109 – Tripling Your Student Base In 2 Years With 100% Karate

Last time we spoke with Cheyne McMahon, he had just gone full time with 110 students when his dojo got flooded. Today, he has 340 students and is thriving as a Karate-only school.

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IN THIS EPISODE:

  • How action takers work and think differently
  • The pay off of investing in your instructors
  • 100% Karate! Cheyne’s growth from 110 students to 340 students
  • Do this to motivate your white belts
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

As soon as I see the value in it, I'll do it straightaway, whether that's good or bad sometimes, but at the moment, everything I do is working out pretty well.

GEORGE: Hey, George Fourie here. Welcome to another Martial Arts Media business podcast episode. We're on episode 109 and chatting today to a good friend and a repeat guest, Cheyne McMahon. Good day, Cheyne.

CHEYNE: Hey, how are you? 

GEORGE: Good, good, good. So, been a while. Well, I'd say it's been a while since we spoke on the podcast, I was actually checking back and we spoke on episode number 74. Actually back in March 2019, so, depending when you're listening to this, close to the two year mark on doing this again. 

So, I wanted to chat again, really to document his journey, because it's been a long journey. We'll go a bit more into the details, but you can check out podcast number 74 for a bit more of the background – the first time we met, how we got started working together, and your dojo was flooded, wasn't it?

CHEYNE: Yeah, still remember that one like it was yesterday? Yeah.

GEORGE: Flooded dojo, we started working together, did a couple of cool things, and worked out well, you jumped up to 185 students. That was in December. Well, in February, so that was a couple of months later, shot to 200. I'll be prompting you to get that 300, you hit 300 students at the time of recording this. Well, last week, he said you were 325. This week you're at?

CHEYNE: Yeah, that's 348 students.

GEORGE: Just from the sidelines, and I'm going to hand it all over to Cheyne, but you know, one thing I admire about Cheyne is just relentless work ethic. You know, whenever we chat on a Zoom call or something, we chat about something, Cheyne goes quiet, and then he's like, “yep, it's done, it's sent”. 

And so, he's just a religious action taker, we can almost stop the podcast there if you want to get the value out of something and Cheyne's journey on how he progresses so fast, is just taking action all the time. It's probably a good place to start, right? Because what got you to that? What is it that prompts you to take action quickly? Is that something that came from, you know, from childhood? Or is it the discipline of karate? What's got you to that?

CHEYNE: Yeah, I think that that's just sort of my personality. I just want to, I just want to see the value in it, and I’ll just do it straightaway. Just like setting up Calendly. Last week, we were talking about it, as soon as I see the value in it, I'll do it straightaway. Whether that's good or bad sometimes, but at the moment, everything I do is working out pretty well. Some things don't work. But so far it's been it's been pretty good.

GEORGE: Yeah, I can't recall who shared this exactly. I think Elon Musk shared something similar, that the person who makes the most business decisions wins and in context, and I'm probably butchering this, but the overall story is, if you make 100 decisions a week or day, and 50 of them fail, then you still made 50 decisions in the right direction. The problem is when you overanalyze and you sit back, and you make 10 decisions, and still, 50% ratio, five of them fail. 

So, now you've made five steps in the right direction, versus 50. So either, you know, when we, when we think we are doing the wrong things, doing just many things all the time and making decisions rapidly, actually goes a bit further at the end of the day.

CHEYNE: You know, it's not like I'm making rash decisions on the spot that's going to impact my cash flow or my life in a massive way. But just little things that I see that are much better, I'll just change like that. But changing a timetable or a schedule, something like that? You need to sit down and figure that one out. There can't be just, you know, off the top.

GEORGE: Cool. So, look. So, I guess building on our conversation last time, yeah, you know, we chat every week, we get on our Partners group, we jump on calls and so forth. You know, your journey has been, it's gone from one thing to the other and improved, and then we had COVID, obviously, and that threw a curveball for everyone. But I mean, you've bounced right back, and things are moving. What's been working well for you? Let's just start with that.

CHEYNE: Yeah. Well, so, yeah, COVID hit. Like everybody we had to shut down and teach online classes. But, from that, we've actually incorporated a couple of things from the Zoom platform that we use. So, every class now is, is streamed live on our Zoom channel, or a Zoom link. So, that's been really great, because we've got people in, we've got another dojo. 

So, I'm in Brisbane, we have another dojo in Sydney, and so the instructors there can actually watch what we're doing. I've been recording some segments or sections of the class, and uploading them onto our YouTube channel, where the instructors can actually watch some of the drills that we've been doing, and then make sure, you know, we're all in sync on how we teach a particular technique, or kata, or whatever we're doing. So, that's been really good. When Zoom hit, we could, sorry, not Zoom. When COVID hit.

So, we could only have a certain amount of parents or people in the dojo when we could resume classes. So, we only let the juniors in, no parents. And since then, the behavior of the kids has been fantastic. So, there's no background noise, there's no distractions. It was purely instructors and kids. So, since then, we've taken away the waiting area and don't allow parents inside while the class is on. 

So, before and after, yep, but during the class, no. But if the parents want to watch, they can watch it on our Zoom link, which is always on, with the Zoom, we change the password every month, just for security. So, if we have someone who stops training, then they won't be able to watch the training from home. So, there are just a couple of things that have made us better since COVID.

GEORGE: Great, so now, you just don't let parents in, and parents, just become accustomed to, really took advantage of the fact that they can't sit around, and it's turned out for the better.

CHEYNE: Well, yeah, it's turned out better for the coffee shop next door to us too.

GEORGE: Right?

CHEYNE: Yeah, look. So, the parents know that they're not allowed, it's not that they're not allowed inside, just not during the class. So, they come in, drop their, especially when their kids are new. They bring their kids in, the kids sign themselves in and then the parents, either sit in their car or go for a walk. Some, if there's a partner, some will just go for a picnic. There's a pub across the road too, so, I'm sure a couple of sneaky people go there for a few quiet ones.

GEORGE: Cool. So, on that, I mean, we're talking about changes. So, you made that adjustment. That's been really good. What else do you do, I guess, do that's different? And maybe what things that you don't do, that normal schools might not be doing well?

CHEYNE: Something different that we do since I last spoke to you in the podcast. So, we've got a junior leader team and we also have an instructor's team, so, constantly developing instructors to assist in the class, as well as take their own class. Not so much the junior leaders, juniors are there to assist in the class – bow the kids in, show the kids what to do, where to go when they first start, and also set up any equipment. 

But as far as karate goes, what we do differently, I suppose is black belt is only just the beginning for us. We've got lots of second, third, fourth, fifth dans that train with us. There's something after black – you don't need to be an instructor. So, we've got, yeah, we also teach kobudo, which is weapons, to black belts and above. And karate, I suppose what we teach is Koshinkan Karate, which means old and new Karate, the school of the old and new. So we teach old style karate from Kinjo Hiroshi and Kazuya Mitani in Japan.

We also teach modern sports-style karate, for WKF style. So, we have different silvers for kids to adults. So with the kids, we teach modern sports, safe karate. For the adults, and why we have so many adults and why we keep so many adults, is we teach practical karate, practical self-defense, which has joint locks, throws, vital point strikes, weapons, grappling, all of those fun things that you can't teach the kids. 

That's what can make us different to most other karate buffs is that ability to be able to teach both. So, the same principles that we use in our sports karate, apply in our traditional, original karate. That's one of the things that make us a little bit different. And we're all about karate. So karate, karate, karate – we don't have to teach any kickboxing classes, any fitness kickboxing or fitness-cardio karate. 

We don't do birthday parties, we do social events, but it has nothing to do with karate, that's building a community. But yes, we don't have to supplement our classes in having another martial art here. We don't teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or kickboxing or Muay Thai in our space. It's only karate.

