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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129 – Success By Design – Foundations Required To Setup Your Next Profitable Location

Kevin Blundell shares 3 essentials from The Next Profitable Location Blueprint that’s helped them open 20+ successful martial arts locations. 


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IN THIS EPISODE:

  • What’s the population needed for a successful martial arts school, and how far should this be from your existing location? 
  • The ‘drivers science’ behind choosing your exact new location
  • What to avoid in your environment when scouting for locations
  • Accessibility and geographical location: what are their impact on your martial arts business?
  • Why should you take advantage of ‘The Next Profitable Location Blueprint'?
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

GEORGE: Hey, it's George Fourie – welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ business podcast. In this episode, I'm chatting to repeat guest, Kevin Blundell, from Kumiai Ryu Martial Arts System. 

Now, if you've listened to the podcast over the years, we originally spoke on Episode 20 – talking about signing up 100 new students within five weeks. Then we got together on Episode 115, talking about the strategic mindset behind 23 locations. 

And this episode is really special to me, because if you listen to Episode 115, that is where this whole new journey began. Let me give you a few insights. 

So, Episode 115 was actually a recording from our internal, private Partners event that we hosted for our Partner members. So, three times a year we get our Partner members together and it's a combination of masterminding, networking, and bringing speakers together – and just learning and growing and sharing information and networking together. 

And after the event – Kevin spoke at the event, which was the recording of Episode 115 – and after that, we started talking about this process of opening another location. Now, Kevin is one of the most humble and sincerest guys that you'll meet and won't always reveal the depth of knowledge that he has within the industry. 

But when you speak to him, you'll know that he's very methodical and everything is systemized and designed for success, step by step with absolute certainty and clarity. We started talking about how to go about opening, successful location after location; and they've rinsed and repeated this process 20 plus times, very, very successfully.

And so, I spoke to Kevin about, number one, speaking again at one of our events, but how about, we actually just look at the whole process and the blueprint, and map it out and see if it's something that we can share with other school owners. And that's why I'm really excited about this podcast, because we're just in the process of putting together The Next Profitable Location Blueprint. 

Martial Arts Location

So, depending on when you're listening to this, we are hosting a Partners Intensive Event that for the first time we opening up to the public, and if you're listening to this a bit later, the program will be ready to go and available, which is the full course – The Next Profitable Location Blueprint.

So, we chatted a bit about the first steps. If you're looking at opening the next location, what are the things that you got to look for in… Firstly, why do you need to do it in the first place? How do you go about probing the population? What have you got to look for? What is the minimum number of people that you should have in a town, if it's a rural town? What is the best structure to set up your location, and all the rest. 

So, we're going to jump right in now. Wherever you're listening to this podcast or watching, make sure you hit the subscribe button. If it's on YouTube, hit subscribe. If it's on your favorite audio channel, make sure you subscribe – that you get notified when our next episodes come out and look for the notes and the links to the show notes. Episode 129. 

So, we're at martialartsmedia.com/129 – check the show notes. There are links available to the event depending on when you're watching or listening to this, there'll still be time to jump on. Otherwise the program should be available. Have a look, and if you're looking – seriously considering opening up the next location, it might be worth checking out. Alright, but let's get into the magic. Let's jump into the show. Let's do it. 

Kevin, so in the context of opening a new location, we always ask the marketing question first. But in reference to opening a new location, what has been the best marketing campaign or promotion that you've done that's been most successful for you? 

KEVIN: We've had a number of successes, but one that comes to mind is when we open one location, we systematically went around creating rumors and whispers. So, we, you know, we joined some local Facebook groups, we spoke to local sporting groups, and we just said, “Hey, it's a new martial art school coming to town.” 

We had a few people in the geographical area, and we asked them to do, just in their day to day activities, just say, “Oh, by the way, there's a new martial arts school coming to town,” and it piqued a lot of people's interest. So, it was really good how it unfolded for us. 

GEORGE: What was the result of doing that strategy? 

KEVIN: What was really going… On our opening week we got 50 paid trials for the first week before we even commenced. During the construction phase, you know, I was present a fair bit and went to hardware store, service stations, you know, just interacting with the local community – and I always told them what was going on. 

And funny enough, a lot of those guys booked in, paid for their trial, and were there that first week. Some are still with us in that area. So, it's really good, it's really successful. 

GEORGE: Fantastic. So, Kevin, I wanted to bring you on, we've got – and depending on when you're listening to this – but we've got an event coming up, and we've put this program together called ‘The Next Profitable Location Blueprint'. If I think of any martial arts business owner in the world, and I think who would be the renowned expert on this topic, it would be you – just because you've done this so many times and successfully and run a multi-million-dollar organization with your multiple martial arts schools. 

So, if we're to just start from the beginning – if I'm a martial arts school owner and I'm looking to open up my next location, I want to grow my growth, where do you start? 

KEVIN: A lot of trials and tribulations to get to where we are now, but I certainly feel confident we've got it pretty accurate. Certainly, over the last number of locations we've opened, we've been very successful, as we followed the blueprint from day one. 

Probably the most important thing is once you establish your why – why you want to do it and what you want to achieve – is to find the geographical area you want to be in and one of the key things is, you know, if you're going to own both the locations, you need to be able to manage those. So, anything more than an hour's drive away, becomes a little bit untenable, but if you're, you know, 30 to 45 minutes away, it's an ideal location. That's the first thing. 

So, you just basically look at the map and, you know, if you're in a city, do you know how many suburbs away you want to be? How busy is it to travel there? If you're in a rural environment, what's the next largest town or city, and how long is it going to take to get there? You need to account that in, because that's one of the key things, if you are running both locations, you certainly need to have that measured from the start. 

Probably the next thing is, once you decide where you'd like to go, is to physically go there yourself and just have a look around, get a feel for the place, just see what happens. And there's a lot of subheadings under that of what we do, that primarily is just see. I know it sounds a bit, you know, of a sort of fly by. 

You've seen your parents' way of setting up a business, but get a vibe, it really is – get that vibe for that area. And you can get that over a couple of days, visits, you know, just by interacting with the community, having a look around, and obviously doing your research. 

GEORGE: Perfect. So, I want to talk a bit more about visiting for the vibe and so forth. But let's take just one step back – before you've even visited the town, what are you looking for? 

If you, like, draw up a map and you're looking, “Alright, well, I'm here and I'm looking at a radius of about 30 minutes to an hour from where I'm at for my next location.” What are the things that you're looking for? And what type of research are you doing to determine where you are going to set up? 

KEVIN: So, once I've gone to the place and had a look physically, just to sort of satisfy myself, that's an area. So, these two things correlate together, and that is… Then I go on and I look at the Bureau of Statistics, I look for the population in the area, I look for the medium income, I look for activities, you know – is it a sporting town or is it a retiree town? Is it a low socio-economic area or is it a, you know, wealthy area? 

Generally, somewhere in between those two is an ideal area, young families. You can plonk yourself in a very wealthy area, but people, you know, haven't got any time and then you put yourself in an area where there's a lot of folks that just haven't got the resources to participate. So, you have to weigh all those things up so you can do your research. 

Our local government area websites have a lot of information. So, we systematically go through and tick off – look at the Bureau of Statistics, your local government area websites, and you just see, you know, even news articles. I've done research on news articles as well, just to see what sort of people are in that area, and if they would fit into your martial arts school community.

GEORGE: And what about sports activities and things like that? Is there anything you look at? Are you concerned about competition or anything like that? 

Martial Arts Location

KEVIN: Look, I think if you go to an area where there's a lot of sporting activity – we've had a lot more success where there was, areas where there wasn't. So, you know, do they have a soccer competition, a touch football competition, basketball, hockey, how many teams they got, you know, and that's easy. 

Just look at the local associations, you know, for example, the Hockey Association for field hockey, you know, football, all sorts of things, swimming, whatever sporting day. Even look historically at the sporting pages for that area, you know, to see the prowess of the athletes that come out of there. 

Because if they're a sporting town, it's, you know, you do run into the thing of ‘we only can only train in the summer, because winter,' and vice versa. But once you get people involved, you know, they'll work it out, and you'll have them there training all year round. 

So, you know, you want to look at that. In part of a scenario, where, as I say, you might have a lot of retirees or people, there's not much action happening, you might have a level of success, but I just found that, you know, really looking into the area you're going to make a big difference. 

GEORGE: Fantastic. If we had to look at population density, and how big are communities, is there a set number that you think of as a minimum? Especially if you're looking at like a rural town that's close by, that there's just not enough people in the vicinity to make it work? 

KEVIN: I look at percentages. So, if you can get 1% of the population to participate… 15,000 is a good benchmark, so if you've got 15,000 people who are within 30 minutes of where you're going to set up your new martial arts school, generally you'll get 150 people there as a rule. 

Obviously, this varies from location to location, but that's been the formula I've used, probably for 30 years. We have a lot of rural locations. You know, some initially were just community services into small areas. But you know, as we went along and became more proficient at what we did, we identified around that, around that 15,000. 

So, although we do have some schools, where there's a very small population, and for 5000 or 6000, they have over 100 members. So, you know, it really depends on the community. So, that's everything – dovetails together. It's really important to make sure it all marries together when you're doing research. 

You need to be honest in your assessment, but sometimes you get a little bit, you know, look at things through rose colored glasses. So, it's really important to make sure you're honest with your analysis. 

So, let's say you visit a town and you like the vibe, and it feels good. Has there ever been a moment where emotions clouded the actual logical “business brain”, and maybe the decision making didn't go in the right way? When I wore a younger man's clothes, yes. Because I thought everyone should do martial arts, and I couldn't understand why everyone everywhere in the whole world wasn't doing martial arts; but the reality came along pretty quickly. 

So, you know, you can make a clouded judgment, but with my overall approach now, if you follow the analysis, and you follow the steps, you'll get past that and make you feel… 

For example, we looked at a number of locations, Jason, you know, other towns near where I live at the present time. And one up north was closer to the one in the south, but once we went there and did our due diligence, we found that the one that in the north just wasn't going to support a full-time center and, you know – be great for little community martial arts in a hall type place, you know, it'd be fantastic for that. 

And there's some great martial arts schools there, but they don't ever have any great numbers, because it's just not that environment. 

GEORGE: And can you recall what the distinct trigger that made you feel that that's just… What is it about the town that you felt or the research that told you that it's just not going to work there? 

KEVIN: Well, initially, the vibe just wasn't there, and there was, just the atmosphere. Then when I did my research, you know, sporting groups and socio-economic, and it started to really throw up a lot of red flags. And I just thought, before I proceed any further with this, I'm not going to make a quick decision. 

So, I sort of left it for a few weeks and came back and re-went over the material and chose the other location, which was a great success. So, I guess, you know, a vibe is not a thing, but it just comes with experience. But having the opportunity to look at statistics, income, age, population demographics, obviously… 

Then what's happening in that town – was it a, you know, highway town or was it bypassed? You know, like, there's lots of little things that, you know, added up. And it just didn't add up right, and I made the right decision, 

GEORGE: I just want to go back on the distance, because we spoke about within a half an hour's drive. And I think anybody that's in a city might think, “Woah, nobody's going to drive 30 minutes to get to martial arts in a city environment,” right? But your experience in a rural town is very different, right?

KEVIN: In some of our rural locations, we have people drive 100 kilometers, or 60 miles, as we know it, each way to class twice a week, you know, well, without fail, and have done that religiously, year in and year out. So, in the city, I find that if you're more than, say, probably about 25 to 30 minutes, that's a maximum amount of travel, but generally, it's 15 to 20 minutes. 

But you still don't want to be parked on top of, you know, in an area that you're not happy with, you need to have a good area. So, you still need to do the same due diligence. We have locations in major capital cities as well. So, we understand how that works. So, there's sort of, like, you just need to make sure what, you know, public transport – is that available? 

One of our locations in Sydney, the train station is straight across the road from where they've got the dojo, which is the martial arts school, you know, and it's a great little location. 

So, it's not a full time one, it's a community hall, but he's got such a great relationship there. He can set up, you know, he has a set up team – they set up each night – has 150 members, and he's just killing it, you know, it's just great. It's a really good, great location. 

GEORGE: Fantastic. So, let's talk about that – location, right? So, you've done your research, your decision-making process has evolved and you're confident that, “Alright, I've found the place, I've found the town or the suburb where I'm going to set up my location.” 

Now you start looking for an actual venue, for an actual facility where you can set up. What are the elements that you go through to assess where a good location is, or whatnot? 

Next Profitable Location

KEVIN: It really comes down to a lot of things. But the major thing I found is accessibility. As I said, in that Sydney location, we had a choice of a better venue, but it was buried. It was so far away from public transport, whereas this one is, people just step off the train and walk across the road. So, it's probably not the best venue, but it's been the greatest venue. 

So, you need to look at, you know, if people have to come off a main thoroughfare and turn more than three times, they usually just don't bother with it, you know. What I mean by that is, from going on a main thoroughfare through a city or regional area and you just turn left, right, left, there it is, it's been a little formula I've used. 

And as people know, you know, around here, being involved in setting up a martial arts school, you can spend a lot more on advertising, if you've got a place that's pretty much not known about. So, sometimes I see the rent as an investment in my marketing, and I balance that. 

So, if you've got a big signage, it's easily accessible, and it's in an area that may have other activities similar to yours, like a gym, massage therapist, you know, indoor center of some activity. When people come, it really is a factor in making the decision. You don't really want to be next to a trucking company on one side, a diesel mechanic on the other, you know, or a noisy sort of industrial area. 

Because it just might be cheaper, but you'll be punished in the long run, because people just don't want to bring their kids there. So, it really comes down to thinking like a parent bringing a child or a person who's, you know, finished their day at the office or even a tradesperson. 

You know, they try to come somewhere where it's nice, it's clean, it's easy to get to, good parking, well lit. And lighting is a key thing, especially when I try to visit other martial arts schools and, you know, you need a torch to get in through the carpark. Just little things like that, that makes a massive difference.

GEORGE: Kevin, I find it interesting that you mentioned that you favor accessibility to the actual venue itself. Now once you've found this venue, how do you then… Do you do random visits at random times of the day? Or how do you just further assess if this is, you know, before you sign on the dotted line? 

KEVIN: Yeah, I think that's really important for people setting up a new location – actually go there during the key times you'll have a timetable. So, at this point, I would have a ghost timetable, written out roughly what days and nights we'd run classes based on other locations and what works already. 

And then I go to the area, and sort of drive around and just see, because of the, you know, there's always going to be schools nearby, or businesses closing or whatever. You just need to get a feel, as a parent, you know, dropping your child off, getting there after work, you know, how hard is it to get there? You know, some locations are gridlocked at 3:30pm, so you might have to review your timetable. Nighttime is always important. 

The safety of your students as they come and go, and the parents' parking accessibility, walking distance from public transport. You know, is it a safe walk? You just want to think about all those things, and whilst you may not be able to tick every single box of that list of things I mentioned, if you can get close, it'll work much better for you. 

GEORGE: Okay, so we've covered a lot of the foundational stuff, and I want to be respectful of your time. But I do want to cover something and this is a question that always comes up a lot, you know, different business structures and how you go about it. Now, you mentioned that you select a location that's within the 30 to 60-minute range. 

But obviously, the goal is for you to open the location and not completely run it forever. So, you want to have somebody else in charge. Now I know you've got a few business structures, three that you potentially work with, but if you don't mind sharing, what is your favorite business structure for your next location to open up, and why do you prefer that? 

Next Profitable Location

KEVIN: With my experiences, I've tried many different formulas. I find under license seems to work the best for me, and that means we have someone who is growing within your organization, and then they can branch out and open the next location. Now that person would obviously be one of your instructor team, or ready to become part of your instructor team and have the financial backing to put themselves into the position. 

Sometimes we do work out a financial arrangement of, like, helping set up as part of the license agreement. They're primarily under license, so it gives a person autonomy. It gives them their own identity, still under your umbrella and infrastructure, which enables them to be very successful, because all the hard work is already done. 

GEORGE: Alright. Kevin, we've got lots more to talk about and I'll lead into that, but if you don't mind sharing, we got together a couple of months ago, and I started asking questions just about your process. And you spoke at one of our events prior – for our Partners group, the Partners Intensive – we decided to get you back on, depending on when you're listening to this, we either have the full program released or you're still in time for the event. 

But we decided to get together and my job was to extract all your knowledge and help put it together, and we've come up with the whole format, the whole blueprint, “The Next Profitable Location Blueprint.” And do you mind just sharing a little bit? Why the program and who will benefit most from that? 

KEVIN: Over the years, you know, by default, I started public speaking at seminars and events, being privileged to do it pretty much all over the world and met a lot of fantastic people along the way. And every time, you know, people would ask me, how do you do this? How do you do that? And I'd sort of give them a rough idea, and after our discussion, I thought, “Well, it'd be remiss of me not to package it up, so other people have the opportunity to, you know, get their next location up and profitable and running successfully, without having to go through all the pitfalls.” 

And my ideas aren't grandiose or, you know, unrealistic, they're all measurable and they're all obtainable. So, you know, I think it's a great opportunity for people to plug in. And, you know, have a listen, and we've been very successful, and I wish nothing but success for everybody else in the industry. 

GEORGE: I have to add that is a really modest way of putting it, from the perspective of helping. Kevin, you know, putting all this together and breaking down the modules from how to fit out all the facilities, how to maximize your space, the organic marketing approach you take, which I have to say – next level – you know, and this coming from a marketing guy! 

This is just setting up the right foundations to get your school growing and thriving before you take on any paid type marketing campaigns. Yes. So, the approach is just, I have to commend you. It's really phenomenal. 

KEVIN: Well, thank you, George, and I truly hope, you know, people do take the opportunity, because they will benefit. It's, you know, we call it The Next Profitable Location Blueprint because it really, it's about your next location, we want it to be profitable. 

And the blueprint is your map, it's clearly, you know, and we've done all the heavy lifting, and if you follow the steps, you know, I've had nothing by success so far, and you've got 40 years of mistakes, condensed and cleaned and polished and out the other side already, so, yeah, well, thank you very much. 

GEORGE: Perfect, and we'll leave all the details where you can access either the event if you're on time or the actual recorded program. It'll be on martialartsmedia.com/129, the numbers one two nine. Kevin, thanks so much for sharing so generously, and we'll speak again. 

KEVIN: Thank you very much, George. Looking forward to it.

 

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126 – Ed Carr: How To Rise Above Bullying Through Martial Arts And Live An Empowered Life

Edward Carr shares how he’s built 2 thriving clubs through word of mouth, while helping his community combat cyberbullying and live an empowered life.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • How to harness the power of word of mouth
  • Tips to boost martial arts community engagement 
  • How to encourage bullied children to share their experiences
  • Edward’s book against bullying, Lift Them Up: How to Rise Above Bullying and Live an Empowered Life
  • Effective ways to build a strong online presence
  • And more

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

TRANSCRIPTION

GEORGE: Hey, George Fourie here. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ business podcast. So today, I have a special guest with me: Edward Carr from New Hampshire in the United States. And so, Edward owns two locations, Tokyo Joe Studios and Team Link MMA, both at the same actual location, in the same facility, on two separate floors.

So, we chat a bit about that divide, and also how he's built a thriving business. 320-330 plus students, mostly on word of mouth. And, look, always when someone says word of mouth, I'm always curious, because it always means there's a strong program, a strong product, and much more to it, right?

And so we chat a lot about things that they've done in the community, their community promotions, also his book against anti-bullying, that positions him as an authority. And all this, how it helped them thrive through the pandemic, and almost not losing any students after being locked down for a full year. So, we're going to jump into that.

If you are new to the podcast, do check out on this page martialartsmedia.com/126, depending where you're listening or watching, and be sure to download our ebook, ‘The Ultimate Facebook™ Guide for Martial Arts Schools', that will help you create your next winning ad campaign. And of course, wherever you're listening or watching, make sure you hit that subscribe button, so that you get notified when we release our next episode.

Alright, let's get into it. So, Edward, over the last couple of months, or just in general, what's been the top marketing strategy and lead generator for you?

EDWARD: It would be a lot of word of mouth, a lot of word of mouth and online. You know, some online advertising definitely helped out, but the word of mouth has been incredible-  with all the students promoting, you know, the school and, you know, me being involved in the schools a lot, also has helped out quite a bit, you know.

Just like I said, just promoting and having fun, and, you know, going from there. And just letting the kids know, you know, letting everyone know, you know, what we're doing, what we're about, promoting safety, you know. Letting them know, like, even though the pandemic, you know, people are still nervous, you know, having all the safety stations everywhere, and all that.

Just making everyone feel comfortable, and then having them go out and telling all their friends, “This is a place to go to exercise and have fun”, and, you know, how do kids learn.

GEORGE: So, if you've got great word of mouth, it's always a sign that you've got a great product, right, and great training and good program. But other than that, how do you feel you kind of orchestrate a lot of word of mouth? And what do you think? What do you think escalates it?

EDWARD: Every time someone competes or does something. Well, we've had a few big name fighters, you know, fight for us. That always brings in a lot of students, people see it, they watch it on UFC Fight Pass, you know, they go from there. We've had a lot of kids… Muay Thai tournaments, grappling tournaments, and karate tournaments – they're starting to do them again and that's always been great.

You know, kids want a medal, a trophy, they're all happy, they tell their friends, you know, and that's the type of word of mouth stuff that's happening. I wrote a book, and it was on bullying, and I got that involved in the schools. So, you know, they're, you know, me being involved in the schools and helping out and talking to the children, you know, about bullying and this and that, it's also been huge.

So, it's a good word of mouth, you know, think, you know, for me, you know, to do all that. Like I said, there's been a little bit of online, you know, stuff, I've done some, you know, contests here and there, you know, for everything, get the students involved, you know, and just try to work it, make it a grind.

GEORGE: What's the book called?

EDWARD: Lift Them Up.

GEORGE: And it's available on Amazon?

EDWARD: Yeah, it's available on Amazon. Yeah, Amazon, the book is called Lift Them Up: How to Rise Above Bullying and Live an Empowered Life. You know, just as in deal with this typical boy who deals with cyber bullying, you know, it goes through the whole… You know, everyone thinks bullying, you just, you know, pick on someone.

But, you know, a lot of people don't realize there's a whole cyber bullying, internet bullying, texting bullying and all this. There's so much out there that people don't understand or realize. So, you know, I mean, it's done well. I've sold like 400, 500 books, I can't complain.

GEORGE: That's perfect. Well, I hope you sell 4000, 5000 more after we do this podcast, right?

EDWARD: Absolutely!

GEORGE: If you don't mind sharing a little bit of insight, because I mean, it's a whole different planet, just like you saying, you know, it used to be bullying, face to face. But, you know, if I look at kids today, I think they're dealing with this whole – a whole different form of bullying, that's, it's pretty intense. And I don't know, I sometimes wonder how kids have actually got to deal with that, right?

If there's, especially if there's a group of people that are bullying you, or doing cyber attacks and just being nasty kids, what's your advice to kids on how to deal with that?

EDWARD: Communication. A lot of kids tend to hide things, you know, and I have a lot of kids that feel very comfortable coming to talk to me, and not even their own parents, or teachers, because they're afraid or scared. And it's just communication, I'm trying to, you know, when I talk to them, I want them to feel comfortable.

I want them to realize it's okay to talk to the teachers, it's okay to talk to your, especially your parents. Let them know what's going on. Too many kids out there just bottle it up, and unfortunately, you know, bad things do happen. And you know, a lot of times they'll bottle that up and hold that negative energy inside, and they explode, and something negative can happen off of that, you know.

And that's all, the key, you know, is communication. Letting them know, you know, that people are out there that, you know, these people in these positions care for them and want the best for them – and want to help them out.

GEORGE: And so, is that something you do on the mats, like mat chats and things like that?

EDWARD: Yeah, we talk a lot about that, you know, on the mats. At the end of every class, I usually have, like, a little, you know, 2 – 3 minute mat chat with them. And we're always talking about bullying, you know, certain situations, you know, just how to train, you know, how to deal with it, you know, how to use your words first, you know.

Everyone thinks, a lot of kids think too, you know, how to deal with things they don't understand either, gotta make them aware. Like, they think, “Okay, I know karate and martial arts, I'm just gonna go beat the bully up.” That's not what it's all about, you know, trying to get them to realize you go talk to them, try and make them – be their friends or walk away.

If there is a self defense situation there, then of course, you know, deal with it in the proper way. But definitely learn how to use your words first, and your brain. I always tell them to use your brain first, speech smart.

GEORGE: That's awesome. Cool. So, talking about online, moving through the pandemic, and you mentioned earlier that you managed to maintain almost a full student base, how long were you locked down for? Just curious.

EDWARD: About a year. It was about a good year, you know, and, you know, you weren't allowed to have any, I could do one-on-one classes. I had a couple people, you know, that would, I would make sure at 12 o'clock, they could come in, it was just them, no one else could be around.

I'd have to give a half hour's worth of time in between, so I could clean and sanitize and then could have another private – but that was it. No group classes. I could do family classes, but I'd have to do them outside. So, thank goodness, a lot of this was during the summer. So, it worked out pretty good.

GEORGE: Yeah. 

Martial Arts

EDWARD: And so I'd do a lot of group classes, you know, with families outside in the parking lot, which, another way in which pretty good advertising too, because then people driving by, seeing us working out and exercising and doing something, so it was good advertising in that way. So, you know, it was rough. But it was a learning experience for me, because trying to develop a system that keeps everyone happy on Zoom.

You know, I've never taught, I mean, I've done a lot of seminars and this and that, but I've never taught on Zoom, you know, pretty much eight hours a day, standing in front of a camera, trying to teach forms. You know, trying to teach, you know, a kickboxing combination and make sure they got proper footwork. It was a learning experience for me too.

But it worked and kept everyone happy. And, you know, like I said, we just always have a contest, I always had something going on just to keep them, you know, feeling good about themselves.

GEORGE: What do you think you've taken from that?

EDWARD: It's made me definitely a better instructor off of that. You know, it definitely opened up my eyes a little bit. I definitely became better – just made me practice a little… You know, we kind of get into, I don't want to say a rut in a bad way, but we get in a rut and a daily routine of coming into the school, four o'clock class, five o'clock class, six o'clock class.

And what it made me do is step out of the box a little bit – I hadn't done that for a while, because I got a successful school. I'm happy, I'm always wanting to grow, do what it takes, but I was, you know, doing well. So, I was like, okay… But this made me step out of the box a little bit, made me realize, you know, “Okay, start training, you got to start training, you've got to start using your mind, come up with these ideas, you know.”

You know, make these kids happy. Let these kids know you care, let the parents know you care. You know, BJJ, MMA make them happy, make sure, you know, and be a coach. And so it made me step out of the box and become a better person for sure.

GEORGE: Were there any, like, specific obstacles that you faced with the kids having to show up online and getting involved and engaging?

EDWARD: Yeah, it was interesting because I'd have to mute a lot of stuff. Like, they could hear me, but I couldn't hear them, because, you know, we'd have 30, 40 people online. Sometimes you can't have everyone, you know, they're still at home. So, they still have their home life.

So, you have dogs in the background or brothers and sisters poking their brothers online. So, at times it was a horror show. It was like, “Whoah, what's going on?!” But, I mean, that was the biggest obstacle, the biggest thing was just like, you know, trying to overcome all that at first, but once, you know, after a week or so, it smoothed out pretty well.

And it wasn't really that bad. You know, just trying to engage them, to let them know that they could do martial arts on the computer and not just play video games was rough, because I would have some students that would blank the screen, but forget to mute it, and I could hear them playing video games in the background.

So, then the parents would ask me how they're doing. I'm like, I don't know, you need to ask him, he's been playing video games. So, you know, stuff like that would happen on and off. But overall, it was, you know, it was definitely tough keeping them engaged – because just staring at a computer screen, even my own daughter would do karate in her bedroom. And, you know, I'd have to tell her to stop jumping on the bed, like, “Listen, you're in class, stop jumping on the bed.” Trying to keep them engaged was definitely a learning experience.

GEORGE: So, what did you do to have that constant state change? You know, because I mean, you can't let them do one thing too long to get in – yeah, boredom kicks in.

EDWARD: I just constantly kept them moving as much as I could. You know, sometimes in a normal class, you know, you take your time, you go over form more, there's more of a pause, more of a… So, you couldn't do that online.

