11 – How You The Martial Arts School Owner Can Help Us Help You

George Fourie takes a different twist on this episode with a 2-minute survey request for martial arts school owners that promises a big return.

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


Hi guys, this is George Fourie from martialartsmedia.com and this week, we've got a bit of a different twist to the show.

Okay, so we've got 10 episodes down, we are at number 11, this is number 11. But this episode is going to be more a request from you than a give. So, there's been a lot of giving, we've done a few interviews with some great guests, we shared a few in between the tips and now I'm going to turn this on to you.

So, I want to know where to take this podcast, which direction I should be going. And I'm also preparing a web class, an online web class, where I'm going to be teaching all the different aspects of online marketing that we know work when building your business through the means of the internet.

So, the purpose of the web class would be to give you a good education on what you can be doing to get leads in through the door, how you can convert better by means of your website and when you speak to people, how you could automate these things on the back-end through follow up sequences and things we do with our services. And then also, how you can retain your students by doing these automated processes and having a way to provide value to your students over and above just from what you do in class.

So, in order to do this, I need to know from you and get a better understanding of what is the bottle mix in your business? What is it that you are struggling with as such? In your day-to-day operations, what are you struggling with specifically, and I mean specifically, not just, we struggle with lead generation, we struggle with retention – that gives us nothing to work with, so I need as much detail as possible.

I'm trying to figure out what is the biggest obstacle to keeping you where you are and not taking you where you want to be. And I want to see what we can do and how I can help you take that from the position where you are and take you to the next level through the means of online processes, online marketing and providing that link.

So, not to go off topic here and not to mumble on: basically, what I'm requiring from you is two minutes, two minutes to complete this survey, to tell me what it is that you are struggling with, the problems that you are having in your business, give me a better idea of where you are at now and the obstacles that you are facing. At that point what I can do is, I can look at everything that we provide and I can teach you. I can teach you means, what it is that we can do to help you if you want to do it yourself of course so that you can take this training.

And if you've got someone that does this stuff for you or you do this yourself, that you can do it, or that you are educated to make a right decision if you do want to hire someone to do all these services for you. But the only way to make those choices is to be educated, and I want to provide that education for you, but the only way that I can do that is to know exactly what it is that you are struggling with.

That brings me to this episode. My request to you is, take two minutes, please. If you go to martialartsmedia.com/survey, there is a short video. You can actually just skip through the link, take the survey and it's going to take you about two minutes. Fill it out as detailed as possible. You can keep this completely anonymous, so if you don't want to leave your name and if you don't want to leave your email address, that is fine.

But all that I really really want is some honest answers. On the flipside, though, if you have some pressing problems and you would like me to contact you personally, get on the phone or get on the Skype call, I'm more than willing to do that if I'm going to get a more clear understanding of the problems that you are having. I will commit the time and I'll chat with you as long as it takes, basically that I can get a clear understanding of how we can help you better.

So that's going to be for the web class and for this podcast of course. The more I understand about what it is that you want and what you need, the better I can interview people to deliver that information and prepare a very decent, intensive web class that we can go to all the details and some of those problems and take your business to the next level, take your business to where you want to go.

All right, so that's it for this show. Like I said, it's a bit of a twist, it's not tips and no value, but if you can help me with this part and you can give as much information as I need, then we can take this podcast from ten episodes to a hundred and we can make it really, really cool.

I can zone in and make sure that we have guests, whether they are from martial arts schools or coaches or external people, whoever they are, to solve these problems for you, we can do that by having the best understanding. So, please go to martialartsmedia.com/survey, please complete the survey for us and I will be back next week with another episode of the martial arts media business podcast. Thanks again, chat to you soon.


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

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7 – The Smarter Way To Go About Martial Arts School Student Retention With Paul Veldman

Paul Veldman from Kando Martial Arts shares how to improve martial arts school student retention by spotting the ‘quitting signs'.


  • Knowing your demographic without being everything for everyone
  • Market for a season or a reason
  • Growing young confident students through Leadership Programs
  • Who your real competition is
  • The real reason why your students leave
  • The one thing you need before your martial arts business will flourish
  • And more

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



Personal development is a big thing. And as you know, as most martial artist instructors know – the bigger you get, the less trouble you seem to get into.

GEORGE: Hey, it’s George Fourie from martialartsmedia.com and welcome to the martial arts media podcast, episode number 7. Today, I chat to Paul Veldman from Kando Martial Arts. Another great chat, very inspirational. I’m getting a lot out of these podcasts. My focus is always to start with something martial arts related, but I see it evolving, with all the chats that I'm having and all these great martial artists and business owners that I'm speaking to. It always evolves to the deeper stuff behind the business, what makes the business work, the message behind it and so forth. And that's what you're going to discover in today's podcast as well, so more about that in a minute.

I have a few excellent interviews coming in the next couple of weeks, and I'm going to continue with this week by week, interviewing top martial artists, top martial arts top business owners, top business owners, top motivational people, coaches – you name it. Anything that relates to martial arts in a way and can help you build your martial arts business. From my side, I am preparing to do a series of martial arts podcast with a few live pieces of training, about different aspects of online marketing. How you can grow your business through online media. And the more I speak to martial arts business owners; I see there's a lot of confusion out there on what is the right thing to do, what they should be doing.

Some people that have gone down the journey spent a lot of money on somebody to do their SEO or something stupid. They forked out thousands of dollars and pretty much wasted their money and came away none the better. And I see there's a lot of distrust because of people out there that give advice; that shouldn't be giving advice. Old school methods and just taking a chance to provide real crappy services. It’s something that drives me nuts, but it’s unfortunately out there. And I can see the frustration that people have by going down these avenues and not doing the right things first, which is very, very costly.

So I'm going to embark on a bit of a journey and do a few live training. I've got a few things in mind that I want to teach that I know the essentials. If you've downloaded our martial arts business plan for online media, you will get an idea about what those essentials are, and I'm going to shift a few of those things around and elaborate on them. But I would like to know from you: what would you like to learn, what would you like to know about? Obviously, I'm not going to teach about anything that I'm not qualified to do.

If it’s something that is pressing, that everybody is requesting, I will get an expert to help with that. Or if not, I will do the research and make sure I do my homework before I offer any advice. But anything else that we talk about, that I talk about, I’ll make sure that it’s tried and tested, that it’s been done before, that's it’s not a thumb suck idea. I would like you to get in touch with me. My email – I'm going to say it on the show: george at martial arts media dot com. Very easy, george at martial arts media dot com. Email me directly, tell me what you would like to learn about, what you're struggling with, what your biggest obstacle is in your business now, and I would like to focus on that and give a few training.

So that's it for now, that's what's coming up in the next few weeks, but we still have a few interviews to go before we get to that point. Ok – show notes is at martialartsmedia.com/7.  Show notes; you can also download the transcript from there. And that's it for me for now; please welcome to the show – Paul Veldman.