GEORGE: And why is that important to you? Because I know you really love karate. I know that, and obviously, you know, we all love our styles and know our styles can be a bit biased. But I know you've got such an in-depth history of it coming through the family, we could probably talk about that – your dad, Bob, had started out the business what, a good 30, 35 years ago?

CHEYNE: 31 years ago, yeah, the Australian Karate Academy, but he started teaching in 1972. So, he was one of the first to teach kids in Australia. This is before the craze of The Karate Kid. But that's a whole other story. Yeah, I just love karate. There are so many more things that we are starting to learn more about the history of karate, things like the Japanese influence into Okinawan martial arts, and the Chinese influence into Okinawan martial arts. 

Cheyne McMahon Karate Business

Those things are being discovered now through guys that live in Japan and live in Okinawa, or live in Germany or live in America. So yeah, there's still more and more and more things that we're learning about the development of karate, how it came about. So that keeps me, you know, really interested. There's a competition side, which, which I like as well, and I did compete for a long time. 

But now my focus is more on developing some of my athletes, and also developing our understanding of karate, getting back to the older style of karate, less kids karate, and more, you know, genuine, old style, real original, dento karate. I started when I was four and every job, everything I've ever done in my life, almost everything is key around karate. My holidays based on karate, where I go, the countries I visited have all been basically built around karate. 

GEORGE: I love that. Even though you're building a business, you're not deviating from your passion at all, you really just want to stay on the path. And so I want to play the opposite of that – is, do you see it, like, do you see it beneficial to have a different style for you? Or will it completely just sidetrack you from your passion and your focus of karate?

CHEYNE: Well, one of the things that we do is a two-week trial. So everybody, it doesn't matter if you've done karate before, everybody completes a two-week trial. If Little Johnny is a bad seed, then someone within the two weeks will ask him not to come back or if he's disrupting the class, if he's there to have fun and not learn karate, then we won't accept him into our club. 

Sometimes we stop enrollments, if the class is too full, we'll stop enrollments, and then we'll take enrollments for when there is space available in the class. So, that's one of the things that I do to ensure that what we're teaching is what I want to teach. You know, there are some karate or martial art schools that want as many as they can. 

Look, I want many too, you know, I want to teach quality karate to many people, but I'm not going to take people who aren't there to learn karate. Learning my karate, our style of karate, that's first and foremost, not 1500 students or a million dollars. It's karate first, business second. How can I say, but a business is a very close second sometimes.

GEORGE: Yeah, of course. I mean, it's the business that allows you to have the passion, and well, to live your passion, right? Because without that income supplying for it, then you don't want to be a struggling instructor as well, that, you know, you've got to go to work the day job and then put money in here, and then your life becomes complicated.

CHEYNE: Well, yeah, done that. So, now all my focus is karate, whereas before, maybe 30% karate, 70% work. So now, you know, I understand that some only want karate for the second or third or fourth part of their life, but for me, it is 100% part of my life. So, I can teach as many people as I can, the karate that I've, you know, spent 35 years developing and, yeah, the more the merrier in as long as their drive is also karate and not, you know, being silly.

And I think, you know, we've had to ask some people not to come back, you know, whether they're white belt or brown belt or black belt.

GEORGE: How do you approach that? And what are sort of your, what are your benchmark values that you stick by? And if somebody crosses that line, they're out the door? What is that line? How does that line look?

CHEYNE: Well, for kids, it's quite easy. You can, I can see, mostly the parents pull them out, because they can see, you know, little Johnny is there for the games, not, not the karate. So while we have fun in karate, karate is not itself fun. It's hard work. It's repetitive, it's tiring, it's not games. So, with the kids, the majority of the class, 80% of the class is karate, bang-bang-bang-punch-punch-punch-move-move-move. 20% is fun for the kids, because you still have, they're still kids, you still have to give the kids high fives and positive reinforcement. 

You're not just teaching karate, you're also impacting the person's life, on how they deal with individual sport. They're learning values there on hard work and reward, whereas team sport's different. So, the individual activity or school sport, you still need to give positive reinforcement, positive views, to especially kids, especially kids' high fives, man, we give so many high fives. So, what was the question?

GEORGE: I don't know. But I have another one. And the question is, how do you know you cross? Sorry, the question was, how do you know if you cross the line? My follow-up question was on that, if you don't classify karate as a sport, what do you classify it as that? 

But back to the first question on the values. So, what is sort of your values, a benchmark of the line? And you mentioned, if they cross the line on, you know, they're just there for fun and games, that's easy. What else? What else is sort of really important for like, go-to rules or values that have got to be abided by?

CHEYNE: If they're not a positive influence into the dojo, you know, if they're constantly talking or draining other people as well, distracting other people from their own learning, being a bad partner. That is a big one. Especially in our adult classes, 90% of an adult class is partner work. It's not up and down drills, it's partner work. 

Also, karate is practice at home by yourself, practice at the dojo with Partners. I think modern karate has it reversed – it's 90% of solo practice at the dojo, which should really be 90% partner work, but anyway. So, you need to be a good partner, a partner that your partner wants to train with. If they don't want to train with you, then I will have a word with you. Especially with the adults and the kids as well. If you are, you know, an annoying kid whose elbows go out, then you know, you will get a warning. There are things that we look for – genuinely nice people, people that you want to hang out with.

GEORGE: Yeah. So if you can invite them over to your home, that's a good sign. And if you cringe at that idea, it is probably a bad idea.

CHEYNE: Yeah, nobody comes to my house, though.

GEORGE: No, of course not. So, on clarifying karate, you mentioned that you don't clarify karate as a sport. What do you clarify karate as?

CHEYNE: Well, I think there's sporting elements in karate, for sure. Especially modern karate, anything from 1936 onwards, I would probably classify that as a sports karate, where the intention are the activities to build strength and muscle and speed in a competitive environment. 

So, I would consider karate to be a self-defense program, whether that's weapons, or empty hands for lack of a better word. I consider karate to be first a combat system, self-defense, for sure, rather than a sport. I don't like the idea of karate as a sport because it takes away the like, how lethal some of the techniques are, and the intention of the techniques, you know, piercing somebody's eyes, for example, groin ups. You can't do that in any sport, but you can do that in karate. So, in that light, karate is considered as a sport, I think it waters down the original intention of karate.

GEORGE: Gotcha. So, okay to be used as a sport, but when the sport becomes the focus, then everything starts to deteriorate.

CHEYNE: Yeah, yeah, I mean, there is sports karate, and that's fine. That's just not, not what I like, you know, I don't like I didn't like the emphasis just on the sporting events. Yeah, I mean, everybody's got their own tastes, and how they compete as well for a long time. And we have competitors, but 90% of the people that join my dojo or join a dojo is to learn self-defense, not to compete for Australia at the Olympics. I think a lot of dojo do a disservice by not teaching proper self-defense. 

You know, they teach modern Japanese karate where they move up and down the floors, doing 50 punches and upper walls and roundhouse kicks – they are absolutely of no use to do any, for any self-defense. So, if you're advertising for sports karate, then yeah, go for it, but they all advertise self-defense karate, and I think I think they're lying. 

GEORGE: Gotcha. Okay. Want to talk a bit more about that – that's cool. I'm having to go there. Like, I mean, if there's things that are completely against your point of view, and this is a podcast, right, we have open discussion. I've never put two martial artists together that actually agree on the same point. It's rare, of course, but hey, but that's what makes it beautiful, right?

There's diversity in opinion and its styles and everything else. But I like exploring what really pisses you off about it? You know? Maybe I've never asked that question what really pisses you off about, you know, in the industry or about different marketing or programs. It's time to let it out, Shane, it's your time to let it out right here.

