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

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


IN THIS EPISODE:

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

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martial arts school marketing Kyl Reber

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

GEORGE: Awesome. Long time coming.

KYL: Long time coming. Third time lucky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEORGE: The 27-year overnight success.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BJJ marketing Kyl Reber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEORGE: Why do you think that is?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KYL: 100%.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jiu jitsu marketing Kyl Reber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEORGE: That's huge.

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

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

Martial arts marketing Kyl Reber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KYL: Yes.

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

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

KYL: My pleasure.

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

KYL: Yeah. It was great. Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

KYL: It is.

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

KYL: That's on the list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEORGE: Love it. When is the release date?

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

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

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

KYL: Awesome.

GEORGE: Thanks so much, Kyl.

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

GEORGE: You're welcome.

KYL: See you mate.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


IN THIS EPISODE:

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

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damien Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jiu-Jitsu

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

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

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

GEORGE: During the military.

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEORGE: Can you give me an example?

Damien Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jiu-Jitsu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIEN: Four.

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

Martial Arts Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damien Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martial Arts Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martial Arts Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martial Arts Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEORGE: Day by day?

Martial Arts Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAMIEN: No worries, man. Thanks a lot.

GEORGE: Speak to you soon. Cheers.

DAMIEN: Appreciate it. See you.


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

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


IN THIS EPISODE:

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

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TRANSCRIPTION

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

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

ZULFI: My pleasure. It's my pleasure.

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

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

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

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

Zulfi Ahmed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zulfi Ahmed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEORGE: Very cool.

ZULFI: I hope that helps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEORGE: Right.

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zulfi Ahmed Bushi Ban

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

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

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

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

GEORGE: Of course.

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

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

ZULFI: Thank you so much. 

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

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

ZULFI: Thank you. All the best.

GEORGE: Thank you.


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

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


IN THIS EPISODE:

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

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ZULFI: My pleasure.

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

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

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts

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

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

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

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

GEORGE: They'd be both in Perth.

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

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

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

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

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

Zulfi Ahmed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zulfi Ahmed Martial Arts Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zulfi Ahmed Bushi Ban

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

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

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

GEORGE: Love it.

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

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

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

ZULFI: I love it.

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

Zulfi Ahmed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zulfi Ahmed Bushi Ban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zulfi Ahmed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEORGE: Thanks, Zulfi.

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


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140 – Signing Up New Martial Arts Students With Dead Leads

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


IN THIS EPISODE:

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

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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139 – Refining Retention After Massive Martial Arts Business Growth

The last time we spoke to Lindsay Guy, we discussed how he tripled his karate school in record time. Today we chat about refining retention to maintain this massive growth.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • How retention impacts martial arts business growth 
  • Keeping martial arts classes fun to stimulate young students
  • Reaching out to parents on how to keep kids from quitting martial arts
  • Setting up your martial arts pro shop for profit
  • Keys to leaving a lasting martial arts legacy
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

GEORGE:  It's George Fourie. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast. Today I have a repeat guest with me, Lindsay Guy from Guy's Karate School. Now if you recall episode 117, I had Lindsay Guy on and we spoke about how he had 3x’d his martial arts business moving past the Big C, we'll call it the Big C.

The YouTube and social media channels don't like us talking about what it is, although we probably mentioned it in the episode. Anyway, I wanted to catch up with Lindsay just to see how things are going right now. We spoke about how he 3x’d his business.

I wanted to see where he is now, how things are going, and how he handled the growth. We talked a bit about retention, and a little bit about marketing and it was just a great martial arts conversation. Now, I must warn you, Lindsay is super authentic and as he says, he's got no switch and he speaks very straightforwardly.

And we have this sense of humor where we look for little gaps and opportunities to have a go and have a bit of fun and fun with each other. So that might come out in some of the comments from him and me. Don't take it to heart. 

It's probably easier if you watch the episode because Lindsay's face explains his sense of humor. But yeah, one of my favorite humans to speak to when it comes to a sense of humor and having fun. 

So a lot of fun in this episode and a lot of value. So jump in episode 139. So head over to the website, martialartsmedia.com/139. You can download the transcript and all the resources mentioned in this episode. 

And do me a favor, if you get some good value out of this episode, please share it with someone you love, someone you care about, a martial arts instructor, or martial arts school owner. So they'll get as much value from it as you will.

All right, let's jump in. Lindsay Guy, welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast. Actually, welcome back to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast.

LINDSAY:  Thanks, George. Thanks for having me on again.

GEORGE:  Awesome. So last time we spoke in episode 117, we talked about how you 3x'd your martial arts business coming out of the Big C, we'll just call it the Big C, not we'll be talking about, that way YouTube still likes us and we are just chatting about the journey, a bit about working together in Partners, but just how you've progressed and where you're at. 

And I thought I'd have you back on being the funniest guy in the karate business. It's always good to have you on. It makes me a bit nervous when I have you on because I don't know, in conversations with you, I don't know what I'm going to get, which is the fun part. So this is good. So yeah, I thought I'd have you back on and see where the journey is at.

LINDSAY:  Excellent. Where would you like to start?

GEORGE:  How's business going? Weird, last time we spoke, so we were coming out of the rough batch, you got business booming and things are going well. How's the journey evolved from when we last spoke?

LINDSAY:  Our business has been continually evolving. It's been changing. We've made a lot of changes because what happens is when you get rapid growth in a business, you start to realize then all the things you either don't have in place or you should have in place, you start to work out some new things that you can add. 

One of the biggest problems, when you have rapid growth, is retention. So trying to keep all of those people, put systems in place, which is going to allow those people to stay. And over that time since we last spoke, which has been nearly probably nearly two years. 

We have been continually changing our systems to maintain that retention and maintain growth. There's no good having a system, a mouse on a wheel that's continually putting people in and continually losing people at the other end. Your business just doesn't grow that way. 

And I'm sure there are many businesses out there, many martial arts schools that do just that. However, we've had to sit down and work out why we lose people and what we can do to prevent that from happening. And that's why our systems have come into place now on changing that. 

So people feel quite comfortable, quite happy to come. Once you stop exciting people from coming to karate or to come to any martial arts, that's when they start to drop out. So we've got to maintain that excitement with our students. We've got to maintain the enthusiasm for them to want to come.

GEORGE:  All right. So I would like to dive deeper into that because if I always look at the first problem and the first time I typically work with anyone or somebody who reaches out to me it's, “Hey, we need more students.” It's always the first thing. 

There are always layers to that because there's always way more to just that. There's the pricing and the offers, and that's the one thing to fix. Now you fix that problem, right? You don't have so much of a marketing problem anymore.

LINDSAY:  We don't have a marketing problem at all. Every single time that we put a marketing campaign out, we get students. It's easy. We just go, “Look, okay, we need 10 more students. Let's put a marketing campaign out and get 10 more students.” Marketing and attracting students now is never a worry on my mind.

I just don't have that worry any longer where a lot of martial arts people that I speak to say, “I just can't get students.” “Well, what are you doing?” And most times they'll tell you, “Well, we're not doing anything,” or, “Yeah, we do ads.” Do you? Great. 

But of course, it's the content with the ad, not the ad. And you've got to get the right content. And how have we got the right content? Well, we've got the right content in a lot of ways. One was a lot of trial and error. But secondly, is speaking to other people who have actually got the right formula and just copying it. 

There's no point in having a formula that works than me saying, “Well, I don't think it'll work for me in my town.” So I just do exactly what all the other guys are doing that are attracting students. Guess what? It's like a miracle. It works.

GEORGE:  All right, cool. So we spend a lot of time on the formula, the framework, how to structure ads, and making sure that it works. So what's more important to look at is this next step and chat a bit about what you've done to help mitigate and fix the retention side.

LINDSAY:  That is a really hard question to answer because there are a multitude of things that we've had to do to keep students here. One thing that I'm always telling my junior instructors is that one thing that will keep people in your center first is for them to be… 

This is probably not the correct word, but I will use it anyway. Entertained. We have to entertain our students. Now you're going to get a lot of traditionalists out there going, “Oh no, you never do that. That's just breaking complete tradition.”

Now I spent the weekend with a bunch of traditionalists and they're getting 20 and 30 students in their dojos. It's because kids don't have that type of commitment anymore. They don't have the type of patience to go through traditional karate. I don't know whether they ever did. 

Because I remember when I was training, we never had a lot of children. They'd drop out as quickly as they'd start simply because the boredom would set in backward and forwards across a hall for an hour and a half doing basics. So today, we like to take a Wiggles approach.

The Wiggles, you take their songs, for instance, they're never going to be top 40. But what keeps people buying Wiggles music? What keeps people going to Wiggles concerts is the entertaining side of it. So you've got that side where the children are entertained. They want to keep coming back because they like the environment that we would use for them. 

Do we clown around? No, we teach karate to these children. But do we tell them that they're doing fantastic? Do we have a bit of a wiggle on that's like, “Man, that's fantastic.” Yes, we do. And I'm now teaching all of my students that same thing. So let's pass this on to our other students. 

So if we can get students inside the dojo making other students feel like they want to come back because they're creating friendships, they're having fun with each other in the dojo, they will continue to come back to my center.

Now, why do we need them to come back? One, the better the retention, the less expense there is, and the more money we make because we're not spending a lot of money on advertising because we've got critical retention, so we can reduce our spending on our advertising. And then secondly, people that are stopping, the longer they stop, the more friends they refer us to. 

And of course, our business grows then. So it just makes good sense. Now, it depends on what you want to do. If you want to teach pure traditional karate and you want to have 10 or 15 students in your hall or your center, that's absolutely great because I love traditional karate. 

I'm a real traditionalist at heart. But what I want to do is to treat it as a business. I want to make money out of this. I want to be able to support myself and my family by doing what I love doing, which is teaching karate.

Now if I have to kick off some of those old beliefs to be able to do that, I'm quite happy to kick off some of those old beliefs and keep people inside my center. And that's what we do every day. We come and teach karate and we love it. It's a dream. 

Imagine getting to the stage and going, “I've been doing karate for 40 years. I absolutely love karate.” Now I get to do it every day and someone's paying me to do it. I used to pay to do it once, but now someone's paying me to do it. It's fabulous.

GEORGE:  That's so good. Especially, and you're talking about being a purist at heart. Part of adapting is just, you talk about the entertainment side, there's no reason why it can't be both.

In fact, teaching has probably evolved. To teach it in a way that kids and younger people are learning and if they're entertained but they're learning the skills while they're getting entertained, that's a good thing. I'll tell you a relevant story. I took my daughter to a music class. 

Now I remember when I was a kid, my mom was cruel in a way. She forced me to play the recorder. I said, “Mom, this is not cool.” Three years in, I was forced to play guitar. Then I played the keyboard and then I ended up playing drums. It was a horrific experience.

And anyway, so I enrolled my daughter in what I thought was a drumming class. But I arrived there and it was a piano class. I thought, “Okay, well let's see where this goes.” And my wife did the enrollments, not me. 

Anyway, I was like, “Are we going to play drums?” And so I walked in and I just saw pianos all around and I was like, “Where're the drums? Are they going to play drums?” He said, “Maybe.” But this teacher wowed me in a way that I haven't been wowed in a long time because his teaching methodology was just magnificent.

Obviously, my daughter was a bit nervous, she's 4 years old, but he sat her down and he started dancing. So just to a rhythm. And so he starts dancing and then he brings out all these characters and then he's got this frog and that frog, and they gamified the entire experience for the child. 

And so she started 10 minutes shy, anxious, and 15 minutes in, she was all over it and completely wowed by the experience. And for me, it was just looking at, “Wow, okay.” Things have come a long way and people are realizing how just being entertaining, I could see what he was teaching her. 

For her, it was just fun and games, but it was education disguised as entertainment. In the martial arts space, you can take a lot from that. You can be the purist and teach all the right things and just make sure kids are entertained.

Martial Arts Business Growth

LINDSAY:  See, I need to teach martial arts and I like to have a good standard. I'm a bit like a tradesman looking at his work. I want to be able to come away saying, “I've done a fantastic job there with that particular task that I did.” Now if I can look at my karate students and go, “Wow, they're really, really coming on with their standard.” 

It's exactly the same as that tradesman looking at the finished job.

The only way that I can produce that standard is to keep them here long enough. Now if every two weeks I'm turning over my school base, there's no way that I'm ever going to produce a standard. So for me to produce a standard, I got to keep the kids. 

To keep the kids, I got to get away from some of those old-fashioned ideas about what should be happening inside a traditional class. So tradition, where is that starting? Well, I might be starting my own tradition, but I know now a formula that is helping us keep students, which is helping our students grow. And I can look at my students and now say, “I'm very, very happy with the standard that we're producing.”

At the end of it all, that's all that matters. It's producing great students that you can feel proud to say that those guys come from our center and I'm making sure that all of my instructors, whether they be our junior instructors because we have great junior instructors and a great leadership program now and I'm always onto those guys and people work well with praise. 

So I'm always telling them, “Make sure you high-five the guys. Make sure that your knucklesMake sure that every kid on that floor on that day knows they've done a great job.” How? Tell them that you're doing a great job. That is fantastic. What a great effort. And at the end of the class just go, “You guys need to congratulate yourself because not only was your standard great, your behavior was fantastic today. Give yourself a hand.”

And sometimes I even say to the parents, “What do you think, parents? You think the kids have all been good today and well-behaved?” And the parents go, “Yeah.” And of course, acknowledgment from a parent to a kid is huge as well. 

For a parent to say, “We think you've done really well today mate,” because there are so many kids out there today who don't get praise. It's important that children receive praise.

A lot of times, the only time they ever get spoken to is when they're doing something wrong. We need to change that. We need to tell children that they're special. We need to tell kids how good they are. 

We need to tell the kids that they're appreciated and that they are going to be okay. And that's what we're trying to produce here. That atmosphere of you're going to be okay, you're doing well. Keep going.

Because I talk to people, people talk about the black belt and say, “You know what the difference between a black belt and a white belt is?” And they go, “Oh, you've trained really hard.” Yeah, that's one thing, but that's not really it. 

What it is, is that the black belt person just trained longer than the white belt person. They've just attended more lessons and that's really all it is. There's nothing else to it.

They've just attended more lessons and we know you get better if you attend more lessons. And when you get better then eventually you achieve a black belt. So that's the type of thing we try to produce with our parents. 

We've even put in our new getting started brochures now. The excuse is that parents are actually going to get from their kids and why the kids are going to tell them they don't want to come anymore. So we pre-warn them, and said to them, “We've got a welcome brochure and we've got a whole page in there dedicated to why kids quit karate.” 

Sometimes kids don't quit karate. Sometimes it's parents that quit karate. Sometimes they quit bringing them. And there are a lot of reasons why that happens. Sometimes they just get tired of bringing them.

GEORGE:  Or they start training in Jiu-Jitsu.

LINDSAY:  Look, there'd be more people going the other way to be honest with you but…

GEORGE:  Apologies, that was a bit of a private joke inserted into a serious matter. Apologies to all my karate friends. To add flavor to where my comment just comes from, what is your take on Jiu-Jitsu, Lindsay?

LINDSAY:  I don't mind Jiu-Jitsu. I don't mind at all. It's actually a very, very good sport. I have rheumatoid arthritis so it's not good to have my joints manipulated and twisted too regularly. So that's why I don't like it. 

Because every time I've had a session and I come away with, “Oh man, my wrist's sore, my arm's sore, my elbow's sore.” So I just don't want to do that. My young guys on the floor do it all the time. 

We've got a couple of Jiu-Jitsu guys here and they get on the floor and my son Lockie is 22 and 22 stone and he gets on the floor and has a wrestle with the boys and absolutely loves it. So it's great.