GEORGE: Good day everyone, today I have with me Paul Veldman, all the way from Victoria. You're based in Melbourne, is that correct?

PAUL: Based in Melbourne, yes.

GEORGE: Based in Melbourne. And Paul is from Kando Martial Arts, and Paul has been in the industry a long time, and it’s funny enough, as I was researching for people I can interview, a lot of people said, “I've been mentored by Paul Veldman.” And that's kind of how I got knocking on Paul's door, and I thought I’d like to get him on the show and get him to share all his industry experience and knowledge with us. So welcome to the show, Paul.

PAUL: Thanks, George, good to be here.

GEORGE: Awesome! So, I guess to start right at the beginning, how did you get into martial arts and what's your background story?

PAUL: Martial arts training, I probably started when I was around 13 years old. And there was no real reason, I wasn't bullied, I had a nice stable house, a home. It was just something I thought I might like to do. Spoke to mom – mom said, you can do martial arts, and I’ll pay the fees, but you've got to find somewhere you can walk to, because I'm working, and these are the jobs you've got to do around the house to make up for your fees. So back then, 30 years ago, there was a judo club or a freestyle karate club in walking distance, that was the choice. So I went with freestyle karate, and I've been training ever since.

GEORGE: All right, awesome. You were also in the police force, weren't you?

PAUL: Yeah, and that was the tipping point as to why. So I trained as a kid in the freestyle karate, I went into traditional karate in the Shukokai stream. And training with my instructor, as we were all young and fit and having a great time and training two or three classes a day, a few days a week, then in conjunction with that, I was going to have a crack at our special operations group on the police force. And in training, I blew my knee up. So I had a full knee reconstruction, and I went from training five or six days a week with my instructor, training at my workplace, training at the gym, to answering phones in a room with no windows.

And as you can understand, it drove me crazy. So I went down to my sensei, and said, I am going nuts here, can I come and help out on the mats? And he said, yeah sure, come on down, help the kids classes. So there I am, in my knee brace, with my crutches, hobbling around. I got off the crutches, and he says to me one day, why don't you open up a club, there's a place down the road? And I went, oh yeah? How hard can it be to run a business in a martial arts club? So for the next ten years, we ran it very, very, very badly as far as the business side went. We taught what we knew. We didn't market; we didn't advertise, we didn't know anything of that.  I worked full time in the police force; I worked six days a week in the club.

We had a young family, and we went through burnout phases regularly. And then, maybe ten years ago now, the first martial arts SuperShow was running Queensland and the first martial arts business seminar I ever went to was with a local Roland Osborne. And the first thing he said to the class was, everybody will leave you in your school. Everybody who's in there now will leave you. They might leave in thirty years time when they've fallen off the perch, or they may turn and quit tomorrow.

So enjoy it, make the most of the time you have with them, but don't let it become personal when they go. And that resonated with me, cause I just lost one guy who was helping me out, and he got a promotion at work, and he left. So I was back to running the club by myself after eight years of running, and I was just in total burnout stage. And so it was then I realized – you know what, there's so much more to the industry than just learning to how to throw a punch or a kick. We might be black belts in what we're doing on the mats in whatever style we're doing it, but boy, we're a white belt or less in the administration, business owner things.

And so that's when we discovered, if we're going to do this, let’s do it properly. Let’s reach more people, let’s do it well. Let’s give people the same goals and career opportunities that we had. So we started getting some business mentoring, we started looking into the subscriptions around, which back in those days were very American, but it was the turning point, it was a real tipping point for us.

GEORGE: Ok. So two things I want to get back to the American vs. Australian systems, and how you adapted that. But going back: you said your first ten years, you guys sort of run it badly. What were the core mistakes that you were making at that time?

PAUL: I think, especially in the first couple of years, you try to be everything to everyone. We were a Shukokai karate base, but with what I was doing in the police force, we were just starting to blend some Brazilian jiu-jitsu, some Filipino martial arts. So you have somebody come in and say, do you guys do Cato, and we say, yeah absolutely, we do Cato, we're Shukokai. And you have someone else come in and say, I want to do sparring, but I am a bit scared, do you do it no contact? And we say we can do non-contact.

Next bloke comes in and goes; I want to get on the mats and punch on, and do full contact. And we go, we can do full contact. And you make a little note to yourself, looks like I'm sparring with this guy most of the time. So we didn't know what our demographic target was. We ran classes that we enjoyed, and to be honest, that's still the basis of our club today. I enjoy the traditional karate, the values, the strength, the style. I enjoy, although I'm not very good at it, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I enjoy the Filipino martial arts, so that's what our styles evolved into.

But we're a lot clearer now on who we want training with us. We don't want the knuckle-dragger who's going to come in and hurt people, who want a professional fighter because we can't cater to them. So identifying who our ideal customer was looking at who do I want to train with? Who's my perfect training buddy? And that evolved into, well – who's the best customer for what we offer?

And so when someone comes in, who's wants don't suit what we have, then we're really happy to recommend a couple of clubs nearby, there's a couple of really good mixed martial arts clubs, there's a couple of smaller clubs that are maybe a little bit cheaper than us and a bit less full time. And to be honest, I'm more than happy: as long as someone's training, I think that's great. If they're training with me, that's fantastic, but I would rather have someone not join me, and go to another martial arts club, than not train at all.

GEORGE: For sure. Ok, so that solved a lot of problems, when you defined exactly who that audience is that you can zone in with your market, and it’s something that comes up in the interview yesterday as well. So, moving on from that: you mentioned you learned from the American systems. I've worked in America for a long time, and I had a shell shock when I came to South Africa, and going to America, coming to Australia – I was adapting myself to those different styles. Now, you've mentioned that you've learned a lot from the American way of doing things: how did you take that and applied it to the Australian market, without becoming too Americanized as such?

PAUL: Our first package we joined up was a Mayer package. And what it gave us, it started giving us structure. It started to say – have a plan. Because I think I've run my club for nearly two years and nearly closed the doors, before I put the pamphlet out. You know, the old adage – if you build it, they will come – build it and they will come if they know about you! So we found with the American Marketing, one – it was all there was. There was nothing local back then. And so, it gave us a structure; it gave us things like marketing for a season or reason.

So when father's day came around, the father's day workout, New Years, Spring specials. And tying it with all that makes sense. Their senses might be opposite ours, so the package we're getting is no good for now, but it gave us an idea. It gave us an idea of making things colorful, and not just putting a sign in the window. But then, the artwork was never for the Australian market. They don't look like Australians. We're relatively similar on the outside, but the artwork looked very American, the Mother's Day or thank you, mom, M-O-M – never translated. But it gave us a start; it gave us a bit of an idea of what was happening.

The first guy, a mentor I know, was a chap called Keith Scott. A fantastic little Texan, he's just a wealth of knowledge, a guy who shared everything. And he came to Australia a couple of times, and we started to bring him around to the Australian way a little bit, and he would help tweak things. He came and did a two-day assessment of a school, where he stayed with us for two days. He came to the school, sat through all the classes, all the instructor meetings, etc., to feel the difference.