CHEYNE: What annoys me is when I see people, yeah, advertising for self-defense, and all they are doing is what we call 3K karate. So, Katoki E-Kumite. It's karate that was developed for schoolchildren 100 years ago they're teaching as self-defense. That karate is originally for school kids – attacks to the eyes became punches to the body. Joint locks were taken out because they weren't safe for kids, of course, throws gone, all of the wrap on the close-in self-defense, or the self-preservation, the really dirty karate, the dirty side of, of combat was taken out to teach to children. 

And I appreciate that, and that's what we teach to kids. But people teaching that to adults, and calling it self-defense, or calling it traditional karate? It's not – it is modern, watered down children's karate, and that annoys me. What makes my dad different is in the 80s, he kept asking questions.

Why? Why are we punting to the body? What is it? What is the original ideal? Why? Why, why, why? So, he started researching and talking to people outside of Queensland, outside of Australia, started getting answers. Whereas people are still doing the same thing as their instructor did years ago, without questioning why.

You are just teaching ‘that's how my instructor taught us'. Well, your instructor learnt sports, modern sports, and children’s karate. And they're trying to adapt it to self-defense, and you can't, you can't unless you peel back the layers and understand the original intention of the technique. The original intention of why, why a block to the body became, should have really been a block to the face. You know, fingers to the eyes became punches to the body. Head butts, all of the really cool things that all of the Krav-Maga, self-defense experts are taught. 

But really, people aren't teaching that in karate. Not everybody – there are some, definitely. There's a deep growing list of people who are doing it. But we've been doing it for 30 years, and then people come here. Yeah. That grinds my gears.

GEORGE: That's great. Anything else that you need to do you need to share?

CHEYNE: Nah, I'm okay for now. 

GEORGE: Cool. All right, great. Perfect. Let's change gears just a little bit. Right? And get back to, get back to your business.

CHEYNE: So positive.

GEORGE: All right, yeah. We either gained a lot of listeners there, or lost a few. But that's, that's great, either way. So, just back on your business, right? So I mean, lots of change, two years. I mean, if you look at two years, right, two years, and going from 110 students to 340. 

So that's tripling your business in three years. I think it's important to always sometimes look at that, right? Because, you know, everybody wants, maybe some people want a bigger school, some people don't, some people want a good, thriving business, but want to stick to their core values of karate, or whatever your style might be. So, tripling your business in two years, man, well done. 

CHEYNE: Thank you!

GEORGE: Well done. What do you do differently now, than you did back when you were around 100 students?

Cheyne McMahon Karate Business

CHEYNE: How I schedule the classes are different, the layout of the classes. I want everybody at the end of the class to be sweating and smiling. Actually, I heard that of somebody, I can't remember if it was a couple, maybe a year and a half ago, and when it just clicked with me, sweating and smiling at the end, whether you're a four year-old, or an 84 year-old, you know that should be the emphasis when they're leaving the class. So, how we structure the classes are a little bit different. 

So, we do like, at the end, it's got to be not a hard workout, but something physical – back, punch, punching for the kids. Running, running, running, punching, punching, punching. In the middle of the class is the core basis of the lesson. Whether we're doing Kata or Qian for kids or e-Kumite or break falls or whatever that we're doing in the class, that's the cool part, the end of the class has got to be fun and fitness. So, that's one aspect. 

Another aspect that we do differently is how we schedule appointments with people. So, when somebody inquires, we book an appointment through an app, they come in, I run them through exactly how the classes run, the fees, how much the fees are, what's expected of them as members, how the gradings work, any extra money that they might have to pay for at some stage, the belt system, everything that they will need to know for the next 10 years of learning. There's different instructors, you know, more instructors, more instructors, you just cannot have enough instructors. 

If you think you have enough instructors, you need more, you need to be developing instructors. So, we've got a group of four or five middle grade adults that are just learning how to teach karate, not to, they're not out there teaching classes, but they're taking little five minute segments of a couple of people learning how to teach karate, so I identify them as future instructors. Everything organized like, man, I've never been so organized in my life. 

We have a 12-month calendar (that you helped me with) set up, so all the gradings are set. They know when the color gradings are, when the black belt gradings are on, you know, a competition tournament for them to be on, they know when we're running marketing, massively marketing, a budget and marketing windows at two weeks before school holidays, and then a week after school holidays. Everything is all set out. It's all ready to go. We've got a calendar that I'm constantly looking at and being organized. That's one of my buzzwords, organized. 

Yeah, so all of those things, we just have systems in place where I don't have to be at the dojo every day, or instructors that can take the classes, you know, come in and just do a couple of admin stuff. You know, just setting everything up. It took a while, but the dojo is running really smooth, really smooth at the moment. That's a big difference. Everything is organized. A Christmas party we had last year, I think by booking in August, so we already had everything organized. The Christmas party, all we had to do was just turn up, was all paid for, organized, food. We had a 180-something turnout for the Christmas party. And yeah, just those things – gradings, everybody logs on for the grading. 

So, we use an app where people pay for the grading as well. So, the two days before the grading, it stops. You can't book after the grading because I've got to organize belts. But people pay for the grading and they book themselves in for the grading. So, then I just have a look to see who's in the grading. So, having that just makes it a lot easier. Rather than constantly emailing Johnny – ‘Hey, Johnny, are you coming to the grading?' If Johnny's not registered, Johnny's not grading.

GEORGE: Great, yeah, I think, you know, one thing that I think could help anyone because it's sometimes when you go into growth mode, you're very ad-hoc, and you're very reactive, and you're doing whatever you can to just get to a point. But then when you start refining, one thing that's really helped me, is having that sort of marketing that you mentioned that we helped you with, is that marketing calendar. Thinking is hard, and it is, that's why most people just don't think, right? Because it's a hard thing to do. 

But if you know, you're going to have to plan this year, and you just you do the thinking once  and you map out what needs to be done, then now you're just getting on the train tracks and you're kind of, you know, on the treadmill, just running, just doing what you worked out what was the best plan. 

Obviously, things are going to come up and you're going to have to shuffle a few days here and there, but at least you got your core plan 80% done. And, you know, you know what needs to happen next. And that's how you get ahead of the game and you're not running, you know, two days before Mother's Day trying to figure out, ‘All right, well, what can I be doing? What? What's happening? What promotion's going out?'

CHEYNE: That's right. Yeah. And having a budget for those things as well, for the marketing plan, rather than having to scramble for a couple of 1000 bucks or ‘I can only spend 200 bucks', having that everything all mapped out Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, a show day or whatever you want to call it, Christmas, all those things all mapped out very easy. What worked well last year, and what didn't work well?

GEORGE: Cool. So, two last things I want to ask, you know, with your growth, you know, yep, marketing and so forth, but there's obviously a lot of retention, that's working. And so first up, quick chat just about what, what's keeping your students coming back?

CHEYNE: Well, one thing we brought in – is the after chat and the white belt grading. So, this has been really good. So, white belts after a certain amount of time, will get an email, maybe four weeks, or once they've done the trial, and it became a full member, and they'll get an email to come to a white belt only grading. So, it's a grading only for white belts. 

So, we did one on the weekend, we had five kids and three adults. So, it's only 20 minutes, half an hour. And I plan it on a Saturday after the normal classes, I'm already there. And it's just a little intro into how the gradings work. So, they go from white belt up to the first grade. Still, it's almost a half grade, semi-grade, to keep them motivated to come to the next grade. And that way, they're not going to be overawed when they come to the next grade and they already know what the process is. 

So, we talk a little bit about what to expect in the grading. So, that retention has been fantastic. So, bringing that in, for our adults, for the class, the first hour is all grades, and then the next half hour is 7th Kyu and above, which is about nine months of training. So, after about nine months to a year of training, you can come into the advanced class as well. So, those beginners can see the progression to artists, what I want to do, I want to start aspiring, I want to start learning with weapons. I want to start doing more Kata. 