GEORGE:  100%. As I said, it was a bit of a private joke, but Lindsay likes to give me hassles about cuddling and Jiu-Jitsu and so I thought I'd just get the one up.

LINDSAY:  George, I would never say anything like that to you. George's just making all that up now. Getting back to our conversation about parents, parents need to know that their kids are going to come up at some point in their karate training and that they're going to come up and tell them that they don't want to come anymore. Not all kids. 

I have parents that come and say, “I can't wait to come.” Every day, they're going, “Can we go to karate today? Is karate today? Is it karate today?” Simply because they just love coming. But we have those other kids that they're just half on, half off and they come up with all sorts of excuses, and we know what keeps them away. 

We know technology is in everybody's houses. They've got computers, they've got tablets, they've got phones, they've got PlayStations. 

Now if I was a kid and the parents said, “You're going to go to karate today,” and the kid's on his PlayStation in the middle of a game, it's pretty hard to drag him away from that sometimes. And then all of a sudden they go, “No, don't feel like going today. I'm a bit sick. Got a bit of a tummy ache, got a bit of a headache. There's something wrong with me. The reason why I don't want to go.” 

There are about 101 reasons I'd reckon that kids will give you that they don't want to go. But like us, once you get them here and you get them out the floor, they have a ball. So parents don't give up on their kids too easily because if we allow our kids after their first or second time just to say, “I don't want to do that anymore,” you go, “All right mate, well, what do you want to do?” I want to do this. Okay, we'll enroll you in that. I guarantee it won't be long before they're giving you the same excuses for that.

We have to show our children that if we commit to something, we've got to stay committed for a period of time. Because if we don't, what we're telling our children, it's okay to give up on anything whenever something gets too hard. 

All of a sudden, kids then go, “I don't want to do this. It's too hard.” All right, just give up then, mate instead of saying to the children, no, persevere. Some parents are like, “Whew, I was hoping you were going to say that. I don't have to take you anymore. I don't have to spend the money. Not that I could afford it anyway. Couldn't afford it before.” You can edit that bit out if you want. I get that all the time.

GEORGE:  We edit nothing in this podcast.

LINDSAY:  Okay. There's not one martial artist that would listen to this podcast that wouldn't tell you that or get the same excuses. Every one of us gets the same excuses from our students, but it's up to us to educate also. Not just the students but the parents. 

You're going to get it. I guarantee you, once you get it, still keep bringing them. Don't take their excuse, “I don't want to go because I've got a headache today.”

GEORGE:  Yeah, and so you bring up a good point, that most martial artists are going to know these are the excuses that are going to come up. It's going to come up because you get it all the time. So having that knowledge, it's probably worth having that conversation before it comes up. 

Because it's not if, it's when it's going to happen. So knowing that, it's if someone's really educated in sales, they know the objections that are going to come up. And so before while they're talking to you, they've already answered the objections that might come up and it just makes it easier for them to do business in the end.

So you're in the same situation where having the conversation with parents early, it's not if they're going to quit, they want to quit, it's when, and they're going to tell you that they don't want to come, there's going to be something more important. Or they're going to feel like they want to do the PlayStation etc. because it's not easy. 

Good things in life aren't easy and you need some resilience to push through and get that done. Actually spoke with Michael Scott about this yesterday as well about resilience. So it's just important to know it's coming, we might as well work on how we're going to remove that.

LINDSAY:  Well, we like to point out the page in the welcome pack which says, “Why Kids Quit Karate And What You Can Do About It.” That's the title. So we like to point out that a parent should need to read that section.

GEORGE:  Have you got your welcome pack in front of you?

LINDSAY:  I do.

GEORGE:  I just want to see.

LINDSAY:  This is the latest version. We do have another version, but because our center has changed and our business has changed, we've had to do some modifications to the brochure, add some things, and take some things out. We've done some really great things in the center. We've put our pro shop in, now we had t-shirts, we had hoodies, we had all of those types of things for sale, but we had them in plastic tubs in these cubes. 

And we had one hanging up on a coat hanger and we're hardly selling any. And we went to, I don't know when that was, July, up to Ross Cameron‘s CrossFit? Cross Fight? CrossFit? Was it Cross Fight?

GEORGE:  FightCross for the Partners Intensive.

LINDSAY:  FightCross. He'd be very happy with me remembering that. FightCross studio and he had all his pro shops set out. So when people walk through, all they had to do was just look to their right and all of a sudden there's all the gear that they could purchase. 

And I went, “Well, that looks fabulous.” And I said to Ross, “Do you have it licensed, this look?” And he went, “No,” I said, “Good because I'm going to steal it then.” And we've put the same wood grain look up, we've got all our T-shirts, our hoodies, our shorts, our caps, our singlets, everything now hanging on coat hangers. So when people walk into the dojo, they walk straight past it. 

Every single day now, I'm seeing empty coat hangers on the front bench from where people have purchased stuff and I'm just now putting in more orders for more gear. We weren't selling hardly any. And as soon as I put it out there on display, people are now starting to buy it. You wouldn't think that's rocket science, would you?

GEORGE:  They see it, they buy it.

LINDSAY:  They see it, they buy it. And Ross might have pointed it out to me at the time. He said, “When you go to places like a fun park, a theme park, when you get off the ride, where's the first place they walk you through? It's the gift shop.” To get off the ride and get it back out into the theme park, you go through the gift shop. 

There's all the gear, people are buying stuff. Why? Because the kids nagged them. But I have parents going, “Oh, that looks really good. I'll get Johnny one of those.” Well, don't wait, it might not be available next week. Grab one now while you're here.

GEORGE:  I love that. So we've been working together for quite some time and there's been a significant shift in your business but in your outlook on going about the company. And if I recall now in episode 117 when we were talking, there was a heavy low moment and it was in the midst of COVID.

LINDSAY:  Yes.

GEORGE:  And then you changed things around and with that massive growth so fast, you'd had to look at the retention side because you'd had all these young new students coming through. How do you feel your thinking around the business has changed since prior to that time with the Big C and where you are at now and looking forward?

Martial Arts Business Growth

LINDSAY:  I was speaking to people at the weekend at a seminar we're at in Melbourne and they were telling me, “Oh, COVID absolutely killed us and we really haven't hit back since then.” And when I asked some of those people, “What did you do during COVID?” And they said, “Oh, well we did what everybody else did, we closed down.” Okay. 

See, what we did here and it wasn't my thinking because my thinking originally would've been to just close the business everybody else did.

But because I was involved in a network of martial artists that twice a week we were speaking at Zoom meetings, I realized that I had to close the doors to the dojo, but not close the business. 

So during COVID, we went on a marketing frenzy where we were spending money that we weren't earning so that we didn't have to get students through the door when we were to reopen. I was signing up people through packages. They were excellent deals. 

They were getting a uniform that they could wear at home if they wanted, wear down the shop. It doesn't matter where they were wearing it, but they couldn't wear it in my dojo because the government said you can't come in the door. 

So people then say to me, “So when are you starting back then?” And I go, “I don't know. No idea. That's up to the government. I have absolutely no clue when they allow me to reopen. But when we do, you've got a great deal to start back with.”

I once had someone say to me years ago, he had an agricultural business and he was doing extremely well. He was the busiest agricultural dealer in this town and we're going through a bit of a recession. And I said to him, “So how come you are so busy? Why are you surviving and some of the others are starting to go downhill?” 

And he said to me, “This is where people make mistakes. In hard times, the first thing they cut is their advertising budget. Cut your advertising budget, your sales go down.” He said, “Different from me, in the hard times, I increased my advertising budget,” and I'll always remember that. 

I reckon that was 20 years ago. And I'll always remember that talk from John saying to me in the hard times, you increase your advertising budget, not decrease it. And that's what we did. 

And it wasn't simply because all of those other things were going on, it was just simply the fact that I needed to assure I'd sign this lease. I had no money. I needed to assure that when the time came for us to reopen that we still had a business and it was going to be bigger than what it was before we stopped. 

So what we did was we kept in regular contact with our current student base that we had at the time and we're signing new people. And that's what we do today. We're always coming up with some special deal to get people to come to us.

I find it really hard to believe today people that tell me, “Oh, we just can't get students.” And it's generally because it's not that you can't get students, you're just not going about it the right way unless you live in a town of 20 people. I don't understand why you can't have, in retrospect, or in the ratio to your town a decent amount of students. 

I have people say, “Oh, you don't understand my area.” Oh, don't I? You've got a Woolworth there? Yeah. The prices of groceries in your town are the same as they are in mine. Yep. What's your fuel price? $2.30 a liter. Yep. 

What's the price of a Toyota in your town? Wow. It's the same as what it is in my town. And all those businesses are still surviving. Why can't you charge the same as everybody else is charging?

GEORGE:  I find it very dangerous when people talk collectively about an area or a town and make decisions for them because it normally comes from within. And the minute you talk about the town, well hang on, how many people are in this town? Did you talk to all of them? Do you understand their wants, their needs, and their feelings? 

It's a lot of people to be making decisions for. It's hard.

You are saying, “Well, people are struggling to get students.” Well, if somebody says that, then my question would be, “Well, when was the last time you made an offer to get students?” 

And to whom was it? Oh, we posted on our Facebook wall. Well right now, you might as well put a flyer on your windscreen outside. That's not enough. You do need to put your offers in front of enough people so that enough people can see them. 

And even if you did that really poorly, if you just made an offer every day, you would be getting students. But people can't sign up if there's no offer to sign up.

LINDSAY:  Absolutely. You've got to give them something… A reason to click. You've got to give them a reason to click on that button. I love the ads where I see them and people go, “Phone now.” I'll tell you, I'm sitting there at 11:00 at night going through Facebook. 

The last thing I'm going to be doing is picking up the phone and ringing some martial arts guy to start his classes. And you know what happens by tomorrow? That's all worn off.

You've forgotten about the ad you read yesterday, you've moved on, and you're now worried about I've got to pick the kids up from school at 3:00. You're no longer considering enrolling them in anything. But if you've got a button there that says, “Click here, send us a message,” right this minute, people do it. 

They just go, “Oh, I'll do it now, click. Might as well while I'm sitting here at 11:00 with nothing to do,” and you can answer it tomorrow. So there are all sorts of reasons that we can use as to why our business doesn't grow. But most times, the reason it's not growing, sometimes you get to sit back and look at what you are.

A lot of people judge what other people can pay based on their own financial situation. And that's very, very dangerous to do that. If you do that, you'll always be in the financial situation that you've always been in. 

It's not going to change unless you change your thinking. I've always been a big thinker. I've always thought that at some point in time, we can make it. We're going to find something. And I searched for ages and I might have said it on 177 that-

GEORGE: 117.

LINDSAY:  117, whatever it was, 117 folks, if you're listening, go to 117. You'll hear the first half of this. So if you get to the stage where you start to think that people are not going to come in your dojo, they're not going to come in your dojo. 

There's no way they're ever going to come into your dojo because that's your mindset. But if you have the mindset that you want to build a business, that you want to make your martial arts center profitable, it mightn't be that you want to do it full time. You might just want to be able to pay the rent on the building. 

You might just want to be able to have a few bucks at the end of the week to buy a car and a beer and go for a surf, whatever that may be.

You have to set the structure, you have to set the wheels in motion to actually get that to happen in the first place. And the only way that will happen is to get students. And the only way to get students is to get students. 

So if I was to say to you, George, I'll tell you what I'll do. Every student you've been through my door tomorrow for me, I'm going to give you three grand. How many students within the next week do you reckon that you'd be able to bring in for me? You'd just keep bringing them in every day. 

Because what would you do? You'd be walking down the mall saying, “Hey look, have you ever thought of doing karate?” You'd be standing outside of popular kids' places with brochures, handing them out to parents and talking to them, “Hey, have you ever thought of having your kids do karate?” 101 of sales. Get to the masses, get to start talking to the people. And that's what we do.

So if you want to get students, you'll get students. You'll work out a way to get students. And if you don't know how to get students, ask someone who's got students, how they got students. But I could tell you the key to that, if they've got a lot of students, do what they tell you. 

If they have five students, maybe consider their knowledge and the information not quite what you are looking for. If they've got 500 students, do exactly as they tell you to do. Because what will hold you back is your preconceived notions, your thoughts about what people want, or the way you should be doing it.

So all of these guys have, in the past, been in the same position that you are in right now. They've had their five students, their six students. We all had to start with no students. And we get devastated when students leave. 

I remember one point in time when 100% of my students left in one night. Both of them walked out. But you've just got to start somewhere. And the place to start is at the beginning. 

You just talk to people who are doing what you want to be able to do. And if worse comes to worst, pay someone to help you do it because there's always that option too. There are forward-thinking a couple of people out there that do this martial arts, marketing media stuff. That'll give you a bit of a hand. 

And maybe you need to get on to one of those guys who is pretty good at this and just do what they say. I want to be able to leave a legacy for my children. And we've spoken about that a couple of times and a few of the other guys that we regularly communicate with also have that same attitude that we want to leave legacies for our children. 

Some people want to have a business that they can sell at some point in time. I want to have a business that I can leave to my oldest son, my youngest son. He's not completely with it in life. He doesn't do karate. He's actually an accountant so he does okay.

But for the eldest one, I had to do something for him. He is a great manager and I am so fortunate and so lucky to have someone who's so forward-thinking.

Now he's 23 years old and he comes up with far better ideas than what I come up with. And that's because he is 23 years old. 

He knows what people of a younger era and a younger age are looking for. He knows what their interests are. I'm nearly 60 years old. I've lost a little contact with what 15, 16, and 17-year-olds like. Lachlan runs our junior leader program and our young instructor program. 

And to be honest, he is absolutely brilliant at it. He relates well to the young guys. He's a likable character. He's a lot of fun.

He creates a lot of jokes. Much to my dismay, I'm trying to get him to be more serious, but for some reason, it doesn't work. But he just controls our leadership group. People say, “Oh it's all right for you. You've got help.” 

Well, if you've got 15, 16, or even 14-year-olds in your class, you've got help. You've got that ability to take those young people and train them to be helpers, to be young leaders because that's what we all need. We all need more instructors. We all need people that are going to be able to fill in for us and be able to take over from us when we get to the stage where we don't want to do it anymore. 

And where's the best place to get those people? Inside your dojo. So if you've got those young 13, 14, 15-year-olds and you're not actually letting them help, you're losing a valuable resource. You're just letting that valuable resource go.

They're there for you to train. And we've got them in our dojo now. We have red coats who are our junior leaders. They come out on the floor, they start about 12-year-old and they come out and they start helping our more junior classes. 

It's simply correcting them, getting to show them how to kick properly or how to do a lower block correctly. It might just be simply turning the fist over to make sure that their punch is correct.

We have what we call our blue coats who are our junior instructors and they have a junior instructor across their back. Once they reach junior instructor level, they then have the ability to maybe get paid for what they do. We don't believe in asking these students to instruct classes and just swapping them for lessons generally because they feel they don't get anything out of it. 

Because it's generally the parent who pays for the lesson. So it's the parent that's not having to pay and the kid doesn't get anything. So we still make all our junior instructors pay for their lessons, but we pay the junior instructor for the work that they're doing. So they get paid.

It's their first job. They feel proud that they're now getting a job, that they're earning pocket money, but then their teaching picks up with assistance from us. But also then, their karate just starts to skyrocket because of the training that they're doing, because of that expectation that we're putting on them to teach correctly their karate improves so much. 

And then once they get to the point where they are a paid instructor, they then become instructors. And we've only been doing this probably about since we've come back from COVID. Oh, the Big C. Since we've been coming back from the Big C.

So it hasn't been very long, but we've managed to get a great stable of people from inside of our ranks. If you've got them there, use them and they love it. You ask a kid, “Can you come and help?” And you see their eyes light up, you see their smile beam from ear to ear. It's very special for them. Let them do it. 