We made those mistakes through trial and error – some ads worked, some ads didn't work. It was a little bit of a shotgun effect, where we'd throw everything out there and the ones that came back, we'd go with them more. So we gradually fine-tuned things. Nowadays with Facebook and social media, that's a massive part of it that we're still getting our head around.

GEORGE: Yeah. Well, one thing you brought up, and this is something key that we try and teach: if you're doing social media and stuff yourself, the easiest way to do things and to get traction is just pay attention. You had a name for it, season or reason I think it was?

PAUL: Yeah, the market for a season or reason.

GEORGE: Yes, and that's such an easy way to get traction in social media because, when you're talking about what's already been talked about and you can tie that into your marketing, people are automatically paying attention. They're already paying attention to the Father's Day, so piggyback on that promotion that's already happening and then make that your marketing.

PAUL: Yes.

GEORGE: Ok, cool. So, how many locations do you have at this point?

PAUL: We have three locations, the main one is in a place called Hughesdale. We run… I think we're seeing around 670-680 students out of that one. We've got another one that's two years old as of yesterday, they're seeing around 250 students, and we've got one that's six months old, and there are about 80 students.

GEORGE: Ok, so let’s go back to how did this all evolve? At what point did you decide you were ready to branch out and go for that number two?

PAUL: I guess, with working through the police force as well, I got out of police force about 6- 7 years ago. Not because I didn't love what I was doing, but the time just came to jump, one way or the other. I was finding I wasn't doing anything properly, I was half doing the club, half doing the police force. And so, when I went full time with the club, it gave me so much more opportunity to develop. Not just the style or the students, but the instructors. That was one of the key points, after that first mentoring was to understand that you can't do everything by yourself.

You've got to build your team. And your team might be your guys on the mats, your guys on the desk, it might be your accountant, your solicitor, but your team has to be there. I’m very lucky that I've got still with me now some really good young guys, kids, that are now in their mid-twenties. And I always earmarked an area, that demographic. I lived here; I thought this would be a great club one day. And a couple of young guys that talked about running clubs, and one day, James came in and said, I know you've always said you'll do this area, but I wouldn't mind starting something – what do you think?

And I said, look, I'm not in a position to do it, so, we could do that – what do you think we do a partnership? And he said, well what does that involve, and I said I have no idea at all! So, we formed this idea of a partnership, which is an interesting demographic. Like I said, James has been with me since he's been five years old, and he's now an extremely competent 23-year-old instructor practitioner. So we went – let’s just do it. And the stars aligned to a certain extent, and I think it’s like anything: if you've gotten things on your checklist that you want to have happened before you proceed to something, good luck if you get 6 or 7. So do we prepped in some areas? Yeah, absolutely.

James is a fantastic instructor. The premises came up quickly, which was unusual down there, so we thought let’s just jump at that. Areas we could have worked more on if we had more time, was the admin side of things, the business side of the club. But we're up and running. We had some teething problems, we fixed things that we needed to go, and as long as the face of what was happening, to the students, to the customers, was OK, and then the behind the scene stuff – we scrambled where we had to scramble. So it wasn't an expansion plan as such, it’s just that we had such great success here.

And the guys who helped me make this place so successful by taking classes and being such great instructors saw it as a genuine lifestyle choice. And so, we thought why not? It’s not your traditional career path, but we know that financially it can be rewarding, and even more so rewarding in the way that you interact with people through what you can do. So the plan to expand was never “I think I want to open up two or three clubs.”

And one of our mentors, Fred DePalma, says, “When you think about opening your second or third club – don't.” Headaches do come, things get to a certain critical mass, then things start to come together. The clubs support each other; you bounce ideas off each other. So yeah, I guess to answer that – I never planned on opening multiple schools, but we a have a really good instructor development program, where we almost develop the instructors to the point where, if we don't let them go at it under us, they're going on their own anyway.

GEORGE: So what does that involve? I’ll probably skip this step as well. Were you balancing your full-time job and then the school part time?

PAUL: Yes.

GEORGE: So you went full-time with the school first and then opened the second one?

PAUL: No, I’d run the school six days a week from the day I opened it, this was just, again, not knowing what to do. My instructor ran his school six days a week, so I did the same, I ran my school six days a week. But I was also working a full-time job – he wasn't. So that was probably mistake number one, it was too much. And doing that for multiple years, where every working week was 80 hours +, was just crazy. The kids paid the price; the family paid the price; we don't do that anymore. Even the new schools on their full time only run four days a week. And we won't run more than four days a week until we create a critical mass. So there was that.

GEORGE: Ok, so you have this program then where you sort of groom the instructors. Can you elaborate a bit more on that?

PAUL: Yeah. There's a very solid element of self-defense involved in martial arts. And my background, my street background with policing and so forth, has helped with that, what works and 14365348_10208838587554765_1464196218_n1what doesn't work. But in this day and age, especially the demographic we live in, our area – 14365348_10208838587554765_1464196218_n1personal development is a big thing. And as you know, as most martial artist instructors know – the bigger you get, the less trouble you seem to get into physically. You don't have that need to get into a confrontation, you've got nothing to prove.

Your awareness of what can happen, both to you and from you is there, so we work very much in developing the kids and their confidence. We start off with what we call a leadership program, and kids can join that at ten years old. And simply, that involves them coming down to help one class a week and then once a month we do a leadership training hour. We'll cover things like public speaking, how to break down teaching.

And I’ll tell you what George: these kids are amazing. They might be 10 or 11 years old; they're like sponges. They will get up and explain to you the three attributes of teaching, what a good instructor should be like. So, from there, when they hit 14 years old, if they're really good, we put them on what we call a traineeship. It’s like an internship, so we're looking at how can this person get. So they come along for one night a week, and we want to see if they can maintain that balance of training because that's first and foremost – they've got to be a student.

If they can do that one night a week, they can maintain their homework. Because we have to work with parents into this. At 15, if they've gone through that pretty well, we’ll put them on as part-time instructor. And then they'd stay with us really, up until most of them finish university.

GEORGE: Oh wow, awesome.

PAUL: In my main club, we've got in the vicinity of 50 to 60 leadership team, and we run at about 15 staff. We've got three full-timers, and the rest of them are part-timers or casuals or students.

GEORGE: Awesome. I see the value in that. Where my son trains, they have the similar type leadership program, and he's been talking about it for a few years and very much is what you've explained, the whole progression, like you say, the public speaking and things like that. I’d almost argue that they get more value out of that from going to school because you see these kids in martial arts, they're at this maturity level that you can't compare with when you look at anybody else in their age group.

PAUL: And where do you get an 11-year-old these days, who can stand up in front of a class of 20 kids, take charge and give clear instructions? It just doesn't happen.

