation. And so if you think of a carrot in front of a donkey, it's kind of like bait. 

Well, I don't want to see it as bait, but it's a really simple way to start a conversation. We call these Conversation Carrots. And if you want to download the Conversation Carrots, you can just go to this podcast episode, which is martialartsmedia.com/140 for number 140. Just click the resources tab and you can download these.

So Conversation Carrots is a really simple way for you to start the conversations, start the conversations that can lead to a higher level conversation of whether are they ready to get started. 

So we divide these into a few categories. Mainly it could be super direct. Are you still interested in training in martial arts? That's super direct, but it could also be a bit more low-level, meaning a situational-type question. It could be how old is your child who's looking to start training in martial arts. Anything that really sparks the conversation. 

And so if you have a list of prospects, whether it's on email or Messenger or text message, you could just send out these little Conversation Carrots because all that they are doing is they are there to start a conversation. That's it.

A good way to complicate this is to give the answer already and say, are still interested in martial arts, insert offer here. No, now you've just given away the whole reason why you sent this message and it kind of destroys the whole purpose of it. 

So keep it super simple, and make it conversational. So if you have old prospects and also students that have stopped training with you, they also fall under this category. So students that trained, maybe you changing seasons and you know it's between years, like going from one season to the next or one year to the next. It's a great way to just send out a message and see if you can re-spark the interest. Start the conversation, conversation leads to the conversion. 

A follow-up strategy that we do after this, we call this our four-day Student Scale Campaign. And this is a four-day email strategy that helps sign people up. So this is a bit more working with a strategic irresistible martial arts offer and then creating a strict deadline and then a four-day email sequence that we have that sign people up. 

So I wanted to share what can get you started, martialartsmedia.com/140, download the Conversation Carrots, and that'll get you started. Go grab all those old leads that haven't joined all those old students and take this sheet from the Conversation Carrots, and send out that message, start a conversation. 

And when you sign up your first student from this, do me a favor and please let me know. Tag me in one of the social posts on Facebook or wherever you are watching this, or send us a message from martialartsmedia.com and let me know when you sign up your next student from this super simple strategy. 

Awesome. And if you got some value out of this, please do me a favor. If you can just share this with a martial arts school owner that you feel will get some great value from this. And we've also just revamped our Facebook group, or martial arts school owners, the martial arts media business community. 

You can access that at martialartsmedia.group. So not.com, you can just go martialartsmedia.group. That'll take you to our Facebook group, request to join, just answer a couple of questions, and jump in there. 

And I look forward to seeing you inside the community. Speak soon. Cheers.

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Our site provides users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving communications from us and our partners by reading the unsubscribe instructions located at the bottom of any e-mail they receive from us at anytime. Users who no longer wish to receive our newsletter or promotional materials may opt-out of receiving these communications by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Use of External Links

All copyrights, trademarks, patents and other intellectual property rights in and on our website and all content and software located on the site shall remain the sole property of or its licensors. The use of our trademarks, content and intellectual property is forbidden without the express written consent from .

You must not:

Acceptable Use

You agree to use our website only for lawful purposes, and in a way that does not infringe the rights of, restrict or inhibit anyone else”s use and enjoyment of the website. Prohibited behavior includes harassing or causing distress or inconvenience to any other user, transmitting obscene or offensive content or disrupting the normal flow of dialogue within our website.

You must not use our website to send unsolicited commercial communications. You must not use the content on our website for any marketing related purpose without our express written consent.

Restricted Access

We may in the future need to restrict access to parts (or all) of our website and reserve full rights to do so. If, at any point, we provide you with a username and password for you to access restricted areas of our website, you must ensure that both your username and password are kept confidential.

Use of Testimonials

In accordance to with the FTC guidelines concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, please be aware of the following:

Testimonials that appear on this site are actually received via text, audio or video submission. They are individual experiences, reflecting real life experiences of those who have used our products and/or services in some way. They are individual results and results do vary. We do not claim that they are typical results. The testimonials are not necessarily representative of all of those who will use our products and/or services.

The testimonials displayed in any form on this site (text, audio, video or other) are reproduced verbatim, except for correction of grammatical or typing errors. Some may have been shortened. In other words, not the whole message received by the testimonial writer is displayed when it seems too lengthy or not the whole statement seems relevant for the general public.

is not responsible for any of the opinions or comments posted on https://martialartsmedia.com. is not a forum for testimonials, however provides testimonials as a means for customers to share their experiences with one another. To protect against abuse, all testimonials appear after they have been reviewed by management of . doe not share the opinions, views or commentary of any testimonials on https://martialartsmedia.com – the opinions are strictly the views of the testimonial source.

The testimonials are never intended to make claims that our products and/or services can be used to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any disease. Any such claims, implicit or explicit, in any shape or form, have not been clinically tested or evaluated.

How Do We Protect Your Information and Secure Information Transmissions?

Email is not recognized as a secure medium of communication. For this reason, we request that you do not send private information to us by email. However, doing so is allowed, but at your own risk. Some of the information you may enter on our website may be transmitted securely via a secure medium known as Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL. Credit Card information and other sensitive information is never transmitted via email.

may use software programs to create summary statistics, which are used for such purposes as assessing the number of visitors to the different sections of our site, what information is of most and least interest, determining technical design specifications, and identifying system performance or problem areas.

For site security purposes and to ensure that this service remains available to all users, uses software programs to monitor network traffic to identify unauthorized attempts to upload or change information, or otherwise cause damage.

Disclaimer and Limitation of Liability

makes no representations, warranties, or assurances as to the accuracy, currency or completeness of the content contain on this website or any sites linked to this site.

All the materials on this site are provided “as is” without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of merchantability, noninfringement of intellectual property or fitness for any particular purpose. In no event shall or its agents or associates be liable for any damages whatsoever (including, without limitation, damages for loss of profits, business interruption, loss of information, injury or death) arising out of the use of or inability to use the materials, even if has been advised of the possibility of such loss or damages.

Policy Changes

We reserve the right to amend this privacy policy at any time with or without notice. However, please be assured that if the privacy policy changes in the future, we will not use the personal information you have submitted to us under this privacy policy in a manner that is materially inconsistent with this privacy policy, without your prior consent.

We are committed to conducting our business in accordance with these principles in order to ensure that the confidentiality of personal information is protected and maintained.

Contact

If you have any questions regarding this policy, or your dealings with our website, please contact us here:

Martial Arts Media™
Suite 218
5/115 Grand Boulevard
Joondalup WA
6027
Australia

Email: team (at) martialartsmedia dot com

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