Even if it's just starting. Say you got them in one of your classes, and let them take the warm-up for 10 minutes. The effect that has on that child is unbelievable. And yet your retention rate goes up with all those kids. 

None of those kids ever stop unless something goes wrong on the outside that they don't come any longer. But they generally come because they've got this commitment for helping. They've got this commitment to work and they feel great about it. So let them help.

And then the great thing is then the other kids see it. So everybody that comes through our door now that we look at them as a potential instructor. So we've also put that in our welcome brochure as well to say, “Hey look, one day your kids could be junior instructors here.” 

We could have a job for them whilst they're attending high school, whilst they're attending university, whatever it may be. There may be a job here for them part-time instead of the regular jobs that they consider McDonald's, or KFC because it's just amazing that people don't think this is an occupation. Why not? 

We actually pay better. Our junior instructors, even at 16 and 17, get 22 or 23 bucks an hour. That's well above the board. Why are we paying that? So we keep them, so they don't go and get more shifts down at McDonald's and don't come to train here any longer because McDonald's rings them up on Tuesday and Thursday nights and wants them to work for them. Sorry, I got a job. 

So for the same time, they're doing three hours here, they'd have to do six hours at McDonald's virtually, or five hours at McDonald's for the same money. So we're then speaking to them. If we're going to look at expanding our dojo base, we then have to look at who's going to take those over in the future. We need students that we've trained, that we've produced in our systems that know the way we work, and that understand us to take over those dojos at some point in time. 

They can only come from here. So we have to embed that seed into all of the kids' heads that one day, this could be you. One day you could be operating one of our dojos for us at the least you could be training on our floor and earning a bit of cash for it whilst you're seeking your lifetime goal of becoming a forensic scientist or whatever it is you want to do.

GEORGE:  Love that. You are very fortunate to have someone like Lachlan working for you. And I noticed this when we got together in Brisbane at the Partners Intensive. He was engaged in every topic, clicked on everything, especially on the marketing aspect, asked the right questions, was keen to learn, great son, and is a great role model for the younger kids. 

I actually think I will have him on the podcast and it'd be great to have his perspective just working in the business and getting that young person's insight and perspective of how it is working in the business, but also teaching the younger kids and getting them motivated and on the right path.

LINDSAY:  See, at 23, he's hugely responsible and he knows that this is his future. So he can go out there and spend five years at university and get a degree and then work for somebody in Melbourne or Sydney and shift away from home, and work the most ridiculous hours. 

At 55, be burnt out because you've just given your blood in your life to some company that doesn't appreciate you all that well. Or he can have his own business, or he can work in the family business of teaching martial arts, which is a great life, a great journey. You get to travel a lot, you get to meet absolutely brilliant people. And he understands that.

At 23 years old, he's got a very smart business head and he understands that. And he understands that because that's the thing that we've taught him all his life. I can remember we'd go overseas when he was young and he'd say, “Dad, can I get a T-shirt?” And at 8-year-old you'd say, “Here mate, you got 10 bucks. Here, go and get one.” But they're 20. Not my problem mate. And he'd always come back with a 10-buck T-shirt because he'd haggled with the store owner.

GEORGE:  That's great.

LINDSAY:  We've got to teach our kids those life skills, George. And you've got your daughter there. You've got to teach her those life skills. When you travel, when you go overseas, you've got to let her start doing some things. You've got to say, “Hey, look. Here, take this up to the counter and tell them that we're checking in.”

I really enjoy belonging to our martial arts group. I really do. And every single time I'm there, I've been a little bit quiet lately. I've had a few things going through my mind. I think about a lot of things when we're there and people say stuff and I go, “Oh, I think about that,” which is good to hear that I actually think about things that we talk about.

But I do steal lots of information and it's really quite good. And I love the guys. I just love getting together with people and we just have fun. Life should be more about having fun. Forget being too serious.

Life's full of serious people who all blow up and have heart attacks at 55, don't get like that. Martial arts is a fantastic journey. I don't know anything out there like it. I've searched the world for occupations and I've done 75 of them. 

And this is the one thing that people say, “Why did you quit that? I got bored with it. Why'd you quit that job? I got bored with it.” I've been into martial arts. This is coming up to nearly 40 years. 

You think if I was going to be bored with it, it would be by now, wouldn't you? It's not. It's not. It's because of the people. Everybody's great. There you go.

GEORGE:  Love it. Cool, Lindsay. Well, thanks so much for jumping on again. Great to see your journey just evolve and I'll see you on the next call. Any last words before we wrap up?

LINDSAY:  I'm going to use the Nike theme here, George. Hey, guys. Just do it.

GEORGE:  100%.

LINDSAY:  Yeah. All right. We'll see you again.

GEORGE:  Thanks, Lindsay. Speak soon.

LINDSAY:  Thanks, George. Appreciate it. Bye-bye.

GEORGE:  Thanks so much for tuning in. Did you enjoy the show? Did you get some value from it? If so, please, please do us a favor and share it with someone you care about. Share it with another martial arts school owner or an instructor friend that might benefit from this episode. And I'd love to hear from you. 

If you got some good value out of it and you just want to reach out, send me a message on Instagram. My handle is George Fourie, G-E-O-R-G-E, last name F-O-U-R-I-E. And just send me a message and I'd love to hear from you if you've got some value from this.

And last but not least, if you need some help growing your martial arts school, need help with attracting the right students, increasing your signups, or retain more members, then get in touch with us. 

Go to our website, martialartsmedia.com/scale and we've got a short little questionnaire that just asks a few questions about your business to give us an idea of what it is that you have got going on. And then typically from that, we jump on a quick 10 or 15-minute call just to work out if or how we can be of help, not a sales call.

It's really a fit and discovery call for us to get an idea if we can be of help, and that's that. We'd love to hear from you and I'll see you in the next episode. Cheers.

 

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

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138 – Building A Thriving Martial Arts Business For Generational Wealth

Michael Scott shares the 3 core areas he focuses on for a fulfilled life, and building a martial arts business that fuels generational wealth.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Are Google Ads getting better results than Facebook Ads?
  • Having an exit strategy when retiring from your martial arts business
  • Your martial arts business as a vehicle to build generational wealth
  • Having an accountability partner you can trust and who supports your goal
  • Why have membership contracts
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

GEORGE:  Hey, it's George Fourie. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast. Another great interview for you today. Michael Scott from CMA Campbelltown Martial Arts in New South Wales. 

So I've known Michael for a little while. We've been working together in our Partners Group. When you meet someone and they're not at the front of the conversation, but when they speak, you want to listen because it's always packed with wisdom. 

In fact, at the end of last year, we did something fun in our Partners Group and we gave out awards within the group, and Michael was named the Wisdom Whisperer, and just for that reason, sits back, observes the conversation, but when he speaks, it's packed with wisdom.

Now, Michael talks about the three areas that he focuses on in his life way beyond martial arts and actually how he has used his martial arts business as a vehicle to grow wealth and build generational wealth and talks about investment strategies and things that he does after that. So, you're going to love it. 

I loved doing this episode. Head over to martialartsmedia.com/138. You can download the transcript and all the resources. And please do me a favor, if you love this episode, share it with someone that you care about, a martial arts school owner or instructor. I'm sure they'll get a ton of value from this. 

All right, let's jump in. Michael Scott, welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast.

Michael Scott | martial arts business

MICHAEL:  Thanks, George, I'm not happy to be here, but I'm here.

GEORGE:  Hang on. I've got a guest on my podcast who's not happy to be here. Why is that?

MICHAEL:  Well, it's nothing to reflect on you, George, just I prefer to stay out of the limelight if I can. I like to sit in the background and gather all my information and make my decisions from there.

GEORGE:  Right. Perfect. And that is the entire reason that I've actually invited you to the show. So a bit of context and then we'll jump into things. So Michael, we've been working together for quite some time in our Partners Group, and in the last year we did something fun and we were giving out awards for just different aspects of value, which a lot of members in our community bring to the table. 

And for Michael Scott, we deemed Michael the Wisdom Whisperer and we thought the Wisdom Whisperer was appropriate for Michael, pretty quiet, sitting in the background, observing. But when he speaks, it's always of value, packed with wisdom of combination of the years in martial arts, building the business in the right way, investment portfolio, etc. 

I had to really twist the arm here to get Michael on, but I know it's going to be super valuable as it is when we spend time together each week. So thanks for making the exception, Michael.

MICHAEL:  You're welcome, George. It's funny, even though I say I don't like public speaking, I really don't like public speaking, but in my previous working life, I've completed Toastmasters speaking courses and all these other stuff to help you speak better in public. I still don't like to do it.

GEORGE:  Perfect. That's cool. So let's jump into some practicalities. I've got the first question I always like to ask. When it comes to marketing, and attracting new students, what's been your go-to strategy? Your strategy that's been most successful either recently or of all time?

MICHAEL:  Of all time, I would have to say referrals. I think referrals have always been a great way to gain new students from day one till now. That seems to be the best. If they're referrals, they're not a warm lead, they're a hot lead, They're ready to go. So for my money, as you've heard me say a million times, George, I'll pay $100 every day of the week to get a good referral, something that's of value.

Apart from that, having been in the game for a long time, I've seen the change in where our clients come from and it started off trading post ads to yellow pages ads to pink pages ads to local paper advertising, a little bit of radio advertising. And now we're down in the rabbit hole with Google and Facebook advertising. I did my stats the other day actually, and Google is bringing in more students than anyone else at this stage.

GEORGE:  Interesting.

MICHAEL:  We get more leads through Facebook, but we convert more through Google.

GEORGE:  I love that. It's very interesting how the dynamics have been shifting over the past couple of years. And if I had to add to that, I think when I started working with martial arts school owners, I was probably not even active on Facebook, but I learned direct response marketing through Google Ads and it was always the go-to place for me because I knew at that time it was the more complex machine to get going. 

But once you get it going, the maintenance is just a lot less because it's search-driven and not newsfeed driven. And the whole difference, for those of you that are listening that don't know, if you look at Google leads, you get the intent. 

People are more intent-based and so they're actually going physically to the search engine to search for something. Whereas Facebook, it's interruption-based, meaning you got to put things in front of the newsfeed for them to snap them out of their trance of looking at cats or procrastinating or doing whatever they're doing with a good irresistible offer for them to actually respond to.

And there's definitely pros and cons to both. There's definitely pros and cons to how they can work together. But the interesting dynamic for me is how it shifted from Google being always the player and then Facebook came in and Facebook is just the go-to lead source and it still is for a lot of people. But the mature system is Google with the mature ad platform.

And I know a lot of people are getting a lot of issues with Facebook and just pages being restricted or things being flagged because the AI isn't as dialed in where Google has really mastered this over time. And we seem to see the shift as people don't pay as much attention to Facebook and social platforms and how Google is becoming again this powerhouse. So it's interesting. 

So you did the stats in a comparison of actually who are members and who are not members?

MICHAEL:  Always. Yeah. Each month I go through and I look at where all our leads come from. So my CRM spits out a report of where all the leads have come from and then I just refine that report and I just click on a button and say, “Okay, now I want to know what leads turned into active students and just goes bang.”

GEORGE:  Nice.

MICHAEL:  So it makes life very easy for me in that respect. And the other area I guess, which I didn't mention, is the website leads, which is something we’re just starting to see a return. So as you know, you helped us tweak our website a little bit. 

We've just done a completely new website, so that's starting to gain momentum now as well. So I'll be interested to see where that goes as far as our leads and conversions over the next 12 months. Because we were one of the first martial arts, I guess, to have a website when websites first became a thing in Australia. 

But we didn't really do much with it. We just went to someone who created a little website for us and we just plotted along until now. And it's only now we decided, okay, well we've played with Google, we've played with Facebook, we've played with everything else, let's play with the website leads and see where that goes. 

So yeah, with your input, we've done a few tweaks to it and they've completed those tweaks for us. So I'm looking forward to the next 12 months.

GEORGE:  Love it. So take us back, because I mentioned that you've been in the industry for quite a while. Just give us a bit of an overview, your background, your story, how you got into martial arts and how everything's evolved to now.

Michael Scott | Martial Arts Business

MICHAEL:  I guess going right back, I started in boxing when I was 10 years old. That was mainly driven through my father who was ex-military. So he taught me the basic skills in boxing. And then I went to PCYC like everybody else did back then and just boxed regularly there. 

I did that all through school till I was about 18 I think it was. And I got bored with it, to be honest. I was looking for something else. And at that stage, Bruce Lee, all that sort of stuff was out. I always had an interest in martial arts movies, whatever was around. 

I go back to the early days of phantom agents and stuff like that, which was on Saturday morning. You may not even remember them, little phantom ninja guys, who jumped up and down in trees and spat little stars at people.

GEORGE:  Right. Yeah, I do actually.

MICHAEL:  But yeah, that's probably my first inkling into martial arts. Even when I turned about 18, I'd left school, started working, and had money on my own. A mate of mine rang me up and said, “I found this thing to do.” I said, “What do you mean you found this thing to do?” 

He said, “I found a martial art for us to do.” I said, “What's it called?” He said, “It's Hapkido, Hapkido, or something.” So what do you mean by Hapkido?” He said, “I don't know, that's what it's called.” And he said, “I'll read a bit about it.” 

And it just said, “I can't remember the spiel, but it's basically learned jumping, flying, spinning kicks, bone-crunching techniques.” And I said, “Oh, that sounds like us.”

So I went in, looked at the school, and set a day where I always watch two lessons. Joined in the third lesson and I've been doing it ever since. And then in the night, that was early, that would've been early '80s, I started doing that and still doing that to this day. 

And then in the early-mid, about '96, I got introduced to John Will with a seminar he was doing in Sydney with John Will, Jean Jacques Machado, and Richard Norton. And that was my first foray into what's now known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

And I started training from then I just… After the seminar, I said to John, “So this stuff is cool.” I said, “Where I learned it .” He said, “From me.” I said, “Where do you buy?” He said, “Geelong.” I said, “How long does it take to get from Geelong to Campbelltown? 

I didn't know. I had no idea where Geelong was back then.” He said, “I'm in Melbourne.” I said, “Well that's a bit hard.” He said, “I'll come and see you.”

So that's where the relationship started. In the early days he came up and saw us four times a year. So I got access to him four times a year as well as he did whatever other Sydney seminars he did, I went along and did those as well. And I've been with John ever since, still plugging away BJJ as well. 

And I like anything in martial arts, any weapon, any style. If I can learn something, I'll learn it. I don't have any preconceived ideas of one style or one person's better than the other. 

And then I started, I think it was about '92. I left my instructor just not really left him. I left the organization because they were all teaching in small scout halls and school halls and that type of thing. And we'd already moved to a full-time premise. Well, it wasn't really, well it was a part-time to full-time venue.

So there's certain things we wanted to do. We wanted to do our own marketing, we wanted to do our own T-shirts and cups and we were just all excited about putting everything out there. 

And back then they had a little committee that he had to go through and I just said, “Well, this is a waste of time.” He said, “You guys are operating with 20 students. I've already got 90 students in three months.” So, I said, “I'm heading out if you're going to try to restrict me there, I'm going to do my own thing.”

So, I walked out, did my own thing, and that was '92, that's where it all started. I had a partner back then, Steve, you might know Steve Perceval, he was a partner with me, but he only stayed a partner for about 12 months. 

And then he went off and did his own thing. And then I moved to… It's '93, let's see, about '94, I moved to the premise I'm in now. And in 2000 I bought it. They wouldn't let me buy it until 2000.