So yeah, those retention tools have been really good for us. And also instructors, instructors, instructors, instructors. Just can't have enough, honestly, like, you can't do it all yourself. And that is why I failed at my you know, my last, not last day job, but so when I was like, 10 years ago, when I was teaching full time as well. I tried to do it all myself, you know, I was doing 30 classes, and it's killing yourself. So, you need other instructors, you need to train them and train them well. So, they're fantastic retention tools, because they are there talking to people. And they're another face of the dojo.

GEORGE: Yeah, and I guess I want to highlight this, because I recall a conversation where this was a big obstacle, because as we're talking about your passion for karate, that comes with a whole new expectation. And I recall, there was a time where it was really hard for you to let go of that, because it's very hard to match your standard, and pretty hard to match your standard means that instructors have a big role to fill, big shoes to go step into. And so, if anybody is struggling with that, what was sort of the point where you decided, well, I've got to let go?

CHEYNE: Well, it's the only way to grow the club, realistically. I took a step back and realized, ‘oh, I want to teach the instructors, I want to teach the teachers'. So, I would love dojo all around Australia, where I just teach the instructors. That would be my goal. So then, the more instructors you can teach, the more students they can teach and the more my karate style lineage, whatever you want to call it, is being learned. But yeah, you know, a big wake up was when I didn't want to go to teach. I realized I need other people to teach me. 

So all of our instructors are adult instructors, or instructors who are adults, not those who just teach adults, but we've got three instructors for our kids program. And I don't have to be there. I don't have to go to the dojo, I don't have to teach them, because they already know what to do. They're all black belts, all Queensland champions, or they've represented Queensland in sports karate.

And they're all uni students, the adult instructors, some family members, which is fantastic, but apart from them, we've got two nidan, two second dan, one fifth dan, third dan, and a couple of shodan, first of all black belts, who are assistant instructors. This Friday night we're doing instructors course, yeah. You just can't do it all yourself.

So, I didn't let go. I just made sure that what they're teaching is what I would teach. So, everything is structured, and there is some individuality into what you teach, because everybody is different. I'm different from my dad, same jokes, but, you know, my karate might be a little bit newer than my dad's karate. But that's just because of, you know, I'm around a different sort of group than my dad was.

So, there is individuality in the class and what and how they teach it, but the technique, the kind of, the principles, how we move, how we kick, every punch, you know, how we throw, how we put a joint lock on, they're all the same. They're all the same. Just how you deliver it might be a little bit different. Their jokes might not be as good as mine.

GEORGE: Of course not. How could they?

CHEYNE: The punchline, the timing. 

GEORGE: Exactly. So, on that, you touched on goals. And so, what is the big vision for Australian Karate Academy?

CHEYNE: Well, during the 90s, my dad had 30, that's 30 clubs around Australia. I would like to have 31.

GEORGE: Just because competitiveness, is that right?

CHEYNE: So, you know, a lot of people were drawn to my dad, because he started teaching different aspects of karate, throws, and cooler weapons. All of these things were unknown in the 80s, early 90s, and my dad had already started doing it and teaching. So, we had a lot of people join us from different clubs, they might have a little club, and they joined, they needed some direction on, one, how to teach karate. 

You know, what to pick in karate, how to get back to what you wanted to teach people. There were a lot of clubs that didn't really know what to do, they were just teaching what they did when they learnt. So, I'd like to do, to build, and to help build more clubs. Using this, using our karate and the same marketing approach, the same idea that helped us grow. But still teaching quality karate. You know, that is my number one, teaching quality karate. And so yeah, 31 clubs, 2000 members.

GEORGE: Love it. So, if anybody wants to jump on that journey with you, how would they reach out to you?

CHEYNE: Yeah, Facebook, there's only one Shane McMahon with the c, h, e, y, n, e, so you don't have to look anywhere else. Just type in Cheyne McMahon and on Facebook, or you can jump to our Facebook page, which is Australian Karate Academy. And yeah, or shoot me an email, australiankarateacademy@gmail.com, very easy to find.

GEORGE: Love it. Well, we won't link your email address on the podcast, just because I don't think you want to purchase more Gis and more things from foreign countries. So, we'll skip that, but right, so, easy to find, Cheyne McMahon on Facebook. Cheyne, always great chatting to you, love watching your journey from the sideline and I think we need to chat a little sooner than two years, again? 

CHEYNE: Yeah! 

GEORGE: I'd say, what's the next benchmark for you? You said at the beginning of the year, 400? But I think you wanted students, but I think you're almost going to be there real soon. What's the big benchmark?

CHEYNE: Second dojo, in Brisbane next year. I think we're going to get to a point in our current dojo where we can teach or where I want to teach, you know, I don't want 800 in a 101 class teaching shit karate. Or karate, you know, I don't want that. So I think at this, my current location, 400, 450 would be a good amount, a manageable amount. 

So whether I set up the timetable, we still have, we still have extra room for more classes, more classes. And we've actually expanded since I last spoke to you too – we've taken another 50 square meters and we're hopefully taking another 35 square meters, just to open up the verge a bit more. Yeah, so that's the second dojo in Brisbane, where I can actually, that rule, we need to open two extras. Then we have three dojo. Right? You're talking about, what, that rule, George?

GEORGE: Yes. That was Robert DePalma that said that.

CHEYNE: Yeah, so you need, so no, extra two dojo in Brisbane. So, we have a dojo in Sydney, we just opened a second dojo in Sydney as well.

GEORGE: Perfect. So depending on when you're listening to this, we'll chat in 10 months from now. And we'll have a look at how that's going. No pressure. Well, pressure has been good for you. So, pressure.

CHEYNE: I'll just do it.

GEORGE: Just do it. There we go.

Cool. Cheyne, thanks so much for showing up. I'll catch you on the next one.

 

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74 – How To Sell Your Martial Arts School Into Profit Despite A Flood Disaster

Cheyne McMahon's school got flooded moments after going full time! With some help and sales skills, he turned disaster into profit.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • How Cheyne McMahon applied his experience in selling cars to selling martial arts memberships
  • How he was able to bounce back from a flooded dojo and an eight week hibernation to a full-time school
  • How he grew his 110 students in December to 185 students in February
  • Some valuable marketing hacks to attract potential students
  • The secrets to a profitable martial arts open day
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

As a teacher, if you don't think you're teaching the best quality chosen martial art that you're doing, then how can you convince other people that they should join you?

GEORGE: Good day, this is George Fourie and welcome to another Martial Arts Media Business Podcast. Today I'm joined with someone who I've gained a lot of respect for in the industry, being fortunate enough to work with him the last couple of months in one of our programs, our Partners program. I want to introduce you to Cheyne McMahon from Australian Karate Academy in Brisbane. How are you doing today, Cheyne?

CHEYNE: Yeah, good mate. Thanks for having me on.

GEORGE: Awesome, so welcome to the show. I know you've mentioned you've listened to a few of my episodes as well, so this is going to be an interesting conversation. There's a lot of value, you're getting some great results in your school and you're going to be sharing a lot of details on what you are doing, how you're going about it. First, if you want to give us a bit of background, just a bit about you, the school and how you got started in the industry, etc.

CHEYNE: Yeah, no worries. I started karate when I was four. My father was, I suppose he still is, my teacher. He started karate in 1967. He opened his first club in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland in 1976, so I followed him around and wanted to do karate. For the first couple of weeks apparently was holding me as I was walking around and I was crying. 33 years later, I'm still in love with karate. The longest break I had was six months off when I moved overseas. My dad started the Australian Karate Academy in ‘89, so this is our 30th year as the Australian Karate Academy. He and my mom were the main teachers. He retired a couple of years ago and I've since taken it over. We're in our 30th year and still going strong.

GEORGE: Fantastic. You went through school, you've been training all your life. At what point did you gravitate towards the teaching side of things?