GEORGE: Yeah, it’s invaluable. I think it’s probably the most underrated skill, that confidence to be able just to present something. They say public speaking is what most people fear more than death.

download3PAUL: And I think you've touched on it there, when you say it’s underrated, I think if people knew the value of martial arts and not just the punching and kicking, they'd be lining up around the block to join clubs. I think as an industry, this is what we need to push across. It is the inherent value of what we do, and I know this sounds cliche, but I believe it: our competition's not the bloke down the street with the different martial arts club. I don't lose students to other clubs: I lose students to basketball or football or cricket or whatever that team activity is. But as martial arts instructors, if we can teach parents especially – look, this is what your kids get out of this it’s not about making them become thugs in our industry.

GEORGE: Do you use that in your marketing? You've hit the key point there; I guess that's the ultimate thing: it’s not the kicking, it’s not the punching. That's really what the kid is getting out of this martial arts training. Is there a way that you use that to communicate it to a parent?

PAUL: Yeah. And I guess I look at it in two ways: one, what I talk to parents, and two, what I talk about people that I mentor. To the parents, I say it straight up: we will teach your kid self-defense, and we teach age specific and school appropriate.We also give them tips on how to avoid bullies etc., like a lot of clubs, do. As I said to the parent, what we're going to give to your kid is more valuable than just being able to defend themselves.

If they're in a fight – initially, we're going to teach them how not to get into a fight. We're going to teach them environmental awareness, we're going to teach them verbal skills, we've got some download1fantastic instructors, who work with the young kids, and they're just guns, but the message they deliver is not just about punching and kicking, there are life skills there.

We've got a great book, where every week there's a lesson. Now, the lesson might be on good manners, or it might be when day comes up, a bit of history. So we're trying to make these kids more than kids. And as I say to the parents, think about the last time your kid had a real fight. And they go, well he hasn't yet. And we say great; we want to maintain that track records, with a few skills to back it up if need be. We talk a lot about kids, but it’s the same as with adults.

When you sit down, especially in our area, I say to the adults – when's the last time you had a real fight? Knock them down, stomp them in the head, poke them in the eye fight? And most adults, 95% of them will go – never. I say good, so who the enemy here? It’s cholesterol and stress and not having something to do for yourself. So these are the triggers we use for our marketing because they're true.

I’m 45 years old and to find something for me, when I'm not busy at work, I'm not busy with my kids or spending time at home, working around the house, finding something that's my outlet, is gold. And that's why, in our adult class, probably half of them are parents. And when we talk to business owners, we say, we'll put a value on your punching and kicking, and again, you've got to find your demographic we talked about at the start. Find your perfect market. If you're a fight school, and you want to groom fighters, then you're looking at a different market.

But I say, punching and kicking – man, that's worth $50-60 a month, I can get that anywhere. You add in nice venues at that, where the parents who are your customers, can come in, sit down, there's a coffee machine, it’s maybe a bit warm in the winter, a bit cooler in the summer – add another $30-40 a month on. Then you show the parents how you're going to develop their kids as people, and you've got a  good match-up program or life skills program – add another $30-40 a month again.

So you're constantly building value in what you're doing. And, when you think about it, the worst quit you have is the email from the parent – little Johnny is quitting, please cancel our fees. The best quit you have is the parent ringing up and saying, little Johnny wants to quit – how can we stop him from doing that, what can we do?

GEORGE: And how do you handle that? If a parent says, look – this is the situation, he wants to quit. What can you do?

PAUL: We try to be proactive before. So, what we look at, we look at training patterns. When the kids or even adults come in to train, they have a card, like the old punch card. And they take it out of the rack during the class, and they hand it to the instructor. Now, it’s old fashion; we have databases and things as well, but what that does is, it gives us a point of contact at the very start of the class.

We run a rule of three: that every student at every student at every class has to be encouraged and acknowledged at least three times. So the first one is: good day George, how's it going? I have a look at your card, I flip it over, and I can see your training pattern. And I saw you were doing great at the start of the of year, mid-year you've dropped off, and the last two months I've barely seen you.

So that's the indicator for the instructor to flag up with the parents before it happens before they stop coming. The instructors are OK to give out free private classes. So maybe he's having a bit of a problem with him picking up a kata or form, or maybe he's taken a knock in sparring, and his self-confidence is down. So we try to schedule just a quick chat with the parents and/or the student to say, hey – you're not training as much, what's going on? Is it something we can help with?

If we don't catch them before that, and they do cancel out – now, I should say, we don't run contracts. I have nothing against contracts; we just don't do it because if you don't want to train with me, I don't want to keep you here. We do have a 30-day cancellation policy. They can train in those 30 days, in those 30 days what can we do to reverse it? The biggest thing is finding why and the bottom line is, students leave because they're bored. Sometimes they leave because they don't feel like they're making progress, but they leave because they're bored. So we have to look for patterns in classes. We have to look at is it a certain class, a certain belt level, a certain instructor, and then we need to pay our due diligence there.

GEORGE: Ok, excellent. So this is going to lead in great with retention, because I think you're addressing this right now, it’s a question of really paying attention to what's happening with your students. It’s not like they just come in, and then you're in shock when a cancellation letter comes. You're actually in tune with that and watching for the patterns that might arise to address them. So, expanding on that, what do you guys do to manage retention within the club?

PAUL: Now, here is that piece of string and how long is it!


PAUL: People want to be part of a tribe, I think. People like to be part of a group, and organization, where they feel valued. So I guess we have two parts: on the mats and off the mats. On the mats, your staff has got to be good at highlighting the hotspot. Highlighting on the go, recognizing someone saying something well and just making a comment along the way. Or spotlighting, where you stop the class and go, hey, show me that again, that was fantastic.

So people feel recognized for the class they do. Something as simple as a high five or a fist bump for a kid, and again, if you've got a class of 40 people, you can't do it yourself, your staff have to be able to do this. So the system, being acknowledged in class. They need to see progress; this is why we have a belt system. But then again, as you know, it’s self-sourcing. If they're not training and not progressing – not progressing, they're frustrated and won't come to training.

So you need to have a belt system with the goals that are tangible for them. We have Good Joe cards. Every kid in our club gets a Good Joe card every turn. And again, there's a spreadsheet where the instructors need to find something they've done well. And it might be he mastered a kick, it might be his consistency in training; it might be his general effort. But every shift, the instructors have to have the Good Joe cards before they go on. And they write them like, and some of the Good Joe cards are amazing! They're almost like pieces of art. The instructors believe what they say, which is important. You and I, we get a letter in the mail, and we go, how much is this going to cost me?

A kid who is anywhere from 4 to 11 years old, gets a letter, and they're excited! My instructors recognize I did well in class, and they've acknowledged it! My three kids train, they've all been training since they were four years old. And even last year, my boys will get a Good Joe card, and it will go up in the mirror, even after all these years. So there is that acknowledgment. We have birthday cards go out when it’s your birthday or birthday week. We have little events, retention events, where we'll do pizza and DVD nights, we'll run in-house tournaments.