So I bought it just prior to the GFC and that's how I got into it. I'd been working in marketing and I'd owned different businesses previously. And my company where I'd worked a long time for got taken over by someone else. 

They said my job was no longer a position there. So, I went and I looked for other positions and I thought, well, the position I had was just near home. I did a lot of travel, international, national, but the office itself was five minutes from home.

So when I started applying for other positions, they were all inner city and North Sydney and they're a nightmare to get to. So, I just said to my wife, “I don't want to work anymore.” So, she said, “What do you want to do instead?” I said, “I'm not sure. I think I want to run the gym full time.” 

She said, “What do you mean do it full-time?” I said, “Oh, I'm going to go sit with the accountant. I went and sat with my accountant, went through all the numbers.” She said, Look, you've turned other small companies into million-dollar companies for other people. Do it for yourself.”

So I left and I started doing the gym in '90, whatever it was '92, I started the gym. So I was probably about 12 years later, I went full time and haven't looked back since. That's pretty much how I got into it.

GEORGE:  Love that Michael. So I want to, something you touched on that you did quite early is you bought your premises. So you mentioned, so it was five years, right? Is that about a five-year window, a six-year window, and then you bought it?

MICHAEL:  We moved into the building and I leased it from '93 I think it was, or '94 we moved in, on a lease, but I wanted to buy. I offered the owners straight away, I said, “I want to buy, I want to buy, I want to buy.” And they kept saying, “No, no, no, no, no.” 

Until 2000, just prior, must have been February, 2000 because I think GFC came in July, 2000. So about February, 2000, they finally said, “Yes, we'll sell it to you.” And I said, “Great, I'll buy it.” 

I didn't know how I was going to buy it because my wife was eight and a half months pregnant with our first child, just about to give up work going back to a single income. But we did, we just bit the bullet and said, “Yep, let's do it.” And haven't looked back since.

GEORGE:  I know you're a big property guy and numbers guy. What was your thinking at that time? Was the numbers and the property, was that always a thing that started early or how did you evolve to putting all the emphasis and focus on buying the property and then we'll talk about what followed from there?

Martial arts business wealth

MICHAEL:  As soon as I moved out of home, I never rented. I bought my property straight away. So, I never believed in paying dead money. I just called it dead money. Rent to me was dead money paying someone else's mortgage for them.

So it used to burn me every time. I had to pay for the gym rent every month. So, it was always my goal to buy it. That was from day one. Having an interest in property from an early age, I knew that at least in the Sydney market, the property doubled every 10 years.

Property values double on average, some a little bit earlier, some a little bit later, some a little bit more, and some a little bit less. So, I knew if I didn't buy it, if I let it go for another five years, 10 years, it could be out of my reach at that point in time. So that's why I really wanted to buy it and I knew it'd just keep going up in value anyway. 

And my wife and I, because she was going off on maternity leave, we knew we'd be on a fixed income for quite a while. We just took out a fixed-interest loan. So, it was high, but we knew we could cover that cost and we knew that cost wasn't going to go up, so that's what we did.

GEORGE:  Walk me through your thinking a little because if I look at a lot of school owners today, the goal is growth. We're going to open this school and we're going to open the next school and the next school and expand the organization. How long have you been in the business?

MICHAEL:  30 years.

GEORGE:  30 years? Right. In 30 years, and you've gone the other direction. You've kept one location, you've built it highly profitable, but then you've taken the profits and you've built up this property portfolio and investment portfolio on the back end of your marginalized business. 

Was the motivation ever to expand the one martial arts school and go in that direction or where do you feel you sit on that spectrum?

MICHAEL:  I'd still like to have a second location, third location, and fourth location. But finding the right people to do it is very, very difficult. And a good friend of mine, an associate of yours, Fari Salievski, he's got quite a successful martial arts school. 

I consider him one of my mentors from early on in the business side of martial arts and he has multiple schools, but he doesn't own any of them. He just owns the one he's in. And I asked him the question many, many years ago, I said, “Why haven't you got yourself a second or third location? You can afford it.” 

And he said, “You just triple your headaches and you don't triple your profit.” So all his schools, all the individual schools are owned by the people who run them. I've been waiting for one black belt to come to me and say, “Hey, I'm moving out of the area. I want to open a school.” But it hasn't happened yet, still waiting for it.

GEORGE:  Got it. Now in the reverse of that, you've got your son, Ethan, who is a big part of your business, right? Stepping up to basically run the school.

MICHAEL:  Yeah, I guess in any business you need an exit strategy. So my goal was always to combine my business as both an exit strategy for me and a generational vehicle of wealth for future generations of my kids. And I just hope to God that one of them was interested in it. 

Martial arts business wealth | Martial Arts Super Show

Luckily, they're both interested in it. Ethan works full-time in it as of now, funny enough though, I asked him if he wanted to open a second school and he said no. Now whether that comes from my input on it, I'm not sure. I'd be interested to see what he does down the track.

But I guess he can just see that the work that goes into running one business, whether you want to branch out to two, I know a lot of people do it successfully. But yeah, just for me it's just something that's never really grabbed me to own another and run a second one as my own. 

But to have an instructor who had an interest in it, I'd be happy to own the building. They can pay rent, do all that, I'll put the systems in there. But everything else, the day-to-day running would be up to them.

GEORGE:  Got it. So, do you mind walking us through your investment strategy? I know you've got a bunch of properties and you mentioned now as well you'd be happy to buy the building of a school and have somebody in there as well. 

So, again, thinking on the property route, walk us through your investment portfolio and how you go about generational wealth and how you are working towards that?

MICHAEL:  Okay. I think I've spoken to you before, but probably not in this environment. I have three areas that I look at. So one is my current self, which means where I am currently in life with my family, my boys, and everything else, which means I need income to pay for current things like day-to-day living, mortgages, school fees, holidays, cars, and all that sort of stuff. 

Then your future self. So, my future self is something I work on for when I'm no longer… Not that I won't ever stop working, but I'm no longer reliant on the income from the business.

So I need to create a way that I have an income that the business doesn't have to cover me and then I need generational wealth, which is a way to create wealth for future generations. So in my retirement, when I slow down, when my wife and I slow down, we're not going to eat into or affect that generational wealth that will just stay there and that'll be the boys' problem to figure out once we're gone.

GEORGE:  Got it. So do you mind leaning in a level deeper on how you approach those three things?

MICHAEL:  Yeah, so they're the sort of three, I guess three stages of life that we all go through. So I guess I've broken it up into three stages of life and I'm probably not the first one to do it and I've probably gained this, gleaned this from someone speaking seminar or something I've heard, but it made sense to me. 

So they're the three stages of life and then I have three areas to work with. My first area is my business. So my business looks at my current stage of life, my future life, and my generational wealth. So it can sink into all three areas. And then I have my self-managed super fund, which is a whole subject on its own and it looks after future self and generational wealth. 

And then I have my private investments and they can look after all three areas as well so they can look after my current self, future self, and generational wealth. So that's how I structured my financial position if that makes sense.

GEORGE:  Yeah, perfect. So what investments do you prefer? Let's start there and then we'll go from there.

MICHAEL:  I like property. I like tangible things. I was caught up in the global financial crisis. So my wife and I had… We lost 50% of our super overnight in one fell swoop. It was just gone. 

And I know within five to seven years it recouped itself as a whole. But that scared me because I thought well they're just taken from me. If I wanted to retire on that day or do something on that day, half my assets just went out the window. So that was 2007, 2008 I think somewhere around there.

So at that point in time, my wife and I went and started our own self-managed super fund because I said well, no one's going to control my super except for me so that was the start of the self-managed super fund. And then the first thing I did was I transferred my building into it.

GEORGE:  I'd love to know more on that but just for our American listeners, that'll be equivalent. Super would be equivalent to a 401(k) if I've got that right?

MICHAEL:  A 401(k). Yeah. But I don't know whether they have the access, I don't know whether it's Americans who can manage their own 401(k) or whether it's just whatever the employer does with their super fund, that I'm not sure of.

GEORGE:  So, walk us through that process if you don't mind. And I know I'm asking the investment style questions, if there's anything you feel is not good to share, I mean you're more than welcome to retract of course. But if you go about, walk us through that process of you mentioned your property into the super fund, how does that work?

Martial arts business wealth

MICHAEL:  As I said, we took out a fixed-interest rate loan to buy the building and I think it was on a five-year fixed-interest loan. So we just said, “Yeah, okay, we're going to survive five years paying a high-interest rate.” But we didn't. We refinanced and paid it out within three years. 

So we owned the building within three or four years. So once we owned the building, we had some decisions to make. I mean it is paying rent to us which goes on top of your income, which you pay tax on, etc.

And I thought well we got a self-managed super fund with shares and sitting in there, which we can't do anything with. So I thought let's have some… I did some research on it obviously, looking to speak to a few people.

And I said, “I'm going to put the building in there then it's safe.” No one can touch it. It's in there forever and a day. The downside of putting it into a super fund is that you can't use the equity in it, that's just locked away in your fund.

So it has drawbacks but then it has advantages as well. That was the first stage. And I guess long term, if you're talking long term but self-managed super funds, once you hit 65, everything you draw out of it, it's tax-free. So again for me, I was looking at my future self and generational self, I guess.

GEORGE:  Right. Your property is in the super fund. So how did you then restart the investment cycle into different properties from that point?

MICHAEL:  So I have properties in and out of super. So I always look at both areas. Obviously, properties you're putting to super are pretty much there for life, properties you have outside of super, you can play with them, you can use the equity in them to get more, you can sell them, you can do what you like with them. So that's why I look at both areas.

GEORGE:  All right. So you've got a lot of experience in doing investments and working with property. What advice would you have for a school owner that's starting out, starting to see success with this school, and now they're looking at, right, well what's the next step for me? How am I going to start investing? Where would you start?

martial arts business

MICHAEL:  I guess it's hard because you don't know anyone's personal situation. And I guess the biggest thing too, which I didn't mention, which I should always mention is that everything I do is gold stamped by my wife. And you've got to have such a good partner because they've got to be 100% on board with what you're doing. And if you haven't got that it makes it very, very difficult.

So my wife's very good. I mean we've just finished doing taxes for the business and for personal and for self-money. I just hand piles of paper to sign as she just signs it all just because we have that I guess undivided trust between each other. 

But yeah, I know a lot of couples where one partner wants to invest, they're keen, but the wife's very reserved in investment strategies and unless you're both on the same page it just will not work.

So that's my first thing. If you're going to look at any investment, talk to your partner, sit down with them, go through it all, make sure they understand it. They might not want to be involved in it but as long as they understand it and they support you, I think that's a good starting point. 

And if they're looking at property, I have a guy who does all my property for me. I've recommended so many people to him that they now have properties with him as well. But I only recommend people to him that I know are the right people for him.

GEORGE:  Is that based on the type of property that he does or the more towards the type of person that you send to him within their caliber to make the investments required?

MICHAEL:  Definitely the type of person, the type of property he will match to them. I just make sure I send him the right type of person. Because he's a businessman, I don't want to waste his time with people who just want to go in and tick the tires and get some information and go somewhere else and get some information. 

Although before, as I like to sit in the background, one of my students invested with this gentleman first and he accumulated four properties with him. And I watched these four. I watched him grow from one property to four over a period of two or three years. 

I didn't invest with him or didn't talk to him until then. And being a student, a long-time student, he gave me all the data, he just gave me all his financials and said, “Here's all the financials, my own personal, my wife's financials,” everything with the properties involved in it. He said, “Go through it, have a look at it. If you're comfortable with it, I'll make an introduction for you.”

So that's pretty rare for someone to give you all that information anyway. Most people aren't too happy to share any financial data. But they gave me everything. I can tell you what his wife earned, what he earned, like everything. Because he was so confident in what he was doing that he wanted to show me how confident he was.

GEORGE:  It's why referrals are a good strategy.

MICHAEL:  100%.

GEORGE:  Having that level of trust from someone, I think it's just unbeatable on all levels.

MICHAEL:  Yeah. You can't go past it.

GEORGE:  Where to next with all this, you've got the business, and you've got the property portfolios building, where do you feel your business is headed in the next couple of years? On all spectrums, on just business growth, and on the investment side?

MICHAEL:  Like a lot of businesses, especially martial arts, I feel COVID really hit us hard. We've come out of it doing much better than a lot. But conservatively, I think it cost us 100 students and it probably cost us some growth that we're starting to since it all crashed. 

So it's reopening a new business. We've just been going for 12 months now. Although, we did have a database, a good database to start off with, which is better than a lot of people had. But I do feel it cost us 100 students and I think we'll start to recoup those over the next 12 months. 

So really I just want to get the business back into a good position. So for me, sitting around the 450, I always wanted to get the 500. I never made it to 500 students. So getting to the 400, 450 students is a really good solid base to do what I want to do.

We want to do some renovations, we want to redo our bathrooms, we're putting it, and we want to extend our mezzanine upstairs. We've got all that to do but have been a bit reluctant to do it just at the moment. I just want to give the next 12 months and just see what's happening.

Yeah, I think that's probably where we just really want to see the business. I mean it's just the numbers game with the business, our retention is really good. We do have pretty good retention but obviously, you still need the numbers coming in and anything the bigger you get, the more the numbers seem to leak at the bottom of it, seem a little bit bigger each time. We have to make sure we keep recouping those.

GEORGE:  What do you lean towards your retention and why is it so good?

MICHAEL:  I think it's 30 years in the business. We've refined a lot of systems. We're very systemized. Students know exactly what they're getting. There are no gray areas for them. We have a high standard across the board. 

Everybody knows that if you can't do what you need to do, you don't progress to the next belt level. There are no buts or maybes, our black belt gradings are renowned for being tough and anyone who gets through it deserves it.

And just keeping that high standard I think and a good culture, we have a really good family culture. Everybody knows that you can bring your 3-year-old to train, your 10-year-old, your 15-year-old, or you can train yourself as a parent.

And I guess being in business so long, we've got a lot of second-generation students there. I taught their moms and dads and now the kids are training.

GEORGE:  From speaking with you Michael, I know that you're very straight down the line in your systems and there are no gray areas. What is your stance on a few of those things? Let's say things that come up with students, there are excuses, or people don't want to commit. 

I think we've spoken about this within the contexts as well, how you go about that. Do you mind sharing a bit about that? Just your stance on where this comes from. There's no gray area and not tolerating excuses and everything else.

MICHAEL:  Oh I think it just comes from growing up, you know my boxing background. There were no gray areas, you just did what you were told, there's no about what, about these, about what? There's none of that. 

And then martial arts, my instructor was really tough. He was tough. What he did to us, he couldn't do now, he just couldn't do it. You just wouldn't be allowed. It wasn't anything bad, it's just a different era. 

Everyone training on the floor was 18 to 25 with this, the odd female and the odd younger kid that was it. It was a tough environment and you knew what you had to do to get to your next belt level and there were no shortcuts.

You knew if you messed up in your grading in certain areas you weren't getting your belt. We've put systems into place so the students can't mess up on their grading because there are tips involved and it's nice to go home to parents and go home to teachers. 

So we take away all the problems that could face us integrating before the grading happens. So anyone who's not going to get through the grading doesn't step up in front of us.

GEORGE:  Got it. And your stance on contracts throughout the business, how does this combine with this?

MICHAEL:  I'll go through that in a sec. Yeah, I think it's along the same lines, George. I think if you're going to be serious about anything, you need to commit to it. So, if you're not prepared to commit, I mean we do a minimum contract of 6 months. 

If you're not prepared to commit to something for 6 months, you're really not going to give it a good go. And even six months, the way I talk to parents and people about it, on average, you need to repeat a routine about 21 times to make it a habit.