CHEYNE: I started teaching with my mom when I was probably 14 or 15. Actually, one of my students now, I was there on his first lesson when I was 14. He was a six year old training with us for 15 years, then went off and had a career and came back a few years ago. In a couple of weeks, he's about to go for his third dan. I clearly remember his first lesson when he turned up, him and his sister. I started straight after school, so in year 12.

I was never really an academic, all I really wanted to do was karate. It was just karate. Karate was my life. In year ‘12, towards the end of year ‘12, I went on a three month tour of Europe for karate. No thought about, it's going to affect my ability to get into university or TAFE training or anything like that, that's not what I wanted, so I went over there and competed for Australia and stuff like that.

After school, I was lucky enough to qualify for a grant from the Queensland government, so I was being paid to teach karate and to train in karate as an 18 year old, as an elite athlete. From there man, every part-time job I've ever had was all revolving around karate, fitting in karate times, training, teaching, training. I've loved karate ever since I was four.

GEORGE: Alright, awesome. That's pretty cool to get a grant from the government as a sportsperson.

CHEYNE: I had to do some TAFE courses to keep it, but everything was revolving around the training. Staying in condition, first aid, those sorts of things. I think it went for about two years. I got 250 bucks a week. Big money, huge money, but my parents were pretty happy because they didn't have to pay me.

GEORGE: Exactly.

CHEYNE: I don't think they do that anymore. There's a lot of issues around the government funding stuff like that for karate, because karate didn't get into the olympics and stuff like that, so a bit of politics. It might change now with karate being in the olympics.

GEORGE: Yeah, definitely so. Let's backtrack, because we met, it was December last year, depending on when you're listening to this, that's 2018. The first time we spoke, you were in a bit of a situation with the school. Do you mind sharing a bit what had happened?

CHEYNE: Yeah, yeah, yeah, no problem. In September of 2018, I decided I was going to quit work and just concentrate on karate, so very happy to do that. Four weeks later we got flooded. Where we are in this big building, they took the roof off because there were dramas with the roof. And of course, we had rain for two weeks so we lost all of our mats, we had to close the dojo, obviously. We lost all of our carpet tiles and bags and we went from having an increased number of students to suddenly no classes for six weeks. In between that, the landlord told us we have to move in that building as well.

We were probably shut for eight weeks. I quit work, I committed to do karate and I realized if I keep going the same way as I'm going, I'm not going to earn as much money as I was selling cars. That's when I figured I need to find somebody. And I found you.

GEORGE: I don't want to let the story off there, because that's quite a big thing, right? It's a big thing already, having to burn the bridges going from employment, secure income, you know that there's money every month, and you burn the bridges, and then you start your business. That alone is a risky thing for anyone to do. I think it's what holds a lot of people back from taking that leap forward. You made the leap and then you had the rug pulled under you and flooding. What's going through your mind at this time?

CHEYNE: All the money going out of my account and nothing coming in. I know that I'm going to be doing karate for the next 30, 40, 50 years, so making that decision for me was not so hard. When you have a wife and a young family it's a little bit scary, and throw into that people not coming in to karate so there's no money coming through. In fact, the money's going out because I'm still paying rent, and still trying to pay myself, and pay for this, and pay for that.

Our numbers were steadily growing, slowly, maybe ten a month or ten a term so we were slowly building. It was okay when I was selling cars, which was my job because I still had an income so it wasn't such a huge drama, but when there was no income, and there was no students, and money is going out it was a very, very, very scary time. I almost called my boss up, my old boss to say. ‘Hey, can I come back to work?' There was only one way. There really was only one way forward and that was to come back bigger, better, stronger, and bolder than we were before. With your help, we're almost there. We're almost there.

GEORGE: That's awesome. That's really cool, and I'm happy to play such a small part in you moving forward. Do you think that also plays a big part in it, the fact that you see what the road looks like when the business doesn't work, that you just come back with this unstoppable determination to, you're going to…

CHEYNE: Yeah.

GEORGE: The stakes are a lot higher, right? It's so easy if you've got a part-time, full-time job and the school's just ticking along, right? Then when things really almost hit rock bottom, and you can see what life could potentially slip down to, you feel that really changed your drive and determination?

CHEYNE: As funny as it sounds, I think the flooding, all the water, all the problems that we had with the building… We couldn't get into the carpark and half the building was knocked down, and I couldn't put my signs out, that all played a part. If it wasn't for that, there's no way that we would be as strong as we are now. That played a massive part. I got to the point where it's balls to the wall or nothing. If it wasn't for the flooding, I don't think I would've had as much drive and determination as I do now to build our numbers back up, bigger and stronger.

One of the funny things is, I was talking to you on messenger about it, when I was talking to you was, ‘Cheyne, let's have a flood sale. Let's do a flood campaign.' And we did, and it was like. ‘Save the dojo,' and people got on board, and they brought in their friends and family and it was great. So I think that that sort of galvanized our members. I think it brought us together a bit more and made us a bit stronger, and moving forward, our dojo is 10 times, 100 times better than it was in November last year. I've got aircon, first time ever.

GEORGE: Nice.

CHEYNE: In 30 years of full time karate dojo, my parents have had, this is the first time we've ever had aircon. I haven't got the bill yet, I'm a bit scared.

GEORGE: That's a pleasure to have in Brisbane. For anyone listening, especially not in Australia, Brisbane is hot, but it's very, very sticky hot, as in you'll have a shower in the morning, you'll go dry off, you'll walk outside and it feels like you just got out the shower, right?

CHEYNE: It's two or three showers a day, for sure.

GEORGE: I would like to talk about just that whole turnaround, right? Because you reached out to me on messenger and whenever something happens that feels out of your control, then you've got to look at it and say, ‘Well, how do I turn this into something good?'

CHEYNE: Yeah.

GEORGE: So there's a situation that's bad, what can we do to turn it into something good. The reverse side of that is, if something bad happens, there's always a lesson in it. You're going to hit the lesson two years from now, or a year from now, somewhere down the track. You're going to look back and say, ‘I'm so glad that happened.'

What's a good way to look at things is, ‘Okay, well,' and it's a hard thing to do, but if something bad happens can you sit back and say, ‘Alright, well there's a lesson in here. What if I had to learn that lesson now? And what can I do?' That's the thinking of how I looked at it, and you mentioned the flood and I was like, ‘That's perfect.' It's not perfect, but it's such a great opportunity for you to say, ‘Hey,' because people generally care and people generally want to help. If this is what happened and you're just open about it, it's like, ‘Hey well, this is what happened, how do we turn this into something good?'

CHEYNE: Yeah. Every day I'm taking photos of the water. it's not just water, it was all the dirt that came with it. Because it's a construction zone outside, it was just so much dirt and mud and the karate mats, or martial arts mats, they're pretty resilient, you just clean them. There was just so much dirt that was sitting there for days that we couldn't get in. They were just irreplaceable, so we've obviously had to replace them, so we lost a lot of money and we had nowhere to train them because we can't train them on concrete.

Every problem, there's a solution. We were taking photos and putting them up on Facebook, and friends in other karate clubs were messaging me and asking me, ‘Do I want to come and bring my students to their clubs?' and stuff like that, so it was great. Everybody wants to help, as you said. I really appreciate those who came in and helped me. A lot of students came down and cleaned, and helped, and moved stuff and just made us a bit stronger.

GEORGE: That's the ending, what's the result from the sale that you ran?

CHEYNE: We ran a two week sale, just a quick one to bring in friends. I think we had about 15 to 20 and because they are referrals, we know that they're like your members already, they're friends of your members. It was very easy to convert them because they already wanted to join. Then we ran the 72 hour sale as well, which we talked about and ran through. The email follow up of four days, and I think we sold just over 20 grand which paid for a lot of the stuff that we lost. During that period I had no money coming in because I had no students, then people were happy to pay for it, for your training, so it was great.