There's just a lot of things, and I think what you've got to realize is that there's no one quick fix. You've got to have a system of retention. And interestingly, if you do some math, say an average $130 a month student: if you can save two students a month, just by showing some extra attention, working some retention strategies, over two years, you're setting yourself to $70,000. So it’s not we're talking about here. Plus, that student who's left, he's not saying fantastic things about your club necessarily, they're not referring people. They're not with you; you don't want to lose students because some of the students you lose are fantastic people, and it hurts when you lose some of them.

GEORGE: Yeah. Alright, excellent. Awesome, I'm sure I could keep you going for hours, but I've got two more questions for you. One: taking all this experience that you have, where you're at now, what would you do differently, starting all over again?

PAUL: Wow! I didn't have a “Why.” I didn't have a “Why I want to open up my club,” and these days this is my main thing with someone who's an instructor, it’s having a why. So I opened up my club because I was frustrated and bored – that's not a good enough why. I didn't have a goal of, I want to help people, I want to generate income, I want this to take over my full-time job. So I would make my why a lot more solid because that would make it easier to focus on through the harder times. And it would just keep me in tune.

The second thing I would do is say, get educated. Especially these days, there's so much marketing around. When I started off, there was not the Internet. There were no packages, no one was allowed to cross train, to find different skills, it was very tabooed, not to go to another club. So get educated. Acknowledge the fact that you might be the most fantastic martial artist in the world, you might be a fantastic instructor, but if you don't know a Facebook boosted post from a  newspaper ad, you've got no hope in building your club, not in this day and age, there's too much competition.

So treat yourself like a white belt. I can't tell you how much the industry frustrates me, that I will get people who will spend $300 on a seminar, to learn a sparring technique or a new kata, but won't spend a $150 to go to a weekend business summit, where they could put 20 new students down in the next month. So what I would do differently, I would start off slower. I would educate myself on the marketing and business side of things. And if you're not running a business, if you're in a school hall, and you're charging $10 a class per person, then you're just not running your business very well.

So that would be my two big things: focus on the why, get educated earlier with the business and administration side.

GEORGE: Excellent! Paul, thanks a lot for your time, just lastly, you've got the vast knowledge to share and so forth: if people want to learn more about you or from you, is there anywhere they can go or find out more?

PAUL: Yeah, absolutely. I’m very excited; a lady called Michelle Hext, and I are launching an online mentoring program, Martial Arts Business Success. That launches in October. So if you jump into Facebook and look for Michelle or me – Michelle is an absolute whiz on Facebook and in IT. I’m dysfunctional with IT, but the strengths I have, we work very, very well with our staff, our growing schools, our retention. So it’s going to be a great little partnership there.

But have a look at that, talk to people more successful than you, talk to people who have made the mistakes. This is like training: we're training martial arts, so we don't have to go through the mistakes that the early guys made. Same with martial arts business: walk into the Facebook works, go to the summit weekends and just get educated and start to build up your network of guys that share the same goals that you do. Because as you know, you get energy from those guys. You look at what they're doing, and you're like, man, that a good idea!

And I’ll let you in on a little secret, you and your couple thousand of people that are going to watch this: all my best ideas are not my best ideas! Out of the hundred great ideas I've had in twenty years, probably three of them are original. And the other 97 I've gone – that's good, I'm going to do that. I might tweak it, but, yeah. So get invested in your industry and get to know people who are like you and just enjoy your journey.

GEORGE: Excellent, that's awesome. Thanks a lot, Paul, and what I’ll do is, once your program is out for those people that are listening to this later, I’ll make sure that the links are all in the show notes so that they can get access to you.

PAUL: Alright, great, thanks, George.

GEORGE: Awesome, thanks a lot. I’ll talk to you soon.

GEORGE:  And there you have it, a great way to end off. And thanks again Paul Veldman from Kando Martial Arts. Transcripts of the show, show notes is at martialartsmedia.com/7, the number 7. And I liked the last message there from Paul – having your why. Having your why it’s so important. Why are you doing this?

Is it just to earn a paycheck, is it just that's what you're doing – what's the real why, what's the real motive behind building your business and doing all this? And the clearer you are with the why – it’s funny enough, everything else falls into place. We tend to look for the solutions and strategies and everything, but when you get clear on where it is that you want to be, everything else tends to fall into place.

All right – thanks again for listening. Tune in again next week, I have an excellent interview with you, going real, real deep on the why. Looking forward to getting that interview up to you, and as I've mentioned before – if you'd like to get in touch with me, george at martial arts media dot com, and let me know what you'd like to learn about and what you would like to listen to more on the show. Thanks again, I’ll chat with you next week – cheers!


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2 – How To Run A Successful Martial Arts School By Not Being The Grand Guru Part 2

Can you run a successful martial arts school without being the “Grand Guru?” Graham McDonnell and Phil Britten from the WA Institute of Martial Arts reveal how ditching their ego brought them success.

The Institute Of Martial Arts


  • Why being the grand guru that “knows it all” could be your downfall
  • What you can learn from modeling other successful businesses not related to martial arts
  • Why the only way to grow is to stop doing everything yourself
  • Have all your pictures displayed on the walls and opening up a new location? They must go!
  • The system test you must do before opening up a second school
  • What lead to almost $750,000 in 12 months with a brand new school
  • and more

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



GEORGE: It is George Fourie from martialartsmedia.com and welcome to the Martial Arts Media Business podcast, episode number 2. This episode is part 2 of the interview with Graham McDonnell and Phil Britten from the WA institute of martial arts, also The Institute of Martial Arts and a whole string of other businesses, that's probably not applicable to this podcast. And of course, this podcast is based on the success story of their martial arts school, the WA institute of martial arts.

So, this episode we just going to dig deeper – I think this is where the real meat of the interview kicks in. This is going to go deep into just different types of systems, different approaches of how you can approach your school, modeling other business models, ditching your ego, doing things a little differently, maybe not making yourself as the grand hero of your school, making the popularity of your school dependent on your systems and the actual training module, instead of you being the centre piece that holds it all together. And this is what's gonna allow you to really step away from your business and make it run like a well oiled machine as such.

If you haven't listened to part one of this interview yet, head over to martialartsmedia.com/1 – so that's the number 1, and the interview is there. You can also download the PDF transcription, or just read it on the actual page. And that'll get you up to date, before jumping into this interview. For this interview and for all others, you can go to the episode number, so martialartsmedia.com forward slash the episode number, this one will be number 2, and then we'll have all transcripts available also for you to download as a PDF.

So once again, introducing Graham McDonnell, and Phil Britten from the WA institute of martial arts.