I almost taught it like a cardio kickboxing class, you know, where I just kept moving and moving and moving and moving and moving. Class is only 30 minutes long, but it was, like, just keep them moving. Don't give them that time to stop. You know, don't give them that time to think.

We would do a form to warm up and right from that form we'd go right into some kicking, some punching, and then we'd go into some, you know, self defense techniques, and I'd make it a game and just keep them moving. So, they didn't have that time to go look around to see who's playing outside or stuff like that.

GEORGE: Gotcha. And then jiu jitsu – and how did you handle the BJJ side, and the adults, and so forth?

EDWARD: That was the tough part. Like teaching Thai kickboxing or MMA wasn't so bad, because you could teach them some combinations. So, sprawls, double legs, you can teach transitions, and stuff, that was okay.

But the BJJ was tough, you know, like I had, when – Everyone would make their own dummy, grappling dummy, or they could buy one from me, you know, but, and, you know, whoever made the best dummy won a free gift, you know, stuff like that. So, we had, like, 15 people make their own grappling dummies. So, that's part of getting them involved and engaged, a few people bought some off for me.

And then basically, it was just teaching them transitions and moves and talking to them about, you know, the connecting points, you know, always have points of control and hip pressure and where your hips should be, where your shoulders should be, where your grip should be. And it was more of a, you know, just teaching the technical side of things, you know.

There were some drills out there – you could do, you know, switching back and forth, knee on belly, switch and go into mount, going into, you know, back to knee on belly, to arm bars, north south, all that you could do all that stuff too. But that was, actually trying to teach them actual moves was, you know, definitely interesting.

GEORGE: It's something that is – obviously working with school owners, we've got a group we call Partners, and we've got gi school owners from around the world, but different styles.

And so, it's always conversations that have come up, obviously, with the pandemic. And interesting as well, because everyone was always at a different stage of; we're going into lockdown, we're coming out, what do we do, but it was a good opportunity to cross pollinate ideas, but…

EDWARD: Yeah.

GEORGE: We had one of our members, Carl just talk about, they were just in a two month lockdown in New Zealand, and – 100% jiu jitsu school – and managed to keep all his students going, but the main focus was just movement.

EDWARD: Yeah, 100%.

GEORGE: Movement, and keeping the community going. So, you know, a big thing that we've spoken about was the community, the content and then the coaching. So, how do you do those things? How do you create the community going?

I mean, that's the big thing, and how do you keep the coaching going? And we came up with some creative ideas, right? So, he bought the John Danaher set, and then we just, he would just go through a video, or they would post, you know, a clip from an instruction from someone else, and then they would study it, and they would analyze it, so the whole… Use even someone else's content, but then create the conversation around it to keep the community…

Martial Arts

EDWARD: Yeah, we did the same thing. We actually, one day, myself, would do a jiu jitsu video with my student, he's, I've known him forever, and it was him and I. We'd do a jiu jitsu video, then the next day would use a video of something from someone else.

We used a lot of John Danaher, Gordon Ryan, stuff like that. And then the next day, I would do, like, a karate video for everyone, and then the next day, my student would do a kickboxing MMA video for them.

So, everyday we'll put out a video for the students, also to give them some content to study. And so, not only could you do classes, I would send these videos and post them to everyone, and they could go at home and practice those same combinations, three or four combi- you know, five different ways on how to do an overhand right, you know. How to do two pins in the proper way, you know, a form, you know, and so that worked out pretty well, too.

GEORGE: Sounds good. So, give us a bit of a background about your school and your location. And I know you've got a massive facility, and you've got two floors, and just give us a bit of an overview on the infrastructure and how things operate.

EDWARD: I've been here since 1999. I pretty much have always done martial arts since I was 14. And I just turned 50, so I've been doing it for a while. I just woke up one day and decided I didn't want to do my job anymore, and so then I'm gonna open up a school. Let's try it.

GEORGE: How long have you been… 

EDWARD: So, 1999. Yeah. And so I found this, I found a location. And at first it was only, we only had about 2000 square feet, but I liked this location because it always had an opportunity to grow.

So, I started off with traditional karate, I always studied grappling and wrestling on my own on the side, and had already had a couple fights on the side, but I didn't really promote that too much.

Yeah. And then as we grew, we grew fast. For six months, we grew pretty quick. So, I got to open up another 1400 square feet or so in the back, and we used that room for a while. And then what I did is, I always had the basement downstairs, and it's a giant, like, two big garage, you know, basement. 

And one day my landlord's, “Like, you know, if you want the space, I'll charge you this much for it. And, you know, just take it over and do what you want, you do the work. I'll give it to you cheap, and it's cheap.” And I was like, “Alright!” So, I did all the work, and then like I said, we got two open floors upstairs, bathrooms, office, all that stuff. 

Downstairs is a couple different ways you can go in, it's got showers, a couple of locker rooms downstairs, a bag room, it's got a ring, a cage, and probably about a 1800 square foot, like, weight room too. So, I did the weight room originally for the parents, a lot of parents don't have time to go to the gym. So, I allow the parents for free at first to, while the kids are in class, go downstairs and run on the treadmill, lift some weights to do something.

That way they won't have to worry about their kids, they know they're doing class. But that took off, and you know, that was taking off pretty good. So, now I hired a personal trainer, you know, so he comes in – he does personal classes, you know, for the parents and you know, it's a little bit extra income off of that.

And stuff like that, you know, they scheduled privates for the kids, a lot of them they'll come down here and work with them during the kids class and get in shape.

So, you know, we got a little bit of everything. You know, kids are martial – all the kids' classes are fresh. We got kids BJJ, kids Muay Thai, kids kempo karate, and then usually at night time, it's a, you know, depending on the day, gi, the adult Muay Thai, adult MMA, adult BJJ, gi or no gi on the day, and then cardio kickboxing too.

And then we do stuff on the weekend – Saturday is a full day of classes, Sunday is kind of my day, I invite either the black belts in and we do like a black belt workout or I'll just invite some fighters in and we'll just train, so it's like a training day on Sundays for us. So, you know, it's a full time job. Like I said, it's like 8000 square feet, full time job, I have about – maybe now 330 students.

And yeah, you know, it has its moments. But, you know, I've been blessed throughout this whole pandemic, so I can't complain.

GEORGE: That's cool. So, you've got two names, right? Tokyo Joe's? 

EDWARD: Yes.

GEORGE: Tokyo Joe's Studios and TeamLink MMA.

EDWARD: Yeah.

GEORGE: Curious on two names, but also Tokyo Joe's?

EDWARD: Well, my instructor, who was 14, was playing football, and he was in karate, and he's from East Boston, and he was doing some karate, was a football practice. And they just named him Tokyo Joe, you know, that was his nickname.

So, as he progressed and opened up his own school – he met me at – that was always his nickname. He called it Tokyo Joe's Studios. He named the downstairs his nickname.

And then I was at the Canadian Open as a karate tournament. And he had met me, he said, “Hey, you fought really well, why don't you come train with me?” And he goes, you know, “I'm like, alright.” And he was close by, so I started training with him, and, you know, competed under him, you know, in all these karate tournaments all over the place.

Also, I got a chance to train with like Johnny Tension, and Reggie Perry, who were part of the team, Paul Mitchell, who, you know, are World Champions too. So, it opened up some doors and ideas. And then one day, he's like, “You know, you should think about opening up a school, you're a great instructor, a great motivator, you're a good leader,” and I didn't really put much thought into it.

And then he kept bugging me and bugging me, and then one day, I'm out doing my job – construction – I was doing construction, driving some equipment. I'm like, “You know, yeah, it's time. I don't feel like doing this.” So, I went into the office and gave my notice and went back to him and said, “I guess we'll open up a school. Let's try it.”

So, that was the karate side of things.

GEORGE: Right. 

EDWARD: I'd always done MMA on the side, I was part of Miletich Fighting Systems with Pat Miletich. And when I trained there with them, it was, you know, they had three out of the five UFC champions, it was one of the best gyms around, we did a lot of fighting and training there. But as they all got older and branched off, opened up their own gyms, and everything kind of disbanded. 

I was just left with, like, no direction in my life; my BJJ program was only a purple belt at the time. And really know, you know, didn't know how to, you know, what to do. So, like I said, Michael Alvin, Gabriel Gonzaga, and Alexander Marino all came to me one day, because I trained with them, helped them out with fights and worked with them. 

And they're like, “Why don't you just join us, you know, it'd be a great marketing thing for your BJJ program.” It's a little confusing for some people, but once they get in here, they realize, I kind of keep it separate, and I like keeping them separate, because I like the younger kids… 

I think, you know, even though we do BJJ, we still teach a little bit of focus and concentration in that class, like a karate thing. I like them to learn about the focus and concentration side of things, you don't need to necessarily see all the hard work and training that goes into MMA.

Plus, parents, you know, sometimes they get the wrong opinion, they see the fights on TV, and they think that's what it's all about, and I don't want to give the parents that impression. So, that's why I have an upstairs and downstairs and stuff.

But it's actually become a great tool, because parents realize all the hard work and all the dedication that goes into that, that's their martial art, you know, that's their form, you know, while the kids are learning this stuff, they see the adults or the teenagers doing this, and they realize it's a lot of hard work if it's taught the right way. 

So now, you know, like, whenever we have someone fight, you know, a tough fight passes, I gotta open up the school, we'll have a school full of people watching it on the TV, you know what I mean? Becomes a school party sort of, brings them all together, you know. Like you said, you try to try to create a good, you know, good atmosphere, you know, for everyone – good environment – and it brings them all together, the watch, the fights, and stuff like that.

So, it's kind of cool.

GEORGE: Because that would be my next question – how do you balance the two cultures? Do you find that they are divided or they sort of come together?

EDWARD: It's actually come together- at first, it was pretty divided. You know, when it first – the sport was starting to grow, it was pretty divided. 

You know, people thought, you know, brutality, this, that and you know, and you can definitely understand that. But over the years, as time has gone on, people see it, you know, they've seen the fights, you know, parents have asked, you know, we've, like I said, they've, you know, they got, you know, a lot of kids would do karate competitions, you know.

So then, you know, now they have kids Muay Thai, very controlled, but kids Muay Thai and then, you know, they get kids BJJ. So, because of all these classes that we have, you know, kids getting involved in all these other smaller competitions, the parents are wanting to see what the adults and teens are doing and how that's evolved. So, it's actually brought it all kind of together.

You know, and everyone's, you know, everyone's… it's pretty cool to see everyone, like, you know, support. Everyone gets together, supports everyone and have fun, too. You have a lot of parents that will just come down on Wednesday nights, our sparring night, they'll just come down and just watch, you know, they get to – they bring their, you know, 10 year old kid and you know, “Is there sparring on Wednesday?” “Yeah.” “Can we come watch?” “Yeah, come on in!”

You know, you have a whole group that will just sit on the side to just watch, you know. This is awesome, you know, because they get a chance to see, you know, kicks, punches and stuff and blocks and wrestling, they're into – actual, you know. You get a lot of kids that don't compete, we don't force them to compete. If you want to compete, we can get them ready.

But it gets to see them, you know, put it in practical use, kind of, you know. So, they like watching it.

GEORGE: Perfect. So, just to change gears a little bit – back to the marketing aspect. You got a successful school, 300+ students. You mentioned word of mouth is good. What else contributes to the growth?

EDWARD: Community involvement. Like I said, but everything's changing now. The whole world's changing. I mean, you know what I mean.

When I first opened up, you know, you had to advertise in the yellow pages, you know, big giant ads in the yellow pages, you know, that was a thing. You had to – who had the biggest ad, you know, the big best looking ad in the Yellow Pages, then as time went on…

GEORGE: And your name's gonna start with ‘A', right? So, that you, like, at the front of the book.

EDWARD: Yeah, exactly! Yeah.

Then as time went on, you know, the Internet became more, it was, like, you know, websites were huge. You know, websites are still very important, and they're still a useful tool. But, you know, that was important then, you know, now social media, you know, the whole advertising world has changed so much over the 20+ years, you know.

So now, I'm just trying to stay on top of things. I do a lot of social media, I do a lot of posts, and I do a lot of contests, you know, within the schools. I do a lot of, like I said, I'm involved in the community, the schools, you know, certain fairs, certainly, you know, town fairs, this and that. Those are all advertising avenues for me, you know, when they have town fairs.

I do a community fair myself every – well, I haven't done the last couple years, because of the pandemic – but I rent all kinds of bouncy houses, obstacle courses, this and that, dunk tanks, and at the end of every summer, I do, like, a community thing, you know, everyone's welcome. We'll do a little open house, some demonstrations, and have a huge cookout for everyone.

And you know, it's just, advertising like that is big. I'm always looking though, like, you know, I know right now, you know, I got, I'm looking to step up on the digital side of things, pick up the digital side of things on marketing, some online, make my online presence a little bit better, is my goal for this year.

GEORGE: Perfect. So, I love the aspect of community. I mean, that's, I think that's just gold, right?

Because being involved in the community, it makes you stand out. It also builds your authority, you know, way behind just the martial arts you offer, but you mention, things are changing; what are you noticing that's changing the most, especially with just the world and online that's impacting your marketing the most?

EDWARD: Really, it's just the online presence, you know, having a great online presence is very important now.

You know, before, it wasn't, but now, you know, a lot of you see a lot of the biggest school, you see ads all the time, you see this all the time, and, you know, these schools aren't spending that amount of money, if it's not working. You know, there's certain things out there, you know, and I know these school owners very well. 

And I know that they're not putting these ads out there if it's not working. And I just noticed a huge online presence and how important it's becoming, you know what I mean? And, you know, before you had a whole script on the phone, you know, very rarely do I get phone calls now.

Now it's all emails, or sometimes even text messages. “Oh, my friend gave me your number, my son's in…” You know, it's emails, it's text messages. It's all online. “We've been to your Whatsapp, we've been to your Facebook page, you know, what about this…” So, just the online presence is becoming very important.

And just making sure, you know, your name's out there, and making sure you know, you promote your product, or whatever it may be – your services out there. There's what I think is the best, you know, is what's changing the most.

Before, you know, you're right. Fortunately, I have a great word of mouth. And that's great. I mean, like you said, you got great service, you got great products, you got it. But, you know, you can always do better. So, I definitely want to do the online presence thing.

GEORGE: I think school owners like yourself, where you benefit is you built this whole foundation without that. Fine tune the product, the delivery, the programs, the community aspect. When you elevate your online presence, it's really just fuel on the fire, because you've got all the foundations right here.

I mean, we like to really, especially now, in the work that we do with school owners, we really just try to think of the simplicity of it. And like you were saying, people don't really call anymore. So, when you look at that it's not, you know, the message is still the same. It's just the medium of communication is …

EDWARD: Exactly.

GEORGE: So, people, you know, you’ve got to ask permission before you call.

EDWARD: Yeah, yeah.

GEORGE: The world's just gotten like that. I always text someone and say, “Hey, is it okay to call you?” “Yeah, we just picked up the phone.” Right? But yeah, exactly. Messenger and, you know, Messenger, I mean, we find ads to Messenger is still the best thing ever, because of course, you've got the process to sign people up and work through the process.

There's so many things that we are seeing changing and, and like you said, I mean, I'm a web developer, from you know, way back and my first advice was always just get the spanky awesome website, and get it up on Google and you're good. Now I don't give that advice anymore.

You know, I would say, right, let's get your offer, right? And let's get your ad up, you know, let's get your message out there and find a simple way to follow up. And if you can get those things right, websites are good to have for the people that will go Google and check you out. But you can build a big organization just without that.

EDWARD: Exactly.

GEORGE: The only thing that always scares me is the control factor of putting all your eggs into a basket like Facebook. And you know, that's the one thing that drives your business, and if it's not there, well, I mean, I think it's still going to be there for a long time, right? But especially when you see things shuffle, and people change the different platforms, it's good to be tabs and be a bit omnipresent in that way that you can do without.

EDWARD: Exactly, I mean, it's definitely been interesting noticing the changes, that's for sure. Like you said, you know, everything.

I always tell everyone this, you know, I've helped a few people open up schools, and I just, you know, that's what I – get your online presence going, you know, well, what about this ad? No, you don't need that ad. It's not like the old days, you know, you don't need yellow pages, you don't need this, you don't need that.

Get your online presence up and going. You need a website, of course, you know, people still visit it and go on, you know, make sure you have this in your website. And like you said, the right content on the website that's going to attract the people that go to it. The right ads, the right deals and stuff like that. 

Online presence is, you know, definitely one point for sure.

GEORGE: So, what's next for you, Edward? Like where are you guys going? Are you opening up more locations?

EDWARD: I don't know. Honestly, what's next for me is I've been really, I've been doing this for a long time. Just really been toying with the idea of doing another smaller location.

I don't know if I, you know, but before I've done that, I've been really trying to develop a good strong, solid staff here. I'm one of the few instructors, like, I enjoy teaching. And like some instructors enjoy running this school, you know, and then they have instructors teach for them.

I like still being on the floor, you know, with the kids and teaching, and I still like teaching them on the mat. I still teach BJJ, and people think I'm crazy, but I still teach up to 40+ classes a week. And, and I love it, but I'm also 50 now, so now I'm developing the staff, and the know-how, you know, really developing, like, I got some really good fighters that still have a few years left in them, but know that, you know, the end's coming… but unbelievable instructors.

So, I'm getting them involved, you know, developing a really solid foundation in the BJJ group of instructors, working on getting them, I got some unbelievable teens, getting them involved in them karate side of things and showing them and teaching them, you know, so that way, when that second location opportunity does come, I know that I'll be able to leave for the day and leave this place in good hands.

You know, staff training, and you know, picking the right people to find out. I want to be part of the team and make sure we share the same vision, you know what I mean? 

And so that second location, within, you know, I got a goal – I set goals, but within a couple of years, I want to definitely have something up, the second one up and going, you know, like, you know, this school is all set. So, that's, that's really what I've been working on now.

GEORGE: Gotcha. And I guess lastly, what are you most excited about? For the next couple of years?

EDWARD: Just growing. You know, I love it. There's, like, you know, we had, you know, already since January. It's, you know, what's today? The seventh. We've had, you know, it's always the New Year rush, but we had 14 new people sign up. So, it's been great.

I love getting the new people going, you know, I just love teaching. I just love growing and, you know, and just helping people out. You know, I can't complain. I got a – I have a great job – and so I mean, what's next is just to keep growing, keep having fun, and keep sharing what I love to do.

And, you know, hopefully the second location will come in a few years and go from there.

GEORGE: Sounds good. Hey, Ed, thanks so much for jumping on. Been great to chat, and just the title of your book again?

EDWARD: Lift Them Up.

GEORGE: Lift Them Up.

EDWARD: Yeah, definitely on Amazon.com and Barnes and Nobles, it's also on Barnes and Nobles website too. So, if they want to check it out, please check it out. It's a great book on bullying. You know, all the different types of bullying that are out in the world today. So, definitely check it out.

GEORGE: Perfect. We'll link it up in the show notes. So, wherever you're watching or listening, it will be https://martialartsmedia.com/126, numbers one-two-six. That'll take you there. And just lastly, any shout-outs you want to give or any way that people can connect with you, if you're open to that?

EDWARD: Yeah, you can always, you know, we just talked about it, you could always hit me up, you know, of course, my email is at tokyojoeshooksit@comcast.net.

You can always hit me up on Facebook, under Ed Carr, or you can visit the school webpage, Tokyo Joe's Studios, Instagram, I'm on Instagram – @tokyojoesstudios – and on Twitter. So, those are the best ways, like I said, we're talking about social media and stuff. You know, that's what people use.

The best way to hit me up, send me a message. Ask me any questions. You know, you can call the school, 603-641-3444, if you want. Ask me any questions you want. I'm always here and always willing to help.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Ed, thanks so much. I'll chat to you soon.

EDWARD: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

GEORGE: You're welcome.

 

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125 – Ross Cameron: The Evolution Of The Ultimate Martial Arts Gym

Ross Cameron from Fightcross MMA has built the ultimate, world-class martial arts gym and lifestyle center. We do a deep dive on the planning, contracts, insurances and marketing that have made this a success.


IN THIS EPISODE:

  • What sets this world-class martial arts gym in its own league?
  • Ross’s unconventional ways of building a thriving community
  • Details often overlooked when opening up a new location
  • Timing and changing the frame with martial arts campaigns
  • How branding helps the business of martial arts
  • And more

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

TRANSCRIPTION

I'm a big believer in doing this anyhow, it is to learn every job. I don't need to do it, but I need to understand how every job works. Then if someone's not doing their job, I can point it out and I can just tell them how I want it done or, but I've got to know every job.

GEORGE: Hey, George Fourie here! Welcome to the Martial Arts Media™ business podcast. Today's special guest is Ross Cameron from Fightcross MMA in Brisbane, Australia. Now, Ross and I go way back, we've been working together for quite some time, and I've been fortunate enough to witness his business explode from the sidelines.

Just recently, he's opened up his new location, and let me tell you what, it's not just any location. We were on one of our Partners Power Hour calls, our coaching calls, and Ross took us on a virtual tour through the location – we're going to include a virtual tour on this page as well. But he took us through the whole location, and just the multiple floors, the different aspects, the bar, the coffee shop, and of course, the world class gym.

So, we break down just the whole process of the two to three years that it took to put this together, the obstacles that he faced, with obviously things like COVID, things that weren't expected. And we do a deep dive into the technicalities of how to set up your contracts, how to structure your staffing, and a lot of the details that often go missed when opening up a new location. And then we do a bit of a deep dive on marketing and how he's gone about marketing this new location and the plan on filling it up to 500 to 1000 members over the next 12 months. Jump in, this is a good one.

Also, if you – head over to martialartsmedia.com/125 – where this podcast episode is hosted. So, no matter where you're listening or watching, you can check out the full transcript of the show. And you can also grab a download of our new ebook, Ultimate Facebook™ Ad Formula for Martial Arts Schools.

So, check that out, and make sure you subscribe to the show wherever you're listening, just to make sure that you get notified when our next show comes up. All right, let's jump in. Ross, what's been the top marketing strategy or campaign that you've run lately? What's been the highest performance?

ROSS: So, the best one we've had recently, because we've been moving into a new gym, has been our foundation membership drive, with Facebook and video and all the rest of it. And based around that, was a box that we gave away that had different items inside it. We had samples from some of our suppliers, we had a towel from the gym, we had a water bottle, we had a mouth guard, all the little bits and pieces to make them feel comfortable and give them some added value to signing on.

GEORGE: Great! So, what was the offer for the foundational membership?

ROSS: So, they got a discounted rate on the membership for 12 months. They got a – foundation sign-on fee was $99, and in that, they got this box that had a t-shirt, a mouth guard, a water bottle, a towel, samples, a card that actually had a link to some extra video content we'd done on how to tie a belt, welcome to the gym, how to do a mobility flow, all sorts of bits and pieces.

GEORGE: Perfect. So, I guess we can now give some full context, why the foundational membership, so, just a shorter intro. Ross Cameron from Fightcross in Brisbane, Australia. If you've been following the podcast, Ross has also been on the podcast before, we spoke about lockdown, which is their event… What do you call it? Modified jiu jitsu?

ROSS: It's submission grappling. Yeah. MMA in the cage without the strikes.

GEORGE: That's the tagline I've been looking for! So, you can – want to backtrack on that, which was episode 37.

So, Ross, you know, we chat every week, every so often when you're not busy evolving this new… What do we call it? It's like the evolution of the martial art school, is almost the way I look at it. You gave us a bit of a video tour and showed us what you've got going there, but why don't you give us a bit of a background, the vision and how this all came about?

ROSS: So, when I first started teaching martial arts here in Australia, I'd moved from having three clubs in New Zealand, with coaches and school halls and all the rest of it, to moving over to Australia.

And then I started teaching in my garage, and then quickly from that I went to a tin shed, and over a period of about 20 years, we've gone from the tin shed to what we have now, as I see it a very professional, high-end martial arts academy.

We've put in Fuji mats, we've put in a cage, we've got top-level cardio equipment, we've got top-level weights equipment, recovery center – so, ice pods, infrared sauna, massage therapists, physiotherapists, fitness rooms, the private PT studios, the lot. It's not just a martial arts school in the school hall, it's taking it to the next level of professionalism.

And in doing that, we've had to look at staff contracts, insurances, all the different things that you don't actually take into account when you're in a school hall. And sure, you have to have insurances and things in place, but do you need this type of insurance or this type of insurance?

Do you need to have 20 million public liability insurance or 10 million public liability insurance? Do you have to have product insurance? Do you have to have insurance to cover your income? Do you have to have insurance to cover fidelity? All sorts of bits and pieces. Do you cover your staff for all sorts of weird and wonderful things? So, it's taken a lot of time to go through and get to that point… But we're there now.

GEORGE: You there? Yeah, I remember we started having this conversation… Jeez, how long ago? It's been a few years, right?

ROSS: Yep. Yeah.

GEORGE: So, how many years in the making? I mean, not the planning – the physical actually putting it together?

ROSS: Ah, well, it's probably two to three years of actually putting it all together. It's not a quick process.

GEORGE: I'd love to dive into all the technicalities and details of, like, if you're a school owner, and you're looking at taking your business to the next level and elevating your brand, and upgrading your facilities, and being this premier school, and the process you've taken, like, the technicalities that often get overlooked. Just take us again through the facility because you left out one big part. What's in the gym, right?

ROSS: Right. So, we have a building that’s ours. Our gym is about 650 square meters. Below that is a high-end bar. Behind us is a five-star French restaurant, we have a coffee roaster, a brewer, a French patisserie kitchen, coffee shop, all in the facility.

GEORGE: Right. So, now that brings up a lot of questions. First up is – how many students arrive to class and never get up to the gym, because they are stuck in the bar?

ROSS: None, thank God.

GEORGE: Great!

ROSS: Although, they do go to the bar after.

GEORGE: Right. Their special punishment, if you're late, if you don't make it… begs the question, right? Why a bar? Why a coffee shop? What's the whole idea behind all the add-ons?

ROSS: It's trying to build a community, alright? And it's trying to have things that link into what will connect people to what we do. So, the bar is the social aspect. The coffee shop provides high-end coffee, cold brew, things that are really good for pre-workout and things like that.

And again, it's providing us a social atmosphere, where we can take the guys downstairs and have a coffee, have something to eat. People come in and spend the whole day around the gym, without actually having to go out anywhere.

GEORGE: Right. So, can you give us insight on a bit of the vision, and I think what we'll do, if it's okay with you, Ross; if you can do a bit of a video walkthrough after sometime and we'll add it onto this page where the podcast is hosted.

So, you could go to martialartsmedia.com/125 and catch the video there, because that will give you a… We were on one of our Partners coaching calls and Ross was there and he took us through the whole gym. Took up most of the coaching call, but everyone was really wowed, just by its… I mean, there's nothing I can compare to, which is just what makes it so fascinating.

So, what was the whole vision behind it? You mentioned community and it brings the whole community together, but what's the whole vision behind the new Fightcross?

ROSS: Well, martial arts as a way of life? So, the whole vision is actually that whole encompassing community. So, that's why we have a recovery center, as well as why we have the physios and the message therapists. That's why we have the PTs.

People can come in the door and do a workout, they can recover, they can eat good food, and it's all organic. It's not rubbish food, like the average pub food. It's all organic food. We've got the microbrewery on site that actually brews here with, again, organic, that whole encompassing vision is where we've gone.

GEORGE: Gotcha. What are you doing differently now, with the new – the whole new environment than you used to do just with running classes and so forth?

ROSS: Well, I'm trying to get out of doing all the work – hiring staff and doing those things. So, we have multiple styles in the gym. So, we have boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, Brazilian jiu jitsu, Japanese jiu jitsu, judo, taekwondo, karate we have, and then MMA, and everyone's got to fit in, we have like 72 classes a week, including pilates and yoga and so.

We've got a lot more of a community pull, because we have all these other add-on sessions.

GEORGE: Is there something you do differently to build the community when you've got all these various styles, and you attract a different caliber or type of person that resonates to these different styles?
 

ROSS: Yeah, you have to be more on the ball with the community building, as in… I spend a lot of my time now actually, just talking to people, that connection between them and me, it has to be really good because if I'm not taking all the classes, they lose contact with who you are and what you do, and all that sort of stuff.