So if you're doing a 6-month contract, you're training twice a week, you're doing about 26 lessons, 46 lessons, whatever it works out to be, you're maybe getting to the habit, and that's the problem if you're just doing short-term contracts or not contracts at all, it's very hard to get into the habit or even create a routine.

So we've been pretty strong on that stance. We still are. We've just introduced the month-to-month price, but we bumped it right up and it's really for the people who… It's not advertised, it's just for those people who we just know aren't going to get across the line on any contract they have contract phobia, whatever the case may be.

We had one the other day as grandparents, they are paying for their grandchild. Mom and Dad wouldn't pay for it. They just didn't want to commit to a contract. So it'll be right, they cost an extra 20 bucks a week and you can do it month-to-month as you get better. 

So we get an extra $20 a week and my guess is you'll probably be around in six months or 12 months anyway paying a higher price.

GEORGE:  As long as they're not in the contract, they're happy.

MICHAEL:  They're happy. Yeah.

GEORGE:  …To pay the extra two bucks for it.

MICHAEL:  We'll be the exception, not the rule for us. I still like the contracts, I like the commitment we have, black belts have been with us for 20 years. We still do their contract every year.

GEORGE:  Yeah, a hundred percent. I think sometimes there are people that downplay a contract. I see some gyms do this. But then again, all the love to the gym industry. They abuse the contracts that they have to say no contracts. 

And I see sometimes in their sales, in their marketing material, they advertise no contracts as a selling point. But then really, I mean if you can't commit for a short amount of time, is it really going to be beneficial? So, I think it's the value that you place in the contract.

Some people have been, it's a trigger word, something went wrong in a contract and they carry that weight for them through life. But I think it's really good to look at it in the positive sense of what is it that you… Does it tie in with your values of what you stand for? 

And I think that's something that you've communicated with us in the past. It's not the culture that you want to build of people that are going to try and quit. And so it does reinforce a commitment to doing the thing that you said you want to do. 

And I think it's something that is lacking in society just in general, people are very easy to go back on their word of committing to something but then just not sticking through with it. And I think it's good in a sense to remind people of the commitment they had to themselves because they're doing it for themselves and the contract could just be the thing that keeps them re-valuing their decisions.

MICHAEL:  Yeah, 100%, George. I think that society is very dangerous. It's like a transient society now and everything they do, they're just in and out, in and out. If something doesn't work, they just go to the next thing. And that scares me a lot. 

There's no resilience. That's the one thing that most kids and people who start with this, they just lack resilience in all areas of their life. And I think that's the one thing martial arts can really reinforce is resilience.

GEORGE:  Yeah. I had this reflection earlier and I think I mentioned it just talking about maybe it wasn't a parenting situation, but when we grew up we never had a choice. Your choice was limited, you had to do something or not.

In our case, growing up in South Africa, it's like you got rugby and cricket and emphasis on rugby and nothing else. And stepping into this new age and how kids grow up information is just, there's no shortage. How do you filter out the information?

So there's just too much choice. And I think the danger that social media and things like YouTube have expressed upon young kids is they see the result and not the journey. And so it's really easy to just see someone doing something at such an elite level on camera and you see it everywhere and you just… It's really easy to assume that I could just do that and it's really simple.

But then the resilience to actually get there is missing. The journey is missing when people see the results and not the journey and they try and apply and get the same result and they don't get it, disappointment kicks in, and okay, “Well, I'll just try XYZ.” 

I feel martial arts does help with that. You mentioned this is a concern for you. What have you seen that's a real difference in the way that when you started 30 years ago?

And there was this resilience, there was this more hardcore training and now you can't adapt those old strategies for the younger generation and obviously for some obvious reasons and things like that. But where do you feel things could adapt so that you can get the same results and that same resilience out of the younger generation?

MICHAEL:  I think we can get the same results. I think it just takes longer. I guess what I would say is, say one of my red belts nowadays would've been one of my green belts 20 years ago. The skill level would've been roughly the same. But we've had to mold our syllabus to suit the times. 

I guess when I first started training, we'd do walking, standing up a block, lower block and we did it up and down the gym for half an hour and we just do it because that's what we were told to do. But you couldn't do that now. 

You'd have half your student base walk out within a month. So you continually need to be creating something to keep them engaged. I think it's the great thing about martial arts, it has the ability to do that because you can do the same thing 10 different ways and the student thinks they're doing something different. 

So disguise repetition, but it takes work and it takes skill. And I think the other thing that we've noticed with the kids, which is sad to see, is that a lot of the basic skills that kids used to have are gone now. We have kids who come in who don't know how to jump, don't know how to climb. Even running, that is an effort for them.

And these kids aren't overweight or anything like that. They just haven't got the skills. When we were young, we were climbing fences, climbing trees, and we had monkey bars in our schoolyard. We climbed up and fell often. 

None of that exists anymore unless you're a parent who takes your kids outside to do something like that, the kids don't get exposed to it. It's all too dangerous at school now. So yeah, we teach kids how to climb up onto blocks and pads, and then how to jump off them and then bend their knees so they don't land on straight legs.

So a lot of the basic fundamental skills that are gone, you have to reteach the kids before you even start teaching them how to kick and punch. You need to teach them how to really walk and talk again. With respect to BJJ, the first thing that a new student wants to do with BJJ is to get it on the internet. 

And that's the first thing I tell him not to do. So stay off online until you get at least six months under your belt and then just dip your toe in the water.

Because as you said earlier, they're seeing the end result of maybe 10 years of experience doing a technique and they think, “Oh that looks easy. I'll go and do that. And then they come into the gym, they try it on someone and they just don't work and they don't understand why it doesn't work?” Because it works on the video. 

And the analogy I always give them is I say, “Look, if I stood you in front of the mirror and I taught you how to do a jab, I'm pretty sure in an hour I could teach you how to do a reasonable jab. And in an hour, how many jabs could you do in an hour, let's say 500, it would be pretty easy.”

So now let's go to the BJJ mats, I'm going to teach you how to do an armbar. How long does it take to do 500 armbars? They can't calculate it. And that's the big difference between the standup and the ground. 

Out of the ground, you can teach repetitions pretty quickly. On the ground, you cannot. And the BJJ has got more videos out there than anything else.

GEORGE:  It's definitely great to have an abundance of information. But it's also dangerous in the sense of… And we find that in a coaching aspect that, and we do that in our Partners membership where we have a thing called the on-ramp, which blocks out the 130 other courses in the program that you just stay on the track that because you learn one step at a time, the right things in the right sequence.

I think it's super important and it's easy to, yeah, it's so easy to get distracted and see the cool thing and you think, I just want to do the cool thing. But the cool thing is I just need to learn the fundamentals before the cool thing.

MICHAEL:  Yeah, 100%. I see that as a big obstacle in martial arts today in all areas is the online presence of access to something so easy without doing all the fundamentals it takes to get to that point. 

If ever I'm watching a video on martial arts, I turn the sound off, I don't listen to them at all. I just look at their footwork, their hands, their hip movement, and that'll tell me all I need to know.

GEORGE:  Why do you prefer to keep the sound off?

MICHAEL:  They're great technicians, but they may not be great at teaching, especially when it… I mean, teaching on video is a whole other level than teaching in front of the class. And even a lot of the great instructors, I watch their tutorials and they're doing all the right things, but they're not saying it. So it's very hard.

You've probably heard of the terms invisible Jiu-Jitsu or Royal Jiu-Jitsu, it's all the things that a person does automatically without realizing they're doing it. Well, they know they're doing it, but they just do it automatically. It's built into their DNA now.

And to do a single move, they might be doing 20 different things they're not talking about, but unless you do those 20 different things, you're not going to get their result.

GEORGE:  Unconscious competence. Yeah.

MICHAEL: Yeah, 100%. I'm a visual learner anyway.

GEORGE:  Hey, love it. Michael, it's been great chatting to you. We've gone through a roundabout different aspects and I really wanted to connect with you because I know you've got a million things that you can share and I just wanted to really extract a few gold things. 

But any last words, anything to add before we wrap things up? If you are open to people reaching out to you, you're more than welcome to share details of how, if you prefer not, please don't because people might reach out to you. Any last words?

MICHAEL:  Look, I think for any martial arts school owner, obviously your school is very important. But also look at, I'm a big believer in what I just said. Look at the three areas of your life, where you are currently, where you want to be when you retire, and what you want to leave behind. And I think if you focus on those three areas, everything else will sort of make sense to you.

GEORGE:  100%. Awesome. Michael, thanks so much for doing this. Thanks for being on. I'll see you on the call during the week.

MICHAEL:  Thanks, George. Because it was not a pleasure, but it was fun.

GEORGE:  Awesome. It was great. Thanks.

MICHAEL:  All right, George. Take care.

GEORGE:  Thanks so much for tuning in. Did you enjoy the show? Did you get some value from it? If so, please, please do us a favor and share it with someone you care about. Share it with another martial arts school owner or an instructor friend that might benefit from this episode. 

And I'd love to hear from you if you got some good value out of it and you just want to reach out, send me a message on Instagram. My handle is George Fourie, G-E-O-R-G-E, last name F-O-U-R-I-E.

And just send me a message and I'd love to hear from you if you've got some value from this. And last but not least, if you need some help growing your martial arts school, need help with attracting the right students or increasing your signups or retaining more members, then get in touch with us.

Go to our website, martialartsmedia.com/scale and we've got a short little questionnaire that asks a few questions about your business to give us an idea of what it is that you have going on. And then typically from that we jump on a quick 10, 15 minute call just to work out if or how we can be of help, not a sales call. 

It's really a fit and discovery call for us to get an idea if we can be of help. And that's that, we'd love to hear from you and I'll see you in the next episode. Cheers.

 

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137 – [Martial Arts Business Case Study] How Amanda & Wayne Increased Their Revenue By $200K In 12 Months

Amanda Saliba and Wayne Ardley share how they increased their revenue for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Krav Maga gym by $200,000 in just 12 months.

IN THIS EPISODE:

  • A martial arts hobby turned into a successful martial arts business
  • When to get help from a marketing expert?
  • How the ‘Partners OnRamp’ helps boost martial arts schools 
  • Quitting your day job to become a full-time martial arts instructor
  • Tapping into a pool of knowledge through Martial Arts Media™ Partners
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

GEORGE:  Hey, it's George Fourie. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast. Today, I'm doing one of my favorite episodes to create, which is a case study. A case study documenting a client's journey from when they started working with us to where they are now. 

Today, I'm speaking to Amanda Saliba and Wayne Ardley all the way from Melbourne. And I love this episode simply because Amanda is so committed to achieving big goals, and same as Wayne, still in the workforce, positioning out of that going full time into the business. And in the time that we've spent working together, they've increased their income with an additional $200,000 over the last 12 months.

What I love about this is that we zoomed out with this journey. You know, we love to talk about marketing on the show, attracting the right students, increasing sign ups and retaining more members. And sometimes the emphasis is on getting more students, but we all know there's more to that, right? 

There's the retaining, keeping the students, which is the biggest part, really. And well, you can't have one without the other. So this case study really documents the journey of staying with the course, you know, not looking for the quick fix, doing the work.

You know, we are on coaching calls every week. Amanda's always on the coaching calls. There's lots available, Amanda's always on all of them, and does the work, implements, makes the refinements, and really commits to the journey. And that's really what it takes.

So I love doing this interview. You are definitely going to get a lot of value from this so head over to martialartsmedia.com/137 if you'd like to download the podcast transcript and the resources mentioned in this episode. And that's it. Let's jump in. Amanda and Wayne, welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast.

WAYNE:  Hello.

AMANDA:  Thanks for having us, George.

GEORGE:  Cool. So I wanted to bring you guys on the show, and this is one of my favorite interviews to do because we get to talk a bit about a customer journey working together and the awesome results that you guys have managed to do over the last 12 months, which is really exciting and I look forward to diving a bit more into the details on that. But just before we kick things off, if you don't mind sharing just a bit of an intro, who is Amanda? Who is Wayne and what do you do in the martial arts space?

WAYNE:  What do we do? We run a club or gym, depending on what terminology you want to use in Bacchus Marsh in Victoria. We primarily focus on Brazilian  Jiu-Jitsu, Krav Maga. We also run a little side program called KravFit, which is just more of a high-intensity sort of workout. 

So it gets a little bit away from the martial arts space, but into the fitness space. But using martial arts techniques and things to just give that quick 30-minute high-intensity program.

AMANDA:  And we do that for adults and for children as well. From the age of 3, we have a little ninja program for 3 to 5 year olds, and then we go all the way through to adults.

GEORGE:  Love it. So what got you into what you do into the martial arts space and the different styles?

Amanda Saliba Wayne Ardley Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Business Case Study

WAYNE:  Well, that's a long question. I don't know, have we got enough time for that one? Well, both of us are long-term martial artists, I suppose you could say. I certainly started when I was probably around 14 in Taekwondo, moved to karate, and moved to Thai kickboxing, boxing, through a number of different programs. 

About 20 plus years ago, I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I've been doing that one ever since. That's sort of my real passion. I also studied and trained, got instructor publications in a number of other styles, including Ray Flos, Night Fighting System as an example. 

Kali, Filipino Martial Arts, trained as an instructor many, many years back for over half a decade with one of your compatriots from South Africa, Rodney King and the Crazy Monkey Defense Program. There's probably a long list, but the primary things for like 20 plus years, probably the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and basic striking, whether it be Krav Maga or boxing Kickboxing for myself.

AMANDA: For me, I started when I was 17, and I did Muay Thai for over a decade, competed in that, then moved into Crazy Monkey with Wayne. And then when I was 34, I started going into Jiu-Jitsu. And three years ago, I took up Krav Maga as well. So I've been doing this for a couple of decades now.

WAYNE:  She's won, I don't know how many Australian titles in Jiu-Jitsu now. So she's doing really well.

AMANDA:  And that too.

GEORGE:  I've seen those awards coming up.

WAYNE:  So no, we're just really both, I suppose, really passionate about martial arts. And obviously, our main thing is how we use it as a vehicle. It's not about training champions, although we do have a number of people who compete and compete quite well at a high level. 

It is about how we make people's lives better through martial arts. And I think that's pretty much what we're both mostly passionate about. How can we change and help people?

GEORGE:  Love that. All right, so we've been working together for I think just over 12 months, right?

AMANDA:  Yes. September 2021.

GEORGE:  There we go. So, just over 12 months, and you got some great results, but I just want to break down, just to process what got us to that and we'll speak a bit more about the journey of how we've gotten to when we had that first conversation. What did you want to achieve and, and what problems were you facing in the business at the time?

AMANDA:  So we met you through our ClubWorx seminar, so through our CRM. And you did a seminar there, and I was really interested to hear about marketing just because I knew that I wasn't doing it very well, and I needed some help in that area. So at that time, I was still working two jobs, and this was something that I thought if I wanted to be able to do this full-time, that we needed more members and that we needed to attract more people into the business.

So once we got people to the business, it seemed okay, once they were at Phoenix, but prior to that, just getting them there. So community awareness and then when you popped up, I was very interested immediately and I was thinking, we have to log onto this, and you shared some fantastic information on that seminar or podcast, whatever, however you want to explain it, which led me thinking that we need more information, and then the discussion with Wayne, of course, to contact you further.

WAYNE: We took it a little bit further back, I suppose you could say we pretty much run it really more as a hobby, so that we basically had training partners, so to speak, really, and had people to train with and it made a little bit of money on the side, but it was not at the time certainly not running as what we would call a business as such.

It was more, much more of a hobby. And, that's sort of, Amanda was the driving force that decided it's time to turn it into something that's a bit more than that, and make it grow. That's where we actually, where we ended up doing the ClubWorx, just to try to get better at doing things.

And then, of course, doing the podcast with yourself via ClubWorx which was quite fortuitous.