GEORGE: OK, so – strong foundation, so you guys come in, you get a strong foundation, you put your identity and you pretty much just… What I hear is almost like the Apple of martial arts, and the whole unboxing experience, because it's an experience. Your goal is that, from when a person walks into the door, to when they leave, that there's a wow experience, it's a happening, it's not just about “I'm here to train”, which I think maybe that's a key thing that a lot of people are missing. it's the whole experience. it's walking through the door, parents that are assisting the kids, bringing them in. So it's the whole system, not just the actual class that's happening. So that's obviously a key part of your growth, but what else did you do, beyond that? So you got the foundation, you put your identity in, you've really optimized the experience for all your members – what did you do beyond that to double your membership base?

PHIL: Once again, we looked at all the stock standard type marketing, things that all the martial arts schools do, and we knew what worked and what didn't and one of the biggest things that any martial arts school owner, and if there's anyone out there who has any conflicting statistics, but I dare say they don't, one of the biggest ways that people get students in is through referral. And that's always, ever since the day that we started together till today, is always the biggest way. And that's why we said, what was the whole, the main thing, was about delivering amazing classes, wow experiences. But we needed to do this, not by modeling other martial schools, but that we looked outside our niche.

And we did look at Apple and we did look at McDonald's, how does McDonald's run staff and systems, and one adult has to be there to run the whole thing, Starbucks in America – we just looked way outside into what other businesses did and were doing to be successful, and then see how we can introduce that into our business. And that's really how we grew exponentially, with referral based type stuff. And there's an immense amount of things you can do, I mean this podcast's probably not gonna be long enough to list it all. Not neglecting the external stuff that you need to do, because you've got to open the funnel up. All the things that you need to do externally in your business, to be able to show the awareness to the wider community of your niche, your businesses, and why you do and what you do.

GRAHAM: George, there's something else that Phil sort of touched on, something we did early on – we got rid of our ego. We didn't know everything, we didn't claim we know everything and we didn't care that we didn't know everything. We'd actually probably been in a benefit that we'd started this business and realized, “Oops, we need to learn about business.” And then started to model off of different business model types and started just educating ourselves and really trying to grow and pick up on information.

So, I certainly know there's a lot of people I've dealt with, all across the world, that sometimes get stuck on the need to present an image, they need to be the grand guru of absolutely everything – look, people don't really give a rats. They like you to be real, and sometimes in business, it's all about going, “Ok, cool, that didn't work too well, we need to explore something different,” and knowing when you've made a mistake or failure or something. But it's not a failure, it's just a learning point, and cool, the next time around, I'll redo it. And I think what we did is, we tried everything. We tried it. you know, we didn't just limit ourselves to just doing the advert in the paper, or back in the day the yellow pages, which was around back then. But it was just like cool, we're gonna give it a go, why not? Why not? People go, you can't do that, it's not normal. Well, why the hell not, why can't we do that? You know, bugger that, we're gonna do it, so sit back and watch us. And we did. We've had a lot of people from the sidelines, business owners and others, sort of martial artists sort of criticize, “Ooh, you guys are selling out the system,” but really our drive was to empower our students, make them better, reach a larger audience and really transform them through our customer service and our community. One thing we knew is we had a really great environment, that when they walk in, they would be blown away. But how then do we reach a bigger audience? And we just didn't stick to doing the normal stuff, we broke the mould.

PHIL: I think just quickly, like Graham said, it comes up quite regularly, when we're dealing with our coaching clients, we all grow up in this world of being martial artists and more often than not, we have degrees in martial arts, but we don't have degrees in business. You know, you're talking to two high school dropouts here. Graham can hardly spell his name, and I can't count.

Phil BrittenSo between us, we're OK, that's why we've always worked so hard. But at the end of the day, you need to understand what Graham's saying, you don't have to be the best at everything. You just have to go, “I am who I am, now who can I learn from to get to the next level?” And that's what it's at, you might not have the business degrees, but someone else does. So go search for that environment, go search for that model, that person, who's getting that success you want, whether it's marketing or attention or whatever, and see what they're doing and model their behaviors, model their strategies, their mindsets, their beliefs, and the rewards will be amazing.

GRAHAM: George, you're gonna have to cut us off at a certain point, cause as he talks, I think of something different! But you know, we've touched on it before, we've invested a lot back into our schools, and a big part of that was education. Education for ourselves. It wasn't necessarily for the benefit of us, it was to better reach our students and be able to have a better product and whatnot. So we spent hell of a lot of time and resources investing in learning. As Phil pointed out, we certainly didn't know a lot, so we would invest in coaches to keep us accountable, we would learn this, we would learn that, and surround ourselves with people who are experts in their field.

People come to us because we're experts in martial arts. They may be an expert in something else, but we certainly went right – who can we help with our marketing or branding or vision? What about our computer systems? So that was something that we were always willing to do, instead of paying ourselves an additional income, we go, “Bugger that, that money that we've got as a surplus now is back into investing.” And, you know, I believe that the best investment you can possibly make in this world is in yourself. And if you up-skill yourself and up-skill your knowledge, it'll pay dividends down the track.

GEORGE: That's a big obstacle just in any business, the one you just addressed, where there's this whole DIY, you've got to transition from doing everything yourself, and then putting the ego aside and realizing, “OK, I obviously can't do all this, I've got to get some help with this.” And you mentioned a lot of people say that you're selling out the system and so forth- why do you think people are saying that? I mean, you do coaching for martial arts schools as well. I guess that's gotta be one of the biggest hurdles, people have got to come over, mentally and emotionally.

GRAHAM: Like I said, fear. Fear is one of those things, and you know, that's how it used to be done. Anything that's, something comes in new, is always ridiculed, it's always like, witchcraft and this and that. Look, we just didn't care, we just didn't care that they thought that was a sellout. We still have that, we still have people saying, throw the phrase around, McDojos, and so on. And I'm like, “Guys, we're a professional organization, and we can provide a professional service, therefore, we have better students- why wouldn't you want to be better?” You don't have to run yourself out of a dingy shed in a school hall and think you're a die hard martial artist.

If anything, you're doing them a disservice, by not providing the best quality possible. So we just went, “Bugger, we're gonna break the mold and test it out.” But a lot of it is ego and fear. Ego, to sort of prove to themselves that they don't know everything. And I know that, from a martial arts perspective myself – always, always enjoy going into a new class and putting on a white belt and just being that beginner. And have no issues with somebody going, “But you've done this forever and you're a white belt.” Yeah. Man, we're always learning. There's a lot of people out there that don't do that, they've stopped learning and they have a fear of being able to expose themselves and going, well I actually  don't know everything. So, fear and ego is probably the big one, and also, not knowing where to start. Who to ask, who to get the help from and, you know, that's just to cover things I've certainly noticed over the few years now that we've been consulting and coaching and helping out.

GEORGE: All good. Ok, so let's jump up a notch. Right. So, we've addressed all these obstacles and hurdles, you know, you've grown the school, the… Where we're at now, Greenwood. And so, you reached a point where, before you got the second one, before you opened the second school, how many students were you at, can you recall? Was it about 800?