So, you've got to spend the time around the facility, meeting with people, talking with people, building the community by organizing, like we're doing David Goggins' 4x4x48 as part of a team, we'll have a barbecue the whole weekend, we'll do all those things. And just constantly doing that sort of stuff, rather than just here I'm at the class, here's the grading barbecue and away we go.

GEORGE: Gotcha. And that's where a bar just works well as well, right? Because it brings the community together.

ROSS: Yep, yep, yep. So, even some of our little social club meetings, a Friday night sparring session, Friday nights, lots of the guys just go downstairs have a beer and a burger and then toddle off on home.

GEORGE: Love it. Alright, so, let's get into the nuts and bolts, right? I mean, what goes into this? So, first up, you have this, you have this vision, and now you have to get work, and turn the vision into reality, right? So, what sort of, what are some of the first few steps and how do you go about all this?

ROSS: Besides all the planning, dreaming and sketching, and all that sort of stuff, you get a building or you lease a building or whatever. The first thing you should do; we were finding the zoning, and making sure you have council zoning to be able to run a sport and rec facility. Step one. If you don't have sport and rec, you can be closed down by the council at any moment. Any moment.

GEORGE: Before you continue, I think, and you pointed at it, right? After the planning? So, I think we shouldn't just brush over that part, right? You've got this vision, what goes into the planning? And you've got a bit of experience in this type of thing as well.

ROSS: Yep, I'm an engineer by trade. So, planning is the key to everything. So, planning out how your building's going to look, the layout of your building, your color schemes, which mats you're going to have, what cage you're going to have, what staff you're going to require, what classes you're going to have, how you're going to get the stuff into the building, when you have to get the stuff into the building…

When you have to have your insurances in place, when your staff has to come on board, what contracts you need for your staff, whether or not you've got enough insurance to cover your product in your pro shop, and the equipment on the floor – whether or not you've got enough to handle the – if it all goes bad. Having a game plan B, C, and D. Yeah, there's lots to go into it – many moving parts.

GEORGE: Right, now there – plan B, C, and D played a big role, right? Because…

ROSS: Oh, yeah!

GEORGE: We were expecting the big old COVID to come around.

ROSS: Yep. So, we had an eight-month delay in actually getting into the building, due to building issues, due to COVID. So, in that time, we've had to, to go to game plan B, C, and D. We were doing things like running out of one of my franchises, we were running out of the coffee shop next door taking classes.

So, we had a local community, we were doing stuff in the park, we were doing bootcamp type stuff. All these bits come into play, so that we could keep community involvement here in the natural area where the gym is.

GEORGE: Alright, let's continue the journey, we’ve done the planning, we're getting all the infrastructure set up. Where do we go from here?

ROSS: So, I still think the first thing you should make sure is your building has got, one; before you sign the lease, or before you buy the building, check the zoning! Make sure that you have the correct zoning, because if the council comes along and shuts you down? You're shut down. Happened to one of my franchises, that the zoning got changed once, and they had to go and get an environmental impact study done on the traffic coming to the gym, to prove that they could stay. And it cost him about $25,000 just to do that.

So, I would make sure that that's a big tip to start with. Once you've got that, then you can start the nitty gritty into, like, what classes do you want to run, because that'll tell you what equipment you require. What sort of a gym you want to be – if you want to have weights, and you want to have, we want to be a CrossFit, box, and a martial arts gym – or if you want to be a health and fitness center, and a martial arts studio.

And then you can start planning out your equipment. Once you've got your equipment, then you can start planning out what sorts of insurances you need, what classes you're going to need, the staffing you're going to require for those.

And then you start going into if you need new staffing – are they casual? Are they permanent? How are they… are you going to pay PAYG? Are you going to have to pay supers? Are you going to have to do all those things? Are you going to… and your contracts that you require for those? Each one takes time, takes energy and takes effort. Even if you have good lawyers, and I've got good lawyers, you still have to make sure that you check all your T's and dot all your I's. So…

GEORGE: What issues did you run into that were completely unexpected, and that you particularly hadn't planned for? Or planned for?

ROSS: COVID?

GEORGE: Right. We didn't see that one coming, right?

ROSS: Yeah. And the effect COVID had on delays meant that the staff that I had organized, a lot of them were not here, not available when we actually got to moving into the gym. So, I've had that reshuffle of staffing and organizing things that has taken me longer, because of the fact that the delay was there.

Council approvals took longer than expected, building compliance took longer than expected. All those things that you think, “Oh, yeah, we'll just get it ticked off and it's… Oh no, these Braille signs are not in the right place. This fire exit needs another sign. That door swings the wrong way.” All those little bits and pieces just take time and take energy.

GEORGE: How do you go about your employment contracts and accounting and so forth? And I mean, if we can talk about budgeting as well, how did you go about all that?

ROSS: Accountants are great. If you have a good accountant, they'll make your business. We did a whole financial modeling. So, we sat down and we went through and we worked out, you know, our cash flow, our spending, funding the equipment, not funding the equipment, funding staff, how long that's going to take to ramp up the numbers to get to where we want to be…

So, we did a 2 to 5-year cash flow, then we could sit down and go, “Right. What other issues do we have here? As an accountant, what do you see?” And they always go, “You know, the next level is your staffing is going to cost you.” You got to make sure that you get your contracts right, you got to make sure that you are planning to hire slow, fire fast.

Make sure that you're looking after your people, but make sure that they're not costing you money. And contracts for your staff – again, it's that – are they casual? Are they permanent? Getting the technicalities of your employment contracts correct. I'm lucky, I've got – not only do I have good lawyers, I actually have an employment contract lawyer as a member in the gym, so I was able to go, “Tell me what I need to look at. Now go to my lawyers and say, ‘now write this'.”

And it's interesting to see all the little intricacies that you've got to have in there. And then you've got to worry about your contractors. So, if you have a guy who takes two BJJ classes a week, and if he's a contractor, you need to have a contract with him. It's not just, “Hey, mate, I know you're a BJJ black belt, can you take a couple of classes for me?” “Ah, yeah, it's 50 bucks a class.” “No worries.” It's not that easy these days, because if you do it wrong, it bites you on the ass.

GEORGE: And what could go wrong with that, because I think a lot of people do that, right? They just, you've got the top guy at the school and you're like, “Alright, we'll give you a couple of bucks to run the classes.” What's the downside?

ROSS: Well, number one, he could open a gym down the road, even though that's technically a breach of what's called fiduciary duties. So, they're not allowed to do that, but they do.

GEORGE: … because that's never happened before, has it?

ROSS: Never happened at all! That, if you have your contracts in place, that's going to cover your bum for that sort of thing. You can't stop them from opening a martial arts school, but you can stop them opening a martial arts school within a certain area to compete with you. So, there's the, sort of the fine line of understanding what they're allowed to do and what they're not allowed to do. And you only know that through experience or lawyers.

GEORGE: Very important, yeah.

ROSS: And as the contractors, you know, do they have their insurance? Do they have their first aid certificate, do they have…? And by signing the contract, you get them to agree that they have all these things in place. And then when there's verbal involved, it never lasts. If it's written, you can go back to that writing. Contracts, contracts, contracts!

GEORGE: Right.

ROSS: Like an engineer does it.

GEORGE: Now, how did you decide between… because you've got this massive organization that runs, I mean, morning, you said from 6am to?

ROSS: 5:30am to 9pm.

GEORGE: 5:30 to 9. Alright, and there's lots happening, so, you've got permanent staff, you've got casual staff, contractors. How did you decide on who you need? And did you work on a ratio, or like the ratio of students? How do you determine what staff you really need?

ROSS: What I worked on is actually the skill bases that I require to cover the multiple disciplines. So, my boxing coach that I have as a contractor, he's a boxing coach, he's a CrossFit coach. He used to fence for Australia at an Olympic level. He's done Muay Thai and karate. So, he covers multiple bases. The same with my BJJ coach. The BJJ coach, I haven't, he's, not only is he a BJJ black belt, he's also a karate black belt.

My PTs that I have, they tend to have boxing or kickboxing backgrounds, as well as being PTs. So, we've got even down to some of the reception sort of staff. I have one receptionist, a remedial massage therapist, so he can cover multiple angles for me. Sit down, work out the skill bases, then try and find the people that will fit those skill bases.

GEORGE: And then what about culture?

ROSS: That's a huge thing. Culture is a huge thing – and culture comes from the top. So, you have to drive the culture and what you want and how you want people to act and behave and talk – even down to talking. So, all the boys have their locker talk and things like that – if I catch them having locker talk anywhere in the gym, I shut that down straight away. You know, I want a large percentage of my clients to be female.

So, I'm not letting the locker talk go on in the gym and things like that. So, I set the rules, and I'm told I'm pretty hard on people. But I think it will be hard to see the culture that you want from the beginning. Tell people how you expect to be treated, and then expect them to come up to that standard.

GEORGE: And what's your strategy with that? Are you just, I mean, you just, I know you're pretty straightforward with a smile on your face, right? But is that just your approach? You just go out and tell people, “That's not cool,” pull them aside?

ROSS: That's it. I like the military principle. I don't tell people off in front of other people. I'll pull them aside and have a word with them. But I pick when I do it as well, and try not to do it so it's too obvious, or if they're making a fool of themselves, when they shouldn't be and something's dangerous? I'll say something then.

GEORGE: Alright, are you going to open a big center like this again? Another one?

ROSS: Oh, yes.

GEORGE: Oh, yes. Right, cool. Great. What would you do differently this time, if anything?

ROSS: Avoid COVID. Probably more planning, more control over certain parts that I just let other people do. One of the big things that I've learned out of this, and I'm a big believer in doing this anyhow, is to learn every job. I don't need to do it, but I need to understand how every job works.

Then if someone's not doing their job, I can point it out and I can just tell them how I want it done or, but I've got to know every job. Handy being an engineer, because that means I look at all those things and get most of it. So, yeah, but that would be more planning and more understanding of every bit that goes into it, before I get the person to look after it.

GEORGE: That means marketing too, right?

ROSS: Absolutely. Yep. Marketing is one of the things that I've had other people do before. And I'm a believer in that I should show you your job, tell you your job, let you do it. And if you don't come up to the tee, I'm going to crack across the knuckles.

I've had a few guys that have done that for me, where they've come up and then just disappeared, or they've gone and hidden from me, because they know that the knuckle breaks are coming. You've got to be able to hand over the job to somebody at some point. Otherwise you spend 24 hours a day doing every job. You still need to understand every job, you just don't need to do every job.

GEORGE: Yeah, and so, I mean, that's something that I deal with a lot, just with marketing. And I think it's, obviously if you're a school owner and you've got all this on your plate, and now you've got to handle marketing…

I mean, it's just easier to hand it off to someone and say, “Can you do it?” That's great. The problem is, if you don't know the strategy, you've actually just handed over the drive and the growth of your business to a person or foreign entity. And if they don't perform, as they do, your business is crippled right there.

And this is, I guess, my big pet peeve with, sometimes with agencies, because they can start out, you know, or the go-to guy that is doing all these great things, decides to do your marketing for you, and he does well…

But then he realizes, “Alright, well, I'm going to make a business out of this. I'm a good marketer. Maybe I'm not a good business owner.” And most agency owners would know when you get about 10, 20 clients – you better have your systems in place. So, the person that was your go-to guy becomes your not so go-to guy. And again, you're looking for the new one.

ROSS: Yep. Yeah. And exactly it with agencies – it's exactly the same as if you have – and every martial arts school works the same sort of way. They all work on their community. So, Joe Bloggs knows how to do this stuff, “Can you give it a crack for me?” And then later down the track, it doesn't work.

So, you've got to know how to do the job and then have some KPIs in place that you can check and all the rest of it and have control over it all. You don't want to hand that control over to somebody, so you get an agency doing it, and they're doing everything for you. You've got no control over it at all. Suddenly, you've got no data, you've got no information that you require to keep your systems moving.

GEORGE: Yeah, and I think there's a special place in hell for agency owners that set up your accounts on their business – their own Google accounts, their own Facebook business managers, and they run your ads or keep your data and your accounts hostage. And so, you walk away with nothing. And that's a real thing. I couldn't believe that was a real thing, but that's actually a real thing.

ROSS: Yeah, I've seen it on multiple levels, and the same sort of thing. Not just Facebook marketing, but in other areas of marketing, where they just keep everything and keep it hostage until either you pay them what they want to get paid, or they just take it and go.

GEORGE: Crazy stuff, right? So, Ross, I mean, it's, I feel it's always the lame question, right? But it's such a topic that, you know, you've got such an extensive knowledge on all this, and I just want to make sure I get all the information from you. Is there something I should be asking you that I haven't asked yet?

ROSS: No, I think sort of the next thing for us will be our ongoing marketing campaigns and planning out our year. Month by month by month, week by week by week by week, when we have to have our marketing running by, when we're having our campaigns and how we're planning those little bits. Sounds funny, but the artwork and the copy, once you've got it right, it's easy.

The planning and execution of when you need to execute it at the right time, because you can always put out an ad, and whether that ad is actually beneficial for the timing is the issue. So, if you run it, run your Christmas special in August, it's not going to work. But if you run your Christmas Special, four weeks, six weeks out from Christmas, you've got a bit of lead time up and you've got the groundswell hit just before Christmas, it's perfect timing.

Same with your February fitness or your New Year's resolution stuff. If you're trying to do that, July, it doesn't work, you know, everyone's hunkering down for the winter and they're not thinking about getting out and moving and doing all those bits and pieces.

So, timing is the important part for your marketing, understanding your market, understanding when you have to hit the go button. And then having a process from that, that says, I need my artwork ready by this date. I need my wording by this date, I need to have my flyers printed on this day. I need them distributed by hand by here to be able to get the result I want on this date.

So, all that sounds, and it sounds very easy. But you've got to have the systems in place to make it happen, because if you don't have the systems in place, you just won't do it.

GEORGE: Yeah, totally. I want to ask you, just because you touched on design, how important do you feel is the design from top-level through to your social media? And how do you combine it?

ROSS: So, design's really important. So, I go down to, and this is a bit old, I don't have business cards anymore, but it used to go down to how the business card felt in your hand – the paper, the weight, the gloss, if it was embossed or not. So, your design and everything being the same image, the same look, the same feel is so important.

Because if you haven't got an even playing field when it comes to that, and you drop the ball on an ad that doesn't look anything like what you actually do? And I see it quite a bit in, well, the classic is you see ads out there that don't have their phone number, or their email address, or… there was a fight show here in Queensland that wrapped up a whole bus with just their name and all the rest of it, and didn't have a website, didn't have a phone number, didn't have when the event was, no details on the bus.

The bus drove around for about eight weeks before the fight show with no real marketing material on. So, it's that, little things. I'm quite lucky I have a graphic designer that I use in Japan. He's been a student of mine for many years, and he always looks at the little things and goes, “Oh, you've missed out your phone number here,” or, “You can't notice where your address is,” or… And everything you do, say, leaving off your website on a flyer.

GEORGE: Yeah, we were just chatting about this on the coaching call, Partners coaching call yesterday. But I think what, just to add to that, things that are so important, we were talking about timing, you know, your frame. We always say change the frame, you know, don't necessarily have to change your offer, just change the frame – that your frame is relevant.

You know, what is the talk? What are people talking about right now? Is it Mother’s Day, Easter, etc.? And then one of the mistakes we always see on any ad or any promotion is no call-to-action. It's like, here's the ad, but like, what the hell do I do to get this thing?

And then, just lastly, the wrong call-to-action on the wrong platform, because if you've got this super spanky flyer, that's really great when you hold it in your hand, and it's got a phone number. But when you see it on social media, you look at the phone number. If I'm on my phone, I can't click it. I can't type. I can't write it down. There's nothing I can do. So, it goes into the “I'll check it out later” basket, which means there goes your lead.

ROSS: Yep, exactly. On social media, you've got to have your links on your email address, on your email campaigns, have your links to things. Big mistake, I see it all the time, and not just martial arts businesses, you see it by some big businesses doing, making huge mistakes.

GEORGE: And so, just what Ross was mentioning on branding, I think what's important here – just to add on that aspect – if you're running campaigns back to back, and you have a brand identity and people can see, can you see this… I always look at Apple, you know. You don't have to know, you don't have to see an Apple logo to know it's Apple. It's just got this; the colors and the design speak for itself.

If people are seeing your ads all the time, you know, and they might not respond to this month's campaign, next month, the third month. But if you've got a design and a concept that people resonate with, and they see – when they're ready, whenever that is and they see your ad, there's a bit of a trust factor that's been built, just because they're familiar, the familiarity of your brand. So yeah, definitely important to keep that congruent from top down.

ROSS: Yeah, the classic with that is Coca Cola. You know, they don't have to change a lot, but they still have to market. So, yeah, you know what, you know what's a Coca Cola brand. You know, what's – the colors, the look, the flow. But, yeah.

GEORGE: So, Ross, what's next? 

ROSS: What's next? 

GEORGE: What's next for Ross and Fightcross? 

ROSS: So, for the next 12 months, it's consolidation. We're aiming to have somewhere between 500 and 1000 members of the facility here. And then I'm looking to purchase some more buildings and expand. So, that's the plan. 

GEORGE: Now, if you don't mind sharing, wrapping some numbers around this, what budget do you set aside? I mean, what budget did you set aside for your current location and when people see the video, they'll get a good aspect of what it's about, and how would you be budgeting for the next round? 

ROSS: So, I've spent, and fitout-wise, I've spent about $250,000 in fitout. So, it's not a cheap fitout. 

GEORGE: So, everyone will see why. Yep, yeah.

ROSS: Yeah. And it's what you're trying to achieve with your building and your fitout, like I say, even down to choosing the mats. I chose the Firmimats, and I chose the traditional Tammy Green matte finish, and all the rest of it, for the right look. So, I've spent extra dollars to make sure I got the right look and the right feel, because it's so important. 

GEORGE: Epic! Well, Ross, great catching up again, and would love to catch up again when, yeah, maybe not in the next location, but just in between and just chat about your experience with running the business and how things are going. Any last words? How can people find out more about you? We haven't even spoken about the events and things that you run. But where can people find out more about you?

ROSS: I'm all over social media so ‘Ross Cameron MMA' on Instagram, ‘Fightcross Ross Cameron' on Facebook, Aftershock, lockdown, hammer fight nights. They're there. They're all over social media. So, at one stage I did a lot of social media work. 

GEORGE: That's cool. Awesome. Great. Thanks so much. I'll speak to you soon. 

ROSS: No worries, yes!

 

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119 – How To Run 70 Martial Arts Classes Per Week And Only Teach 6

Brett Fenton recently got married, went on 2 honeymoon vacations, and returned to his martial arts school with more students signed up. We discussed the ‘Instructor Team Blueprint’ that made this possible.

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IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Creating a value-based culture in your martial arts school
  • How to build an instructor team that runs like clockwork without you
  • The method to spot and develop high-potential instructors
  • Why investing in instructor training helps ensure your school's success
  • Do this when instructors clash with your culture 
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

To create a team that can also be exciting and informative and follow your values and your culture onto that mat space is so important, because then you can be your best as well, not just on the floor but off the floor, where you can problem-solve for parents and students off the mat, because that's just as important as what they're learning on the mat. The moment I switched over to that way of thinking, it all started to change.

GEORGE: Good day. George here. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media Business Podcast. Today I've got a repeat guest with me. Really happy to have Brett Fenton back. Good day, Brett.

BRETT: Hey, George. Good to be back on the podcast again.

GEORGE: The last time we spoke, things were different, right? We were just lockdowns moving in and out, and we were talking about virtual gradings, a few epic things of what you're doing. If anybody wants to backtrack on that, Episode 98, but today I want to talk about something else. 

I chat to Brett every week in our Partners group, in our coaching calls, and Brett's always got a ton of value to share. One thing that's come up is Brett runs about 70 classes per week at Red Dragon Martial Arts, and is only teaching six.

I want to get down to the number one question school owners always ask me is, “How do we get more instructors? How do we go about that process?” I want to, on your behalf, pick Brett's brain today and just get all the insights on how that's going about. 

Brett, just a quick intro for those that haven't listened to the previous podcasts. Just give a quick roundup on your background, where you're based, what you guys do and so forth.

Brett Fenton

BRETT: Absolutely, George. I've been doing martial arts pretty much all my life, but I got really serious in my late teens. Got started doing Wing Chun Kung Fu, Jow Ga Kung Fu and some Tai Chi, and started teaching classes. As I think most of us do, it's just you're the standout student in the class and so you get thrown up at the front to run warm-ups, and then all of a sudden you're good at that, so then you start teaching classes.

I was doing that in the early '90s, had my first school in '94, and then I started Red Dragon Martial Arts in '97. We're about to hit 24 years of running classes. That's changed, obviously, from the small community hall where we had 20 students to now we're over 400 students. We only had two classes a week. Now we have 70 classes a week, and we have two training rooms, a gym, a full-time professional facility, and an instructor team of over 20.

Yeah, as you said, I only run six of those classes at best on any given week. I love running classes. I love teaching classes. I teach probably more private lessons than I teach classes. I'll probably do between 10 and 20 private lessons a week. That's where I try to add more value to our teaching staff, I suppose, in that element. I'm teaching the instructors or our elite athletes.

Yeah, it's about I was that instructor that basically taught classes for free, was pulled off the bench for no reason other than I was good, and I wanted to come up with a better way of doing it. I've been lucky enough over the last few years to hang out and pick the brains of some of the best people in the world, like Dave Kovar, Roland Osborne, those kinds of guys, and just learn as much as I can. Fred DePalma is another one.

They're my mentors, and this is my variation and version of that that works well in my school, so yeah. That's what we're going to probably chat about today.

GEORGE: Yeah, perfect. You've implemented that really well, just by your lifestyle. I mean, let's talk about that, right, because a couple of months ago you got married. Congratulations.

BRETT: Thank you.

GEORGE: You were able to completely switch off, completely switch off, and go on a honeymoon. I think you had two honeymoons, didn't you?

BRETT: Well, we'll get to that. Yes.

GEORGE: Right. For the purpose of this, you were able to take a break, leave things over to your team, go on a holiday, get back with a school that has grown and retained its students. How do you go about that? Where do you start going from, it's a one-man show, and obviously you grow a team, but you could actually have the confidence and faith in your team that you can take that complete step back?

BRETT: Absolutely. I still remember. It doesn't happen as much these days, but up until 10 years ago, I couldn't even leave the floor without the parents going, “Oh, the class doesn't run as well without you. You're the superstar instructor. We are paying for you.”

I think all instructors, particularly school owners, feel that pain, that they can't even have a day off. They come in sick, eyes hanging out of their head. They're exhausted.

My retort, I suppose, to customers and parents alike, would be to say to them, “If I teach less classes, when I'm on that floor, I'm fresh. I'm invigorated. I'm excited. I love being there.” If I'm on there for …

I was teaching 40 classes a week at one stage 10 years ago, just because I needed to be on the floor and I didn't have a team that was capable without me, but there were days where I wasn't a great instructor. I was cranky. I was exhausted. I was burnt out. They're not getting the best of you when you like that.

To create a team that can also be exciting and informative and follow your values and your culture onto that mat space is so important, because then you can be your best as well, not just on the floor but off the floor, where you can problem-solve for parents and students off the mat, because that's just as important as what they're learning on the mat. The moment I switched over to that way of thinking, it all started to change.

Yeah, as you said, I just got married about three months ago. We went to Tasmania, spent two weeks in isolation with no reception. Everything went smoothly, came back, was back for about two weeks, and then I took my wife away for her 50th birthday in the Whitsundays on our yacht, and we didn't have any reception there either for a week.

Loved the ability to do that, and know that my team is looking after their baby as much as it is my baby, because they love the place. They're invested in it. They've grown up there. It's really important to know who to pick when it comes to that, so that you have that peace of mind when you go away and have some days off, let alone if you're sick or unwell.

Because I see too many martial arts schools out there closing their doors for the day because the instructor's sick, and you just can't do that and be professional at the same time.

GEORGE: Yeah, cool. I liked what you said, that they take care of their baby as much as yours. Before we get into the biggest obstacles and how school owners have got to make this transition, I'd like to talk about culture. How did you install that culture? 

Before we get to that, we've got a really great download for you, for something that's going to really help you on choosing the right instructor, what ethics and characteristics you've really got to look out for. I'll mention how you can grab that, but let's chat about culture. How did you go about installing that culture within your team?

BRETT: No worries. A number of years back, we actually went through a bit of a slump with our culture. Had a few changes, a few instructors left, and it happened. In business for 25 years, there are going to be shifts in culture, particularly when I change direction and I see a way of changing. It's always going to happen, and we've had that happen probably five different times over 25 years.

It can be just as simple as we're adding a new program, or we decided we want to go from being a small-town community hall to having our own facility. There were people that didn't like that idea. They thought that, no, that's not martial arts. Then going from that to having multiple rooms with air conditioning, that's like, “Well, now that's not martial arts.” To some of your instructors, that's like you're turning into a gym.

We had a lot of obstacles to overcome, to keep growing and going in the direction that I thought that the school needed to go in, but also where I thought the majority of my students deserve to have their school go in. I'm always looking out for them to have the best facilities, the best instruction that they can have, but that doesn't come without its challenges.

Basically, we sat down with an expert that is an expert in culture, and I'm lucky enough that my wife's also a culture manager. She works in the culture industry in her business. She, along with one of my best friends, Matt … he lives in Canberra and he's big on culture there … they came together and we created these value systems for our school, that are unbreakable rules that we run our business by and run our school by.

Then they were up on the wall in massive posters, so things like we believe … and they're all belief statements. “We believe that everybody has the opportunity to become a black belt, not just the athletes,” so things like that. “We believe that nobody should blow another person's candle out.” 

We have all these belief systems, and they're everywhere throughout our school. That tells everyone, “This is what we believe in.” I'm also a massive Simon Sinek fan, and he's obviously worldwide. He gets brought into businesses to help with culture. I've listened to all of his podcasts, his interviews, his books, his TED Talks, you name it.

For me, culture is the number one thing as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't matter what you teach. It doesn't matter if you're doing martial arts, gymnastics, or dance. I don't care. If your culture is not right, you'll never grow and you'll never have harmony inside there, and you'll never have a day off because you'll be having to micromanage your team all the time.

I don't micromanage my team. I actually sit in this office, where I am now. I spend most of my time in this office, even when the classes are running, and I pop out, just have chats to the parents if I get a message on my watch or my phone.

I don't teach classes. I've got cameras right above me, where I am right now. There's 12 cameras. I can look up there and see how it's all going if I really want to, but at the end of the day, I trust my team.

They are well-trained. We do monthly training sessions where we go through any of the issues we had during the last month. We've noted it all, we fix it all and we move on.

We listen to our feedback from our students and our parents, so yeah, it's all important. It's an ongoing process that doesn't happen overnight, but yeah, it has to happen.

GEORGE: All right, perfect. You're installing the beliefs. That's very known amongst the culture within the students, so that helps. Now, how does this transition over when you start trying to spot the talent and seeing, all right, well, who's the next instructor? How does it go from being a student to transitioning someone and inviting them to become an instructor?

Martial Arts Instructor

BRETT: Very important, George, in the fact that I think we already do it the day we have people come in and do a trial class. We're very big on not just accepting everybody as a student. They have to have pretty much the same, I suppose, values that we have anyway. It doesn't matter.

If you come in and you go, “Oh, I'm a 10-time world champion,” and you've got a bad attitude, I'm probably not going to accept you as a student. I'll go, “Mate, just go down the road, or go to the AIS or wherever you need to go to feed that ego.”

I'm looking for people that are like-minded to us, have the same values or want the same values, and want to train hard. They want to enjoy their training. They want to be nice to everybody. They're not there for their own selfish reasons all the time. It's pretty much from the day they walk in for their trial. We're almost pre-editing the instructor team by that.

Then that leads us down the path to maybe a month or two in and we see people that are training really hard, everybody gravitates towards them, their personality is infectious, and that's a big thing. My instructor team, it's always on personality first, and then skill and talent is way, way down the track, because you can't teach personality. You literally can get someone who's very technical and very skilled and can put an entire class to sleep, because they get down that rabbit hole of technical stuff.

You get someone who's personable, who's what we like to call Disney, so they're very exciting. Everybody loves to be around them. They can teach people opening letters and that would be an exciting class. It doesn't matter what they're teaching, which makes it easy because you can get them when they're only six to twelve months down the track, teaching how to kick something or how to punch something, or how to hold a kick shield or how to do one technique, but the way they teach it will be amazing.