Amanda Saliba Wayne Ardley Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Martial Arts Business Case Study

GEORGE:  Cool. So at that time, business was going, was a bit of a hobby, but there's obviously this passion. So what was the big goal for you at that time? Where did you want to take the business?

AMANDA:  We just wanted more numbers. We realized what we were doing was not going to be, was not getting enough people into the doors. So we needed to attract people to us. And what I thought we were doing in terms of marketing turns out that I was not doing that. So I realized I needed some help. And lucky enough, Wayne actually got us onto ClubWorx, which is how, how we found you.

WAYNE:  If people found us, they generally stayed. We've got people that have been with us for a long time, but nobody knew we really existed, I suppose. We just did not know how to market ourselves. We put thought just putting a couple of Facebook posts out there every now and again will do the job. So obviously we had a lot to learn.

GEORGE:  Gotcha. So what did more numbers mean to you? Like, if you were able to get more numbers, what would be the impact on the business and you personally if you were able to, to do that and get that growth?

AMANDA:  So I suppose, it would be a transition from going to what we considered a hobby to a career. And even though we love what we do, we need it to be financially viable for us to be thinking we can do this, and only do this full-time and focus our full energy and passion into it. 

So it was that transition between our hobby and then saying, “We're doing this full-time.” That would be the impact on our immediate life, I suppose. Because, you know, I had two or three jobs, and Wayne worked full-time as well, so it was going to be a big shift in our lives.

WAYNE: We were devoting a lot of time already to the Club or the gym in particular at that time. And we were starting to invest a lot more money. New mats, new facilities, tried to always improve.

And it was just getting that we were outlaying a lot of money and we thought we actually need to make some more money if we want this to keep working and grow so that we can justify keeping it going as well, let alone taking it the next step, which is, of course, is becoming full-time careers for us both.

GEORGE:  100%. I mean, it's great if you have a martial arts hobby and you’ve got a lot of friends that do that as well, you know, just lay the mats out on the garage, and it's great when it's a hobby, but when the hobby is training with other people and you're taking on the expenses for more people to train, there's, there's got to be, the money's got to make sense to be able to, to continue, right?

WAYNE:  Oh, definitely. And then you've got the time commitment as well, even just as a hobby, you have to be there. If you've got a class running certain times each night, you have to be there. And that certainly interferes with other parts of your life as well. So, these are all things you've got to weigh up. And at the time, it was just getting too big that we had to make a choice whether we grow it or almost scale down. Obviously, we decided to grow and turn it into a business empire. 

Let's not go that far yet, but certainly grow it into something that could support us both as well as provide us with what we want out of a club or a gym, which really is something that's constantly evolving. And, we want a world-class type training facility with the best trainers, and that's sort of where we're, sort of… That's what we aim for. And obviously, you have to make money to be able to provide those things.

GEORGE: 100%. Let's shift from the implementation of things. So we started working together. What were the first pivotable things that you implemented that made the biggest difference right in the beginning?

AMANDA:  Which was, for us, we just went straight into your OnRamp. So I followed that program every step of the way. If there was something in that OnRamp, I was there and I was doing it. All I did was do that to the Tee and that changed us in an instant. 

And the three of us had a conversation, of course, and it was about even pricing, how we were underpricing, and trying to change our mindset about value. And what we're providing is a requirement or is valuable, and we can charge that. So changing our pricing structure, which to me was like, who's going to pay that? 

Who's going to pay that money to come and train? And then I started thinking about it, and then what we're providing and the experience of Wayne alone in coaching. I was thinking, “No, we are worth it.” And within our community, we have the most experience by far. So I was like, “No, we can charge that,” and changed our mindset to say, “We are worth all of that and more.’

So having those conversations with you and you just saying, “No, that's not good enough.” And restructuring our pricing as well, which was part of our OnRamp and the initial consultation with you.

GEORGE:  So I have to ask, right, because what you've just said is like the biggest obstacle that a lot of people struggle with, so much time invested into martial arts, all this experience, and then a lot, a lot of school owners really struggled with this and really just undervalue themselves. 

Sometimes it's from a hierarchy of martial arts leaders that are, you know, don't make money or whatever the case is, and you almost feel like you're pressured to fall under this same structure. Or it's just feeling that it's a bad thing to charge too much. There's so many things that come up with this, and so I just wanted to hammer home that point.

Is there anything bad that happened when you raised your prices and started charging what you are worth? And I'll say what you're worth because it's not just about raising your prices, it's about delivering the service that goes with it. Did anything bad happen?

AMANDA:  No, we've got more people joining.

WAYNE:  In fact, I actually would pick a small point with what you said, and I would suggest that now that I know what we've learnt from you and looking at the market and learning about business, I probably, I think we would probably still be undercharging to be honest, given what we're offering, the facilities, the training, the coaching, the experience. 

I believe we're probably still under-valuing ourselves. And it's something that we need to probably keep working on. It certainly wasn't eyeopener, up to having a few conversations with you about that and then putting it to the test.

AMANDA:  And since then, we've also increased our prices again. So within 12 months we offer a, like another package as well, and we've got people joining that package.

GEORGE:  Love it. All right, so let's wrap some numbers around that. So what outcome have you achieved with that? I think it's good for us to zoom out, right? Because sometimes we always talk about marketing and we're getting this many students and this many students, but then there's always the conversation not being had and that's numbers falling out the back. 

So, over the time that we've been working together, what difference has that made between going through the OnRamp and the pricing? If we had to wrap some numbers around that.

AMANDA:  Well, if I could go back a little bit, which was before we met you, we were only offering free trials. So the idea that someone would pay to do a paid trial seemed inconceivable in my mind. And I thought, there's no one, no one's going to pay to do a paid trial, but yet, people were just literally signing up to do a paid trial, which was like, this is crazy.

Which changed my whole view on marketing and that people would pay for a trial, whereas people don't see value in something if they're not paying for it. So when we started with you back in September of 2021, we had 67 members. Moving forward now to October of 2022, we're at 170 members. So that's an increase of 266% in net revenue in just over 13 months.

GEORGE:  Very, very cool. There was a dollar amount that you mentioned as well, with the increase.

AMANDA:  So I think it went…

WAYNE:  One of the beautiful things of ClubWorx is it graphs and keeps all these stats for us, which is really handy to keep. So sorry, we're just going to look that up for you. In the meantime, I will point out that I thought you were a snake, some charm salesman there at one point.

How on earth would people pay money for a trial where they can get it free? I think that's just crazy, but you proved me wrong. So, thank you for that.

GEORGE:  Just, just to add to the trials, I mean, I think there's definitely a place for free trial and, and I think it's always important to not focus just on the trial because a trial should never get in the way of just someone that wants to join either. But sometimes, I think markets are conditioned, you know, as a business owner you think, well, if I give it away for free, there's no obstacle.

But free normally comes with an agenda, right? Free feels like, well, especially if it's like short free, you're going to think, “Well, it's, it's really just that I've got so much time to try this thing and then I'm going to have to sign up.” And so sometimes it just feels like there's too much risk, almost free. Where, when it's paid, it takes.

There's value in the thing that you're paying for in the program even if it's just for a short time. And it feels a little more complete, that I'm actually paying for this and I'm going to get value from just what I'm paying for as well.

WAYNE:  No, it's certainly.

GEORGE:  Go for it, Amanda.

WAYNE:  Give us, give us the numbers.

AMANDA:  So within 13 months, we've gone up 190,000 in net revenue per year.

GEORGE:  Love it. So what does that mean for you in the business and for you personally?

AMANDA:  So for me, I am full-time at Phoenix Training Center. So doing the marketing side, the CRM side, running the back end, so to speak, as well as doing some coaching in the evening. We've been able to expand our business. So we've gone from one facility and extended that, so we've got another facility right next door as well.

So now, we're able to have two spaces going plus a gym, building a therapy room, and having a pro shop room being built as we speak. So our business and, and it's not just about the business, so to speak, it's about our lifestyle moving forward in the future, which is going to significantly change. And we can see this as easy to see now what the potential that we have now that we're in this position already.

WAYNE:  And just being able to offer so much more. And as I said earlier, we really wanted to grow the facility. Even though we're in what you would almost call a country town in Victoria, it's not quite, it's just on the outskirts of suburbia. But, to provide what I would try, I wouldn't class it yet as a world class facility, but we're on the way to that where the facilities are just constantly improving.

You'll be struggling to find a better facility outside of some of the big places around the world. So we're… That- that's one of the big goals there. And this is allowing us to do that. People certainly walk in, they go, “Wow, this is good when you compare it to everywhere else around us.”

GEORGE:  That's awesome. All right. Anything else to add on that? How are you feeling about all that? I mean, that's like a big moment and I recall getting the Facebook message from you saying, “I've got some good news to share with you and sharing the numbers.” How does, how do you feel about that and where you're headed?

AMANDA:  I think we feel like we've accomplished something that seems like in our mind, I, I sort of put it too, like I needed… We've got the facility, but we've got the spark, and I just need some to add a little bit of fuel and we're going to be taking off.

But I just didn't know how to quite get there, and you were sort of like the missing link that I felt like we needed. Because, you know, we've run businesses before but not like this. We know that we needed help and for us, I felt like you were the person that we needed to help us move forward and to get these results.

And there's no way I don't see how we would've gotten them without you and the support of Partners.

Amanda Saliba Wayne Ardley Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Business Case Study

WAYNE:  Realistically, we're, we're martial artists first and foremost. And like a lot of martial artists, we probably thought we knew a little bit about business, but we didn't, certainly didn't know about media and marketing and all those sorts of things. So it was a real eye-opener to realize how wrong we'd been with what we were doing.

And it was just that following the OnRamp course was sort of mind-blowing in that respect of how to do things properly. I think that's what a lot of martial artists probably need. We certainly needed that help. And I imagine that most martial artists would. We devote all our time to how to choke people and all that sort of stuff, punch them in the head.

GEORGE:  The good stuff.

WAYNE:  Probably too many punches in the head, so, but it means at the end of the day, we can't specialize in everything, and that's where you, you need to go to a specialist in something to get better at it. That's what we got. So we're pretty happy with that. This is just the start, George.

GEORGE:  That's, that's awesome. For sure. I want to say thank you, but you guys did the work and implemented without that drive, nothing happens.

WAYNE:  We actually decided early on that we're just going to follow your blueprint to the letter. It made it easier that way we could blame you if it didn't work as well. But we just followed the blueprint to the letter.

And again, not knowing any better, I think that was the best thing. We didn't try to read too much into it and said, this is what the blueprint says, let's just do it. And then we… I would often say to Amanda when she'd bring something to me and she'd been working on some advertising or whatever material and she said, “What do you think?” And I said, “Well, what would George say?” 

And I'd look at it because, and, and I start… We both started to learn what you would say when we were to send something to you, “Oh no, this is, this is this, or no, this needs to be fixed or no, that's got to be at that angle and you've got to have… what's the offer?” So things like that, your little saying Georgisms.

But, in the end where I would just say to Amanda, “What would George say?” I better go and change that. And it works.

GEORGE:  Oh, that's great. Georgisms.

WAYNE:  Yes.

GEORGE:  I'm going to have to check if that's, that's a real name that's available for one day when I'm famous. Alright, awesome. So if you could finish this sentence, we almost didn't join because…

WAYNE:  Stubbornness on my part thinking that we could do it ourselves.

AMANDA:  So thinking that we couldn't spend more money and that we couldn't afford it, thinking that we couldn't afford to invest in a coach even though we knew that we needed it, but thinking that we can do it ourselves. But like I said before, you were what we needed.

GEORGE:  All right, awesome. What's been your favorite part of working like with me and within the Partners group?

AMANDA:  You and all the other martial art owners, because I haven't really missed many of those meetings. The Hour Power that you run twice a week and then with the additional ones that you also run. I haven't really missed many and being accountable and if I get stuck within a problem, there's nearly someone in the group. 

I've never gone to a group where they're like, “Oh, no one's experienced that.”

So the experience within the group and the knowledge of the group like we are… and I am very, very grateful for, for everyone in a way, sharing and saying, “How about doing it like this?” Or, “I've been through that, try it like this.” I'm not only grateful but, but proud to be a part of it.

WAYNE:  The group is both knowledgeable but also inspiring. When you see what a lot of members of the group have achieved and what they've been through and as I and Amanda alluded to. The issues that they've faced that we've brought up to the group and they go, “Oh yeah, I've done that before. No, don't worry about that one.”

And just… it does give you a sense of purpose. I suppose to hear these people talk and listen to again, what they've been through, what they've done, how they've succeeded, and where they're now. And you sort of want to emulate that and give you that impetus or the drive to, to follow through and do, achieve what you want to achieve as well, what we want to achieve in this case.

And there are some really nice people, we've met some really great people and we've caught up with them outside of the group and chatted to them and it's been really good.

GEORGE:  That's so cool. I see you guys jetting around the country and meeting up with other members. That's awesome. Last question, Who do you recommend Partners to and why?

AMANDA:  I would say anyone that got a martial arts business and that if you think that you are not where you want to be and you want to do this full time, you need to join Partners because it's not just about George, it's about the power of the group and what the group gives back to you as well as you giving back to them.

WAYNE:  I think anyone really who's passionate about martial arts and wants to grow it and turn it into a career for themselves, definitely because it's… as I said earlier, you can't be an expert at everything and if your expertise is in martial arts, you're probably lacking in other areas like marketing, media, building websites, all these other things that the group provides the solutions for and helpful.

So no, it's really good to, for anyone who's a passionate martial arts instructor, most definitely join up.

AMANDA:  With the group, I feel like it… there's a level of comfort as well. I think when I'm there I feel like I can ask anything to the group because they've probably been through it already and I think they're going to give me not just their level of experience and knowledge, but it just feels warm within the group to be like, “Okay, I can go to this and I've got a problem or an issue or whatever,”.

They can give me a solution there and then too, because it's, it, it's live and it's interactive. And Wayne can't be there at all of them of course, because he, he, he's, he's working as well. But hopefully in the near future he won't have to do that either.

WAYNE:  That's the plan.

Amanda Saliba Wayne Ardley Martial Arts Business Case Study

GEORGE:  So on that plan, I'd love to have you guys back on the podcast and have another chat. What is the goal that we're going to celebrate on the next podcast? Let's, let's make it… let's cement it in.

AMANDA:  Look, once we get to 200, so another 30 more members, and I can't see Wayne going back to that job.

WAYNE:  It's hard to justify because of the workload… and this is one of the things we've learned through this, it's certainly not just turning up and taking a class, there's a lot of back-end. There always was. There's programming and all that sort of stuff for what was going to be taught, how it's going to be taught, all that sort of thing. 

But when you're not the only instructor on the floor and you've got multiple classes going and you're dividing things up and you've got different levels, training at different places, so you've got training instructors to deal with as well. So you've got to coach them on how they're going to coach, plus all the different stuff in the background for writing that up. Plus all the stuff that Amanda is doing with the marketing and managing all that sort of thing.

But as a number, although Amanda said 200, I reckon next time we talk, I want to be looking at least 250 preferably 300 members.

GEORGE:  Right. Done. Should we put a time and a day into it?

AMANDA:  Originally when I had a vision with you. So we sat down for 10 minutes. You and I, we wrote through setting some goals and I've still got it in my three-year plan, so to speak. And in 12 months, our plan was to have 140 members, which was on average two per week, and we're now at 170, so we're smashing our own personal goals. And in two years it was supposed to be 250, but I can do well…I believe that we will be able to beat that.

GEORGE:  Love it.

AMANDA:  So creating goals and making them short term and then hitting them all the time so it doesn't seem so daunting is, for my mind, it works for me. So short-term goals to long-term goals, breaking them down, having a clear vision, and then just going for it.