GEORGE: That's awesome. Let's just touch on a few other things, there's so much I haven't asked you yet. You've got a background in sales. How do you think this helps you with interaction and signing up more students, at the end of the day?

CHEYNE: I sold a lot of things but probably the one I did the longest was selling cars. I did it for about seven or eight years. I moved into selling cars, I went from having a full time karate dojo to… my dad wanted to come back to training, and my wife wanted to go to uni, so there was not enough income. It was okay for me, but not for three people. I went the other way, instead of working 20 hours a week to working 60 hours a week. It was nuts.

I started selling cars, and straight away I could see the correlation between talking to people, especially on the phone. We used to get a lot of phone calls and people wanting your best price. It happens now, the first question a lot of people ask is, ‘How much are the fees?' Maybe that's not what they really want to ask, but that's just ingrained in people. You learn a lot of strategies of how to get around the price. I'm not saying that we're lying or hiding the truth, but in a lot of cases it's not the reason that they want to buy the car, not the reason that they're wanting more information about your karate school.

You start talking about the car or you start talking about the karate school, and you point at all the great things about the car. The car has five star ANCAP rating, it's two and a half thousand dollars off, it comes in five different colors. Using the same skills, you start talking about how many instructors you have at your little karate school. You've got full time school or all of these extra things that you've got. Air conditioning, that's my big one. Those sorts of things.

Selling a car and selling a membership is very similar, especially over the phone but in person, selling a car is so much easier and selling your karate school is so much easier in person. Because a person has committed to come in, so they're almost there, they just need a bit of a shove. When they're selling cars they usually bring a friend along with them, and they're the uncle that nobody likes. We call them “Eddy the expert” so you've not only got to overcome that person, you've got to overcome the customer, and always the customer's wife. Customers love them. And the same in karate.

You're selling something and the wife might say or the mom might say, ‘Let me have a chat to my husband and I'll get back to you.' In that instance, it's hard to get them back, the same as a car. If they say, ‘Let me go talk to my husband,' and maybe they don't. Maybe they don't have a husband, but everybody uses that excuse. I've used it in buying a fridge or buying a TV, and I know that I'm lying. I know that I'm lying. Because I don't have to talk to my wife, because my wife has already given me approval for this. People use that as an excuse.

Selling cars, you've got to look through the BS to really see what the reason is, why they don't want to buy the car, but more importantly, why they want to buy the car. Why they want to have little Johnny come and do karate. You ask very similar questions to the customer, ‘Why does little Johnny want to do karate?' ‘Because he's being bullied at school.' Okay, so it's about building his confidence and concentration and these sorts of things.

The more questions you ask, it's like an onion, you just start peeling layers. The same as selling cars, the same as selling a membership. Why, why, why, why, and you get to the real answer. A lot of people struggle with asking for money. If you can't ask for money selling cars, then you will starve. And the same as a martial arts school. If you can't ask for money right then and there, then the chances of them buying off you are very slim. It's 40 bucks, 20 bucks, 100 bucks, whatever it is that you're asking for, compared to 20000 dollars. 100 bucks is nothing. People buy 49 dollars and never turn up. People will walk away from 200 dollars but they won't walk away from 500.

When you're selling a car, you ask for a deposit. You always ask for two grand. Two thousand dollars. They say commit to two thousand dollars, you've sold a car. And if people go look, I'll give you 200 dollars. No, because you won't come back. 200 bucks people walk away from, like, ‘Oh well, don't worry about it, 200 bucks.' So that's why you want to ask for two grand. They might come back and say, ‘a thousand dollars.' Done. So you always ask for double. That's selling cars. If you can't ask for 49 dollars, the person standing in front of you, you're going to struggle to get members.

GEORGE: You mentioned some really valuable stuff there, especially with the excuses. Now, we all want to believe that people are 100% honest, which they are. People are 100% honest, and it's not that people come into your school to intentionally lie. There's a fight or flight situation that happens, and if a person is in a situation where they don't have the right, they haven't been sold on the value. They're not convinced yet, but they also don't know what to ask you.

They're in this situation, that they don't want to feel stupid and they've got these unanswered questions. They don't know exactly what's missing, but something's missing so fight or flight kicks in and now I say something, ‘I just need to think about it,' or, ‘I've got to speak to my wife,' or, ‘Got to go walk the dog,' or, ‘I don't make on the spot decisions.' There's a million of these things that are just knee-jerk type responses.

CHEYNE: Yeah, and they're not trying to offend you. They know that they're lying, but it's not a lie that they're uncomfortable doing. In your karate school, your martial arts school, if they don't buy right then and there a two week trial, four week trial, even a term, or monthly, whatever it is, then you haven't asked the right questions or you haven't given them enough information. And if they go, ‘Look, let me go and have a chat to my husband,' that might 100% be the reason. I don't know how many marriages or partnerships, where the partner doesn't know what the other person is doing.

So we used to say, ‘That's fine, give your husband a call, I'll sit here and wait.' And just sort of sit back and maybe have a coffee. That person's like, ‘Oh, well they're at work at the moment,' so they can't talk to you. Those sorts of things, so you give them, ‘Oh, well why don't we just do a two week for 29 dollars now, just to secure Johnny into one of our programs, and then you can have a chat to your husband. I'm still happy to offer you the four weeks, 49, once you've spoken to your husband.'

The most important thing is securing a place right now for your little Johnny. So you've got to give them urgency. If I could do that right now for nine dollars. Would you be happy to, for nine dollars, If I could offer you that two weeks for nine bucks? For seven dollars? Five dollars? What if I give you 12 months at half price, would you be happy to buy the car now? That was just coming out, sorry. Would you be happy to sign up now for 12 months and we'll give you 50% off. Surely, customer, at 50% off, you'd buy that membership wouldn't you, 50% off? You've just got to keep asking, asking, asking, and if they go, ‘Look, at nine dollars, happy to pay for two weeks,' at least you've got something. I mean it's not nine dollars but you've got a commitment. They're committed.

GEORGE: I guess you've got to also be, I could see your passion in-

CHEYNE: Yeah, sorry. I'm a rambler.

GEORGE: …In the sale, but that's awesome. I've got to ask the question, right? It's the elephant in the room. How many times have you been labeled the term ‘used car salesman?' And what do you think about that?

CHEYNE: When I was teaching and working, I never told people what I did for a living. People ask what were you doing, ‘Oh, salesman.' And they go, ‘What do you sell?' ‘Oh, bits and bobs,' and I'd talk about karate. But after a while, I couldn't care what people think about used cars salesmen. They do have a really bad reputation from years ago. This place I did work at, this was before I started, but if I offered you a thousand dollars for your trade in and you wanted five thousand, they would get your keys and throw them on the roof, and say, ‘Well good luck getting your keys.' That's a bad reputation of used car salesmen. It's sort of changing now with the internet and everybody being pretty open about how they work.

If you were a lawyer, you'd be like, ‘How many lawyers does it take to chain down to the bottom of the sea?' Those sorts of things. As a used car salesman, people just used to find it funny, because I'm pretty open and honest guy. Even when I sold cars, I wouldn't lie. I just wouldn't tell the whole truth. You only have to tell somebody as much as they need to hear. I'd never lie about the history of the car, you know. It was owned by Grandma Edith who drove five kilometers down the road on Sunday.

Those sorts of things, I wouldn't do that. I'm not that sort of person. A lot of the people I've worked with aren't like that. But some are, and I've worked with those guys, and they generally don't stay in one job for a long time. They're six months here, and eight months there, and three months there. I was lucky enough to stay in my first place for two years, second place for four years, and my last place for two years so I wasn't jumping around.