GRAHAM: No, I think it was probably about the 700 mark, a 700 mark there. We thought… Honestly it was more a system check, a system test. If we do this, and we can grow the school to 700, and we were operating well, let's test our systems, let's test the model. Again, Phil mentioned that, we look at different companies, and go, right, how did they scale their business, how do they replicate this so that it can work on the other side of the world, work in a different area completely. So we thought, right, let's really start from the top down and make sure that we check every system, that if someone wants to walk into a brand new space, they could operate a WAIMA school, by just following the recipe. And that was something that we thought, right, let's make sure we've got everything locked down first and foremost. And let's give it a shot.

PHIL: I also think we got to a certain point of success in our business, right? The two of us did a great job, we had cars for the business, we had staff. And it was sort of like, well, what next? You know, we can just keep doing what we're doing and be comfortable, or we can try and push the boundaries. And I think, at a conversation that Graham and I did have at some point in that journey was something like, almost a challenge to ourselves – did we get to this point because we took over an existing business? And I was like, hmmm. let's challenge ourselves. Are we as good as we think we are, or, are our systems as good?

Have we got to this point because of us or was it because of the the kickstart we got? And it was a challenge for us, not that it's to prove anyone wrong, but it was a little bit, it was to show all the nay sayers, to guys that have been in the business for 25-30 years and still only have a 120 – 200 students, who were putting their nose up at us, and going, “They just took over a school,” and all that stuff. So we were like, nah, we're at a point, let's test our systems, let's test our knowledge, let's test our ability, let's test everything that we've got done to get to this point and then start up a brand new school. I started up a fresh school, my challenge was a hundred students in a year, we got that, and that's pretty darn good. So we challenged ourselves to double that for our new school and current one and I think we did 250 members…

GRAHAM: It was close to 300 in 12 months, and from an income value, I don't know, this is just for the guys out there, it was close to $750,000 we made in the first year.

GEORGE: Turnover.

Graham McDonnellGRAHAM: Turnover. So, the idea behind it was, we didn't just get the students in by having $10 a month fees – it was that we were charging a premium, top dollar, so quite expensive in the stock standard view of martial arts pricing. We think it's actually quite cheap, but others look at that and think otherwise. But for 300 members in 12 months, and an income at that, it really did validate, like OK, we've got something, and we certainly have, not sacrificed on being about the factory, not sacrificed on making sure it's all about the money, because money was irrelevant. It just happened to be that we focused on the client and really making sure that we surpassed their needs.

Put them first and the rest will follow. And that was a huge thing. But it was really nice to know that we were able to create this, we had a manager run a school from day one. Myself and Phil, we're guests at the school, we would walk in, it wasn't something that we had to drive ourselves and it was nice to look back after 12 months, and think, “Wow, the systems are working, the staffing is working.” You know, we definitely pressure test our systems on a regular basis to make sure that they're up to standards, because if you don't maintain things and you think they're OK, three years ago, they might have been OK, but now things may have changed. So, it's all about making sure you maintain those systems and the way you approach things.

GEORGE: What are those key systems? You keep on referring to the systems you've implemented. Can you give me a little bit more information?

PHIL: You've got hours or what?

GEORGE: I guess just briefly. Like, let's say I'm a martial arts school owner and I'm toying with the idea of how do I do what you guys did, how do I open that second job?

PHIL: I'll raise a red flag first, for any of the guys out there who are thinking of going from one school to two schools. it's tough, it's not easy, but most people fail, because as the school owner of one school wants to open up another one, they open it up and then they go back in the business and they work really really hard, it's like they're back to square one again. And they've got to build it up and it's all on their own back. And what we're getting at is, we didn't start out second school, until we had the right instructor to run it without us. So we didn't have to jump back in and be like, you know, trillion of hours a week, to get that business to operate. And we also didn't start our second school, until we worked on all the systems, as Graham was saying.

Graham's written down here a couple of things, so the systemization of your marketing, the systemization of your enrollment, from enquiry to the join up. And all the statistics that go in there, so the stats. You've got your curriculum, your lesson plans, so that theoretically, Joe off the street can come in and as long as he knows what a left hand a a right hand is, it should be described well enough so that anyone can come in and pick up where you left off. And your staff training as well.

And within those sort of things that we're talking about, were systems, systems within systems within system. And when it comes to stats in particular, we may have thousands of types of ways of reading the statistics. But actual fact – your school should probably have about a magic five. I mean, take for example flying an airplane. If anyone's seen the cockpit of a big plane, there are a lot of dolls, lot of switches. But I dare say there's probably five that are really really really important. The fuel, the altitude – I don't know, I'm not a pilot, but you get what I'm saying. And if you're gonna start a business, you wanna make sure that your magic five – we had the five, magic five that we work on, that if those statistics, if you're reading them right, if they're scaling well, if you're improving these five things, your business will consistently grow.

But, to go from one school to a second school, I would say – people might argue this, but I would say, you want to already have your instructor team ready to start that straight away. You wanna have some capital ready to go, to be able to sustain a year's’ worth of the wages and the marketing that needs to happen there. So do you need to get a loan out, do you need to remortgage your house, like you did for your first business? All those sort of things, do you have cash in the bank, I don't know. And you have to have your systems down, your one school has to be running so systematically without you, that you can then run another school without you as well.

GEORGE: So your first test is really your own school, and seeing are you able to be gone on a holiday and come back and everything still functions.

GRAHAM: Couldn't agree more George. And I know that if someone was to walk in here, or even have a helicopter view of the WAIMA organization, they would just think, “Oh my goodness, what a complex machine.” But realistically, it all started from simple systems, and then we just built up on that and built up on that and built up on that. And again, we really tried to make sure we take the guesswork out of it. We've had plenty of people in the past ask how did we get to this point. What we wanted to do was, we wanted to really think about, we need to take what's in our head and get it out and put it into a place that's digestible for our team. And that is something that's important, that it's not just from the mind of us and something that's very easy to follow.

Yes, we can review and refine as you go forward, but if your team don't know where we're heading and it's not easy to follow, it's gonna make some real challenges for you. So that's what I said,  simplistic systems can build on to being complex down the track.

PHIL: I'll just say this because George, you just brought up an actual reality fact. One of the moments we knew we had some good systems was,  Graham and I went to a trip to America for a month. And we didn't check in, we didn't know what was going on, and we came back and our school grew. And for us, that was like the tip of the hat, high five, we can leave our business for a month. And in that trip we went to America, and we saw other martial arts schools, we educated ourselves and brought some stuff back . But if our schools could grow within a month without us, we feel that our systems and procedures were fairly well nailed down, that our staff could run our ship without us.

GEORGE: Did you ever feel the need you have to check in?