That's our number one, I suppose, way of wading through all of the student body to find the diamonds in the rough. We do that from personality first, and then we teach them the skills, not just the martial art skills but the teaching skills, which is so important, how to pass on your knowledge.

GEORGE: Why Disney?

BRETT: I think Disney has been doing it for nearly a hundred years, and they've always improved on what they've done. In the industry all over the world, managers and business owners from all over the world actually go to Disney's, their college, where they learn how to do staff management, how they get to present and perform at an elite level. I often say to our instructors that when we're out there teaching, we're not just passing on knowledge. Every parent and every kid that's watching us, we're performing at the same time. How we perform in front of them will keep them engaged.

I think back to when I was in school. The number-ones, the teachers that always got the information across to me best, were the ones that engaged me very well. We want our instructors to be very engaging, very likable and very knowledgeable, obviously.

We have to make sure that we start with them being likable, because nobody's going to listen to them if they're not. They're just going to switch off. It doesn't matter how skilled they are. Yeah, Disney does it best, I think, and they still do it to this day, running a course on that, so very, very useful to learn.

GEORGE: All right, perfect. We're about to go with this. I want to make this episode super practical. Now, full disclosure, Brett and I worked together on a course. It's called The Instructor Team Blueprint. I'll talk more about that, but really what I want to do in this episode is I want to extract some things from the course that were really useful, but I think that can make the most impact from the get-go.

I think the number one question that always comes up in our group is how do you go about finding the right instructors or inviting them, how does that process go. I want to dive a bit more into that.

Then as a gift with this episode, if you download the actual transcript, we'll include the Character Traits to Clarify, which is basically a list of what character traits you're looking for and how you go about finding that in the instructor that you want. To bring that back to here, let's talk about spotting the talent.

You mentioned you plant the seed from the get-go. How does it go from there? How do you get people on board your team and take it from there?

BRETT: No worries, George. First thing is obviously, spotting the talent, to go up to them and say, “You're really skilled at this skill. You'd make a really good instructor one day.” If you see them naturally just going over and helping other people, that's a very key indicator, but just by someone who's at the school, they don't miss classes. When they grade, they grade at a really high level. They're highly personable, so they're that Disney.

Once you start to see that, that's when you can approach them and say, “Listen, I think further down the track, you'd become a really good instructor. Have you ever thought about becoming one?”

If they say, “No, I hadn't, but that's pretty cool,” you go, “Well, we do instructor training once a month. You're more than welcome to come along and have a look at it and see if you enjoy it. If you do, you can come to that until such time as you feel that you're confident enough to start helping us out,” and then just giving them small roles as they go. It might be, “Do you want to come in once a week and help with our three-to-six-year-old class,” or our seven-to-12-year-old class or our adult class, whichever one they like.

Then from there, it just grows. It's, again, growing their ability to stand in front of an audience, their ability to have confidence in their knowledge. Because even though they may present really well in a grading, when they come to teach somebody else, they may find that they get too nervous, they can't talk.

We need to teach them the skills of doing that. We do mock classes when we do our instructor training to help people get through their anxiety when it comes to teaching, if they struggle. A lot of our instructors, funnily enough, have a lot of anxiety, and this is one of the best things for them, because they learn to cope with their anxiety.

They learn the tools to use, whether it's the breathing tools, mindset drills, things like that. It just makes them even better martial artists, because now they're not worried all the time. They can stand up in front of an audience, be in class, and present. They take that out into the real world as well, and it makes them better out there, whether they're working or just in their personal life.

GEORGE: All right. Just backtracking, you've invited them, they come to instructor training. How does it progress from that point?

BRETT: With our adults, they'll just basically go up into our advanced rank. When they get to an advanced rank, they can start assisting in classes if they've been doing the instructor training. Because we don't want anyone assisting until they've been through our instructor training, because they don't know the correct language to use. They don't know the correct way to correct. 

They might just go up to a kid and just go, “That's terrible, fix it.” That could be the day that that poor kid's come in and he's having a hard day as it is. Then you've had this assistant come in for his very first class, has no idea what your culture is on the floor when it comes to teaching, and that kid's now, “I don't want to train anymore,” and he leaves. You can lose students quickly that way.

We want to make sure that all of our assistant instructors know what to say, how to say it. They are empathetic as well as being personable. For our junior instructors, we have what we call Black Belt Club. They go into that after they get to an intermediate belt.

That means that they can come out and they can show other kids how to do things like push-ups, how they can hold pads and kick shields. They can direct them. They can help set up the floor, but again, they still come to our instructor training, because we don't want them, again, using the wrong terminology, using the wrong communication skills.

We can have 10-year-olds out there doing that. We have some really good 8-to-10-year-olds that will help. They'll be partners in our jiu jitsu program, where it's so hard for a three-to-six-year-old sometimes to partner up with another kid, because they just don't understand roleplaying and taking turns. We usually put them with one of our juniors and they do the techniques on them, and then that makes it a lot easier. You get through a class a lot faster and at a higher level.

Then once they've been doing that up to about the age of 14, we then put them into our junior instructor program. That will be, like say in our Kung Fu, it would be our SWAT team. In our Extreme, it's our X team. In our jiu jitsu, it's our Sub Club, so we have a variety of different levels.

Then that means that they can actually take a group on their own, so they have a group of kids. Usually when they first start, it will be the white belts, because they're easy to teach. They're keen for knowledge. They look up to these kids, and basically build their skills out on the floor while they're still doing their instructor training every month.

Once we get up to an adult, they can then go up to Senior Instructor level. Whether they're being paid or not, it's up to them. If they are being paid, though, we don't start them until they're 14 years of age. They must be volunteering first, to basically make sure that they are part of our culture on the floor as an instructor, not just there for the money.

GEORGE: Yeah, cool. Funny enough, we just spoke a bit about this on our Partners Power Hour call earlier, but let's talk about money and compensation, because that's another question that comes up. How do you compensate instructors? When do you start paying, when do you not pay, or is it different for everyone? How do you go about that? Obviously, taking into consideration we've got an international audience, so we'll leave the Australia terms out, but just in a general concept.

Martial Arts Instructor

BRETT: It depends on the student. It's, again, coming down to knowing what your student's goals are. Why are they teaching, at the end of the day? For some of our instructors, they've been teaching for 10 years. They don't want a dime. They actually find it insulting. It's an insult if they get paid, because we can't actually pay them what they're worth. If I've got a lawyer who wants to teach class, I can't pay him $200 an hour to teach my class. He's not going to give up his job. He just loves doing it, because it makes him feel valued.

There's a lot of value in contributing back into the school as an instructor. I did it for a good 15 years before even seeing a dime, but I love it. It was my apprenticeship, I always call it, in instructing. For some people, that's all they want, and they'll teach one class, maybe two classes a week. There's no expectation for them to teach, but they love it and they do it. Sometimes it's for decades.

Then you've got the instructors that go, “You know what, I'd rather do this than do a normal job. I don't want to do a normal job. I want to do this.” Whether they're coming out of high school, they're in their late teens, and they go, “I want to do this,” then we talk about them going down that pathway of becoming a qualified instructor, being paid. 

I've got one instructor that's been here for 10 years, and he's been paid more in the last 10 years than any of our other instructors, just because he is a superstar. He could ask me to go anywhere all over the world, back when we could fly places. I'd go, “Sure, just make sure you get back here in a couple of weeks.” He's that valuable.

Then I've got instructors that were six-year-olds that are now 20-year-olds and they don't want to have a normal job, so they're getting paid as well. It really depends on what their goals are and where they see their future. If they just want to teach one class a week or two classes a week, and they love teaching and they don't want to be remunerated, that's fine, we don't pay them, but we give them so many other bonuses. We give them stuff, like they get uniforms, they get gifts all the time. 

If I think they deserve something, I'll take them out to dinner, you name it. We just make sure that they feel special. It's one of those things. They need to feel valued, more so than the financial side of it. That's why a lot of people volunteer in the first place, it's that value that they feel for their contribution. We don't want to undermine that.

GEORGE: Perfect. Sometimes paid, sometimes not, just depends on the person. We were discussing, as you mentioned as well, it's important that you can't pay a lawyer $200 an hour, type of thing. You've got to have the balance. Obviously, if you've got to pay someone, that you pay them something that's valued, but also not an insult. For those people, it might be better for them to have the social norm of just being able to contribute and be valued in a different way.

BRETT: Absolutely. They may also get paid really well in their job, but where they are, they don't have that esteem. They're not put up on a pedestal. They might be like a mechanic, who earns 50 bucks an hour but nobody even talks to him. Then all of a sudden he's out on the floor and he's a black belt, and everybody is listening to every word that he says. You can't buy that. 

That's just pure pride that he loves, and you couldn't pay him for it. Think about it. Most of our instructors paid to be in that position. They paid fees to get to that position, like I did when I was training. Yeah, we just want to make sure that they feel valued and that we appreciate everything they do, and that they are held in esteem with their student base.

GEORGE: Just interesting, let's flip the tables quickly. What happens when it goes not to plan and you get the instructor that is not aligned with the beliefs, or they were aligned with the beliefs but the ego is growing with the position, or they're just getting off track or something happens in their life and it derails them, and they start to separate the alignment where you and the club are going versus on their journey? How do you deal with that type of conflict?

BRETT: Oh, there's obviously a number of ways that people do deal with it. Like a lot of school owners, I'm sure that I've had it happen to me so many times over the years. It just becomes part and parcel. Students leave, instructors leave. It's just what happens. There's a few ways you can deal with it. You can be obviously nasty about it and just kick them out. You can force them out by taking away their shifts or whatever, or you can just have someone come in and take over their class.

I like to do it from another way and go, “Okay, what do I need to do? Obviously I don't want you here, because you're not good for our culture.” I can either get them to come back on board with our culture, which is Plan A. Plan B is to then go, “How can I help you to go out and do your own thing?” 

Whether that's going and teaching for somebody else, because it usually is only around the instructor that has their own opinions on how it should happen. They're not in line with my opinions or the school owner's opinions. Then there's going to be that fraction happening inside the classes all the time.

That person probably needs to go and run their own school. Then you go down the pathway of, okay, “Well, which way would you like to do it? Would you like to do it with my support? Would you like to do it as our branding, without our branding, or do you just want to just go and do your own thing?” You give them some avenues to go down. 

We've had ones that have gone just down their own way and not wanted any help whatsoever. We've had some that have gone with help. Yeah, at the end of the day, you're looking at their future still, like you would any other instructor. If it doesn't align with the direction we're going in, that's okay, because we can't all go down the same path.

We want to try and make it as amiable as possible. I don't want to have them out there being competition, as they say. I'd like them to be on the same page as us and looking out for each other. I'm still great friends with all my instructors of 30-plus years. I had to do the same thing at some stage to them. I had to go out on my own, but I did it respectfully, because I saw a different pathway that I wanted to go down. I was respectful, and I'm still in contact with them and I still train with them, and I still get them to come in and guest-instruct and all that stuff happens.

Yeah, it's understanding where you've come from and then understanding where you want to go. I understand that from my perspective and their perspective. I think that takes a little bit of empathy, to understand it from the other person's perspective. It's not the wrong thing to do, they've just got a different direction they want to go in, and so we help them.

GEORGE: Yeah, totally. Because that is a concern that a lot of school owners mention, if you don't want to get someone on board, you make them the star of the school, and they decide they're too entrepreneurial and they want to open up their own school. The intention was just to grab what they can, and they make a run for it. What you're saying is you're just approaching that with a bit more of an empathetic approach, and you want to make sure you instill those values and that there is an open path that people can leave.

Brett Fenton

BRETT: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, because I've been down the pathway. I've had instructors just leave and not tell me, and then go and open up in opposition. I think as long-term instructors, we've all had that happen. That's just because we didn't read the warning signs early enough. That's part of growing. 

We often talk about in the industry, if you get a black belt, it doesn't mean to say you're an instructor. Then after you've been instructing for say a good 10 years, you'd probably have been a black belt instructor if you'd been doing it properly. Then after you've owned your school probably for 20 years, maybe now you're a black belt school owner.

You try to look at it in that vein, that you've got to be improving your skills as an instructor, but then also as a school owner and then as a business owner. They're all skills that you need to be growing. Part of growing as a business owner is understanding that your staff will want to leave at some stage, like students want to leave, and that you've got to find an amicable way of making that happen, so that if they need to come back to you for help later on, there's a doorway for them to come through. 

Because if they leave under bad terms, then they don't feel like there is a doorway, or there usually isn't because it's not amicable. I've been down that path many times, and would have preferred it not to be that way, but these days I'm a lot better on that. That just comes from experience. The only true way of getting it is to go through it.

GEORGE: Exactly, yeah. I like Ross Cameron‘s philosophy. He calls it the bus, you know. Everyone's on the bus, they get on the bus, and sometimes they jump off the bus. You help them get from one place to the next. It's their time to hop off the bus and go do their own thing.

BRETT: Yep. You can't get upset about it. You helped them in their journey to where they got to. The fact that people will stay for 5, 10, 15, 20 years is crazy, that they want to stay that long. That means you've done something right.

Rather than looking at it from the point of what I did wrong for them to leave, you've got to look at it from the perspective of that you did something right for a very long period of time, and then learned from it. That's what we're always trying to do. I'm definitely trying to do that all the time. Perfect at it, not, but I'm always trying to improve the way I do it.

GEORGE: Awesome. We wanted to include a couple of things and resources you could use from this episode. If you go to the website, if you're listening to this, martialartsmedia.com/119. That's where all the resources for this episode are going to look.

As I mentioned earlier, Brett and I, we spent some time, and my job was to extract everything out of Brett's mind and help him put together a program that covers the Instructor Team Blueprint in six steps.

We've gone from the team skill plan, how to assess how many instructors you're going to need and fulfilling those positions, spotting the right talent, systemizing the training accordingly, running the instructor training boot camp, how to do that, rewards and recognition, payments and a whole bunch of other things. From what we just discussed … and, Brett, I'm about to put you on the spot here, forgive me.

BRETT: That's okay.

GEORGE: When you download the transcript of this podcast, we've included the Character Trait Clarifier. It's basically a list of what you're looking for as in work ethic, popularity, their passion, communication, leadership skills. Just going through a process of how to basically score people, score your students, and see if they've got the right attributes and right values and the right character traits to become an instructor.

Putting you on the spot, Brett, just talking, it reminded me of how people find it hard to get people to transition from student to instructor and how that process goes. You've got something called the Instructor Letter of Offer.

BRETT: Yep.

GEORGE: Do you mind telling us about that? Then I'm going to ask if you wouldn't mind including it.

BRETT: Okay. No worries. Absolutely. I can definitely include that. I'll send it through to you. It basically is a formal letter that we would send out to an instructor that's maybe even been doing the instructor training. They've come in, maybe done one session, and we've gone, “You know what? We think that they would be the right fit.”

It can be a teenager, it can be an adult, it doesn't matter. It can be even a kid, if you really want to start your junior instructor team that way.

Just the formal part of it just states everything that you expect of them, that you've found that they would be the right fit, that they have the necessary skills as far as their personality goes and they fit the culture. It's really important that they understand what they're in for, that it's an important role, that's it's not just being plucked off the floor and put up on the front of the class, which obviously, we still do that to this day. We have instructors, but we don't pick on anyone that doesn't do instructor training, but you have to start somewhere.

I remember getting plucked off and just put on the front of the stage and, “Here you go, run a warm-up.” There's a better way to do it. During class, walk around, find the right people. Find if they're interested, invite them to the first session. If after that they seem interested, they do a really good job, then you can send them the offer to join our instructor training squad and go from there. You can have levels of that.

You can write the letter for, “We'd like you to become a junior instructor,” or we'd like you to become an assistant instructor, a senior instructor. You can basically format it to suit whatever your needs are.

Just the sheer fact of getting something in the post that's formally saying that we want you in our team, that's a pretty proud moment for most people. Rather than just coming up and slapping them on the back and going, “Hey, you want to be an instructor?” It's a big difference in the mindset then. It just shows how much we think about these things. It's professional.

GEORGE: Perfect. All right. Thanks for that. We'll include that with the transcript, and as a bonus, what we'll extract is just, with the Character Trait Clarifier, there's a snippet in Module 2 of how we went about that and how you go about working with that. I'll get our video editor to just edit, give you that snippet so that you know how to work through the worksheet and you know how to go through the PDF.

Other than that, Brett, thanks so much. I mean, if you've got anything to add about the Instructor Team Blueprint.

Instructor team blueprint

Just for reference, if you want to grab the course, you can go to martialartsmedia.com/courses and just look for The Instructor Team Blueprint. It's up there. It's really a good value for the amount of knowledge and work that's gone into it. Yeah, it's a really good value. Brett, have you got anything to add on that, about the program?

BRETT: I think that I wish it would have been around 20-something years ago when I was first teaching classes, and I had to travel all over the world to do that and then bring instructors from overseas to here. It's just been one of those things, that I know all of us long-term school owners wish we had more information back when we did, but now we do.

It's just a combination of 25, 30 years of teaching and all the things that I did incorrectly and correctly, fined-tuned into a nice, easy-to-learn-and-use course that I think would suit anybody that's trying to grow their school and not want to be at their school 24/7, teaching every single class 'til they're 85.

I don't want to retire. This is my retirement. When I'm at my school, I like being here, but I would hate to think that I'd be like my instructor, who is in his seventies, and if he's not at the school, it's closed. I don't want to be that. I want to be able to take time off. I want to be able to be unwell and not have to get up and go to my class and teach. Thank God I didn't have to worry about COVID.

Even to the point where my team is so proficient that when we did lockdown last week, I taught no classes. They were so good. They teach it all. It was amazing. I just go here. There's Zoom, off you go.

They just report back to me how it went, so it's perfect. It allows you to have a life. It allows you to have your family. It allows you to do other things, and it allows you to really enjoy your martial arts again and enjoy your school, rather than being stressed out about it all the time. Yeah, it costs you a bit of money to pay a really good team, but it's worth it in the long run, for sure.

GEORGE: Awesome. Cool, Brett. Thanks so much. Great having you back on again, and we'll chat again next week.

BRETT: See you soon, absolutely.

 

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***NEW*** Now available on Spotify!

115 – Kevin Blundell – The Strategic Mindset Behind Running 23 Successful Martial Arts Schools

In this exclusive live recording from a recent Partner’s Intensive, Kevin Blundell from Kumiai Ryu Martial Arts System, shared some of the deeper details responsible for his martial arts business success.

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IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Scaling your martial arts schools from 1 – 23 locations
  • Becoming the ‘go to’ martial arts school in a small community
  • What can martial arts schools model from country clubs?
  • Strategies to replicate your skills amongst your staff
  • The science of an effective staff training program
  • Investing in your instructors with a salary scale
  • Attracting students into your leadership program
  • How to keep the quality across multiple martial arts locations
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

The way we structure everything is customer service and what the customer wants. So, first of all, we're providing a martial arts experience, and each person's experience will be different. So, you need to tailor each program you have around that. So, if it’s your kids program, you need to have the parents on board. If you have someone who wants to be a competitor or become a combat sports athlete, we need to have that program detail. If you're someone who just wants to come in and do some training. So, we're offering a martial arts experience, but the key point is clear and concise customer service.

GEORGE: Hey, there! George Fourie here. Welcome to the Martial Arts Media business podcast. We are on Episode 115. And, a bit of a different structure of a podcast for you, but great guests and some great content. So, why the different structure? Over the weekend, we ran our Partners Intensive event – it was a school owner’s event for martial arts school owners all around the world, who are clients of ours. 

So, it wasn't an open event, although we did hand out a few invitations to a few lucky school owners who joined us and got some great value out of the weekend as well. So, ran the event online, which, look, this is the cool part about online, is we have school owners from the United States, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand, right? Five different countries all around the globe, and this made for really great mastermind sessions, great conversations between school owners, and it was an epic event. So, really thankful for the weekend, and everybody that attended.  

So, one of my guests, Kevin Blundell, was on previous podcast episode 20, you can have a listen to that, and so I invited Kevin along for round two. And the event was coming up and I said, “Look, why don't we actually just have you at the event, and we can run the podcast as a podcast interview, but more importantly, we can have our guests ask you questions?” And that really changed the flavor of the podcast, great questions about scaling with multiple schools, how to structure the business, how to pay staff, how to do your staff training, etc. So, real good value. 

Kevin Blundell is from Kumiai Ryu Martial Arts Systems, and I might just mix up the numbers, but it's 23 locations, I believe? About half of them are full time and they're approaching just about 2000 students. So, a really successful school owner and just a wealth of knowledge and just a really wonderful human being. Really generous in everything that he shared, so, you're going to get a lot of value out of this. 

Now, there's one snag out of this interview. As luck would have it, I've just moved offices. So, if you look at this, and it looks a bit crazy, it's like day one in my new office, so please don't judge from stuff all around the background—the office. It was my last weekend in my office in the city, and as luck would have it, the day that I ran the online event, the entire building's power went out. Luckily, I had a lot of backups, phone, internet, mobile, etc. 

So, we managed to pull through and five minutes before Kevin logged on, the entire building's power went out, so I thought I'd lost everyone at the event, but I managed to log back on Zoom and I walked around the office recording the podcast, muting in between, that you couldn't hear the fire alarms and things going off in the background, because of the power outage. But anyway, if you see a bit of craziness in the beginning just, yeah, look past that, look for the gold in this episode, because there's a lot of it. Anyway, here we go, enjoy the episode, I'll speak to you soon.  

GEORGE: Good day, Kevin!

KEVIN: Good morning. How are you?

GEORGE: I'm just on mobile right now. So, we got Amandeep in the UK, Ben and Cheyne from AKA, we got Lindsay, we got Karl. We got Kim and Richard from Canada, we got Matt from Victoria somewhere. Michael Scott and Peter from New South Wales, we got Grant from Polletts, we got Sam and Kylie, and we got Zak from Perth. And we're all excited to hear of you, and Kevin, when I said let's jump on, the entire whole building in Perth shut the power down. So, as you do. So, but we're ready for you, and so we're going to improvise. 

First up, Kevin, welcome. Thank you for joining us today. So, I don't have my notes in front of me, but what I can tell you is, Kevin is one of the most respected martial arts school owners that I personally know. We worked together quite some time ago, and we keep in touch every so often. I really love chatting to Kevin, hearing his perspective of how he views his organization. So, guys, you've got Kevin for about 50-60 minutes, I want you to make use of the time and ask as many questions as you want. But I'm going to lead a few things that we want to talk about – how Kevin views his organization, how he views delivering a world class experience to his students, and then for you guys looking at scaling to multiple locations, 23 locations, right, Kevin? 

KEVIN: Yeah. 

GEORGE: Yep. So, we can dive a bit deeper into the structure and how that's going. So, thanks for joining us, Kevin.

KEVIN: Thank you. Thanks for inviting me, George. 

GEORGE: Cool. So I guess just a little quick introduction, just a bit to fill in the gaps where I might have missed – just a bit more about you and Kumiai Ryu. 

KEVIN: Yes, sure. Well, we're based predominantly in New South Wales, Queensland and ACT. My background is I started studying martial arts in 1969. Boxing and judo, because karate was too deadly, and then went into karate, and kickboxing, Muay Thai, BJJ, the whole thing, along the way. And we just started our own organization in 1989, in Orange, and we just started a very small group of people, and we just slowly grew from there. 

Primarily, we grew organically, we didn't really have any master plan, I was working as a builder. And then I took up a government position with Fair Trading, and then senior building inspector. So, it was just pretty much what you would classify as just a hobby or part time enterprise on the side, with no real ambition until 2010, decided to go full time. Or from 2011, we went full time, and subsequently we've grown out to 23 locations, and just quite a few students across those locations. 

GEORGE: Right, perfect. So, now, I mean, going from the one to 23, there's obviously a lot of details and gaps in there. I guess going from, you know, from one to two, what are the core decisions that you made, that you felt, alright, this is this is a real business, this is a real thing. And how did you adjust your thinking and your strategy? 

KEVIN: Well, initially, I just wanted to, my background was used to just do the martial arts for enjoyment. I've been doing it all my life. My father was also a martial artist. And so I just sort of, you know, when I was a kid, I was training, and when I turned eight, we started training regularly and formally. 

So, it's just sort of, like, something I always did. I explored other sports, I used to race, motocross, and played most competitive sports at different stages and different levels. And then I just went into it, I liked the competition side – was very popular through the late 70s and 80s. And then I just was more like, it was just a social thing. Then I realized that, well, you know, I can spread the word a little bit further if we have more locations. So, like-minded people decided to join us. 

So, we didn't really have any structure or any format. It was like, I suppose we were just all sailing on the same lake, and we say, “Hey, let's sail together over there”. Yeah. So, it was pretty ad-hoc, no real structure. And, you know, we weren't looking to, you know, save the world or take over the world with martial arts. We were just enjoying what we do. Then we slowly developed from that point. And then I went, “Whoa, hang on, I better get this a little bit more formulated,” and so about 1990, I started to design things in a more corporate structure, and then it just sort of grew from there. 

When we went full time, well, that's when we blossomed out. So, other people would just be sort of like, I might use Brett as an example. I say, “Hey, what are you doing up there?” “We're doing this.” “Do you want to do something together here?” “Why not?” And that's, we sort of did it under the same umbrella, and then we grew from that point. So, that's how we sort of got. So, it was pretty much, you know, accidental, got to this point, really – was more purposeful from 2011 onwards, and our focus has been providing good service ever since. 

GEORGE: So, let's talk about that, Kevin, because we spoke a bit about it the other day and you were diving, really defining on the type of experience that you deliver and paying attention to finer details. And although you mentioned, you know, it's kind of flowed from there, but there's a lot in that, right? Because it's like you have organic growth – but it's very strategic in that way, because there are little things that are setting you apart from what everyone else is doing. You got to maybe dive a bit deeper into the type of experience and how you guys go about that? 

KEVIN: Yeah, sure. Well, if you need to have systems, we all know that. There's electronic systems and that, but the bottom line is, you need to view everything from the inside out. And the way we structure everything is customer service and what the customer wants. So, first of all, we provide a martial arts experience, and each person's experience will be different. So, you need to tailor each program you have around that. 

So, if it’s your kids' program, you need to have the parents on board. If you have someone who wants to be a competitor or become a combat sports athlete, we need to have that program detail. If you're someone who just wants to come in and do some training. So, we're offering a martial arts experience, but the key point is clear and concise customer service. So, you need to, you know, what we do is we have training for everything, we have every detail for every process, and all staff use the same process at all locations. 

GEORGE: And guys, just checking in, right? This is your opportunity to ask anything that is on your mind, or what you want to elaborate, Kevin to elaborate on. So, and just for some context, this was going to be a podcast interview, and we decided to schedule it this way so that you guys can get the benefit of having this type of interaction. So, yeah, please add to the questions. 

What would you say, you know, because you guys operate your main Port Macquarie location, pretty small town, although you have a thriving business there, and also what's probably a premium service, right? It's not the cheapest of the services. How do you frame that? And how do you position yourself in the market to stand out and where pricing is not as much as an issue for the services in the value that you deliver? 

KEVIN: Well, I think the most important thing is if you want to be paid as a professional, act like a professional. People aren't interested in how many belts you got, or what titles you won, and how many medals and trophies you got, and how many kilos that you've trained and all the rest of it. That went out in the 80s and, you know, along with mullets and Holden cars sadly. 

So, you need to reframe, and if you want to, you know, provide a professional customer service. Okay, I'll give you an example. Well gym, most people have heard of that, they'll come to a town, and they'll set up a franchise. They have a slick process where they locate the building, purchase the building, or lease the building, set up the building, pre-frame what they're going to do in the community, what services they're going to provide. 

Our most recent model, we put one new facility in Western Newcastle, we got a brand new building, we leased the building, my business, I'm a builder by trade, so I set that up using my skills, and we started right in the middle of COVID. Like, COVID was raging when we started in the first week of August last year, and we've moved to 95 current financial members with our minimum payment of $150 per month. 

So, it's about good leadership and determination, and having clear and concise systems in place that you follow. So, we don't get into anything other than making sure we provide the service that we say we're going to provide, and we have people trained to deliver that service. So, obviously, you need to have skilled martial artists teaching your class, and you need to have skilled people doing your administrative work out the front. Now, sure, we all start off. 