I guess it comes back to, when you buy anything, whether it's a car, a TV, martial arts membership… if you like the person, if you trust the person, then you buy off them. You might pay them a bit more money because you have a connection, or you like that person. Have you ever bought a TV or a washing machine and you liked that person, and you go back to that person? It happens, and maybe you don't go check all the other prices because you did and you know what, I like Johnny, he's a nice fellow. I'm going to recommend one of my friends to him. Go and see Johnny because I bought my car off him and he was really good to me.

That comes back to, you're running martial arts school too. This used to be my tagline: You come for karate but you stay for the jokes. I say all bad jokes, all dad jokes and one liners through my teaching, every class and I'm saying jokes left, right, and center for the parents in the kids classes, so the parents are laughing. The kids are looking at me like, ‘I don't get it,' so they don't think I'm funny, but the parents think I'm funny. You're not buying and staying with somebody that you like, and that you have a connection with, and somebody that you feel comfortable with, especially over a long period.

We've got a couple of guys who have been training with us for over 20 years, and that's training with my dad and training with me, having my dad as a mentor for years. These guys are in their 50s, 60s, 70s, some of them, and trusting me in my 30s. So obviously they like me, they like my karate, they like my personality and stuff like that. They're happy just to continue training with me, so it comes down to the person. It always comes down to the person.

GEORGE: I'll add to that. In a sales environment you get taught a lot of technique. It's all about the intent. I don't think there's any negativity around a technique, I think the negativity around the intent, using the technique.

CHEYNE: Totally.

GEORGE: That's what you're saying there, right, is people… the old saying of “connect with people they know, like and trust,” so that's the connection. If you're using the technique in a positive way and respectful of boundaries, then there's no negativity in that. A mentor of mine, James Schramko always says, ‘Sales is the situation of taking someone from one situation to a better alternative.' And sometimes people need a bit of help because, I tell you what, I wish that someone sold my parents on me doing karate when I was a kid, and I only started martial arts when I was 35.

I would've loved if somebody, really knowing how to uncover my needs, and how martial arts would be a good fit for me, and gently being able to, with good intent, pushing them into the right… I wouldn't say pushing, but guiding them into the right way of saying, ‘Yeah you should be doing karate.' Because it's a life changing thing, right? I think as a martial arts school owner and an instructor, you've got to believe that. You've got to really believe down to your gut that you are changing lives. If that's what you're doing, and you are using a bit of technique to help the right person makes the decision to join, then you've got to do it.

CHEYNE: As a teacher, if you don't think you're teaching the best quality chosen martial art that you're doing, then how can you convince other people that they should join you? I think that comes down to loving what you do. I've sold cars to people who came in looking for one car, and I've sold them a totally different, because it doesn't suit their needs. They're looking for a small car and they've got four people in their family, for example, those sorts of things. I would steer people away from certain cars, especially if there's somebody that I have a really good connection with.

You can't be friends with everybody, and it's really naïve to think that you can sell a car to everybody or sell a membership to everybody. You can't be friends with everybody, everybody has a different personality. A friend of mine I helped a couple of weeks ago, he's a karate friend of mine, and he and his wife are having a baby and they're looking at a certain car. I tried to steer, because he was set on that car, and I was helping him have a look around for that car, but I slowly steered him into a better car, and buying the car that I recommended. I helped him buy it and stuff like that. It's a much, much, much better car than that thing that he was looking at buying, because… and it's the same as a membership.

So many times people come in, and really the parents want to train too. A lot of times, dads come in too, they're 35, 40, 45, and they want to sign up little Johnny. But you know, out of the corner of their eye they're sort of watching the class, and they're looking at… and you know that they want to train. So those things you pick up if you're good at selling. Then you start asking questions, ‘Johnny have you ever done karate?' ‘No.' And then you say, ‘Have you ever thought about doing karate?' ‘Oh yeah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,' then all of a sudden that's two memberships sold instead of one.

One technique I do, and I've done it for ages is, when I get a phone call and I say, ‘This is Cheyne from the Australian Karate Academy,' ‘Oh yeah, hey. I'm just calling up about your karate classes.' And I say, ‘Sure, our adult classes are on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wed-‘ ‘Oh no, I'm calling for my son.' ‘Oh okay, no worries.' Immediately, I always talk about adult karate, like they're coming to join our adult karate. And nine times out of 10 it's the kids, but I always put it in their mind, ‘Oh, maybe I should do karate too.'

GEORGE: That's great. That's genius. I like that because you've just planted the seed.

CHEYNE: You're just planting the seed. ‘Johnny's dad, have you ever thought about doing karate?' ‘Oh, yeah.' my dad ran this campaign years ago in late 80s, early 90s. At the time we had no money. My dad was working at a juice factory and my mom was cleaning houses. My dad's passion was karate, and he was at uni studying teaching, and we had a full time karate club.

My dad put all of his money into a Sunday newspaper. Remember when people used to read newspapers? Sunday ad, it was like a quarter of a page on a Sunday and it said, ‘You… a black belt in karate.' My dad started a 12 month black belt course. A lot of people were very negative about it at that time, and probably still are but what people didn't realize is those guys are training five days a week, twice a day. Two hours in the morning and two hours at night.

He put this ad in, ‘You… a black belt in karate,' and we used that for years, man, because that was a Sunday and they put all of their money in, everything that we had into that ad. The phone just rang and rang and rang. My dad, he signed up people, so many people. It was just a simple idea that he had about people wanting to be a black belt. I even thought about writing that as a Facebook ad, I'll talk to you about that afterwards.

If you ask that question… because the end goal for a lot of people is getting to black belt. They don't realize there are lots of levels after black belt, but we do ask that question, ‘Have you ever thought of being a black belt in karate?' In karate, it's a big difference, 3, 5 years. It’s not BJJ which is ten years, we'll say. If you don't ask that question, that person may never, ever join and ten years later they're thinking, ‘I should've started karate.' If you ask that question, it's either a yes or a no. That's what we say in sales, they're all going to say yes or they're going to say no. If they say no, no skin off your nose. They say yes, man, that's a couple of thousand dollars. That's a thousand dollar question right there.

GEORGE: Awesome, so a couple of questions for you. In regards to working together, you started out with us a couple of months ago. We're recording this now in February, so you started out in December, right? It was just right before the floods etc. We did talk about the 72 hour sale that generated 20,000 dollars, so that was a good plus, but what were your student numbers at the time when we got started together?

CHEYNE: I was on track but because of the flood, and I didn't really know what I was doing, to be honest, mate. I think I was falling over members. We got down to 110. 110 is great for a lot of people, sure, and it was great for me, but not as my sole income, not as income. It's not enough. So you're down to 110.

GEORGE: Alright, perfect. Where are you at today?

CHEYNE: As of today, I actually signed up two new kids today, so we're at 185. 185 members training. That's not including family members who train for free, I don't like that word “free”. My family members and instructors. Members all up, people who are paying money, and some are paying for once a week, and some are paying for unlimited classes, is 185. As of right now at 1pm. I haven't checked my email, but yeah.

GEORGE: That's amazing, so you're 35 students off to doubling your school from the time we started three months ago.

CHEYNE: Yep. And to be honest, man, my goal was 250 in December of this year. I really thought it'd be 200. But now I'm looking at 200 in March, which is nuts. The good thing is we had everything in place to cater for those students. We've got ten instructors. Some are family members. My sister teaches, her husband teaches, he's a third dan as well. They met through karate, and I've got genuine friends who help out and teach classes, and some uni students who assist in classes as well. They're all black belts through me and they've all been on Queensland teams before, so it's great. We're in a very good position at the moment. But again, that was all set up for December of this year, not March of this year.

GEORGE: That's cool, so what are the three parts of the Partners program. 1 to 2 to 3, whatever you feel is good. What's made the biggest impact for you over the last few months?