PHIL: Oh look, when I say that we didn't check in, we have a system called end of day reports. So, at the end of each day, all our managers will report to us on their school, all the managers employees will report to them. So we just see the manager's’ reports. So yeah, at the end of the day, they will send their reports. So they'll all align. There were some early mornings, with the time difference in America, where we'd just flick to the end of the reports to make sure everything's alright, and got thumbs up, or hey, don't forget this, type of thing. But, essentially, we didn't have much input in four weeks, and that was really a lesson or a point in time where we went – we're ready.

GRAHAM: But George, there was a question I asked one of our, well, a couple of our sort of key managers, who run the sort of 800+ school, and ask them, you know, how did we get to this point? How do you now run a multi million dollar school? And they just go, what did we do for you that got you here? What sort of, what did we do, because sometimes we question, sometimes we do things automatically that you look back on later, how did we get to this point? And we asked them. And they said, “The fact that you trusted that we could do it. You believed that we could do it. And by the fact that you let us run your company with the belief that we can do it, and if we failed or made a mistake, it was OK.

Because it was a part of the learning lesson.” It was really powerful for them to go, “Wow, they trust in our judgment to make the right decision.” We didn't micromanage them, and therefore, as we've grown in schools, we did similar to what a parent would do when you first teach your kid to ride a bike. You let them fall a little bit, you dust them off, you pick them back up and push them on the bike again. And before you know it, they're riding by themselves, doing wheelies and having a great time. Same thing with this. You know, we're not reckless in pushing a manager forward and pushing them up to the play. We're there to support them,  but we also want them to experience both the highs, the lows, the scuffs, the injuries that go with it, and chat about how they handled it, rather than trying to run in to save the day. That was a really interesting point that they brought up, which is cool.

GEORGE: All right, cool. So trust – and I just wanna emphasize that, trust and allowing mistakes, not being with the hammer on the head every time that something goes wrong. The trust too.

GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah. Phil's got a great approach, and we do this very much as well too – whenever we deal with our team and they've got certain results, we ask the question why? Why did this happen, you know? And for them to explain their decision making process. And well offer some advice towards the end  – “Look, if it was me in that situation, I probably would have done a, b, c.” Great that you guys gave it a crack, well done, you've learned from that. If it arises again, now you've got the education sort of process, so they may make a slightly different decision, rather than jumping in and – don't get me wrong, we're not gonna let them do things that are critical, that you go bankrupt, but enough that they can learn from experience.

And really, if you think about it as a human being, what makes you a person is the experiences that you have, both the good and the bad. So if someone's there only to shield you and only give you the good, well, what happens when you get the bad happen? And I guarantee, there's gonna be ups and downs in every part of life. So as a key business owner, and a manager, someone running a school, you gotta allow them to deal with the challenges, you gotta allow them to deal with the headaches and see how they handle that, but know that they're not hung out to dry, they're not there by themselves. So we're there in the background to guide, if it's required.

GEORGE: Ok, great. So for staff – behind your instructors, who's the first person you employed behind actual, full time instructors?

GRAHAM: Oh, OK. Thinking back now, we did definitely have a… Their position has changed, but someone who was definitely more in an administration role behind the scenes. Our instructors are extremely capable in their strengths, and that is teaching awesome classes. But when it comes to processing of agreements, or dealing with creditors or stock, dealing with billing companies and all the rest, we had somebody that was really quite skilled in that area. So those were a 9-5 jobs, whereas our martial arts instructors are almost like a 12 pm start, till 9 o'clock at night sort of start.

You've got the engine room working the numbers, and the mechanic in there just dealing with that, and then you've got the guys who are at the front, having a good time, just pumping those great classes, which is really what we do. I dare say, there was probably more that full time admin person, was probably one of the first ones. It's obviously built from that, but they did certainly handle a little bit more in that role.

GEORGE: Ok. So, now I don't wanna give away all your secrets, but you guys are basically grooming instructors from the get-go, because you have a fantastic leadership program. And I know, my son just turned ten, and it's something he's been talking about for the past two years in his martial arts journey, that… Because ten years old, that's sort of the benchmark where he can enter the leadership program. So can you elaborate a little bit more on your leadership programs and how's it sort of ingrained in the system that the kids are so excited to step up their journey of becoming instructors?

PHIL: I'll let Graham talk more about that, because he's in there, doing that more. But what I will say before we get to that point is, that there was a key point in the growth of our business, where we realized that if we wanted to grow, we had to step aside. Because, even though there's two of us, there's only a certain amount of classes, a certain amount of hours in the day. And what most martial arts business owners fall into the trap is, that they become the only person that can run their classes and their school. It becomes personality driven, so people come there just for them, and if someone else taught that class, they'd probably leave. So when we first took over, we branded our school, it was the Phil and Graham show. Our faces were on the walls, you know, it was all, Phil-Graham, Phil-Graham, Phil-Graham. Which was great, but for long term growth and for us to get to the position where we are today, that had to change. So the photos went down. It wasn't then talking about Phil and Graham, it was us empowering our instructors more. It was putting them on the pedestal, and saying, “We're just a step behind them, we're pushing them going, these guys are the face of our business,” to some degree.

People will still come for our culture and our ethos and all that sort of stuff. We will still push that. But we needed to take a step back. We needed to remove ourselves from classes, little bit by little bit and put our guys out. And when we're walking through the school, talking to someone, we say, “Look at Andrew, look at Bree, look at our instructor there, haven't they grown so much, aren't they amazing? How well they're dealing with your child, how's your training grown since they've been in your class.” And it gets the client's thinking, “Yeah, they're amazing, they're amazing.” And eventually, they sort of forget about us a bit. And yes, they see us as the owners, and run the business and sort of steer the ship.

But it's that whole stepping out. But in saying that, when we did that early on and we focused on who can we have to step in, we fell into another trap that a lot of martial arts school owners have, and that's – we need instructors, let's look at the black belts. And we all know, if you haven't identified your instructors by black belt, they're probably not the right personality. And I'll let Graham talk about what we hire on, versus skill level.

GEORGE: Ok, I'm going to pause that right there. Next week, we'll continue the conversation with Phil and where Graham left off, talking about what's the one key thing that new instructors must have before they hire them. And the answer is probably gonna surprise you. We're also gonna talk about what it means to really  make a difference in your community, cost versus investment – are you charging too little? This is a topic that comes up a lot, about prices and are you charging too much, too little and are you just entering a price war, where students are shopping for price. Well, here's a great little exercise you can do with your students to justify that cost – investment rather, in their martial arts education.

So that's it for this episode. You can head over to martialartsmedia.com/2 – so that's the number 2, martialartsmedia.com/2. And we have all the transcriptions thereof the show, so if you wanna download them. And if you can, I'd very much appreciate it if you could head over to iTunes, there's a link on this episode if you go to martialartsmedia.com/2. There's a link to iTunes. If you could head over and leave us a great review, a 5 star review would be much appreciated. It helps us get our show up in the ratings and get the message out there to other martial arts school owners. So that's it for now, thanks again, I'll talk to you next week – cheers!


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