Like, I'm not too proud – I was doing the cleaning during COVID – and it was a real good leveler, bringing me back down to earth. But you know, it was an opportunity to really find everything we did, and reset and restructure. I understand some of you folk are still under strict lockdown around the world and that's terrible, but you know, there is light at the end of the tunnel, that's for sure. 

GEORGE: Okay, so guys, quick check in – what are you getting from this? If you can use the chat as a, every time you pick up something that's useful and that you can use, use the chat. That will give me good guidance, well, on where we can steer the conversation further. 

Alright, perfect. So, want to touch, and we can jump back onto this, but how do you go about structuring your organization? I think, actually, before I ask that – you mentioned something in our chat on Wednesday, I think it was – and we spoke about the way you view your organization. Can you elaborate a bit on that? And for a hint as well, talking about the whole country club type. 

KEVIN: Okay, sure. Well, I'm not saying anyone's not a professional, don't get me wrong. I'm just saying what we do and how we go about our business. So, initially, martial arts to me was a fun thing, as a kid. And then it was like, a cool thing to do as a competition and win trophies and have good fun doing it. Then it was like a hobby, and then it was a social thing, and then it was like, semi-professional business on the side. 

But I had to take responsibility and realize I'm running a corporation, it's a multimillion dollar corporation that has tentacles across 23 locations, and we're responsible for thousands of people's well-being and providing the service that we're going to do. So, you need to have a clear and concise structure. So, we have a corporate head office, which is also based here, Port Macquarie. 

And then each location, I own some, I half share in some, and the rest are all under license. You need to make it so the people who are under license are getting value for being part of your group and organization, and being well supported through that process. So, the overarching thing is, you know, if you're happy with just a single dojo, single school, sorry, and you're doing it with your partner and/or business partner, and you're getting an income and you're enjoying your lifestyle, that's good. 

My point, I've never had aspirations to grow to be some monolithic martial arts organization. It's always been about, am I enjoying what I'm doing? Yes, I am. Am I helping people better themselves? Yes, I am. Am I giving people opportunities? We have 85 people that work full-time across all our schools. So, we're employing a lot of people. And then we have dozens and dozens of people whose kids, after school, come in and help in class. So, that's probably, you know, that's why we need to run it properly, and you need to be responsible and follow everything, you know, as per good business acumen. 

GEORGE: Perfect. And then you mentioned looking at country clubs as an inspiration. Why is that? 

KEVIN: Okay. When I was in America, I did a talk. I've been a few times and done some talks with the EFC group, and Brett's with me a few times. So, he has, he never fell asleep in any of my seminars. So, that's good. So, when I was over there, I met some very wealthy and successful martial artists. They're a little bit opposite to us, they love to flaunt their Lamborghini and take you to their holiday mansion and take you out on a yacht and all that sort of stuff. 

Whereas, you know, we like to keep ourselves a little bit quieter and just let our successes bubble in the background. Anyway, one guy took me to a country club, like it was, you know, like a golf course, tennis, all that sort of stuff. And it was, you know, really flash, and it impressed me and I said, “Oh, so what do you do to get in here?” I said, “Do you just come in, sit down and eat?” Says, “Oh, no, sir. No, you have to be, pay to be on a waiting list.” I said, “Pay to be on a waiting list? Seriously?” He said, “Yeah,” and he said that you have set fees. 

And apparently the one I went to, which was really nice, was an ‘Al Cheapo' one. But I came away thinking about what if we all approached our martial arts a little bit differently? You know, swimming lessons are important, we all know that, and guys, martial arts is just as important. So, we should be viewed a little bit differently than just, you know, some people who are over there, saying it is another thing to do. So, we changed our mindset to be like, well, to be a little bit more exclusive, and that you can't just rock up and join in and have a free class or anything like that. 

You have to go through a process and to be analyzed to see if you fit into our community in a positive way. Conversely, it gives the potential student an opportunity, and their family, to see if they are happy with the service we're providing. Then they may go and try the next guy down the road, and that's okay too. We encourage that. We actually encourage that, because we only want people who are committed and who are going to participate within the guidelines that we have, and follow our systems. 

GEORGE: So, you would never go into a price war? 

KEVIN: Well, the quickest way to go broke is to go cheaper than the bloke down the road. In a number of our locations, we've been taken on in a price war, even had one guy march up to us, when we opened the location, he said, “This town isn't big enough for another martial art school, you know, and I'm the leading one here”. And he was right when he went broke a year later, because he engaged in a price war, and, so, every time we put his price down, I put mine up. 

GEORGE: Great. So, for any of you guys doubting your pricing, there's some good advice, so on that, how do you frame that? Like, if you, in a conversation, if somebody is going down that route and poking at other people being a martial arts school, and at less of the price. How do you go about handling that? 

KEVIN: Well, first and foremost, let me qualify, anyone that teaches martial arts and puts up their shingle and they’re honest to all, I take my hat off to him. It's like anyone that steps on the mat, in the ring, in the cage, whatever. I admire that. I've had that journey myself, and it's good fun. But back to what we're talking about here is that, first and foremost, if people want to shop around, that's their prerogative and choice. Some people will buy a really cheaper version of the car, and they'll be very happy and satisfied, because it works within their means. Some people will buy a BMW and Mercedes Benz, because it works within their means, and then everything running between. 

So, when I say about being professional, I believe that if everyone's being an honest toiler and doing the best they can, they're professional, you got to remember guys, if you charge a dollar in business, it's the right dollars that you got to charge. That's what you need to remember. With our organization, we focus on making sure we have everything professionally done. 

So, someone comes in, and our staff are trained to talk to them, and extrapolate the correct information out of them, of what they really are there for. So, we don't go into any pricing discussion at all, and if they ask, we quite happily tell them we don't have an issue with that at all. However, we're more about filling the need that they have. You got to remember anyone that's called you, sent you a message, coming to your school – they're already halfway there, if not two-thirds of the way there. So, you need to be grateful they've made that contact, and you need to treat them exactly how you'd like to be treated in any customer service environment. 

So, that's the way we process, go through the process. And then what we do is that we listen. We listen to what their needs are, and we discuss their needs. We don't even talk about tuition fees, or anything that we just explained. We have a two week trial, this is how we go through it, and most of the time, most people aren't concerned about asking about the price. If they ask about the price, you should give them exactly what it is and everything they're going to pay for, so there's no hidden cost. 

GEORGE: Like that. So, real value-based pricing. It's not what you deliver, it's really the outcome that you're trying to serve. And when… 

KEVIN: We have a saying if any of our staff is selling, they're sacked, because we do not want to sell a martial arts program. We are storytelling. We're telling you about martial arts, everyone here will know how martial arts feels for them, and the journey they've been on to get to the point they are at now. 

And once you can harness the feeling into words, then you have a much better way of getting people to enroll in your school. You want them to enroll in your school to be educated in the way that you run your organization and the programs that you have. You don't want them to think they just come in and kick some bags – because they can go to the local gym for a 15 bucks membership. Go and do weights 24/7 and kick and punch bags all day long. Okay, so you want to be – we're selling a martial arts program. 

GEORGE: I love this. But what I'm more intrigued about, is how do you replicate that type of skill amongst your staff? Because if you're saying storytelling and not selling, right? You're telling stories – how do you get your staff to engage into that level of enrollment that they are storytelling and telling stories? 

KEVIN: So, let's translate it to martial arts. It doesn't matter what style system and martial arts. Generally, everybody does something that has graduation involved – belts, badges, t-shirts, these big furry hats, the different colors, whatever. Everyone has a progression through the martial arts, so, with the staff, they need to be also given progression. 

So, you start your staff at a lower level, and you have training just like you have training for your next belt or your next badge, or whatever system you use, but we use belts for the point of the exercise here that we are discussing. We train people with scripts, and then the scripts are then revised constantly. Then we have a lot of meetings online, but not all the time, not inundated; and then we have gatherings many times throughout the year where we get together. But the most important thing is rehearsal, and this is where a lot of people fall over – they're here, it's a great idea. I'll go through this script with my staff. Yeah, let's rehearse it. 

Okay. So we have, and most of you have heard of it, phone script rehearsal, and all that sort of stuff. That consistency is the key, because your staff will go off script very quickly, if you don't keep them on script. So, you need to make sure they're following… And they’re not robotic, They’ve got to be fluid and flexible. So, the more senior they are, the more experienced, they can answer questions seamlessly. But we actually sit down and have rehearsals on how to take a phone call, how to answer a message, how to address someone when they come in – and we practice and the results come from there. 

GEORGE: Love that. So, somebody, I think it was Alan, was asking about staff training and how you go about it, I'll just pull up the question here. But you do staff training, that's super valuable – actually how to do the enrollment, the scripts and so forth, because that is your first point of contact. So, that's arguably one of the most important points of the training. But where else do you; what else do you lean towards – what's the type of staff training that you do? And the depth that you go? And it was Sam, if you want to elaborate, maybe, a bit deeper than that, just ask that in the chat. 

SAM: Yeah, so, in terms of staff training, obviously having 23 locations, you've got clear systems to produce more people like you, and then obviously lower level instructors, assistant student leaders down from that. So, I'd like to hear a little bit more about how that's structured, and even maybe how you go through after the training, and pick and choose who are going to be the head instructors that are going to manage your facilities. 

KEVIN: Sure, Sam. Thanks for your question. We have some historical owners. So, if you like, the organizations in two parts, we have 10 full-time centers, and then we have, I think four part-time centers, and the rest are in community or school halls. So, we sort of focus on the top 14, if you like, for everything, everyone follows the same system. So, for example, in a community or a school hall, the guy or the girl might work in a full time job, and they just teach two nights a week. 

So, I classify them as part-time hobbies, but they're still part of our organization, and the numbers all collate together. The rest, so my main focal point is for people with permanent setups, who've made big financial commitments. So, we want to make sure they get a return on investment, and they are able to do that. So, our systems, once you have a full time center, you can, so, we have a leadership program. 

So, we'll talk about two sides. So, the martial arts side, pretty much like everyone else does, have a leadership program and then you have different levels of instructors. So, like, you might have, obviously assistant instructor, class instructor, a lead instructor, they lead a group of classes if you have multi floors in your location, or you might split your class in two, whatever. Then we have an instructor coordinator, and their job is to coordinate the rostering, the staffing, and look after the whole area. So, some of these jobs are very casual, they all have been casual, very few hours a week; and we have many that are full-time, as we mentioned earlier on. So, and then obviously you have the school owner, or you might have a manager in there. So, we have a manager in some, but most are school owned. Okay, so that's sort of the martial arts side. 

On the business side, we replicate, that where in the leadership program, we identify at a young age if someone's going to be good to either go into an administrative role, or a marketing role, or an instructional role. Some do both, obviously, and then we have training programs for them. So, you might come into our facility, say here, and you'll see a young lady or young boy there, they'll be 14 or 15, and they'll come in, and they'll welcome you, and they'll say, “Oh, hi, Sam, your appointment is at 4:45. Please come over here, sanitize your hands, you know, for the COVID and all that sort of stuff. Have a seat, and we'll have, you know, the person coming out, going to talk to you.” And then they'll come out and get the person and go from there. 

So, they're learning to be communicators, and then go from there. And then then we have people who can run the whole front office or the front desk, and they're the ones who make appointments and set up the trials, set up the enrollments, discuss any, you know, things that are happening or need to happen. So, it's structured that way. So, then we have, obviously, if you have a junior leadership team program, and I think they're all pretty much the same, and everyone just adds a bit of spit and polish – how they see it should run. And, but the key is just like everyone else says, if you don't keep developing staff, and that coming through, or people coming through, well, you know, you can lose a lot. 

Like here, Port Macquarrie, we had really good staff that, some took up positions and when COVID hit, they moved to maybe Newcastle or Sydney or Brisbane or something for work, or went off to uni, and that. We lost like eight key staff in a 12-month period, but we're still carrying on, because we had enough depth, and we had enough training for those people to step into those roles. So, you have a little bit of a bump in the road, but you just keep on trucking. So, hope that answers your question, Sam.

 SAM: Thank you. 

GEORGE: Anything else you want to ask in relation to that? 

SAM: No, that's good. 

GEORGE: Perfect. Well, while we're going around and while Sam was asking a question, anyone else got a question? If you just want to unmute.

LINDSAY: It's not really a question, but – good day, Kev. 

KEVIN: Good day! 

LINDSAY: I, I don't know, sat through something that you were having a talk in Sydney there a couple of years ago. You said that when you opened up a new venue, you used a chocolate wheel to attract people, you know, when you're advertising. I'll be really honest with you, after that session that you did, I actually went out and bought a chocolate wheel, and the next event we had, I used it. 

And I could say the amount of kids that came over to get a free chocolate, or a free pen, or a free some damn thing was unbelievable! And we've still got a whole stack of those students that we signed up from that event, simply by coming out with that chocolate wheel, was amazing. We still got it and we still use it. 

KEVIN: Great stuff. I'm glad it worked for you, Lindsay. Well, when I'm down that way next, I'll come and get a chocolate off you. 

LINDSAY: I don't think that's wise, Kevin. Neither of us need chocolate! 

BEN: You're not dead yet, guys. Can I jump in, George, is that okay? 

GEORGE: Yes! 

BEN: Good day, Kev, I'm Ben. So, I've started up a second location. So, I'm just sort of feeling my way through some of this stuff, and it's in a community center. The guy I've got running it, I've actually got on a small commission basis plus his hourly rate. I'm trying to get him invested in it, and he is invested in it. So, I just wanted you to talk a little bit about how you structure, you know, part-time, full-time, people that come in once a week on casual rates, people that are, you know, using it as their career. What sort of steps and levels and remuneration stuff do…? 

KEVIN: Yeah, 100%. Well, we use the fitness industry award as our base. I think that's pretty much, from my understanding, from the boys at Fair Work I spoke to, they said that's the one you got to use. So, we've used that for the last 10 years, and so we pay everyone accordingly. According to the younger staff, a couple of girls work at McDonalds and they said, “Oh, we like working here because you get more money”. And I said, “Oh, but you get free McDonalds, don't you?” and they said, “No, we don't, actually”. Apparently, they don't anymore. 

Anyway. So, we use the fitness industry award, and we have different levels. So, when you get to a like, if you own a school, and the person works for you, our people get to what we call Level 4A. They're like instructor coordinator or front office coordinator. They are paid a wage and then they get an incremental growth bonus from your gross monthly take. That fluctuates depending on the income, so if your income for the location is, I don't know, I'll just use round figures, is 20,000, they might get 0.25%. 

If they get up, when you get up to 40, or 50,000, the percentage goes up a little bit more, and that incentivizes them to be proactive, participative, and take ownership. And as you all know, someone has ownership of something, they're going to embrace it, and make sure your systems are utilized to the fullest extent. So, my objective is to get our guys up to their bonuses equal to their weekly wage. So, per month, they get like a fifth week's wages, that makes sense? And that way that really motivates them to move forward. 

BRETT: Okay, that's, yeah, that's good. That's sort of what I'm thinking. I might look at my percentages, but anyway. 

KEVIN: When I first did it, I got a little bit generous, and…

BRETT: I've got him on 5%, but then again, he's only got five students. 

KEVIN: You know, they're going to get more, you know. 

BEN: Well, good! Yeah. All right. Thank you, man. Thank you. 

KEVIN: No problem, Ben.

 GEORGE: Awesome. Anyone else got a direct question? 

ALAN: Yeah, George, I've got one. 

GEORGE: Yeah.

ALAN: Thanks. Well, how do you get people into your leadership program?

KEVIN: Sure. Okay, well, there's a whole bunch of seminars on it, like, Brett's got a pretty good program up there as well, and he does a really good leadership one. So, you know, probably something he could talk about at another stage, but what we do is, you just look across your classes, and you'll see, kids are a little bit more attentive, a little bit more participative, and even the ones that are not. 

So, we have an application process, and we only take a set amount each, twice a year. And we have a waiting list about, like heaps of people want to get on board. So, we make it part of the language is that later on, if you want to get involved, and we tell the parents, we say see all the staff out there, that are teaching, they all started as three, four or five year olds, nearly all of them, you know, like the 16, 17, 18 year olds. I got guys that have been with me for 40 years, you know. Hard to believe, I know, I only look 35; but you know, so, you have people, you know, involved for a long time. 

But just as a starter, if I had to answer your question, I will look at the people training. Don't get caught up in, oh, you can only have higher grades involved. I aim for people who are about between 9 – 12 months training, and then they're the ones I invite across, to do a one month trial in the leadership program. And then from that, we filter to the next level. Now, we don't throw people to the curb, nor do we, you know, push them aside; but what we do do, those who didn't make the cut, we get them to do other activities and roles. 

So, they still feel like they're part of the group, and then later on, they may come in the second time around or the third time around. It's a bit of FOMO – fear of missing out. So, they, you know, once they get in, they really – it's amazing to watch how much they step up. So, I hope that answered your question, but, Brett, you got a pretty good leadership program up there. Is that correct? You still… 

BRETT: Yeah, we've actually, George and I've been working on creating an actual program for it all, so, and I think I stole most of stuff off you back in the day, so… I'm just, there's you and Dave Kovar that are my role models in that kind of development, so…

KEVIN: Thank you! 

BRETT: Yeah, but yeah, no. It's an absolute necessity, if you want to literally be able to run your school like a business, so you're not stuck down in the trenches with everybody every single day. So, it gives you the freedom to actually step outside and kind of get that 30,000 foot view of how the business is running, so you can see where the things that need to be tweaked. 

Like, we just lost one of our best instructors yesterday. She's studying to be a psychologist and – Sam, yeah – so, she's been with us for a long time. But yeah, you know, she wants to be a psychologist – a child psychologist – so, she's been working around kids for a long time. But we've got six kids that are 14 years old ready to jump straight in there. They bawled their eyes out yesterday, but they'll take over her job next week. Yeah, they're going to miss her, but they've learned from her, and following in their footsteps, is another bunch of 10 year olds that want to be them, so… 

KEVIN: Perfect. 

BRETT: Just got to, yeah, you just got to be looking at your bench strength all the time. And then they come from weird directions. 

KEVIN: Correct. 

BRETT: Yeah, someone comes in and they're just got the right personality. Sow the seed early that they've got the right personality to be an instructor, is it something that they'd be interested in down the track. And then might not be another year before you chat to them again, so and then start getting them going in that direction. Yeah, that's it. Yeah, you just got to be on it all the time.

KEVIN: Terrific, no, it's great. I'd like to have a look at that when you got it done, because everyone has a good tweak of something. I just want to qualify something, everyone, if I could. You know, we're talking about people coming in and doing various roles and that, but the most important thing is, I found the quality of our end student, a person that reaches black belt is a lot higher than it used to be, because you have more time to focus on your programs and developing your staff. 

And so, like, we don't mass produce people, I mean, still, four to five years to get to karate black belt, you know, still 8 – 10 years to get your BJJ black belt, still all that stuff's in place, and still has that, you know, quality and that's the key thing. And it allows you, if you're interested in combat sports, you might be able to focus on that. If you're interested in people doing forms, you can focus on that. You might be a member of World Taekwondo, or Karate or Muay Thai or whatever federation and have an active role in that. 

So, you know, having these systems in place, allows you to have a better organization, and a stronger organization, and a much higher quality. I'm not saying that your quality's bad and you're not putting your heart and soul in it, but what I'm saying is, it gives you that opportunity to have that helicopter view of the whole thing. And then when you change your mindset, everything changes in a positive way for you. 

GEORGE: Love that. Just wrapping up on another few minutes, if that's okay with you, Kevin. Just want to check in if there's any other questions. Anyone else got a question for Kevin? Quick one. 

MATT: Hi, Kev, it's Matt here. How are you going? 

KEVIN: Good, thanks, man. 

MATT: You know, just a quick one with your staffing, more as, like COVID and the like, where natural attrition may have found other work elsewhere. Staff retention? Have you found it easy? I mean, I guess where I'm going with the question, you're going to spend so much time upskilling, monetary, time wise, etc. Once you've got them up to a certain level, and they're proficient, have you found there's many that or some that just up and leave and take an offer up better somewhere else? Or they're pretty loyal, or…? 

KEVIN: Well, that's never happened to me, but if it does happen to me, I'll help them set up their location, you know, under my umbrella there, because I don't invest my time in negative energy. They're all negative people. So, I invest my time in positive things. So, there's your question: what are the skills that you can transcend across to other industries? And if they go on and then find a career elsewhere, based on what you've done for them, I find that as a very positive thing, man. 

But staff retention, as I said, we lost a whole bunch because, you know, four went to uni, two moved away for work and two moved away for relationships. It was just like, it all happens, you know, so that happens in any business. And I don't see, you know, when you're investing in something, well, it's a business cost, and that's the way it goes. So, to shorten the answer, you know, if you make it attractive enough for them, and it's a great opportunity, and there's advancement, and there's also the chance for, you know, personal development growth, you find most people just love the job. I mean, I think we're all on here now, because we all like what we do, I hope. Sometimes you want to kill people, but it's okay. 

CHEYNE: Yeah, so Kevin, I've got a quick question, if you don't mind. My name is Cheyne. 

KEVIN: Good day, Cheyne. 

CHEYNE: How do you keep quality control as in every club, every location, teaching the same? 

KEVIN: Sure. That's a really good question, and that's one I've had a lot of times asked to me. And because we have that corporate structure, we have a tier of people who actually, you know, go to each location and make sure the standard is high, with, I use the grading. So, with gradings from your two belts below your black belt or, like, whatever you have, everyone has to grade at one of three camps that we have a year, and that way there is quality control. And if you come, or you send someone into grade, this is the martial arts side, and if they're not up to standard, I don't look at the student, I look straight at you, and everyone else does. 

So, the actual standard has lifted, because it's self-perpetuating, because people don't want to be the guy that sends someone to fail their grading. So, that's the martial arts side. And on the business side, well, you have monthly reports, and you can see growth, and you probably heard it before, statistics, you know, keep tabs on everything. And you can see like, with our marketing, you know, we have various forms that we capture, where people come from, why they come in, how they come in, what they're looking for, and then there's a next level of marketing. 

That's right up George's alley, so I won't go into that. But you know, he's the man for that sort of thing. But just with your staff working for you at an isolated location, they have, we have like a daily report they text in – just a short report – and then they have a weekly report, and then we have a weekly meeting. So, it makes sense. That's for the other locations I own, and the ones that are under license – that's their baby – but they follow exactly the same system. 

CHEYNE: And what about keeping video? How do you make sure that everybody is doing full kata, for example? What do you use to communicate to your mentor?

KEVIN: Yeah, good question. Okay, well, a long time ago, I used to go to a camp and take a notepad and a pen and draw little stick figures, and then they come up with this beautiful thing called a VHS, you know. It was about this big and say video. We've had everything, our whole curriculum online since, I think, 1995; and it's very clear, and it stipulates you can only grade as per the kata and bunkai on the curriculum. So, we have a system where we have a curriculum, and you might go there and go, say, for your brown belt – what have I got to learn, say grading requirements, what kata, and they do that. 

So, they're being taught by their instructor, and then we have senior instructors, who go to the locations and do seminars. So, every location gets a visit from either myself or one of the senior guys, every six weeks or so, and then we get together the three camps per year. So, the quality control is maintained through either using what we call curriculum, and then, you know, there's many, many forms out there, there's some great stuff. Chris Folmar Budocode is a good one, we use a different one. You got your phone there, you can video and send it around. 

So, we're not learning stuff off videos, you need to learn it physically, and then just have the video as a reference tool. So, I just want to make that clear. So, you know, we don't, but if you're already a martial artist, you can pick stuff up, you know. There's a lot of YouTube experts out there, but we're not one of them. Hopefully I've answered your question, Cheyne. 

CHEYNE: Yeah, thanks man. 

GEORGE: Perfect. Alright, guys. Anymore questions? If there's more, probably got time maybe for one more, if there is. 

ZAK: Just a quick one, George. Hi, Kevin. I'm Zak from Perth. 

KEVIN: Good day, Zak. 

ZAK: Just since we're on the staff part – how often do you guys have staff meetings with the full-time staff? Is that a daily thing? You get together once a week, at the start of the week? 

KEVIN: Yeah, sure. So, what we do is our full time staff, if they're in a separate location to where I'm at, they send in a nightly report just to – it's pretty much a format, they just fill in the blanks. It's just like any incidents and that sort of stuff. And then we have a weekly meeting, and the weekly meeting we have, okay, you know, what's happened, what's about to happen. And then we might have once every three weeks, we have a dedicated actual training on a specific area. Then we have physical training for all the instructor staff weekly, they have a set class they have to go to and if they don't attend, you know, three out of the four weeks, then they're put back down further on the roster. So obviously, things crop up, people get sick and all that sort of stuff. So, we keep the quality constantly, you need to have that quality.

ZAK: So, you do physical training once a week, sort of in meetings?

KEVIN: Yeah, they have to train in other classes as well, but just to make sure we got that exact quality control, so you know, keep on. But it's all about ownership, everyone has to own their role. Everyone has to own their class that they teach, and everyone has to own what they're delivering. So, we have everything set. All the classes are set, all the details, topics. So, we take the syllabus, and then we extrapolate that information out into a weekly schedule, and then that weekly schedule, and there's classes that fall in that week.

So, we'll use, say, our karate program. Okay, our focus might be, I can look it up now, but last night, I can tell you what it was, it was focusing on Tai Sabaki, which is body shifting. Okay, so that was the topic. So, that happened in 23 locations last night, everyone was doing that subject. And that way, well, you know, and so when mum comes in and says, “I hear you failed my son,” you know, “he didn't pass the grading – what happened?” you know, and all that sort of stuff. We just say, well, the syllabus was taught over the 12-week period. 

Some locations, we have a grading every 12 weeks, or we have three gradings a year, so we don't have every week or anything like that. So, it's a bit of a backup and allows us to to reference back and say, “Well, this was taught this week”. And over the term, the same subjects taught, I think three times, intermingled over the 12-week cycle. So, that way, you can rest assured that, you know, the child has if they turn up regularly, that's why, and if they don't turn up regularly, they can't grade anyway.

ZAK: So, pretty much, you do three gradings a year, and you repeat this. You do a training session, which goes over probably what two weeks, something like that? Like five different training sessions leading up to that 12-week cycle? 

KEVIN: Yeah, yeah. 

ZAK: Yeah, so, it's easy to monitor when you have locations where you can't be, I guess. 

KEVIN: Look, in the good old days, you just rock in and right it over. When I was on a building site, I used to write it on a bit of gyprock, got to teach kids tonight. That was my class plan. So, you know, I see Lindsay laughing, because it's the way it was, you know, you rock up and you go, “Ah, jeez, grading's coming up, these guys don't know this. Ok, we better do that.” 

So, you know, you can, you know, shoot a shotgun into the trees and hopefully hit something, or you can do a study of where your target's going to be, and set it up and be a little bit more accurate, you know. So, you need to have everything detailed. And it sounds like a lot, but it's not really – it's just what you do. And it's just a matter of structuring it, so people are able to learn what they need to learn to advance correctly. 

ZAK: So, I've got a last question. If it's not personal, give me a range, roughly, would you pay your full-time, like sort of more of the head instructors, not the ones that are on ownership, those that are just working for you guys? 

KEVIN: The guys that, like, run a location or something? 

ZAK: Yeah, probably like a run?

KEVIN: Yeah. So, it depends if, like instructor coordinator, I think in the fitness industry, I think it's 4A, which is about 25-something an hour, and then they get bonuses depending on how long they've been there for and what they contribute. So, that wage will go up markedly depending on their participation and involvement. That make sense? 

ZAK: Yeah. 

KEVIN: And your casuals are about 30 bucks an hour. I think we add up casuals and we have different levels. We have accredited instructors, and non-accredited instructors, and which is a whole other subject for another day. 

ZAK: No worries. Thanks for that, Kevin. 

KEVIN: You're welcome. 

GEORGE: Perfect. Cool. Thanks, Zak! And thank you, Kevin. I think if everyone could just quickly unmute, and just give Kevin a virtual… 

BRETT: We have to unmute for that? 

GEORGE: Keep some, make a noise – come on, man! 

BRETT: Hooray! Thanks, Kevin. Awesome. 

CHEYNE: Thanks, Kevin. Awesome work, man. 