CHEYNE: Definitely our open day, everything leading up to our open day. Being able to talk to the members of the community, because Partners is so small, it's not like there's 1,000 people on it. The great thing is being able to chat to guys like Darryl, and I can see Stacy and those guys doing the same sort of thing. We all have the same passion. We all want to teach the best martial art that we can, and make an income, to do that, and being able to talk to those guys about what's worked and what hasn't worked. It's great. And being able to talk to you, man, just Facebook message. If you don't reply in half an hour, I know that you're sleeping or you're dead.

So just being able to talk back so quickly is phenomenal, but probably the biggest one is our open day, and setting everything up for that open day. It's not like we just magically made an open day. It was months leading into it, or the weeks leading into it, all the preparation. Even behind me, you might be able to see the list of open day stuff that we had. I've written out everything, everything printed off. Everything was pointing towards a big open day, and it's only because I had the time to talk to you and set everything up. Without your help and without the other Partners' help, we couldn't do it.

I did an open day last year, and it was good, but this one was so much better. So much more organized. Even though my sister broke her toe on that morning, and the carpark was locked. We had drama, after drama, after drama, but because we prepared so well for it, it was just easy. Then it had a flow in effect after the open day. Having a chat to you about organizing the Facebook ad campaign afterwards and the follow up, all those sorts of stuff. We signed up 34 people on the day, just on the day they gave me their money, they gave me trust for that. After that, the two kids I signed up today was from the open day campaign. I just let it keep running and kept following up, and following your suggested email trail, and it was great.

GEORGE: That's awesome. That's so good to hear. Who would you recommend the Partners program to? And why?

CHEYNE: I would recommend it to people who are just sort of treading water, doing the same thing and expecting a different result, and that was me. That was me. I thought I knew the answers. I ran my karate club before, previously, full time and I think we got to about 220 members in one location, but man it was a lot of work. I was doing all of the classes there, all of the marketing, and all of the cleaning, and I burned myself out and, very close to quitting karate.

I would recommend it to those who are floundering, just wondering, well they get to a point… ‘Where are the next students coming from?' Or, ‘How do I market the customers better, how do I make my systems easier?' And, ‘Who do I talk to?' and those sorts of things. So those who love their chosen martial art and they're ready to go full time. I'd say just wait a little bit, and have a chat to you.

Even guys who've been doing it for 10, 15, 20 years. We all get stale, and we may have exhausted our current market. To those who've been doing in the same club for 20 years, maybe they need a refresher. They need a different angle, a new angle. The video stuff that we do is phenomenal. I think those sorts of people, and I've recommended a couple of my friends who just need a little bit of an arm twist, and I think it'll be beneficial for them.

GEORGE: Awesome. I remember, just before you did this, the 72 hour sale, you said to me that you almost didn't join, and you thought that you'd just wasted a bunch of money, right?

CHEYNE: Yeah, yeah. It's the fear. It's the same as buying a car. That's why people get cold feet. It was a big commitment. It's funny, because I knew at that time, I had to do it. I had to do something different. I can't keep doing the same thing, thinking I knew it all. It's ridiculous. It's that ego, man, that ego inside you. Whether you do karate, or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or kung fu, or who-flung-dung, it's that ego inside you to go, ‘You know what? I'm a man, I can do it all myself.' You know?

I'm a black belt, I'm a fifth dan. I don't need anybody else's ideas or opinions. Once you sort of step back from yourself and really have a good look at yourself, you realize you can't. After I committed to you over the phone, I had a bit of a think and I went, ‘what have I done? Oh my god, it's a lot of money.' I thought, ‘It's just a total waste of money now. I'm just going to have to do something different.' Then I cooled down and had a think, and I had another chat to you and I realized this is definitely the way forward. It'll give you a change, you know. I am so happy that I found you, and I committed, and moved my ego to the side, and obviously we've made some money man, so it's been great.

GEORGE: That's awesome. So, for anyone listening that would like to know more about it, just go to martialartsmedia.com. Send us a message, and we can see if we can potentially help you and if our program is a good fit. Cheyne, it's been great speaking to you.

CHEYNE: Can I just say one thing? George, you asked me a lot of questions as well, about whether I would be a good fit for you. That made me feel really comfortable, instead of you not knowing anything about me, about my karate club. You asked me a lot of questions, maybe 20 to 30 questions. Just to make sure that you could help me, and I really appreciated that. Instead of just taking my money, you qualified me, and that's another thing that we do in sales. You've got to qualify, otherwise I'm just giving you money, you're just taking money. I really appreciate it and I could see that we were a good fit. A good personality, very similar to mine, very relaxed, but driven. Sorry, sorry I hijacked but I really, really appreciate it.

GEORGE: No, thank you. And thank you for acknowledging that. It takes a while in business to realize that… I guess you start putting your filters up, right? You realize that nobody just wants to make money, right? Especially in the martial arts industry. It's about passion. I'm not on the teaching side, I am on the service side of helping martial arts schools.

I'm in this industry because I've got a passion for martial arts, and I had many other opportunities where, believe me, I could make a lot more money if I ventured into that. But, as in life fulfillment as you sit there, you know that this is what drives you, this is what you want to do for your life. I sit in that same boat. Martial arts drives me, there's one thing that I want to propel forward and help and be a part of, is my club. It's martial arts and martial arts school owners.

Within that, there's also some reasoning that, and you mentioned this earlier, that everybody is not a good fit for everybody. I'd rather take the time discovering that, and making sure that if you are going to be a client, and we are going to work together, there's going to be a lot of energy from our part and there's going to be a lot of energy from your part. We've got to make sure that we can match those goals and say, ‘Alright, hey if you're going to come on board, we're going to be able to help you.'

Because if we can't, you're going to walk away unhappy, we're not going to feel good and be fulfilled. It's never really about, yeah of course there's money on the back end, but there's so much that has to happen before that. Before you can say, ‘Right, this is a school I can now really work with. I can help them move forward.' Let’s talk about taking that next step.

CHEYNE: Yeah, it's definitely got to be a two way street. Definitely got to be a two way street. It's been great, man, and being able to talk to you all the time is just fantastic. If anyone's out there thinking about it, just send him a message. Just pick up the phone, give him a call. Very easy.

GEORGE: Much appreciated there, Cheyne. Thank you for jumping on the call. If people want to know more about you, something that we didn't explore is, you have a program called Dirty Karate. Take two or three minutes and just tell us where can people find out more about you and what you've got going on.

CHEYNE: Yeah, look, Facebook is our big one, I suppose. We have an Australian Karate Academy Facebook page, or just friend me on Facebook. Our karate website is AKA, it's very easy – aka.com.au. Australian Karate Academy is the club name. It's a great name, really, really good name to have as a business because it's pretty easy to remember. But, yeah, Dirty Karate is on our Facebook page. That's being put to the side for a little bit, until I can secure an income teaching karate properly. That is a passion project of mine. We hardly spoke about karate, and I could talk about karate all day.

GEORGE: Perfect. And we can do that for round two.

CHEYNE: Sounds good.

GEORGE: Awesome. Awesome, Cheyne. Thanks for being on the show. I'll speak to you soon.

CHEYNE: Thanks man.

GEORGE: Cheers.

Awesome. Thanks for listening. If you want to connect with other top, smart martial arts school owners, and have a chat about marketing, lead generation, what's working now, or just have a gentle rant about things that are happening in the industry, then I want to invite you to join our Facebook group.

It's a private Facebook group and in there I share a lot of extra videos and downloads and worksheets. Things that are working for us when we help school owners grow and share a couple of video interviews and a bunch of cool extra resources.

So it's called the Martial Arts Media Community and an easy way to access it is if you just go to the domain name martialartsmedia.group. So martialartsmedia.group. G-r-o-u-p. There's not dot or anything. Martialartsmedia.group. Then we'll take you straight there. Request to join and I will accept your invitation.

Thanks. I'll speak to you on the next episode. Cheers. 

 

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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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