WAYNE:  And hopefully, by the next podcast we'll be a little bit more relaxed because this is actually quite daunting as well.

GEORGE: We'll just have to have you on more often. And then it's… everybody knows I've got an edit button because I need to be edited the most. So it's all good.

Amanda, Wayne, thanks, thanks so much for being on and congratulations again, love watching your success evolve and, really look forward to catching up again and chatting about the next milestone.

WAYNE:  Thank you. Looking forward to it as well, George.

AMANDA:  Thanks, George, and thanks for everything you've done for us.

WAYNE:  It's been really good.

GEORGE:  Thank you.

WAYNE:  Bye-bye.

GEORGE:  Thanks so much for tuning in. Did you enjoy the show? Did you get some value from it? If so, please, please do us a favor and share it with someone you care about. Share it with another martial arts school owner or an instructor friend that might benefit from this episode.

And I'd love to hear from you if you got some good value out of it and you just want to reach out, send me a message on Instagram. My handle is George Fourie, G-E-O-R-G-E, last name, F-O-U-R-I-E. And just send me a message, and I'd love to hear from you if you've got some value from this. 

And last but not least, if you need some help growing your martial arts school, need help with attracting the right students or increasing your signups, or retaining more members, then get in touch with us. Go to our website, martialartsmedia.com/scale, and we've got a short little questionnaire that just asks a few questions about your business to give us an idea of what it is that you have going on.

And then typically from that, we jump on a quick 10, 15-minute call just to work out if or how we can be of help. Not a sales call, it's really a fit and discovery call for us to get an idea if we can be of help. And that's that, we'd love to hear from you and I'll see you in the next episode. Cheers.

 

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136 – Jason Flame: Community Networking That Fuels Martial Arts Business Success

Over and above professional wrestling, martial arts, and the Master Motivation podcast, Jason shares how giving back to the community powers his martial arts school and 2 other businesses.

 

IN THIS EPISODE:

  • How community networking and fundraisers help promote martial arts schools
  • A traditional martial arts marketing strategy that works
  • Why advertising should emphasize the benefits of martial arts training
  • What helps improve student retention during the summer
  • Why giving back to the community matters for martial arts schools
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

GEORGE: Hey, it's George Fourie. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast. Today, we're back with another epic interview with a phenomenal martial arts school owner, Jason Flame from Moorpark Karate and Krav Maga.

So, this episode, the value per minute was super high. We spoke about community engagement, how to infiltrate your community organically and be involved, and we also spoke about him running three separate businesses. He likes to call it the trifecta and how the 3 businesses actually operate and help boost his martial arts school.

Jason is also a professional wrestler, so he spoke about wrestling, and what I really got a lot of value from is his student retention strategies that's really, really helpful, especially through your long summer months or when students want to take a break and how they boost their attendance through that.

So, all the show notes and the transcript of the show, you can download at martialartsmedia.com/136. The number is 136. You're probably going to want to do that for this episode because as I said, the value per minute is really high. So do that, and by all means, if you love this episode and get some good value from it, please share this with another martial arts instructor or another martial arts school owner, and help us grow the show and get it out to more people.

All right. Hope you enjoy the show. Let's jump in! 

Jason Flame, welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast.

JASON: Thank you for having me. Super excited.

GEORGE: Jason Flame, Flame is your last name. Is that real or a pseudo name?

JASON: It's funny, I get asked that quite often, and yes, it is the name that's on my birth certificate. It's actually my name. Master Flame is really easy to use in the professional wrestling industry. It's great in the karate world, and I guess I get a little extra attention with that name. I bring the fire.

GEORGE: Now, you, one person that can claim you bring the fire because, I mean, it's in your name, right? It's embedded.

JASON: That's right. 

GEORGE: First up, what I love to ask our guests is about marketing, attracting the right students, increasing sign ups, and also retaining new members. What I'd love to know from you, what's been your best strategy recently or of all time for you to bring in new students?

JASON: I would say that the best thing for us marketing-wise has to be our community engagement, our community involvement. We own three different businesses here in our small town, and the martial arts school was first, but it helped us open up opportunities for some other businesses. 

But the one thing that we pride ourselves on is giving back to the community by doing fundraisers, by providing items for auctions, and raffles, and different things for the schools and the sports organizations. Every youth organization in our city, we sponsor in one way or another, and it's just something that we feel is really important because our community has supported us for so long.

We opened our martial arts school in 1994, and we started at a recreation center and built it up from there. The community has supported us. So I think that it's only right that we give back and support our community.

GEORGE: I love that. So it's something that comes from the heart, but it also pays off for the business. I want to touch base on the three different businesses because that's interesting, how that can actually overlap as in one strategy that suits all, but that's the what, what you know do.

How do you actually go about it? Where do you start? Who do you contact? Where do you start with community involvement and so forth?

JASON: Well, you know what, what was really easy in a way is that we have two children who are now adult children, 17 and 20 years old. They went to preschool, and they went to kindergarten. They went to elementary school, middle school, and high school all here in our community.

One thing that my wife is really, really good about is she has always been present. She has always been there in the classroom with our kids. Maybe not necessarily coaching, that was more my forte, but being team mom for soccer, baseball, softball, football, whatever the kids were active in, dance.

So I think that was the best lead-in was that we had children that went through the program. But even before we had children, I think that it was still something that we were able to do. It's just that we weren't as engulfed in it as when we had children, if that makes sense.

GEORGE: Perfect. So, obviously, being a parent, but then just having a close ear to the ground of where the opportunities open up?

JASON: Definitely. I mean, with social media, social media has made our life so much easier in the way of gaining information quickly. Right?

So we see a post on social media, whether it's Instagram, Facebook, or wherever else, and we see something going on with the schools, and we're going to jump on that opportunity. We see something where there's a need for a fundraiser, we're going to jump on that, and we're going to offer our services. So social media has made it so much easier, but yes, I think even back in the day, we'd be looking at the cork boards that local businesses would have, the community bulletins.

I look at everything that comes through the mail regarding our recreation brochure because our recreation brochure goes out to every home in our city that tells all the different recreation programs, be it dance, karate, which we still offer to this day at the recreation program, swimming, you name it, right? The camps. So we can see a lot of what's going on in that brochure. That's really helpful.

GEORGE: That's cool. I always walk past those billboards, and part of me looks at it, and I think, “Do these really work?” It always makes me think that everyone that's in a small business, they typically struggle with the marketing side. 

They typically struggle to get the reach, whether it's a passion project or something that they're trying to do, and what a great way to actually look at that differently. You look across the community boards and just see what's going on. How do you just get people involved?

JASON: Right, and I don't know how it is in Australia, but lead boxes were a big deal in the late '80s, '90s, before the big social media boom. So I would notice Gold's Gym, all the big 24-Hour Fitness. They'd have lead boxes everywhere.

Well, if they can do it, and they're a membership-based service, why can't I do it from a martial arts school? I mean, that was one of the first ways that I learned how to market effectively.  I was a 17-year-old black belt that was working in a karate school, and I can't really say I was working because I wasn't getting paid, but I wanted to find out or create a way that I could get paid.

And I said, “Well, hey. What if I can bring more members into the school? Could we work out something where maybe I get paid per new member?” So lead boxes were part of that. I went out and just placed lead boxes everywhere, got those leads, called them up, made appointments.

I learned how to be really hungry that way, and then I remember even as a teenager making cold calls in our white pages, the phonebook. Nobody uses a phonebook anymore, but I'd just open it up and start calling. I think, for me, I was always looking for a different way to get the message out there, a different way to reach because my target audience for martial arts is literally everybody that is 3 years old and older, and whether they can stand on two feet or not, whether they can see or not, whether they can hear or not.

Anybody can do martial arts, so I don't really discriminate against my audience. I want to get that message out there to everybody.

GEORGE: It's so funny, right, because I'm a digital marketing guy, but if you want to shortcut marketing, just walk up to someone and ask. It can really be that simple. We did a program with Kevin Blundell who's a local here in Australia, he's got 21 locations, and they typically infiltrate these smaller towns.

We did this course called The Next Profitable Location, and everything was old-school, but in a real cool way. The way they would train their staff and the first thing that they would do is they'd just go to town, and get the haircut, go to the coffee shop, and it would always just be, “Hey, we are the new martial arts school down the road,” and always be introducing it in that aspect.

It's something that we've really adapted and we talk about a lot in our group. It is just looking at your surroundings like, “Who's the coffee shop next door? Which small business can benefit or already has your audience that you can chat to?” I was looking at your pages because you're pretty active with your videos, and I just saw you posted a Moorpark Chamber Networking Mixer.

JASON:  Yes, sir.

GEORGE:  Is that part of the strategy?

JASON:  So community networking is huge, especially in a small town, and just to give you an idea, our population is somewhere between 36,000 to 38,000 people. When we're surrounded by the surrounding areas, the population is anywhere from 130,000 to 150,000. So we're relatively a small town, and it's like everybody knows everybody, but still, that community networking goes so far.

Our Chamber of Commerce works really, really hard to help support local businesses to help give networking opportunities. So, yes, tonight we are hosting a networking mixer where everybody is coming here to the karate school. Local leaders, business owners, politicians, the city council, the school board, the mayor, anybody that's anybody will be here tonight in our school, which is amazing because now we get to show them the facility, show them a demonstration from our students, talk to them a little bit about the benefits of martial arts.

I mean, anytime that we can create something unique and special to bring people into the school, I think that's a huge advantage. So, the networking within our Chamber of Commerce has really stepped up over the last, I would say, seven or eight years.

GEORGE:  That's such a simple and really cool concept. Really, just bringing your community together, and you using your facilities to do that. I want to change gears just a little bit here, but I want to learn just a little bit more about you and your other businesses.

I know you were a professional wrestler, so let's just start with the martial arts stuff and the wrestling.

JASON:  Okay.

GEORGE:  So what came first? The wrestling came first, then this karate because it's Moorpark Karate and Krav Maga? Take us a bit back into the martial arts background.

JASON:  For sure. So I started training in martial arts in 1985. My instructor is Dennis Ichikawa, who was a student of Chuck Norris and Pat Johnson. So we're a Tang Soo Do system, and it was my mom's idea.

I think I saw Karate Kid around that time, but it wasn't really because of that. My mom always wanted to do karate, and she said that when she had kids, she wanted her kids to do karate. I have two younger brothers who are also black belts.

One of which owns his own school as well, my brother, Jacob Flame. He still carries the name of our original school, which is Tang Soo Do University. He's in our hometown where we grew up, Newbury Park, California.

So my mom put us in karate, and it just stuck for me. My middle brother played baseball, so he went in and out of martial arts, even though he did earn his black belt. My youngest brother went in and out, and then at a certain point, really engaged with my school in the beginning and worked with me.

We trained together before we decided to help him open his own school, and then I just continued all the way through as a teenager teaching martial arts and opened my school at 19 years old at a recreation center. It was the only way that I knew how to start a school because I didn't have much in savings. I didn't really have a job per se other than teaching karate and private lessons, and so my instructor started when I started.

I started at a recreation center. I said, “Well, if that's how he can build his school, I'm going to go do the same thing.” So, in '94, 1994, we started our first class at the recreation center here, and we still teach that program to this day.

Then, we finally opened our first facility in 1996. So it took me about a year and a half to build up enough students where I can pay rent because once again, I still didn't have any savings. I didn't have any financial backing. My parents were not in a position where they were going to help me open my school.

I wasn't going to borrow money and go into debt, but I had just enough to put the first month's rent down and the security deposit. I had enough students that I knew that I was going to be able to keep paying the rent as long as I kept those students, and so that's the beginning of the martial arts journey.

As far as professional wrestling, that came much later. I don't want to go too deep into the story, but at 20-something years old, I really did want to become a professional wrestler. It was always a dream of mine.

I grew up watching Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, and just loved the WWF at the time. Now, WWE. I actually went to a wrestling school, and long story short, I chickened out and I didn't follow through, but continued with my martial arts.

My martial arts was always my career and my passion. But flash forward like 20 years later, I met a gentleman who walked into my school, interestingly enough, who was asking me, “How would you like to promote your martial arts school? How would you like to tell more people?”

I'm like, “Yeah.” That's another marketing opportunity, right? I'm going to get out there. We're going to have a booth at this event. I didn't even really know what the event was, but I knew it was at the Boys and Girls Club, and then he told me it's professional wrestling. I'm like, “Well, I'm in because I love both of these things.”

So I go, and I meet the promoter. He basically says, “Hey, we have a school, and if you want to come by train, here's the address.” I went down, took my first class, and I wrestled for almost 10 years, over a hundred matches, and had a really, really great time. My last match was probably about 3 to 4 weeks ago, but it's not as frequent as it used to be.

Professional wrestling came later, but I was able to tie the two together. As a matter of fact, we opened a professional wrestling school five doors down from where my martial arts school was about five years ago. We've since moved the pro wrestling school, but having the karate school and the pro wrestling school almost next door to each other made it so easy. We wrestled every Friday night.

GEORGE:  I love that. I'm a big fan of the wrestling component, and I know about training Jiu-Jitsu. It is really important. When you get to be a wrestler, that's always the hardest work, but I want to ask you about the professional side. A lot of people look at WWF, WWE now, and they look at it. It's like, “Yeah, it's staged and so forth.”

What's your take on that? How much of that goes into the stage, and how much is the real hardcore wrestling?

JASON:  Well, the way I look at it is that professional wrestling is no different than doing a martial arts demonstration. Whatever we do in a martial arts demonstration is all choreographed. It's all made up.

It's all practiced and rehearsed, but listen, when someone throws you to the ground, there's some physicality to that. You have to be flexible, agile, and coordinated just like martial arts. That's a thing for me is that I flowed right into the professional wrestling world so easily because of my background in martial arts.

I was already very comfortable with my body and what my capability was. I had to learn a lot about the psychology of professional wrestling because pro wrestling is telling a story. It's not just doing a bunch of moves. It's telling a story and getting people to either boo you or cheer you, or get a reaction one way or the other.

I cannot think of many things that incorporate the physical aspect, the drama, and just the storylines. Professional wrestling is just so fun and so entertaining, and the best part for me was just like martial arts. The people that you train with and the people that you're working out with, day in and day out, you really have this bond.

As you train in Jiu-Jitsu, you know how close you get to the people that you train with, and those people that are getting better right next to you only elevate your game. So I found myself wrestling with a lot of people that were way better than me, but made me look like a million bucks. I mean, I have some really good friends that I made through professional wrestling.

GEORGE:  What really hit home for me, what you mentioned there is how the storytelling part works. Can you lean in a bit more about that? How does it work? If you look at a wrestling match from start to beginning, how is that storyline supposed to evolve? Is it flexible, or how do you typically go about that?

JASON:  I mean, it depends on the storyline that's going on with the wrestlers and the characters. Right? I mean, you got your good guy, and you got your bad guy. You got your heel. You got your face. It just all depends on what that next match is going to be or what we're working toward.

In the WWE in the old days, they used to always work up to WrestleMania, work up the storylines to survivor series, and there'd be a series of matches that would create this drama between two characters, and then there's usually some kind of resolution and some kind of closure to that story before moving on to somebody else.

Is it flexible? I mean, most of what's done in the ring is off the cuff. There are some people that really like to plan a match all the way out from start to finish. That's not really my style. I like to go with the flow a little bit more like this interview. Right?

We just go with the flow and see what works, see what's catching the attention of the audience, and draw them in. I mean, that's the whole thing is you want to take the audience on a roller coaster and make it fun.

GEORGE:  You're almost like a professional DJ in a way. You've got your skills or your tracks, and you're there to entertain the audience. Now, you just tune into what's getting the response, what's the vibe, and you give them what they want. Right?