KEVIN: Well, guys, all I'd like to say is, you know, keep doing what you're doing. Fight the hard fight. It's been a tough journey, strong leadership, clear and concise systems, and have goals all the time, you know – where you want to be, how you want to get there, and enjoy the ride. I mean, I wake up every day excited. Okay, you know, what are we going to do today? And how are we going to approach this, and you know, we're always looking to, you know, work towards the next goal. So, thanks for having me on George. And you can reach out through social media, I'm there. If you have any questions, and yeah, so all the best for the future. 

CHEYNE: Thanks, mate. 

GEORGE: Kevin, thank you so much. Thanks so much. Thanks a lot for your time, I really appreciate it. Sorry about the tech issues earlier, but thanks so much – for a change, it's me having all the tech issues! The tech guy has got all the tech issues. 

KEVIN: That's my pleasure. Have a great day, everyone. Take care.

GEORGE: Thanks, Kevin. Cheers.

 

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63 – Chris Casamassa – Martial Arts & Mortal Kombat Movie Star Shares His Entrepreneurial Insights

Chris Casamassa from Red Dragon Karate and a.k.a. Scorpion from the action film Mortal Kombat speaks about his passion for business.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • Chris Casamassa's life as an author, actor, business consultant, entrepreneur and martial arts school owner
  • The biggest lesson that martial arts has taught Chris
  • The importance of establishing a strong team of instructors and staffs
  • Why you need to invest in leadership programs
  • How to turn satisfied customers into happy customers
  • And more

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

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Well, there's a couple of things. The biggest thing and my favorite saying is, everybody wants the results; nobody wants the process. Right? Everybody wants to be a black belt, but not everybody is willing to put in the work to become a black belt. Everybody says they want to be an instructor, a manager, an owner; but maybe they're not willing to put in the work, right? When they watch me do what I do, they see the glamour moment. They see me standing out there, running the class, rocking it – everything's firing on all cylinders. They don't understand sometimes how much work, effort and dedication I put into my craft to be able to do what it is that I do.

GEORGE: Hey, this is George Fourie and welcome to another Martial Arts Media Business podcast. Today, I'm joined with… so this is going to be a long list of credentials, so I'm going to have to cut this down. So I'm with Chris Casamassa, so author, actor, business consultant, school owner – what am I leaving out there Chris?

CHRIS: Serial entrepreneur.

GEORGE: Serial entrepreneur.

CHRIS: Yeah.

GEORGE: Alright, awesome. Well, welcome to the show. So I'm going to be speaking with Chris at The Main Event in San Diego, depending on when you're watching and listening to this, that'll be the 26th to 28th of April. And today we’re just going to have a chat. Chris has obviously got a wealth of knowledge, so this conversation might be part 1 and 2. We’ll see how we go. All right Chris, welcome I guess, for people that might not have heard of you, who is Chris Casamassa?

CHRIS: Chris Casamassa is, I am the son of the Grandmaster of Red Dragon Karate. We have 12 locations in Southern California, we've been in the business since 1965, so this is our 53rd year in business. I guess that when my father started the company, we were classified as a mixed martial arts style because my dad didn't like one martial arts style; he loved them all. He actually holds black belts in ten different styles of martial arts, so in the 1960s, he did something that really was unheard of and he combined styles of martial arts. So he's one of the originators of the mixed martial arts, who everybody who has a mixed martial arts school – you're welcome!

He did that a long, long time ago and he is an awesome, awesome, amazing guy. A ton of great stories about how people used to come and challenge him because you weren't allowed to do those things back in the day, but he was doing it before it was cool. So that's kind of where I grew up. I started martial arts training when I was 4 years old and I've been in it my entire life. And really just fell in love with it at a very young age.

GEORGE: Alright, so growing up in martial arts the way you did, what do you feel – and I spoke about this with Zulfi Ahmed, the conscious competence and unconscious incompetence and so forth. And obviously, he's got a world of knowledge, as well as yourself, of experience that's become such a part of you, that it might be hard to sort of define into one thing. But what do you feel has been the biggest learning for you? Growing up with your dad and within the martial arts industry the way you have?

CHRIS: The biggest learning for me? Do you mean what's the biggest benefit I've personally gotten out of it?

GEORGE: Yes.

CHRIS: Ok. That would be two things: one, the ability to believe in yourself, that you can and to never give up on your dreams and hopes and goals. Probably those are the two biggest things that my father instilled in me that the arts have taught me. Really, that nothing is impossible as long as you are focused and you take the steps of progression that you need to get there, you just give it a 100% effort and never give up.

GEORGE: Alright, so you started martial arts at a very young age. At what point did you start with the instructor role and stepping into the operations of the school?

CHRIS: Really, when I was young, probably when I was around 15. I started teaching a little bit here and there and pretty much, since I was 16-17 years old, it’s been something I've done full time, literally, I would walk home from school – I wouldn't even go home, I’d go from school to the studio where my dad was at. And I taught there, did my homework there and went home at 8-9 o'clock every night. It kind of just blended into a lifestyle for me.

GEORGE: All right. Now, lots have happened since then.

CHRIS: Oh yeah.

GEORGE: Give us a bit of a breakdown: how did you step into the whole movie role and “Mortal Combat” and taking on that whole actor career, between?

CHRIS: Yeah, that actually is a great question and it goes back to what I talked about, about focusing, goal setting and believing in yourself, right? When I was in my early teens, of course like many people around that time, Bruce Lee, of course, was my big action hero. “Enter the Dragon” and all those movies that he did really inspire me to say, hey, I want to try and do this on screen and the movies. And when we were younger, me and my brothers used to make little homemade fight videos of ninja stuff and we played all kinds of… I've got some great old video tapes for anybody who’s watching and knows what a video was. But it’s something I always wanted to do, right?

So I also started competing when I was 17-18 years old, on the circuit. There's a pro tour in the United States, called The North American Sports Karate Association. So I went out on that tour and decided that I wanted to get better as a competitor, because ultimately, honing my skills would just make me look better and sharper, as far as doing martial arts, period. But then if I ever wanted to be on camera, if I wanted to be a Chuck Norris, or if I wanted to be a Bruce Lee, I had to try and look as good, as fast, as powerful as those guys did. So I knew I could through the competition very much hone my skills, and I spent almost a decade out on the pro tour and when I retired, I was the four-time number 1 open forms champion, four years in a row I was the best forms competitor in the world.

So that right there helped open another door for me, because when I won a tournament in Atlanta Georgia, called The Battle of Atlanta, which at the time was one of the biggest events in the country, there were some producers from the TV show in the audience that came up to me and a few other guys and asked us if we’d be interested in doing a TV show. So one door kind of helped to open another door, like, I didn't start with “Mortal Combat,” that was my third or fourth, or maybe fifth film that I did. But I started small, with small shows, small TV shows and just kind of worked my way up.

And then in the movie business, there's an old saying that it's not who you know, it's who knows you. And that really is true, because once you get your foot in the door and you establish yourself and you have a good relationship and you're not a jerk to work with, then people want to continue to work with you. You do good work, you don't complain, you make it look good, you make the stars look good and then you take those stepping stones and move up. So that's how I was able to kind of take martial arts, turn it into the competition and turn it into a movie/TV career.

GEORGE: Alright, fantastic. So, looking at that – and just relating to, perhaps for the average martial arts school owner, someone perhaps starting out, or going from one school to the next school, you feel it instilled a lot of confidence into you growing up the way you did. How do you work with people that experience the obstacles? You do the goal setting, and that's sort of where you want to go. But I guess you reach this point of, the whole “Can I,” a bit of self-doubt. How do I break out from this next barrier to the next?

CHRIS: Well, if you're talking about martial arts business owners or martial arts school owners, nowadays it is so much easier and so much simpler to become successful in the martial arts because there are guys like you. There are guys like me that are out there that weren't out there! Right? If you've been around for a while, you go back to the 80s or the 90s, everyone was closed off. “I don't want to share my knowledge with you,” everybody was very close-minded, where the martial arts in the business, at least in the United States that I've seen so far, it's become more of an open mind, where we’re trying to raise the level of our industry, right?

Our industry has had such a bad rep on the business side for so long and so few people have had the secret and the keys to success. Now more and more people are getting because there are guys like you, there are guys like me that are out there, sharing our knowledge, sharing our understanding of how this business can work and how it can be successful to raise the standard of the industry. So if there's anybody out there who's struggling: there's a wealth of free knowledge. They can follow you, they can follow me on social media: all these things that didn't exist just a  decade ago, there are so many tools available, I can almost say that if you're failing in your martial arts business now, you're just dumb.

You're not paying any attention to what's out there. And I don't mean that insultingly, but there's a wealth of information out there that was never available before, just the free stuff. And of course, there's coaching, consulting, business guys and you've got to weed out some of the bad guys from the good guys, which is also hard to do and I've got a few tips on that. But in the business today, I wish I was starting out today, because the transition from good to great is much smoother and easier now, for the people that really want to go get it.

GEORGE: Definitely so. Well, let's explore that: weeding out the good from the bad. Because that's something that comes up a lot and I guess form the time in the last 5 years that I've started helping martial arts school owners, it's probably the place where I've seen the most consultants and experts that deliver information. And I guess a lot of it is based on a little success? You know, not people like yourself that has grown along the years and have seen the ups and downs and seen the different transitions. So what advice would you give to someone that's really looking for good advice, but just not sure who to trust?

CHRIS: Two tings: one, references and testimonials. Say, if somebody says, well, I've gotten these many people this many results – find out who those people are and talk to them. Send them a message on Facebook or send them an email, how has this person helped you, what has been great about this experience, right? So if somebody doesn't have social proof, then there's a big flag right there. So, if you got a sales page that says, “I helped hundreds of people get thousands of students,” but there are no actual testimonials on that page? I’d be running away from that.

Second of all, if they have a fully functional business, get a chance to take a look at it, right? We've got 12 locations, we've been around for 53 years, my main school has almost 400 active members in it, so I'm not telling you what to do because I'm guessing; I'm telling you what to do because this is exactly how I do what I do and why it works. So there's a method behind my madness, or to say, my systems have systems. So something default – there's a system to fall back on. So those are the kinds of things that you've got to look at.

GEORGE: Alright, fantastic. So Chris, a day in the life of Chris! You mentioned 13 locations?

CHRIS: 12.

GEORGE: 12 locations, OK. So what does that look like? Obviously, you can't have your hands on everything: what does that look like in a day for you to manage and operate?

CHRIS: Listen, I couldn't do this by myself. I've got a great team in place that helps us keep things running smooth, right? It's kind of like a duck: on the surface, it looks smooth, but underneath, there are these feet paddling really, really fast to keep it going in there. But yeah, you're right, there's no way I could do this by myself. I have a fantastic team in place, my dad’s core people are still involved with our company today. So they understand all the nuts and bolts of how our business is run.

So you've got to surround yourself with a good support team. So my job really, the main thing is, I train the trainers, right? My job is to make sure that the people that are going out of the schools that are managing or owning their own, individual locations are doing and saying and teaching things the right way to continue to help the business itself grow and make the students improve. So I've got a pretty cool spot right now, I'm a trainers trainer.

GEORGE: Trainers trainer. Alright, so let's break that down. So it really comes down to your leadership and the team's leadership. So where do you really start that journey of developing leaders?

CHRIS: At white belt. So right when they start, regardless of their age. Ultimately, we train and grow all of our instructors and trainers and future managers and owners in house. And they come up through our system, they come up through our ranks because again, they're the product of what we’re selling, right? So it's challenging and it we’re experimenting with bringing people in from outside of our company because I do want to open it up and expand it more, but our easiest and best growth and best managers and owners always come from the inside, we’re growing them. We call it bench strength, right? So the goal is to develop the bench strength on our team so that every person on the team is replaceable and no matter who's here and who's not here, the wheel just keeps turning and keeps moving.

GEORGE: So you start at white belt, but at what point… what would be the first steps you would take to push someone towards the leadership role?

CHRIS: It's very easy: we have a leadership program built into our program. So as they escalate and they get about halfway to the path of black belt, they're interested in that, they receive an invitation into our leadership training and then again, we’re very fortunate in the fact that we built this. We have instructor colleges, so four times a year, anybody that's interested in having a job inside of a Red Dragon School has to attend our instructor colleges. After they attend 4-6 instructor colleges, we give them a written exam, then a physical exam. And if they pass all of that, then they're certified as what we call a level 1 instructor.

So technically, any one of our Red Dragon Schools could hire them as an assistant. They work inside the school, there’s platform building all the way through. You start as an assistant instructor, then you go to a floor instructor, then a floor manager, then a head instructor and then a manager of a school. And then if you want to take that step, there are ownership possibilities for you. So it's all platform based and just like going from white belt to black belt, there are clearly defined outlined steps. The same thing on the internal, on the business side of what we do, those same steps are in place.

GEORGE: All right, great. So what obstacles do you experience with this? Because I mean, you already have 12 locations, I'm sure one to 12, there were a lot of bumps in the road. What are the general obstacles you’ve overcome – well, that you experience on a day to day basis and within yours, if not so much current? What do you experience within that whole growth phase?

CHRIS: Well, there's a couple of things. The biggest thing and my favorite saying are, everybody wants the results; nobody wants the process. Right? Everybody wants to be a black belt, but not everybody is willing to put in the work to become a black belt. Everybody says they want to be an instructor, a manager, an owner; but maybe they're not willing to put in the work, right? When they watch me do what I do, they see the glamour moment. They see me standing out there, running the class, rocking it – everything's firing on all cylinders. They don't understand sometimes how much work, effort and dedication I put into my craft to be able to do what it is that I do.

Now, there are those that are going through the path and are in process and are going through it. But that's overall my biggest challenge, to answer your question is – everybody wants results, nobody wants the process. And a lot of younger people today don't have the patience to get there, to take that next step. They think that, oh, I'm a black belt, I should start making $30-$40 an hour and be paid $100,000 a year to do this. They don't have the patience to do the work, to get better, to get the rewards.

GEORGE: Definitely so, and I guess Chris that's the way of the world today. I mean, you come from, you walked a long path to achieve your success and as easy as it’s become with access to social media and accessing information, the problem with accessing information is, it’s so much easier to see the end result that someone has achieved and you don't always recognize the journey that it’s taken and the obstacles.

CHRIS: Right.

GEORGE: And I guess that brings into this whole, instant gratification with the younger generation.

CHRIS: Right.

GEORGE: That's what they're doing, they haven't committed their 10,000 hours or whatever it is, they just want that result.

CHRIS: Right. Yeah, listen, it's the same thing. I mean, I don't know in Australia, but on YouTube, there are two brothers, Logan Paul and Jake Paul, who are just monsters on social media and social interaction, right? And they're young guys, but what you don't see is, they put in years of work to build up to their million, or two million followers, to get those 20-30 million views of these crazy, goofy videos that they do, but people are responding to it, right? So if you're doing something good that people respond to, you're going to move up. If you're doing something that's not good and people aren't responding to it, then maybe you're in the wrong line of work. Maybe you're in the wrong business. Not everyone is cut out for this type of business.

You've got to follow your passion, right? I'm doing this because I love it; you're doing what you do probably because you love it, right? You love sharing your knowledge and people respond to that passion. They feel it, they know it and they understand it and they're like, yeah, that's the guy I want to have helped me. That's the guy I want to have trained me, or train my kids because it comes from here, it comes from my heart. And you probably can't see me because this is a podcast, but I'm touching my heart. But it comes from there first and if it comes from there and it’s pure, then everything else is going to be so much easier in the end.

GEORGE: Fantastic. So, where do you start? If you're helping a school owner scale, with their operations or their marketing, what is the benchmark where you start and evolve from?

CHRIS: Well, it's called the snowflake principle. Every school owner that I coach or consult outside of my company starts somewhere different. Because everyone is different. With me, it starts with an interview process. I'll spend 30 minutes or an hour with them on the phone, talking to them about all the systems that they have or don't have in place, finding out what their biggest needs are first, whether it’s new members or keeping old members, whether it’s what you do, marketing systems, Facebook, social media interactions.

So I've got to really interview and dig down and understand the person to make sure of two things: one, I understand completely what they need and two, I believe that I can help them. Because ultimately, if I talk to somebody, I'm going, to be honest with them. Look: I can help you if we implement x,y and z, or they might be in a spot, listen, I'm not the guy for you, but I might know someone who is. Right? That's kind of where I start and my approach to it is, I need to get to know the person that I'm coaching so that I can help them reach their goals.

GEORGE: All right, great. So Chris, I feel… we’re probably sort of scratching the surface of your wealth of knowledge, and I want to talk a bit about The Main Event, what you do on the speaking platform. And this is sort of the cliche question, right? Is there a question I should be asking you and steering you towards that we’re not covering as yet?

CHRIS: No, actually what I’m gonna be covering at The Main Event that we’re coming up, that's in San Diego, is pretty much that. But what I'm going to do is, I'm going to give the school owners and the managers there actionable things that they can implement in their business to help grow their business faster with new members. So there are so many things that many school owners aren't doing, in what I call the onboarding process or their first 100 days.

A way to turn a satisfied customer into a happy customer, because here's the difference: satisfied customers don't refer members to your school; happy customers refer everyone. So it's ultimately taking a customer from a satisfied state to a happy state. The processes that we use to do it and the processes that we actually used to help over 100,000 people become happy customers inside of our business.

GEORGE: Alright, fantastic. I'm a big fan of the first 100 days, it's something I've spoken about in our Martial Arts Media Academy program as well and something we try and really practice. You know, how you can really, the first 100 days, what sort of impact you can make. If you were to break it down, just a little deeper, to what extent do you go within the first 100 days? How would you handle a student coming onboard with your program?

CHRIS: That's a great question and that's probably a whole other 30-minute conversation and really is perfect, because that's exactly what I'm going to be talking about in San Diego on April 26th to the 28th. So if there's anybody listening that wants to get there, I will go through those exact processes. I'm going to show you how to get someone to give you an awesome review instead of a crappy review. I'm going to show you how to onboard them and surprise them with things that they won't get in any other martial arts school, let alone any other business. So it's little tips and secrets like that that make all the difference between a satisfied customer and a happy customer. We’ll cover part 2 after the event – other than that, you've got to come to San Diego April 26-28th.

GEORGE: Alright, awesome. That sounds great. Because I might take you on for a second interview when I meet you in person, depending of course on the time, it's a big event and so forth. But it would be great to see you on stage and really gather some information and then perhaps we can do a part 2 and really discuss a few more topics in depth.

CHRIS: Yeah, man, I'm happy to do it. Happy to do it, always happy to help, listen if there's just one person listening to the podcast is affected in a positive way listening to this, then that's great. Obviously, I want to help hundreds and hundreds of school owners, but hey, it starts with one, right?

GEORGE: Fantastic! Before we go, Chris what's next for you in your martial arts journey?

CHRIS: Next is my real – not my real, but my new mission, my passion, my purpose is… and again, I don't know how it is in Australia, but in the USA, there's a really big problem with bullying. I just wrote a book, which became a number 1 bestseller called “Bullyproof Fitness”. It’s available on Amazon worldwide I believe. But my… what I'm trying to do is, I'm trying to get a million kids bullyproof and fit by the year 2025. Right now, I'm at 50,000, so I've taught 50,000 kids so far. I go around to local martial arts schools all over the world and I do these live bully events, seminars to help these kids understand what a bully is, what it’s not and what they can do if it happens to them, because so many people don't have the tools they don't know what it is, even kids that are in martial arts don't understand.

So by doing these live events around the world, it’s allowed me to impact a lot of people, but obviously my goal is to do a million through the book and through my live tours and then, we have a license program called Bullyproof Fitness, that will be launching probably in June of this year, where schools can get this and have it and bring it in there. But the live events are great, because when I go to these martial arts schools, not only is it a win for them in the community, but I'm able to get them anywhere from 10 to 25 brand new members at that location before I walk out the door. So it’s kind of cool because the parents get a copy of my book, or they get autographed picture from the “Mortal Combat” movie, but they'll also be able to get new members into their school, which if you're in business, that's what you need to survive, these new members constantly coming in.

GEORGE: Definitely so. Fantastic Chris, I’ll link to, I'll definitely link to the book.

CHRIS: Thank you.

GEORGE: Bullyproof Fitness you mentioned?

CHRIS: Yep and the website is bullyprooffitness.com.

GEORGE: All right, great, excellent. Anything else, if anybody wants more details about you and your mission, where could they visit?

CHRIS: There's two great… first of all, I’m on all the social media platforms, so they can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Facebook – everywhere. What I’ll do George is, I'll shoot you an email with all my links, if you want to pop those in there. There are two websites, they can find me at. Of course my name, chriscasamassa.com and if they're interested in helping me coach, consult or advise them on how to grow their business, they can go to my coaching site, which is the thedojodoctors.com.

GEORGE: Excellent. Chris – been great speaking to you and look forward to meeting you in San Diego.

CHRIS: Awesome George, thank you so much for having me on this show. I really appreciate it.

There you have it – thank you, Chris. And thank you for listening to this show. If you are getting good value out of this show, we would love to hear from you! Best way to do that would be to give us an awesome thumbs up. Five-star review, you can do that through the iTunes store, if you have an iPhone you can go through the little purple app and access the show from there and give us an awesome review, we would love to hear from you. Or wherever else you're actually listening to this show, do leave us a review and tell us what you'd like to know, who you'd like us to interview. It would be awesome to hear from you and follow up on your requests.

Cool! If you need any help with your school, if you need any help filling your classes, marketing, digital marketing, help with your website – that's the kind of thing that we thrive on, is the marketing and helping school owners with online lead generation, in a very leveraged way. And we do that predominantly through our martial arts media academy, where we are a community of martial artists who work together on cutting-edge technology and help you grow and scale your martial arts school through the power of the internet. Isn't that cool?

All right, cool – if you need any help, martialartsmedia.com, get in touch with us, send us a message. You can also check out martialartsmedia.academy and we’ll be happy to help you take your school to the next level.

Awesome – I have a few great interviews lined up and we’ll be in touch when they get released. Have a great week – speak soon!

 

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

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62 – Robin DePalma-Rowe from MA1st – Opening & Operating Multiple Martial Arts Schools

Robin DePalma-Rowe from MA1st shares key preparation strategies when preparing to open multiple martial arts schools.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • How Robin learned the ropes of running multiple schools
  • The advantages and challenges of running a family martial arts business
  • Robin’s tips for martial arts school owners who are planning to open multiple schools
  • How to develop a strong team of workforce to achieve your school’s growth goals
  • How to prevent the common risks of entrusting your business to others
  • And more

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

TRANSCRIPTION

We have it set up with the high performance stay skill. We set this up as a career job. Where they’re going to make more working for us then if they went out on their own, because we do all the business side for them. They get to do all the fun side of just teaching, but we pay them well for it. And they see that. They see it, they appreciate it, they see the value and why would they go?

GEORGE: Hi, this is George Fourie and welcome to another Martial Arts Media business podcast. Today I'm speaking with Robin DePalma Rowe. And Robin is the wife of Kyoshi Fred DePalma, who's from DePalma's Karate and MA1st, also hosting The Main Event in San Diego in April next month. So we’re going to have a bit of a chat and we had a bit of a laugh before starting this conversation. How would you refer your position in the organization Robin?

ROBIN: I call myself the vice president of the organization. And my husband is the president and then, we all know that the vice president is the one who does all the work, so we laugh, we say he married well.

GEORGE: Married well, all right. All right, and Fred's of course in Thailand right now, so he has no way to defend himself in this conversation. So this will be fun! All right, look Robin, I guess we should start right at the beginning – who is Robin DePalma Rowe?

ROBIN: So, I started in this company or in this business 21 years ago, that was actually when I met Fred. A month before we got married, I thought, you know, I don't know anything about martial arts. I should probably start training and at least have an idea of what martial arts is all about. And when we got married, he didn't want me to have anything to do with his school, he wanted to be able to come home and when he came home, he could leave work behind, dinner would be on the table, house is spotless – you know, that perfect fairytale wife and the joke was, within the first two months, he married the wrong person.

So I think it took about two months to start working at the school, but I started as janitor and gopher. And so I was cleaning the school and running errands, go for this, go for that. And then I think what made us both realize what my potential was, was when I started the cardio kickbox program. So we’d been married… it was within the first year of being together and I’d been training martial arts, I think I was a purple belt at the time and Tae Bo had just come out. And I was always into fitness, I wanted to be a personal trainer, I was on the fitness side and I said, you know what? I think I could do that cardio kickbox thing. Would you let me try it? And he was like, OK, give it a shot. He knew I had the fitness background for it and could run with it. And boy did I run with it!

So within… I don't know how long it took, but not too long, I had 700 cardio kickbox members training under me. And I was teaching 2-3 classes a day, run in different locations, teaching them all over the place. And I think that's where we both saw that this is kind of fun working together and what I'm capable of doing and then all of a sudden, he went from one school to six schools, and we have a lot of young guys running the schools, so we needed a strong program directors. So I got to then go be program director at six different locations. It was at two different locations every night, doing intros there. Doing enrollments over the phone, doing follow-ups with people in all the locations, from wherever I was from. And so I don't know how many people can say that they've been the program director of six schools all at once, but that was fun.

That was kind of my working up and then I moved up to assistant instructor at our biggest location, while still doing program directing at one location, as we started to get the other schools established. And then a few years, I don't know, I believe I was a black belt when I started to run my own school. And so we had a location where a manager needed to move on to other things, so I got to go fill in the head instructor manager position and at that location. That was our most profitable location ever, besides what my husband had done.

And so I ran that school for about 5-6 years and then built it up and at that point, sold it to my head instructor and then that's where we decided multiple locations, we’re going to start franchising. And I moved to a corporate office then to help them run and oversee everything.

So it's kind of, I had to work my way up, I worked every job on the way up. Learned how to do everything, did everything alone, then moved up to running my own school and then worked up to the corporate position. It was kind of the same thing you'd do in any career: start at the bottom and then work up to the corporate position and then that's where I got to help oversee everybody. It’s been fun, in addition to us doing it together, we have our boys who work it with us. Our oldest son manages one of our schools now and so it's fun to watch him excel and watch what he's developed into and what he continues to develop into.

So overseeing all the schools right now, oversee the marketing, the staff training, putting the events together, activities. I watch their numbers, deposits, the pro shop orders – everything. And I think the biggest thing I've learned in the past couple of years is watching the different dynamics at each location and how different personalities work together. My biggest thing now has been how to put proper teams together to get the best results. Quick summary there!

GEORGE: Quick summary. Ok, so that sparks a lot of questions. Just to start: how do you handle the family dynamics, as you mentioned it wasn't a planned thing to keep it in the family like it did, but that's what it's really grown into. Obviously, it works by the results that you're getting. So how do you manage the whole family dynamics within the business?

ROBIN: It was kind of trial and error as we came up through it. I don't like to stay at home, so I don't think it would have worked for me to be a stay at home mom anyway. But as the kids were growing up, I started to realize, you work at a karate school at night, well that's when your kids are home from school. So how do you mesh that to where you actually see your children? And number 1, I always had helpers. Part-time nannies, that would come and help when they were little and then when they got to be about the age of 8, we’d let them actually come work in the karate school with us.

So we'd give them little jobs, we'd have them run concession stands at belt exams and tournaments and let them earn money doing that. And taught them how to… we made them purchase their inventory and then taught them about profit and loss, you know? And sometimes they wouldn't sell enough and it would be upside down in their sales and then other times, they'd make a profit and they'd be excited. And then it got to where they’d actually hire staff to run their store for them and they'd pay their staff a few bucks, so they'd still get to make their money and then give the staff a little bit and have people run their store for them.

But we were really fortunate that our boys wanted to be part of this and I think what helped with that was that we never just said, well, you need to just help out, because it's a family business. We always gave them specific jobs and assignments and pay them for it. Let them earn things, work towards things. So that's why it's just been a lot of fun, doing this as a family. You know, it's a family environment anyway and then raising them up with a strong work ethics, they know how to count money, they know how to work the cash register, they know how to talk to people, they know how to talk to adults, they know how to be respectful to adults. I just look at all of the attributes that they have that they're way beyond the other kids their age with doing that. It’s been a real blessing to do that.

GEORGE: Wow, that's awesome. So that's got to be a lot of knowledge, getting passed on in a very systematic way and I like how you gave them control in little increments of handling their own stock and handling their own money. Obviously, the interaction and learning how to deal with people, that's fascinating. So Robin, you mentioned you went from one to six schools; now, I'm assuming there was a lot of progression and obstacles within that one to six. Do you mind elaborating on that a little more?