JASON:  Yep, and I'll tell you something else too. I'll tell you something else. We tie in all professional wrestling with marketing, right? I mean, as a professional wrestler, you have to understand how to market yourself, and how to market the match, and how to market the show, right? Because it's really all about the show.

It's not really about one person. But if I can get myself over in a promo, do a video. We do videos for our martial arts school. We do videos for events. Well, we do videos in professional wrestling to get people hyped to watch us do our match.

I just watched one today. I was on LinkedIn, and someone that I know has a school, and he was promoting a match between two people. I happened to know these two wrestlers, and I've seen them wrestle, and I know what they can do, but that video, that promo that they did to hype the match, I was like, “God, I can't wait to watch this match.”

It's so interesting because there's a story behind it, but you got to market the show too because if you don't have anybody there to watch you, who wants to perform? I mean, we love to perform whether there's 10 people or 100 people, but what would you rather do, 10 people or 100 people?

I think most people would say 100 people, but even if it was 10, you want those fans out of their seats going nuts the whole time.

GEORGE:  Right. So this is really putting your marketing act on, right? Understanding your avatar who's your perfect target audience. Then, building a character around that for them.

So what do you think a martial arts school owner can grab from that, from that experience on how to position and promote themselves?

JASON:  Well, I think one thing that martial arts school owners struggle with is they talk about themselves. “I'm a seventh degree black belt. I trained in Tang Soo Do. I trained Krav Maga. I did some Jiu-Jitsu. I do this. I do that.

I've trained many black belts.” At the end of the day, nobody really cares what you've done. They really only want to know, “What can you do for me?” So I think that when a school owner is promoting their school, they need to think about creating value in their program and really outlining the benefits.

When we talk about discipline, well, how do you teach discipline? Confidence. How do you teach confidence? Right? Because sometimes people throw out all the buzzwords: discipline, confidence, respect, but how? How do you do it?

Can you give specific examples? If you go to our social media channels, I think that you'll get a very good sense of the culture of our school, and you'll learn about the benefits of martial arts, which is going to create value in your program and want them to come and sign up.

GEORGE:  100%, and I'm not putting you on the spot, but if somebody asks you, “All right. Well, how are you going to give my child more confidence?” What do you say to that?

JASON:  Well, so one of the things that we do in our program that helps build confidence in a student, especially on day one, on day one, very first class, is we have them do a board breaking lesson. So we teach them how to overcome obstacles and how to have a breakthrough moment.

These are all key terms that I use, but we lead up to it by telling them, “In order to break this board, you have to have the confidence. That means you need to believe in yourself even when nobody else believes in you. If you say, ‘I can do it,' you can push yourself farther than you think.”

“Then, number 2, you have to have focus. So I need you to pay attention. I need your eyes on my eyes. I need you to listen to every direction so you know what to do.”

You need to have discipline. Discipline means doing what you're supposed to do without being reminded. So I'm telling you, I'm giving you all these directions right now. I need you to remember what to do, and then you have to have commitment and follow through.  So when you go to break that board, even if you don't break it on the first try, I need you to try again until you follow through and finish.”

So these are just some of the main things we talk about with confidence. The second thing would be our belt system. Students will achieve confidence through goal setting and achievement. When you start at white belt and you have a clear goal.

The next belt is yellow belt, and you have to earn 3 stripes on your belt for your attendance, and then you gotta earn 3 more stripes for the curriculum that you learn. We happen to use 3 black stripes for attendance, and then a red, white, and blue stripe.

Every time they earn 1 of those stripes, it's like it's a notch on their belt literally to where they feel like they've elevated. Now, they know, “I've got 3 on this side of my belt. I got 3 on this side of my belt.

Graduation is at the end of the quarter. If I have these things, I'm going to be able to test.” Then, they get that new color belt, and now they are fully elevated. We get to start again. We keep repeating that process over and over, and I think that that's what builds their confidence.

GEORGE:  I love that. What I haven't actually heard so much before is giving 2 stripes, stripe for skill and stripe for attendance as well. So do you normally hand those out at the same time. How do you go about that?

JASON:  Well, so we're kinda old-school, and I'll show you something that most people in the martial arts industry are going to go “Oh, what software do you use?” I don't use any software in my school for our billing, not for attendance tracking, none of that.

This is how I keep attendance right here, this little card, and we still do it Old-school. We stamp the card every time they come in. Right? So every student is going to earn a black stripe based on their attendance requirements.

We divide in 3, whatever it is, if it's 30 classes. Every time they come to class 10 times, they get that black stripe. Then, when they get the third black stripe, we know that they have enough classes to be eligible. Once a month, we test on our monthly curriculum.

So, usually, the testing cycle is 3 months. If we divide that up into 3 parts, we're going to do their first portion at the end of month one, they earn their red stripe. Month 2  is white stripe. Month 3 is blue stripe. That way, there's a system which, again, as far as our curriculum goes in my school.

Here's our quarterly. You can't read it, but this is what we teach. This is our class plan. Right? There's no deviating from this class plan because if I deviate from it and do what I want to do and not what we need to do, I might not prepare a student.

If I'm not preparing a student to graduate, then I might not be helping give them the confidence to stick around. Right? So it's a cycle that if we keep the confidence going, and we show them the achievement, they just keep reaching for more, and it continues.

But once that break in the cycle happens, things like missing class, if they don't come to class, we have to make absent calls, and send “We miss you” cards, and find out like, “Hey, are they sick? Are they on vacation? Are they losing interest? What do I need to do to get them back on track?” because we know the longer they're out, the less chance they're going to come back.

If they don't come back, they're not testing, no confidence, they're gone.

GEORGE:  I want to ask about that. How does that help your retention?  I know you guys have this huge summer month, and always, when I talk to my American friends, one of the biggest challenges is keeping students active during that time.

Have you found this system helps you through long breaks?

JASON:  It does. When I was a young school owner and an inexperienced school owner, I would dread summertime. I would dread summertime because everybody's going to take a break, everybody's going to go on vacation.

So one of the things that really helped us business-wise is that we don't operate on memberships or monthly dues. We sell programs in our school. So we sell 6-month programs for our 3 and 4-year-olds. Everybody else is a 12-month, 1-year, 3-year, or a 5-year program, whether it's the basic training, elite training, or our leadership training program.

So they're all based on a time, not necessarily a belt, but when you sign up, if you sign up for 12 months, you're going to train for 12 months, and you're responsible for those payments. So, now, this is where people throw around the word “contracts,” and I don't know that the contract is what keeps them.

The program is what keeps them because you made a commitment to 12 months. Now, here's the deal with our school that's different from most. If you take a break during the summer or you take a month off, you don't lose that time.

We add that time to the end of the program and give you your full time, but programs have really helped us keep people from taking those really long-term breaks. Everybody is going to go on vacation. Everybody gets sick from time to time. So we just let them know, “Hey, no big deal. We add that time to the end.”

The other thing is the striping system that we use. It really just helps keep them on track and give them something to reach for, but again, students lose interest, or they play other sports, or they have other activities. I think more than anything else, what keeps students from taking long-term breaks is keeping them engaged with a fun and exciting curriculum, number one, but also offering special events during those downtimes, be it a day camp.

We don't do daycare, but a day camp or parents' night-out. Most fun comes when we have parents' night-outs. Bringing in guest instructors. I have been bringing guest instructors from all over the world to teach seminars here at our school, and that just makes people get outside of just the normal class.

They get to see a little flavor, a little something different from every one of those events, but the camps I think are so cool. I don't know if you went to a camp when you were a kid, but I remember making some of the best friends and having some of the best memories at camps.

When we create relationships between our students, there becomes this sense of accountability to one another to show up. Right? So if you and I are training together, and we go do this big long 8-hour camp or Jiu-Jitsu session together, and then you're not training next week, I'm going to be like, “George, what's up, dude? Come to class.”

Kids are doing that the same way, and the families become really close in our school. That type of culture I think is what helps keep people training longer.

GEORGE:  Jason, that's so good. I want to quickly change gears back just to touching base on your three different businesses.

JASON:  Sure.

GEORGE:  How do you go about managing all that? We spoke a bit about marketing. How does that overlap between the three businesses, and how do you go about managing that on a day-to-day basis?

JASON:  Well, number one, first and foremost is I wouldn't be able to manage or keep any of those businesses going without the proper teams and systems in place. So you have to have the right people whether it's here at our martial arts school, we also own Country Harvest Restaurant, and then we have Coaches Old Fashion Ice Cream Parlor which, interestingly enough, a lot of people ask me, “Well, how'd you get involved in these other businesses?”

Well, it's because of martial arts, because a high school friend of mine purchased a restaurant about six or seven years ago in our hometown, and we had trained in Jiu-Jitsu, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Ketsugo Jiu-Jitsu from the time we were teenagers until now, right?

My friend is where I earned my first degree black belt in Ketsugo Jiu-Jitsu with him, and so Chris, his name, and his wife, and another friend of ours that went to school, purchased a restaurant in our hometown. During COVID, he was reaching out to me and saying, “Hey, I'm thinking about expanding the business and opening another restaurant. What do you think?”

I said, “I got the perfect location. It's already set up. It's already ready to go.” We already have a built-in networking community here in the city. We have a lot of great connections with everything that we do, and so we opened the restaurant first.

Then, within 6 to 7 months, we ended up opening the ice cream parlor as well, and that's something that he also had in our hometown. He had the restaurant, and then he opened Coaches Old Fashion Ice Cream.

It's really cool. I love Coaches a lot because number 1, it's what I do. Right? I am a coach, whether it's martial arts, or wrestling, or business, or whatever, but the whole theme is about highlighting coaches. If you look at our social media at all, every time, it's a quote from a famous coach.

We have one of our coaches, our hometown coach, Dan Burchfield, on the wall with his son, who unfortunately passed away when he was very young, but it's a story in our community, and so we featured him and his quote which was amazing.

Who doesn't love ice cream either, right? I mean, it's just super fun, but how we tie the 3 together, here's just an example, and this is where my wife's marketing genius is just unparalleled. I mean, my wife, when we were younger, I would ask her to run the front desk at the school. I would teach classes, and she could take care of our students and our families, but she didn't like to sell. It just wasn't her thing.

She didn't want to sell memberships or do any of that, but she just has this uncanny ability to market anything and bring people together with events. So what we do in our area is we have a lot of what we call dine-out fundraisers. It will be for,  let's just say, for example, the middle school is having a dine-out fundraiser.

Well, we give a percentage back from the restaurant. We also hold the fundraiser at the ice cream parlor, so we give a percentage back from the sales of the ice cream, and then the martial arts school will match what both of those businesses donate. So, now, we're giving almost 40% back on every fundraiser.

Most fundraiser events like this, they're given 10%, 15%, maybe 20% back. We're actually giving 40% of the sales every time we do one of these special events. So we can really tie our businesses together.

Tonight, the Chamber of Commerce event is held here at the karate school, but all the food is provided by our restaurant, and everybody gets a scoop card to go over and get some Coaches Ice Cream right after the event. So we're constantly doing things where we're tying together, and then also, when we're doing sponsorships, when I come in with three businesses, they're going to sponsor a banner on the high school football field.

You can imagine that they're going to take care of us. Right? We might get a little break when we're doing 3 ads versus just the 1 business, so I call it the trifecta. We have a trifecta of businesses that all work perfectly together.

GEORGE:  Jason, been so good chatting to you. I have one more question, kind of a double question before we wrap things up.

JASON:  Yes.

GEORGE:  What drives you, and what are you excited about for the future?

JASON:  I mean, when you ask me what drives me, my family always comes first. I want to create opportunities for my family to spend more time together. When I first opened my business, I was so focused on getting the business going, and I would pride myself on working 12, 14, 16 hours a day because I thought that was the right thing to do.

But as my family was growing, family time became way more important to me than anything else, and so that drives me to continue to find that extra family time, to provide both of our children work in our businesses. My son coaches here at the karate school. He works at Coaches Ice Cream. My daughter is a server at the Country Harvest Restaurant.

My wife manages all the social media. So these things have brought us together, but my family is what drives me. I want to be the best example for my kids. Physically, I try to work out every day to show them that I take care of your body.

I read every day, trying to show them that we got to take care of that mental. Taking time for prayer and going to church. That spiritual side as well. So I try to be that example for not only them, but also for my team members and for my students in my school. So, really, those are the things that really drive me.

GEORGE:  All right. Perfect. The last one was, what are you excited about for the future? Where is Jason Flame headed?

JASON:  Well, I'll tell you what. With all 3 of these businesses going exceptionally well, and I really enjoy all 3 of them all for their own reasons. The martial arts will always, has always, and will always be my passion.

I love professional wrestling, so I try to stay in tune and in touch with it, but I'll tell you what I'm really excited about is my podcast called Master Motivation. I host a show every Monday at 12:00 PM Pacific Standard Time. I have a guest.

I've had you on the show. I've had several martial arts instructors, school owners, mentors, coaches, but I've also had actors, comedians, authors, and speakers. It's funny because with the businesses, I get paid to do what I do.

The podcast, I don't get paid to do any of it, but I look forward to it each and every week. I don't have any sponsorships. I'm not monetizing it in any way, but the conversations like today, the conversations that I get to have with whether it'd be local or regional, national, international leaders that I get to talk about and help share their story, that is what I'm truly excited about each week to be able to do that.

One of the reasons why is because I feel like… and this is something that I developed after I did several things. I feel like it's an opportunity for not only my children, but my children's children.  

My legacy will be able to look back and watch those interviews and learn about the people that I knew and go, “Wow, my dad, or my grandpa, or my great grandpa knew some really great people and got to learn all about them.” So I think that that is what I'm most excited about now and of course, going on vacation with my wife every chance we get. Those always excite me too.

GEORGE:  That's awesome. Jason, thanks so much. I'll link to Master Motivation in this episode. It was really great.

Thanks for having me on the show there. It's funny, when I started this podcast, I was new in martial arts, but I was so fascinated about martial arts and so inspired. I started so late in my mid-30s in the industry.

The podcast that I started, when I started this Martial Arts Media™ Business Podcast, it was pure selfishness of learning. That was the goal. I just wanted to interview school owners and get to learn and understand. That was five, six years ago that I started the show.

Jason, so good having you. Thanks for being on, and we'll link to the podcast on this episode. I hope to come and see you in California soon.

JASON: I'll be here. I'll be here. I appreciate you having me on the show and going out of your way to make this work. I know we tried it a couple times, but we got this one done all the way through.

I hope that everybody enjoys the information that we provided and keep tuning in and listening to what George brings to the table on this podcast.

GEORGE:  Cool. Thanks so much, Jason.

JASON:  All right. Thank you, sir.

GEORGE:  Thanks so much for tuning in. Did you enjoy the show? Did you get some value from it?

If so, please, please do us a favor and share it with someone you care about. Share it with another martial arts school owner or an instructor friend that might benefit from this episode. I'd love to hear from you.

If you got some good value out of it and you just want to reach out, send me a message on Instagram. My handle is @georgefourie, G-E-O-R-G-E, last name, F-O-U-R-I-E. Just send me a message, and I'd love to hear from you if you've got some value from this.

Last, but not least. If you need some help growing your martial arts school, need help with attracting the right students, or increasing your signups, or retaining more members, then get in touch with us.

Go to our website, martialartsmedia.com/scale, and we've got a short little questionnaire that just asks a few questions about your business to give us an idea of what it is that you have going on. Then, typically, from that, we jump on a quick 10, 15-minute call just to work out if or how we can be of help. Not a sales call.

It's really a fit and discovery call for us to get an idea if we can be of help. That's that.  We'd love to hear from you, and I'll see you in the next episode. Cheers.

 

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