ROBIN: This is another funny one. So, my husband and I only dated four months before we got married. And lucky we were the right ones for each other, we've been married 21 years now. We dated four months, I met him, he had one school. By our first anniversary, we had six schools and a baby. And I just looked at him and I said, you either loved me or hated me – I don't know which one! He's from Connecticut when he originally opened in Connecticut in 1986, he had four schools in Connecticut and realized, probably five years into it, this is a good profession, this is what he was going to do, but he'd rather live in a better, warmer environment. And so, he traveled the country for a year to figure out where he wanted to live and ended up here in Arizona, where the weather is nice. And decided he was only going to have one school when he moved here.

And so, he opened his first school in Arizona in 1992 and then we got married in 1997, so from 1992 to 1997, he did really good with just that one school. But I think it was just eating at his brain that whole time. And then, I don't know, maybe now that he was married, he thought he had support or he needed a reason to get out of the house again, I don't know which one. But he opened five schools, five more schools in that first year, all at once. And really, I think the real reason behind it is by, now being out here five years, he had staff developed. Like, he had people developed that were ready to do it. And one school can only offer jobs to so many people and so by opening multiple locations, that gives a lot more people the opportunity to do this as a job.

GEORGE: Got it. So what's the biggest step you got to take transitioning from the first school to the second school?

ROBIN: First thing is, it's hard to own two. You really need to own three, if you're going to have multiple schools. Because that's where a lot of people go wrong, they think they're going to duplicate what they do in the second school, but you're only one person. So you can't be at both places. And so you'll end up leaving the one school to go and put all your energy into the other and then the original is going to drop. And then you put the energy into the other, and that one grows. But then you see the original drop, so you run back to save that and then the other one drops and so, really, the best way to do multiple schools is to be able to step out of it altogether and not be a key employee at any of them. And be able to oversee all of them, so that way, you can continually train the staff and oversee them, which helps you better duplicate your results.

GEORGE: Ok. So, the first step would be to really remove yourself from your first school?

ROBIN: Right. To get a strong team there and a good head instructor and a good management team there.

GEORGE: Ok, and what would you advise people, someone trying to do that? I mean, especially if you are the star of the school? So you're the main attraction and everybody wants to train with you, how do you step back and not be the center of attention without disrupting your entire student base?

ROBIN: Right, and that's the tricky part, but this is how you do it. We had to do this several times when we moved the head instructors and then I had to do it myself when I stepped out of my main school, you bring in your assistant instructor, who works alongside you and you start to move them into the more leadership role of the school. So you have them start to run more drills and be in charge of more things, while you're still on the floor with them.

But you're slowly transferring that power over to them. And then your students start to get used to that person being in charge, but you're still on the floor, so they don't even realize anything's going on. And then as that person starts to run things, you start being involved less and less and less, and eventually, you just kind of disappear and the students are now already set on your replacement and hardly even realize that you left.

GEORGE: All right. Now, during that, do you have sort of like a set timeframe that you go by, or you just judge it on the feeling within the class?

ROBIN: It's important, a lot of times you have to have a timeframe you have to have it done by. You can do it within three to six months, you could even do it in three as long as you have… the whole key is having a strong person that's taking your place. If you're going to replace yourself with a brand new instructor, who isn't very good at teaching, it's not going to work very well. You've got to have that team member that you've already built up, who can pretty much run things very similarly, or at least just, it’s going to be their personality, but can run things just as strongly as smoothly as you did, to make that easy transition.

And I think that’s the whole key. We always say, anybody who says they want to open multiple locations, we always tell them not to. It’s a lot of work! But we love it, I mean, it's fun, but my husband and I, we don't like downtime, we don't like to not be busy, we like to work hard. And we love seeing the growth of our team and seeing the results and watching their progression as we go through it. And we just feel, we like that we can affect so many more people through multiple locations.

But you've got to be ready for it. Don't do it without people ready, or it won’t work. You have to have people ready. And you have to be good at training your staff to do that.

GEORGE: Awesome. Ok, Robin, so let's just look at the devil's advocate position. So, you invested all this time into this instructor to take your place: have you ever felt the risk of that person could just say, hey, I've got all this student base – and I hear about this all the time happening with schools, that they've put all this focus on this one instructor and then the instructor just decides, hang on: I'm just going to go run off and open my school next door or, within the same reach and there goes all your student base. Has that ever happened to you, and if not, how do you combat that scenario?

ROBIN: I’m glad you asked that question. Has it ever happened to us: yes. And that's why we know how to do it right now, so it doesn't happen again. It happened to my husband, it was when I first met him. He had gone away to China for a month to train at the Shaolin temple, and while he was gone, he had a businessman whisper in his head instructors’ ear, hey, you can do this on your own. And when he came back from China, his student had moved a quarter mile down the street and solicited all the students. They didn't all go, but a handful of them did. Of course, because the head instructor is who they're used to, they're going to follow their head instructor, that's who they're connected to and who they want to train under.

And so, the way we prevent that from happening – we haven't had that happen since. So it's been 20 years now since that’s happened. So what do we do differently? We pay our guys well. We have it set up with a high performance stay skill, we set this up as a career job, where they're going to make more working for us then if they went out on their own because we do all the business side for them. They get to do the fun side of just teaching, but we pay them well for it. And they see that. They see it, they appreciate it, they see the value and why would they go?

We allow them to purchase their school and own it, anytime they want, they can run it and our top guy right now, we said, why don't you own your school? You can own it now, and you'd make more owning it, but you'd have more responsibility. And he said, why would I want to do that? He said, I'm perfectly happy with my pay, I'm getting paid well and you guys do all the hard stuff, while I get to do the fun. That's the key, is paying them well and making it a career, a career paying job for them, it’s a high paying career job. We actually have, my brother in law is an engineer – our top manager is making close to what an engineer would make.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Let's explore the hard stuff. So, the instructors got the easy part to take over the school and run the school, but you are doing the hard stuff. Now, what do you classify as the hard stuff?

ROBIN: The hard stuff is marketing, putting the marketing plans together. Our main marketing are festivals, getting into all the community and school festivals. We actually work with 80 elementary schools between our organization and my job is to research all of their websites, and see what events they have going on that we can be part of. And getting those booked for everybody. We run the Facebook ads – well, we hire a company to run those for us, but we’re getting those going and any of the marketing, we set up for them.

Their responsibility for the marketing side is following up with the people that we send in. So we send them in, you sign them up. So they're in charge of signing them up. But we give them a real easy six-week, quick start program, to try to make the sign-up process really easy. And I apologize, I just got a low battery warning on my phone. So hopefully, we’ll get this done before the battery dies!

GEORGE: Awesome!

ROBIN: We do all the payroll, all the bills, we’re responsible for all the leases, they aren't responsible financially for anything, they can just up and walk away anytime they wanted and we've got the responsibility of all of that. We put their calendars together, all the staff training. We put together the inventory orders, we put together the list that tells them what to order and how much to order of everything and how often to order it. We do all the numbers and the stats, I know a lot of people don't like doing those, so we do those for you. Those would be the main things I would classify as the hard stuff.

GEORGE: OK. So, to combat the battery life: as a last couple of questions. Firstly, let’s just chat about the Main Event. I’ll be heading over to San Diego in April, depending on when you listen to this or watch this episode. What can people expect at a… I mean, there are always events happening in the martial arts space. I guess some good, some bad, or I’d rather say good and not so good. What would you say is different from the Main Event to other industry events?

ROBIN: I would say there are two main things that are going to be different: our top one is that it is a smaller event, it's not over packed, which allows you to network more with people. So it's a more personal intimate event, where you're going to have time to actually interact with people and get to know people and you develop those connections and those friendships. And you actually have time to talk to the speakers and the speakers will talk back to you.

So you can ask them questions outside of their seminars. And I think that personal interaction, that's been their top takeaway, where they all say they really enjoyed that. With it being smaller too, our teams that we take to get to interact, they develop friendships. So they develop friendships with people all over the country, who do the same thing that they do. And I know they really appreciate that and building those friendships.

And then number two would be our speakers. The big thing we tell our speakers: whatever you're talking about, make sure you give all the information about it. You can't just be trying to sell something. And then we’re very particular on who the speakers are and what their content is, to make sure it's really valuable content and that you'll walk away with things you can actually implement when you go back to your school.

GEORGE: Alright, cool. And what can we be expecting from you, Robin?

ROBIN: I can do anything! I think one of my main topics this year has been leading your team to excellence or leading your students to excellence. And working both of those, so leading your team to excellence and leading your students to excellence. And I'm talking about what it takes to do that and how you have to really pull it out of them. You can't just tell them to do something; you have to get in there, get in their face and pull it out of them and lead them to that excellence. And that's going to create that passion in the martial arts that they need to have to want to give it their all as they are training to their black belt. And the same with our teams and our staff is, teaching them how to be excellent, continuously training them and teaching them how to get the most out of their students as they're teaching those, so it's a domino effect.

Those have been my big topics this year, trying to think of the… I can't think off the top of my head what the business one has been this year. But we always talk about marketing, that's a big one for everybody, how to get a student in the door. I think even more important than that is how to keep the students and that's been a big thing. We just talked about it in our manager meeting Monday. If you're not keeping your students, it does no good to keep them in the door. To get them in the door, you need to keep them and how do you keep them? They've got to want it. They've got to love how they feel when they're in class. They have to leave every class and go, man, that was the best thing ever! You know? That was an awesome class and if you leave with that feeling every day, then you're not going to quit. And so really, the feeling that they get when they're in class, it's that simple. The feeling they have when they're in class is what's going to keep them training and not quitting the training. Keep them training to black belt and beyond black belt.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Awesome – Robin, it's been great speaking with you. Are there any last words? And maybe going back to the beginning of the conversation, any last words about running the show, anything you want to add?

ROBIN: Yeah – I love my life, I love my job. I feel we’re really lucky to be able to live in this positive little bubble, with everything bad going on out there in the world. We are not a part of it, we don't have to be a part of it. We get to offer anybody who wants to, to come into our walls and experience the same positive and – I hate to say happy place, but this is a safe, positive environment, where you feel good about yourself, where you're accepted, where you're loved. And we just get to be a part of that all the time and we get to completely keep ourselves isolated from all the bad that's out there.

And I just feel so blessed that we get to do that and as we go around and meet these other martial artists, I feel we get to meet the best people in the world and become friends with the best people in the world. And having these events just help us to grow that network and helps all of us to join together and have that same type of relationship, the same type of feeling. To protect us from the bad that's out there and we get to just focus on the good.

GEORGE: I like that, fighting the good fight.

ROBIN: Yep!

GEORGE: Making the good difference. Awesome – Robin, thanks a lot for speaking with me today and for anybody that's interested in the Main Event, you can head to the-main-event.com and get some tickets there. And if not, if you're listening to this later, you know where to go find, you can get more information about the future events and things going on with the DePalma's and everyone else. Awesome – Robin, thanks a lot, I will see you in about a month.

ROBIN: Sounds good, all right! Thanks!

GEORGE: Thanks, see ya!

Awesome – thanks for listening and thank you, Robin. If you're getting great value out of this show, please give us a review, a 5-star review would be, of course, more than awesome. If you're listening on iTunes, you can go through the podcast app, which is the purple app button. You can access through there. Any other device would be the Android type of device, probably through Stitcher – the same thing. And then, if not, if you're watching this through the video or anywhere else, just leave us a review any way you can.

Cool! If you need any help with your marketing, digital marketing, Facebook ads, Google ads, SEO, websites, all this technical stuff that most people hate and we eat for breakfast, you can visit us on martialartsmedia.com and we’re happy to have a chat. Send us a message and we'll see if we can help you grow your business!

Awesome – have a great week, I’ll speak to you soon. Cheers!

 

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61 – Cat Zohar – Simple Member Engagement Tips For Martial Arts Student Retention

Cat Zohar shares simple martial arts student retention tips that any school owner can master.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • Cat Zohar’s martial arts life, being an innovator and a visionary
  • How to establish rapport on the online platforms
  • The benefits of relationship marketing
  • The challenges in building relationship within large martial arts schools
  • Cat’s proven techniques for improving customer retention
  • And more

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

TRANSCRIPTION

Of course, you can. If you can take your hand, putting it in front of you, look at it and then give yourself a direction to smile – smile. And be able to do that, you can great somebody when they walk in the door, I promise. You can train anybody to do that. If you are able to handle that little interaction right there, you can train someone to be friendly.

GEORGE: Hey, this is George Fourie and welcome to another Martial Arts Media business podcast. Today, I'm joined by Cat Zohar. I didn't check – Zohar, am I pronouncing that right?

CAT: That's correct!

GEORGE: Alright, awesome. So Cat will be joining me and about 11 other also martial arts instructors and business leaders at The Main Event and that's in San Diego, 26th to 28th of April, so that's next month. Depending on when you're watching and listening to this. So we’re going to have a bit of a chat and Cat has some amazing things going on in the industry. She got started when she was a 6-year old and I'm here to learn about what Cat does and have a great conversation and of course, bring great value to you. So welcome to the show Cat!

CAT: Thank you so much for having me George, I'm happy to be here! And hello everyone!

GEORGE: Awesome. So, let’s start right at the beginning – who is Cat Zohar?

CAT: Well, I think Cat Zohar is a martial arts innovator, martial arts visionary for the industry. I started martial arts practice when I was 6 years old in Cleveland, Ohio where I grew up. And it's something I've been most active in my entire life, so this is just the continuation and the next chapter of Cat Zohar, I guess you would say.

GEORGE: All right. So you mentioned innovation and visionary – can you elaborate a little bit on that?

CAT: I've done a lot of firsts in the martial arts industry. I started girls only martial arts program, designed just for young girls between the ages of 3 and 10 and we set up the Karate Princesses Program, which was designed specifically to teach real martial arts techniques and skills for protection – princess protection more appropriately referred to. But actually, giving them a base to take part in martial arts. When I was a young girl starting in my martial arts classes, my mom used to be like, girls don't do karate. So our motto and our tagline was, girls do karate too and that was really a big focus.

This was actually pre all of the pink belt stuff that you see today, so we actually had to make our own karate princesses belts out of cool princey pink fabrics and things like that. So we had a whole bunch of ways for the girls to earn bling for their belt by participating and doing princess like behaviors around their community as well as their household too and school.

So there was a bunch of things like that I've done over the years that have been… well, innovative for the industry and I've seen many different trends come and go over the years as well, but a lot of the things that I like to visually express to the people that I connect with is we’re taking what it is that they want to see happen and sometimes giving them the steps to be able to make that happen and how to be able to market what that is. Or maybe help guide them a little bit where I could see the direction developing or progressing fast for the people that they service.

GEORGE: Ok. And you mentioned you've seen a lot of things come and go: what's been the cool thing that you feel has stuck around over the years?

CAT: Well, here's another way where I feel that I bring that vision to the martial arts industry, where I actually coined the phrase that came into the industry is member engagement and one of the big things that I really focus, the most part of my recent career on has been developing and building those relationships with our students and parents. And if it comes down to it, the one thing that I feel will always be here, the personal connections and the relationships, despite the era of digital, websites and connecting and not answering phones and stuff like that. I still believe that that personal element and that interaction has got to be there. And not only does it have to be there, there are so many ways to be able to make it by design, so it works.

Not just for a school owner of multi-locations, but also a single school owner, or a single operator. And a lot of times, that's something that they have but they don't necessarily recognize what they have. They want to try and make your marketing, make them look super big, whereas their greatest marketing effort is actually just harvesting and nurturing those relationships that are small or that are intimate to them and that's some of the greatest ways that they're able to grow. What's interesting to me is, you'll see a lot of great big organizations trying to appear smaller, so that way they have that personal bond and connection. So it works both ways.

GEORGE: Very true, because that's been, just looking at the shift of the internet over the last few years: I think it really came to a point where everybody wanted to automate. Automate and how can you separate yourself from being connected, where now it's becoming, you can see all the changes happening in Facebook, especially – the focus is really, how do you facilitate more relationships? How do you facilitate more one to one type of relationships and connections? So how would you go about that? So if you wanted to create member engagement and you wanted. I assume you're talking through online platforms, right?

CAT: Yeah, it could be anything though. I mean relationships that I specifically refer to though is the actual connections that they have with the parents in the martial arts school and the kids that take part in their program. Or breaching that gap, it's for me what takes place. A lot of parents will drop their kids off to the martial arts program and then for a lot of times, they have even nannies or sitters that bring them to the classes and the parents don't actually get to see what their child learns, or what they do. Maybe it's with the exception of when they come to a belt promotion, or testing or grading.

So these are the types of things that when they do show up, they're like, oh, I didn't even recognize this was here, but the interaction with the instructor and the parent may not be that strong. But how can we actually make it that even an absentee participating parent is still involved with the school, where they feel like, oh, yeah, that's where my kid goes to martial arts, this is what we do. And where they feel a connection with it as well too. Which is not that foreign thing, my kid does that, it's his activity, it's whatever. It’s Tuesday night at 6 o'clock – no, it's more about how they actually can make that relationship grow stronger with the parents, so that way their parent is the ally. I hear so often martial arts school owners say, oh, it'd be great if it weren't for the parents.

Well, it's because they don't build that reform with the parents! They connect with the kid or they get the kid to like it and then they get hurt when the parent says, we’re going to pull him out, or we’re going to do another sport or we’re going to do another activity. Where one of the biggest things then that I see from a martial arts school owners perspective is, why would you do such a thing, you don't know! It’s because the school owner didn't communicate with them, or I told them, or it's because the parent doesn't see. Well, if the parent doesn't see, how do you show them? How do you tell them, how do you get them to be able to recognize that? How do you get them to see something bigger than just your sport, or your martial arts school as an activity for them? So these are the kind of things that I like to dive in on.

GEORGE: All right. And I can hear you're really passionate about that and it gets me thinking, that's really the.. It’s sort of the elephant in the room, right? Because you've got the student and you see the student every day, so you're building a relationship with the student, but the student is not the one that's paying the bill. So it's much easier for the parent to say, well, soccer is cheaper. Or easy to make that shift, because they're not part of the relationship. And I mean that most transactions, people might get started with the idea and for the skill set, but then they hang around because of the community. So I can see the value in that really involving them in the community and getting that happening. So the question is, do you have sort of a checklist or a process that you go about to facilitate that?

CAT: Yeah, actually there are several different tactics that we use, but the strategy that we overall build is developed on day one, is actually sitting the parents down and when we have our first lesson, letting them understand just how important it is to keep that communication going, but more importantly, to actually stop, take a minute, have a one to one conversation with them – not just, fill in this form and I’ll be right back, but instead, hey would you mind filling our permission slip to get them started and then we can take an interview together and see if this is a good fit and actually discuss what they want to see their child gain from the program.

And get them to open up about some of the things that they've seen or experienced in their child's behavior or mannerisms that may be concerning to them. And probe a little bit to actually get them to expand a little bit on why they feel for themselves their child needs either things that we deliver: better focus, better confidence, better self-esteem, stronger relationships with their classmates, better friendships – any of the millions of things martial arts can provide. Get them to actually have an experience, where you're discussing this with them and then from that, actually deliver that to them through your lesson.

And a lot of it just comes down to listening and most of it is that the processes and the things that we use really come down to just communication. You know, so often, we’ll hear a parent wants to pull their kid out and typically, not listening to the reasons that they say at that point is the reason why so many people don't return back to martial arts. I was always in the unique position, because I've had so many former students come back to the training after three months, after six months, after six years, after breaks or periods of time that they wanted to return back and it's because I never stopped treating them as a member, even after they weren't there. So we continually kept in contact or connection or random phone calls here or there out of the blue, where I wasn't doing anything more than just being like, hey what's going on? Missed you, how have you been? You know, or getting to be able to keep that contact going.

And now with social media, so we talk about what are some of the strategies we could specifically use. If you're using a closed space group for your members to be able to communicate anything that goes on in your classes, stop communicating so damn much about your classes! Nobody cares about the curriculum videos of the week and the month and posting all the videos and all the pictures of all these silly things, it's Greek to them. But instead, host conversations that actually spark a discussion, that get them to say, hey, this is what we do, this is how we handle this, or even as simple things as what's for dinner on Tuesday night? You know, giving them the chance to actually open up and build connections, so they feel they're connected to your martial arts school in a greater way than just that place they drop their kid off two days a week.

GEORGE: Alright, cool. That's perfect, that's awesome. So what do you see as the biggest obstacle here? Because I mean, there's this big transition right, if you're a small school, then it's very easy for you to facilitate this one to one relationships. Also, obviously, I mean, things like Facebook groups and so forth make it a lot easier, which is a real soft way to build that community feel. But then what if you start to scale and you're in the position of, all right, school number two, number three is opening up – how do you facilitate that through your staff and making sure that they are on track with the same strategy?

CAT: They have to be trained. People say, oh but I'm not a people person, or they use excuses like that, like, I can't teach charisma or anything like that and I think all that's bs! Of course, you can! If you can take your hand, putting it in front of you, look at it and then give yourself a direction to smile – smile. And be able to do that, you can great somebody when they walk in the door, I promise. You can train anybody to do that. If you are able to handle that little interaction right there, you can train someone to be friendly.

They might not have the personality of highness and warmth but you can condition them and practice through training and rehearsal and performance and reality and videotaping them and getting them to actually see themselves. And get them to be able to say, hey, welcome to our martial arts school! I'm so and so, I'm so glad to meet you and actually get them to learn these processes. And when we follow different types of pre-written scripts or material that we’re able to actually rehearse in training with our staff members and our coworkers and things like that and go over these things, well then, when we actually do it for real, it's not as awkward.

It might be a little bit at first, but here's the truth: everybody at first has awkwardness. It's like a first competition in the tournament, then by the time you've done a hundred of them, it's no longer awkward. In fact, you're like, can we get this stuff over with already! You know, I mean, I competed for 18 years, I know what that game is all about. So I mean, when the repetitiveness at first, you get that anxiousness, but the more they do it, the more comfortable they get at it, the more second nature it becomes. So you don't have to be a people person, but you have to at least care. And I wouldn't hire anybody that didn't care.

GEORGE: Awesome, I like that part. I was speaking to a client last week. We run a program called the Martial Arts Media Academy, where we help with marketing and facilitating all the connection, but I also really try to simplify the online space and really leverage programs. And it's something that came up in the conversation was, really trying to scale and having this problem where you're talking about member relationships and engagement, but the problem was that they found that most of their instructors are introverted. And they just don't have that very outgoing personality to really connect. And that was a big obstacle, or is currently a big obstacle for them is, how do they take that introverted personality to scale and be that outgoing person, or do they need to completely shift gears and train someone else, get someone in from the outside to take that front enroll.

CAT: You know, it could be both. One of the schools of thought that I subscribe to is, not everybody is engineered to do everything. Some people just naturally gravitate to certain areas. Bunny rabbits will never be able to swim, OK? That's just the way that they've been engineered and made, they're not going to be climbing trees either. So I mean, if we’re going to ask a bunny rabbit to climb a damn tree, he's going to fail. He's not going to do very well with that. You ask a monkey to climb a tree and then be, oh my god, you're a black belt at this stuff, how did you get so good? Oh, he's natural, right? Well, yeah, because some of us are actually naturals at certain things.

As far as communication, I believe with training, if they're able to get up in front of a group and be a martial arts instructor, they can just as easily be the martial arts instructor to the parents in the lobby and build those relationships the same way. When there's a disconnect is that they think that the parents are no longer their students too.

So when they take a different approach and a different lens through which they're seeing their martial arts school crew and actually recognize that the parents are there to support their children, so thus, the parents need the training to be able to better endure that role. The parents don't know how to do that necessarily unless they're taught and trained how to be able to do that.

So the person to teach them, who would that be? Well, the martial arts instructor, because what's their job? Their job is to teach! So if they see it not so much as, this obstacle or this barrier, but put it in terms of what they're already naturally selected and gifted for, hey I want to be a martial arts teacher, understand though that who we teach isn't just the person on the classroom floor, but it's everyone within the walls of our school.

And I think when we start viewing our martial arts school not just as a place that begins when we bow on the mat, but instead actually from the front door for whoever walks through, it's no different then. If you say you want to help people, or you want to change lives, or you want to be a martial arts instructor, we can be picky and choosy about the people… let me reshape that: yes, we can be picky and choosy about the people we take and the people we help; however, we have to recognize who are people that need our help.

And sometimes we think, well, the parents don't need our help – sometimes the parents need your help more than that kid on the mat, you know? They're the ones that actually are signing up, not just to be able to give their kid an activity, but also to learn how to better handle and parent their child. And to be able to do that, a lot of times it just comes down to better training and better practice with communications and drilling scenarios, both on the practice floor and how to be able to handle those announcements with the parents too. So making sure that the lobby is never a part of their martial arts school that isn't under their control. If that makes sense.

GEORGE: Yeah, for sure. I think to make it really practical, I like what you said, if you can look at your hand and smile, that's a really, really good start. Just a smile can do wonders. And I think I'll add to that, it's just really being present. Really being present in a situation is, if you can do those two things, and really smile and be present, understand where people are at, I think that's a good stepping stone. What would you add to that?

CAT: The only thing that I would add specifically is when they are given an opportunity to build a connection or a relationship with a student, understand that the student in front of them isn't just maybe the child for the class, but it's the parent or the guardian or whoever brought them to this practice as well. And be inclusive when you're teaching and let them recognize, let the instructor specifically recognize that being able to teach martial arts is part of the job, is also being able to enroll them and being comfortable with talking to them and having that connection.

Because if they want to help that kid that's going to be doing their classes, they have to have communication with that parent. Because if there's ever going to be a situation, that kids going to tell their mom or their dad first. And if the parent has enough respect for you and the program and what it benefits them with, they're able then to go back and relay that information to the instructor. Because the first person that's going to hear about the kid wanting to give up classes, or stop or runs into a challenge, maybe because they stubbed their toe in sparring or something silly like that, that we don't even give consideration, but could be very much a factor of why somebody doesn't want to take part or continue – if that's explained from the beginning, parents are heck of a lot more prepared for it when it does happen.

And we just kind of have to stop hiding the fact that there might be a time when they're going to say, I don't want to go to karate tonight, or I don't want to do martial arts or anything like that. Or I'd rather go out and play with my friends when the weather gets nice and that kind of thing that it's going to make a huge difference if they understand that and they know how their job as the parent is to support their kid in becoming a black belt, or becoming a martial artist I prefer to say, as opposed to just setting an end goal on it. Like get your black belt and then everybody wonders why they got one. They did it, that's what you told them they had to do! But yeah, get the parents to recognize. The first person they go to when there's a challenge is going to be that martial arts instructor to help them with it and see it through.

And the job of the instructor is to teach the parent that that's what they have to do. If that means they have to call them when they first get started, or if they have to keep that path of communication flowing – text messages are great right now, because if a parent wants to shoot you over a message about something that took place. But more importantly, if you want to shoot over that parent a video or a selfie, or something going on from class, especially if they're not present – it's the best way to be able to interact, engage and connect.

GEORGE: I like that, I like that. Quick selfie. This really reminds me  – and I don't know who I'm quoting yet, it could either be Dean Jackson or James Schramko, but the story comes from experiences, customer, experiences. And the stories about, if I walk into a coffee shop or a restaurant for example and they treat me bad, I get bad service and I just feel bad about the experience – that's 100% of my experience with that company is negative, 100%. But on the reverse side, if I'm a regular and I walk in there every morning to get my coffee, I get treated with respect, smile, all these things that we just spoke about and about my 10th trip to the coffee shop, they slip up and make a mistake – that's 10% of my experience with them that's bad.

So when it comes down to that, you have a bit more understanding and you feel a bit more, OK, well, they slipped up, it's OK. Because you've got that relationship and understanding. And I think that relates to a lot of what you're saying here because a martial arts journey is going to have its ups and downs. And it's coming, the bad experience is coming, the “I don't know if I want to do this anymore” is coming. So if you have the relationship to back all that up, chances are you're going to be able to save that relationship, save that student and keep them back on their path.

CAT: George, amen – that was exactly it! One of the big things they say is the difference between customer service and member engagement, because people say, oh, it's the same thing, it's customer service, and I'm like, you're so wrong, I want to say something else, but I remember I'm a martial artist and I don't do those kinds of things. Instead, though, I say to myself, well, you know, customer service is dealing with problems. If you ever have a customer service – I laugh when somebody says customer service department is going to return the martial arts student calls, and I'm like, you have a customer service department? What do you need that for? That's like where, what does that mean? That means problems and that you're just expecting to have lots of problems to have to deal with if you have a whole ton of staff doing customer service.

Member engagement though is pre-empting that, recognizing oh, we've been doing this for this many years, we recognize it – hey, this is a common occurrence and it's going to happen. It's not if it does – if you're the unicorn that this doesn't happen to, no! It's not going about it that way, it's expecting that, hey you know what, this is part of the game, this is just what happens. It's going to come in time, and when it does, this is what we're going to do about it. But member engagement is recognizing that. The kid who has floods and you don't teach an Okinawan system of martial arts, where their pants are up to their knees.

Their parents are not buying them a new uniform – you think that's because they have plans and aspirations for him to stick around another 5 more years? I mean, I probably would disagree. But giving that kid a new uniform, making the kid feel more comfortable then, forgetting about the $30 or the $20 or the $50 or the $100, I don't care how much your uniform is, but whatever that amount is, and saying, I care more about the relationship than I do about the uniform and I want to see this person stay – you make that gesture, you push that forward, hey: if we can give a new uniform to a new guy that we don't even know, why can't we give on to a kid who does practice in our program and doesn't have a proper fitting uniform.

Talk to the parent, it might be a budget thing. It might be not a high priority thing, but I’ll tell you who it's going to make a difference for that kid on the mat. That's member engagement, that's recognizing, man, that kids got to be embarrassed by the way he's getting a wedgie in the middle of his class. And it doesn't allow him to do anything because his mom won't buy him a new pair of pants, I mean, let's be real here, you know? I mean, this is what's going on, I mean, in the day where we have over… I don't even know what the correct word is, but just so much abundance of bullying going on, throughout the world.

This is real life crisis, it doesn't matter where you're at, but that's definitely something that… let's make sure that this doesn't become a zone where the kid is going to get bullied because some other smartass kid says something to him and says, your uniform is too short, or doesn't your mom love you enough to buy you new pants or whatever. Give them the respect of saying, hey, I recognize this. Because any parent is going to appreciate that, so it's just a matter of saying or recognizing where you see a situation, let the light bulb go off and say, that isn't right, let's do something about it.

I mean, everything gets triggered. We know this, right? Somebody misses a class for two weeks, chances are, you're going to get a phone call, or you're going to get a notice from the billing company, or you're going to get some kind of information, or a credit card payment isn't going to go through. And then another two weeks, so you know what's coming. So you can either pick up the phone or here's something better: what if we knew that was coming right on the same day they were supposed to be there and they weren't there? If I would date somebody and they say, oh, that was a great first date and then I don't hear from them for like a week or two weeks later and they send me a text, hey – they're not getting a response! Please! If you want to actually build a relationship with anyone, you have to have communication.

You've got to show that you care, you've got to recognize that, oh – this person actually does have my best interest in mind. And if you can convey that, you're not going to have a problem then when that parent has a situation they want to… or like you've mentioned: when you drop the ball. I ordered you the wrong size belt, I got you your belt, but unfortunately, it came in 5 sizes too big and all this. Well have another one for you in the next 4 or 5 days, but here – use this one for now. They're going to overlook those kinds of things. It's definitely in our benefit as martial arts school owners and operators to make sure that we get to know our people and connect with them and recognize when these things happen. Because customer service is too late, that's overcoming objections and that's like, it's such a buzzword. It's such a sad way of trying to build things around something that's already gone, so see it before it happens, you've got to catch it before it happens.

GEORGE: I like that. Awesome. What I really like about that is really, you eliminating the objections. And looking for the opportunity to build relationships is really what it is. And I like what you mentioned about the bullying part because there's always so much focus in advertising, we’re always fighting the bullies and build the confidence and build the fun, but then sometimes there's a disconnect on the actual mats. That was the ad, but is that what you're really doing in your school? Are you really paying attention to that, because as you've mentioned, bullying is a big thing and in Australia right now there's the no bullying week, so there's a lot of promotion and things going on about that. And I don't know if that's in the States as well, but a big thing about that is, is there an opportunity to be bullied right there in front of you? Or just feeling adequate, or not in place? Because of the social pressures.

CAT: I think it's more responsibility than ever. Any teacher, any teacher, any educator, not even in martial arts; a dance teacher, a music teacher, a school teacher has to recognize those things and recognize why someone might be getting singled out, or pushed out the same way and making sure there's a stronger connection with them, because you might be that only connection with them.

GEORGE: Awesome. Cat, it's been awesome speaking to you. And I'm looking forward to seeing you speak at The Main Event.

CAT: I’m looking forward to it!

GEORGE: Yes, and that's going to be awesome. Just a few last words: if people want to connect with you, find out more about you, how should they do that?

CAT: Send me a friend request over Facebook. I love to be able to connect with people, especially if you're in Australia or some other part of the world where I want to travel to one day and get a chance to vacation, I would love to connect with you and be your friend.

GEORGE: Is that what this podcast is really about? All right, awesome.

CAT: Find me on the Facebook, that's the best way to connect with me. And send me a PM if you have any questions about what we talked about today, I'll be happy to talk to you more.

GEORGE: Fantastic. Cat, it's been great speaking to you and I will see you in San Diego soon.

CAT: Pleasure is mine, thank you, George. Have a great day mate!

GEORGE: Thank you.

Awesome – thanks for listening, thanks, Cat Zohar. Great energy, great content. If you're enjoying the show and you're getting great value from it, please, let us know! A good way to do that would be to give us an awesome review, like a 5-star review on the iTunes platform, or Stitcher if you're listening to this on an android mobile device. So for the iPhone, I know you can go, there's a little purple icon, the podcast app and you can just go through the show there and give us a review. Stitcher, probably just follow the instructions, or wherever you're listening to this – just give us a feedback. We’d love to hear from you, I can see you are listening because I see the numbers, but podcasting being a very one-way communication platform, it's hard to get the feedback.

So it would be great to hear from more guests – that would be awesome. And if you need any help with your marketing, with marketing your school, especially on the tech side, the digital platforms that are forever going and changing, then get a hold of us. Get a hold of us on martialartsmedia.com we would be happy to chat with you and I look forward to bringing you another interview, another lady! And it's kind of ironic, four ladies in a row. It’s just pure coincidence. It's not because it's been a women's week, or anything like that, depending on when you're listening to this. It’s been pure coincidence and I'm hoping you're enjoying the change in perspective and change in energy and viewpoints, which is what this show is really about. How can we create good content, good things, good insights that you can apply to your business and that way we all learn and grow.

Awesome, well that's it from me. I will be back next week with another show and speak soon – cheers!

 

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60 – Andrea Harkins – The Martial Arts Woman Making A Difference One Life At A Time

Andrea Harkins a.k.a. The Martial Arts Woman uses her martial arts experience and blog to shed light on a sometimes negative world.

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IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • How does Andrea Harkins use martial arts to inspire people to become better version of themselves
  • How did “The Martial Arts Woman” concept come into existence
  • Andrea Harkins’ ultimate “mission” in life
  • Details about her two books
  • Advice to women who are having second thoughts about trying martial arts
  • And more

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

TRANSCRIPTION

When we look at the world today, there's going to be a lot of unhappy people and there's got to be a lot of people who just have no idea that they have any sense of worth anymore, because of all the strife and the things that we’re seeing. So I think if we start with each one of us bettering ourselves, whether it's our mindset, mind, body, spirit kind of thing, we can better ourselves. We’re going to change the world a little bit because we're all striving to do something better, and striving starts with yourself.

GEORGE: Good day, this is George Fourie and welcome to another Martial Arts Media Business podcast episode. Today, I am with Andrea Harkins. And I had to practice that, just to make sure I got the pronunciation the American way. How are you today Andrea?

ANDREA: I'm doing great, how are you?

GEORGE: I'm doing awesome. Cool, so we’re going to talk about a lot of inspirational topics and Andrea has got a wealth of knowledge in the martial arts base and she's on a quite a mission to make a positive impact in the world, positive impact in the world. So we’re going to have a good conversation and as always, just see where this goes. So, Andrea, the first question would be of course, who is Andrea Harkins?

ANDREA: Well, thanks for asking that. I am also known out there as The Martial Arts Woman, which is the title of my first book, but really just something I've evolved into and my mission in what I do, which includes writing books, writing for magazines, outreach, teaching martial arts, practicing martial arts, really is to make the world a better place. And I use martial arts as my sort of symbol, or my metaphor for living an empowered life and reminding people that they can strive for more, that they can reach their goals and their dreams.

They just have to work for them and so I really reach out as much as I can in different ways, whether it's through a podcast, or writing and appearances, or whatever I can do to really remind people that, even if they're not a martial artist, they can have that martial art mindset, which is so powerful and so important in today's world, where everything is negative. We have to remind ourselves that we are positive and we can make a difference in the world and that's sort of what I try to do.

GEORGE: So where did this all began? From… I mean, obviously there was a big transition, your martial arts career and then going on this mission. Let’s start with the martial arts background, foundation.

ANDREA: Sure. I began martial arts in 1989 with my husband, who sort of dragged me to my first class. I wasn't really interested in going, I went for him and hated it in the beginning. It was just a little too crazy for me, the kicks and punches and throws, it was a Tang Soo Do system. So after not too long though, I really started to like it, and I thought, hey, I like this and I was pretty good at it and I've never been athletic. I was 26 when I started and realizing that I had some kind of potential as far as being an athlete, or doing something like this was really a great thing for me to learn. I ended up loving martial arts and I just continued and received my black belt, 2nd-degree black belt back in the 90s, I think. And I've just been practicing and teaching ever since. And so that's how the story began and it just continued.

And about 5 years ago, 6 years ago, I had written one article for the Martial Art Industry magazine and another blogger on Facebook contacted me, his name is Ando Mierzwa. And he contacted me, he's known as Sensei Ando on Facebook. And he said, I looked on the internet to find out about you and I couldn't find anything, how come? And I said, well, I'm not out there, why would I be out there? He said, well, you're a writer and you're a martial artist – why don't you put the two together? And he convinced me to start my blog, which is called The Martial Arts Woman. And I started this blog and it just was a nice little popular happy blog that people ended up liking. So I started making the transition there, although I had previously written for martial arts industry magazine that kind of put me out there a little bit.

And then from there, other magazines just started asking me to write for them, different topics. I write for Martial Art Illustrated UK, I write for Martial Art Business in Australia, I write for the Martial Art Guardian in the UK and I write for several magazines here in the States. And it was just, they all had different perspectives and invited me to write columns for them. I started writing for my local newspaper, a positivity martial art column, so it just kind of blossomed much more than I ever expected. And then, of course, I started speaking more, I started reaching out on social media more, so I have a big presence there. And I just found that it was a good niche for me.

GEORGE: OK, cool. Before going to the mission part, I want to ask you something on the actual blogging, because we wrote a program called the Martial Arts Media Academy and in that, a big component that I see that's missing in the martial arts face is content creation. For marketing, there's a big focus on ad creation, which is very, very important and you need to obviously have ads up there and good offers to get students in all the time. A big problem with that I find is that when you only focus on that and you don't focus on the giving aspect and the content creation aspect, then you are always just chasing the next ad and you are one ad away from not having leads, or students coming through your door.

Whereas, with the content creation, and I’m sure you would have found this, having a blog over the years, it's a really slow earn because at the beginning, you put content up and it's like, nobody responds and it… it slowly gets traction, but once it does, it's got that snowball down the mountain effect. And you can't stop it, it's just got this own audience, without being so dependent on all the social factors. So that's a bit of a background to my actual question.

So my question is – and I'm always trying to motivate school owners to get in front of the camera… I guess to get in front of the camera mostly, for the content creation. Blogging of course being… you do the writing and that's a written format, but any form or way of expressing and creating valuable content. So the actual question is: how did you sort of formulate a good way to really express your experience and thoughts and your mission through your blog and through writing?

ANDREA: Well, for me, I use everyday situations in my own life as a way to reach out to people. And my blog has no ads on it, I don't use it to make money. I use it so people get to know me, so when I have a book, or when I have something I want to talk about, they're ready to listen. Because they trust me and they know what to expect. But the blog content I use is, look, I had sort of a difficult time getting through a situation. And this is how I fixed that and I usually have a little martial arts story to tell.

So a lot of my inspirational, motivational content is simply from my life and that makes it very easy for me to have something to say all the time because we all go through good and bad, ups and downs constantly. And I can just pluck one of those situations out and say, you know, I had trouble doing this, or I was sick and I couldn't work out and I felt down about myself, I wasn't sure when I would get better. But martial arts reminded me that as long as I push through, I will be OK.

As long as I just, if I can break a board, if I can learn a new skill that I've never learned before in martial arts, well, I can certainly break through little barriers in my life. I can certainly learn new skills in life. And so I constantly have this sort of play between what we all face, each and every day and how martial arts has reminded me in some way that I'm a capable person, that I need to stop worrying and just push through like I always do.

So for me, content, I have so much content, because there's so much going on in my life all the time. And sometimes I use other people's lives. Somebody will talk to me about a problem or a situation, and I usually have a solution thanks to martial arts and what I've learned. So I just apply the two together. And sometimes I also do talk about being an instructor or being a martial artist and what to expect, or if you want to try it, that kind of thing. But often, my content is really about life.

GEORGE: So it comes down to from what I gather, from what you're saying, just honesty, not trying to portray a situation for the way people might want to perceive it, but really just: this is me, this is my situation and this is how I overcame it.

ANDREA: Yes.

GEORGE: So, did you find that hard, to really get to that point where you actually… and I'm not sure if this is every martial arts, for what I was referring to the program of, that's the exact way to go. But there is a big element to it because you've got to really put yourself out there and not be afraid of opinions and critique.

ANDREA: Yeah.

GEORGE: So is that sort of how you started? Just from the get-go, you were just comfortable expressing yourself, or did you start the blog and then did it slowly evolve to a raw honesty, where you can just express what's on your mind?

ANDREA: No, I think I started it that way. But I always knew in the beginning, that there was a risk of people criticizing me, not liking what I was saying or doing, because that's going to happen in social media, it's going to happen in blogging. And I was a little uncomfortable at first, but then I thought, you know what: I have nothing to hide, I'm just a genuine person and I want to remind people out there that I'm not one of those people way up here, who just pretends that they relate to what you're doing, or whatever. No, I just believe in being honest and truthful.

Of course, I'm not sharing every detail of my personal life, a lot of times it's just a concept or an idea, you know? How do you get to be more positive? How can you learn how to overcome your fears? And that kind of things, where I can just answer with little bits of stories about myself. And funny things that have happened to me, or what my fears were and how I was able to overcome them. Certainly, in martial arts, you face a lot of fears when you have to break your first board or do your first flip, or whatever it might be. And so again, I just apply that.

So it was not a difficult thing for me and I did expect some people not to like it. But really, I haven't had that much negativity about it in the past few years since I started. Here and there, being a woman in the martial arts, another topic to address is when you put yourself out there as a woman in martial arts – you're going to get some backlash from people and you're also going to be treated a certain way sometimes. There is still discrimination, there are still men who treat you in a sexual way because you're a martial artist, or whatever it might be. So that really has been the bigger burden from all of this and the backlash, where somebody is not caring about what I had to say.

So I think the blogging for any business though, is really important as long as you're genuine. Nobody really wants that kind of stock stuff, you know? They want to know a little bit about your school or tell me what happened with one of your students today and why that's important, or meaningful. And I think if you can focus on those kinds of genuine things in martial arts, or in your school, your program, whatever you're doing, that that's going to capture the attention of your potential fans, or your potential students, or that kind of thing. So I hope I answered your question, I think I went in five different directions on that one.

GEORGE: That's awesome. I do want to ask – and this is not to go on a negative track, because obviously as a male, I want to understand the different dynamics that a lady would go through in a martial arts journey. And I had Jess Fraser on the show, second-time last week and the first episode, she was talking about – because she was a bit of a digital Jiu Jitsu nomad. She was just travelling the world and her life was going to all the different schools. And she addressed a few of the topics that…

I wouldn't say discrimination, but it was just very different for her as a female. And getting a bit of backlash from a few instructors, where perhaps she didn't feel that welcome. So in the male-dominated sport, how different is it for a lady to go through the martial arts journey? Do you find that there's… I mean, for the most part, is it all good, or is it just sort of the negatives are just sort of a little bit from here, a little bit from here if that makes sense.

ANDREA: That makes sense. And in all honesty, my experiences have generally been very good. Martial art training, I haven't had any issues really. When I started in the 80s, of course, there were a lot more men than women, there were only a couple of women in classes and things like that. And I think what I noticed more were really just the men showing off more than any kind of discrimination, or difficulty with me being there.

GEORGE: Men don't do that, ever.

ANDREA: No, I know that. This was a long time ago.

GEORGE: I know, we've evolved as a species.

ANDREA: So, I think other than that I really never had negative experiences in my training, but what I can say is that negativity came out more in my presence on social media. Because there are not a lot of women out there and I'm really not negative about men, I love training with men. I don't have any issues with that at all. What happens on social media, where my problems came in, were just keyboard warrior kind of people, who were either insinuating I didn't know anything or trying to ask me out on a date, or you know, just weird stuff. It was really more from that and I had to block a lot of people and block a lot of men.

But I don't want to put all men in that bucket because really, most of my experiences have been very positive. We as women have to just face the fact that we are women and we try to be beautiful, we try to be happy, we try to be all of those things that we feel like society wants us to be. And in doing that, we have to kind of face those situations and figure out a good way to handle it.

And I certainly have heard different stories from different women, who have had both good and bad experiences with being out there in the martial arts. I think what we have to remember is that men and women are different and this is just my perspective. And this is one of those things that I sometimes get backlashes on saying, but we are different. So we practice differently, we have a different mindset. We may learn the same things from the same instructors, but we see things a little differently. We’re mothers, we’re sisters, and we’re daughters. We have a different mindset overall. Yes, we can take all that away and go into a tournament, or go into a situation, a self-defense situation, really strip ourselves of those things for those moments. But in reality, that's who we are.

And I always say, if there’s a husband and a wife, you don't expect them to be the same. They're both spouses, they're both married to each other, but they are not the same. They have different roles and they have different personalities and different ways of seeing the world. Or a brother and a sister, any opposite like that. We’re going to be different, so I think being in a male-dominated activity is challenging sometimes, but it really is about you as a woman, or you as a practitioner and to do it, you're on your way. And as long as you follow your own passion, your own calling, your own training, and then that's all you need to worry about.

GEORGE: Awesome. So, I want to get to the mission part. But I have one more question, just on this topic: what would you say to – because I might replay this section to my partner, who I try to push into martial arts, but it didn't work. What would you… how do I phrase this question: what would you tell ladies who are thinking about trying martial arts, but they are hesitant because it's a male-dominated sport?

ANDREA: Well, I would tell ladies that first of all, nowadays, I don't know that I would call it male-dominated. A lot of classes have half women, half men, or half girls, half boys. It's really come a long way from when I started. And it really… You take a martial art because you have an interest in it, not because there are men or women there. You just… if you're interested in it, that's what you do. And I would just tell them that, if I can do it – and this is something I say all the time: if I can do it, you can do it. I was just 26 years old woman when I started and just discovered that I enjoyed it. So like anything in life, you have to try what you're interested in.

It doesn't mean you'll stick with it forever – maybe you'll like it, maybe you won’t, but try it. It's just like trying a new food, or trying a new movie, or trying on a new pair of shoes. If it's something you're interested in, you give it a try and see what happens, there's no harm done.

In fact, I'm starting right now a new program, I actually moved from where I was living in the states to across the country. And I'm starting a program now called Martial Art Concepts, which is geared for people who have an interest in martial arts, but never knew what to expect. And it's going to have just a very simple martial art program, I guess you might say, where you're going to stretch, you're going to warm up, you're going to learn kicks, you're going to learn punches, you're going to learn blocks and drills. And self-defense and some breathing techniques and you're going to have a taste of martial arts, and a workout all in one. So sometimes, there are things like that that you can try. Also, self-defense is very important for women, so I would highly recommend. It could save your life, so I think that makes it worth it.

GEORGE: Awesome – so why not do it?

ANDREA: That's right.

GEORGE: Cool, so Andrea, tell me about your, just expand a bit more on your mission. You've reached this point where you really want to make a positive impact in the world and you're using martial arts as your metaphor. Big task, so how do you go about that? Where do you start and where do you see it going?

ANDREA: Well, I started just through the blog. And then for me, I started taking baby steps, because I wrote the first book and I knew that in order to sell a book nowadays, you really need a social media presence, you need to be out there. And I decided that I would try to really market myself on social media. And I didn't know really what to expect. And in fact, I hated posting photos of myself doing martial arts on any social media, because I thought, somebody, is always going to look at it and say, your foot is not right, your knee is not up, you're not standing the right way, your arms should be straight, not bent. I just really didn't want to do it.

But I thought OK, well this is how I'm supposed to do it. So I started posting pictures of myself doing kicks and putting little, certain little inspirational quotes or reminders on them. Here's me kicking, but you know, kicks are your fears, or whatever it might be. Or little blog type things to go with the photos. And it was again genuine, and it was again showing that this middle-aged woman can still do this – if I can do it, you can do it. So these are some of the places where I started to really push my mission a little bit more.

And between the blogging and the writing and the photos and the social media, I started to get a little bit of a following, people saying, I'm so glad you said that, you know? I was having a down day today and I just felt like I couldn't get through it today. I felt like I couldn't reach my goals and you reminded me that it's OK if you have a bad day every now and again, you just have to keep pushing through. So it was these little messages that people started taking to heart. When they read something, a lot of them comment, say, thank you so much for this, or I'm so happy that you understand how I'm feeling and that kind of thing. So it's almost like a little bit of a therapy session for us all, right? I get the chance to share and people get the chance to vent or read something inspirational and positive for them.

And when we look at the world today, there's got to be a lot of unhappy people in it. There's got to be a lot of people who just have no idea that they have any sense of worth anymore, because of all the strife and the things that we’re seeing. So I think if we start with each one of us bettering ourselves, whether it's our mindset, mind, body, spirit kind of thing, we can better ourselves. We’re going to change the world a little bit, because we're all striving to do something better, and striving starts with yourself, to better yourself, before you can make change around you. But if I can be happy and positive, somebody around me might start to feel happy and positive too. Why are you feeling so good about yourself, or so good about life? And I can share with them.

So that's sort of how the mission works for me. It's just the more I can spread it, the more I can tell people that they are important, they are worthy of reaching their dreams and goals. They are special, they're unique and when I can do that and people start feeling good about themselves, then we’re starting to change the dynamic of the negativity. And so that's really, it's a lofty goal and maybe I'll only touch a few people’s lives, but I figure that's better than nothing.

GEORGE: That's a very good way to put it. It's a topic that it's come up before, Bogdan Rosu is another person I interviewed from Romania. And his whole philosophy is personal development with martial arts. So to combine the two, and for me, as I mentioned to him, the reason I really got hooked on martial arts is because that's what put it together for me. I’ve always been on this personal development mission, but it was only when I started doing martial arts that it became physical and not just mental. And it was the change in body and focus that really, I guess as a person that likes to learn and try and better himself all the time, that's what was a big hook for me.

And obviously, it's different for everyone, some people go for self-defense and go for this, but ultimately, I mean, you're doing martial arts to better yourself. If you break it down to that, you're taking the step in this direction to become a better you. No matter what the reasoning is. So having, I guess for a martial arts instructor to really have that in mind, and I'm probably preaching to the choir because I'm talking to martial arts school owners for the most part. But I mean, I think it's just so important to have that in mind that that's really what it's about. It's all about the personal development and positive impact that you can make beyond the kicking and the punches of course.

ANDREA: Right, and if we can take that – and what I try to do is take exactly what you just said, about myself, my students, my peers and present it to people who are not martial artists. Present that concept, that mindset, that if you better yourself in some way – and of course, I say martial arts is a great way to do that, but if you better yourself in some way, whether it's a more positive attitude, whether it's working out, you need to start applying these things to your life. And you'll see a change.

So my mission goes even beyond who we are as martial artists, out into the public. The general public of people, because everybody loves martial arts. And if you say you're a martial artist and they're not, they go, oh, that's so cool! You can kick up here, you can do this… yes, I can, I can do that. And you can do that too. I think that's a great way to look at it and that's what we should all be striving for as martial artists or instructors. To better ourselves, to better the people around us, present a positive outlook on life, let people know that they are brave and that they can reach their goals. And I think we’re doing a fantastic job if we can do all of that.

GEORGE: Fantastic. So, Andrea, what's the ultimate outcome for you of your mission?

ANDREA: I think just every single day to make a positive change. Every single day. So, what's the final outcome – I don't know what the final one is. I just know that every day I strive to make a positive impact in some way, whether it's talking to someone like you, or just smiling to someone as I walk by, or reminding people how great martial arts are, or whatever it could be. Every day, I try to do that and I think in the end, if I can just know that I did my best to change the world in some positive way, then that really is my goal in itself. It's just really to keep going, to keep writing, to keep sharing. And I'll do that as long as I can.

GEORGE: Awesome. Fantastic, really inspiring to speak to you Andrea.

ANDREA: Thank you.

GEORGE: Andrea or Andrea?

ANDREA: Anything's fine.

GEORGE: I think I've gone to my default pronunciation. So you've got a fantastic blog and books – do you mind just sharing that, a couple of minutes, for anybody that wants to learn more about you, support your mission and have a read of all your awesome content and everything: how can people get in touch with you and find out more about you?

ANDREA: All right. Well, thank you so much for the opportunity. My blog is called the martial arts woman. So it’s, themartialartswoman.com, it's free, it's just got all kinds of different content on there. My book, The Martial arts Woman, which had more than 30 contributors, all over the world, women all over the world, who wrote about what it means to be a woman in the martial arts, or what they had to do just to learn martial arts, or how they applied martial arts to a self defense situation.

There are really amazing stories that you would never hear. When I started getting these stories in, I started to realize there's a whole chapter of life out there that people have never heard about, because they've never heard these stories that are amazing and inspirational. And I also wrote in the book a lot about my experiences, being in the martial arts. It's a book for everybody, it's a very motivational book. And that is on Amazon, the martial arts woman.

And my second book, Martial Art Inspirations for Everyone is also on Amazon and that really explains my mission and the name of it I guess. It is daily reflections that you can read, page long, that do exactly what I was talking about earlier: taking some of life's challenges and putting them together with a martial art kind of solution that we can all use and it's just inspirational.

And the third book that I'm working on right now is, How to Start Your Own Martial Art Program and this is a book about not starting a big dojo or a big school; this is for the people who want to teach on the side, you know, while they're working their full-time job or are in retirement or whatnot. So that will be coming out hopefully sometime this year.

So please give one of them a read and let me know what you think and you can contact me through the blog, themartialartswoman.com. There is a place there to contact me, so I hope to hear from some of your audience and even if we just chat for a few minutes – that would be awesome.

GEORGE: Awesome. Fantastic Andrea, thank you very much and we’ll link all the books and the blog in the transcript. Thank you very much.

ANDREA: Thank you, I had a wonderful time and thanks so much for having me.

GEORGE: You're welcome – speak soon!

ANDREA: Ok.

GEORGE: Thanks!

Awesome – thanks for listening. Hope you enjoyed the show with Andrea, it's pure coincidence that I actually got four ladies lined up to interview after each other. So if you're enjoying getting a different perspective from the martial arts place, we generally speak to a lot of men, because – hey, most men own martial arts schools. But it's just by pure coincidence that I've got four ladies lined up after each other, which ads a different touch to the podcasts. And as Andrea was mentioning, just seeing it from a different perspective as well.

So I hope you're getting great value out of it. If you are enjoying our show, please, do us a huge favor: the best thing you can do for us is give us that super five-star rating in iTunes. If you do have an iPhone, you can go directly through the podcast app. You can click here and just follow the section to reviews. Give us a five-star review – that would be awesome. If not an iPhone, just wherever you're watching, give us a good thumbs up. Much, much appreciated, and if there any help that you need with your schools’ marketing, perhaps your website, want to chat just about strategy, or get some help, visit us at martialartsmedia.com. We’re happy to help and see if we can help you grow your martial arts school.

Awesome – that's it for this week, I will speak to you soon – cheers!

 

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