Posted On:2/12/2007 5:11pm
For what its worth I thought I’d pipe in and say that I think a No BS School Management forum is a great idea. I think it goes along with this site’s mission. Just my two cents, thanks. -john
Posted On:2/12/2007 5:16pm
Style: Muay Thai, Judo, BJJ
Posted On:2/12/2007 7:32pm
Originally Posted by Slindsay
I'd be asking myself if its really worth it to have any form of private lesson. The prices when compared to the prices charged for a normal lesson seem to be extortionate to me. It seems like the prices can be nearly ten times as much as a regular class and I really doubt that the lesson will be ten times as beneficial as attending the one class.
The number of reasons why private lessons can be useful are too many to list here, so I'll give you two personal stories, one where taking private lessons benefited me, and where it benefited the student who took them with me.
I hated rolling. Literally, rolling over my head sort of moves. You couldn't pay me enough money to do it. When we practiced that in class, it almost always led to a fight between me and the instructor, bringing the class to a halt and embarassing the both of us. It had to get sorted out, and trying to do it in class was not going to work (these were small classes too, with mabye 5, 6 people in them). But it only took one private class, where all we did was work on rolling and no one else was watching/waiting/putting pressure on me to perform, for me to start to get comfortable with rolling. Sometimes students need practice away from the public (other students) to figure things out.
Another time, several years later, a student wanted to develop their flexibility. In the group classes, I didn't have the time to do the intense stretching and muscle development he wanted to do. It wouldn't have been fair to the other students (again, small classes). Doing them separately, without having anyone else to think about/train, allowed us to work on his flexibility. The student had a desire which could not be met in a general class.
For the private class I took, it was free. I charged $60 for the private class I taught. Why my private ws free is a qestion for the instructor. I charged $60 because I had to draw on a great deal of information on flexibility (that I had to learn, and pay for) and the student (his injuries in particular I had to work around) to prepare and run those classes. He had no problems paying.
Originally Posted by Slindsay
What I could see a fairer market for would be extremely small classes where you have two or four students working in 1 or 2 pairs. Then I think you would have nearly as much supervisiona and they would only need to be double or tripple the price of a normal lesson to bring in the same amount for the instructor.
This seems reasonable until you consider the needs of the students. Only training with one or two people all the time does not make for a well-rounded fighter (if they only train with someone smaller than them, how will they know how to fight someone bigger than them since they've never tried it, for example), and why should the student pay significantly more than market rate for group classes just to benefit the instructor's wallet? Then you have a more interesting issue; filling the classes up and keeping them filled. It sounds easy enough, but if it's classes only in pairs, what happens when one person drops out (which will happen more often then not)? Does the class shut down? Does the instructor introduce another new person into the team, and if so what if they don't like training together (this happens, and people can and do quit training over not like their partners).
And so on. At it simplest, private (and semi-private to a large extent) classes require a great deal more effort on the part of the instructor. In time, in training, in risk of bodily harm, in prep, in the fact the instructor's time is then completely occupied. Charging more for that only makes sense, and a reasonable person will see that private time is worth more than group time.
Posted On:2/12/2007 9:46pm
Agreeing on a price point for private lessons is silly. Given difference locales/demographics the market in NYC is going to vary wildly from the tri-state suburbs.
That being said, I think the idea of a forum is an excellent idea!
Posted On:9/03/2007 12:54am
Style: Amer. TKD, Kickboxing
It's interesting to see how easily I get bashed throughout this forum, usually by those who are clueless about what I do and about how to run a professional school.
Certainly, it would be useful for there to be a professional school operations forum but, frankly you need opinions by those who've done it successfully. Note opinions of enthusiasts without school operations experience or success.
What specifically is it that offends you to the point of referring to me as "money bags oliver" or that prevents you from taking a business like and professional approach to teaching martial arts.
Instruction in martial arts really is no different that running any type of school. Whether it is Combat Hand-gun or a college. Quality schools - think Harvard or Stanford - are distinquished by full-time faculty, who have solid credentials and by having more resources, more demand (ie. more students wanting admission) and better graduation rates.
Martial Arts schools are no different.
Should be determined by Supply & Demand. The market will decide what it's willing to pay (ie. prospective students) Schools who charge too high a price will not enroll enough students, those who charge too low a price will leave alot of potential revenue " On the Table."
The problem with martial arts instruction is DROP OUTS. Anything that encourages a student to train to a high level of mastery should be encouraged. All sales processes must be accompanied by 100% open and honest communications about expectations and results.
It's nearly impossible for someone to be a part-time teacher (ie. teach a few hours a week at a rec center or "Y") and have enough time to really master teaching technique as well as quality martial arts. Full-Time schools bring more resources and frankly the ability for their instructors to devote substantial amounts of time training and learning to teach better.
It's imperative that school owners learn to "get the word out" about their school. Whether that's through paid advertising or heavy word of mouth - without new students coming in the door it's impossible to support an active program.
Again, I ask what specifically you object to with professional school practices?
Posted On:9/03/2007 1:07am
Secrets Of High Performing Schools
With Rob Colasanti, President
I wanted to begin by just telling you at NAPMA, we have about 1,650 people that are in our various membership programs. We work with schools in 24 countries around the world; schools as far as the kingdom of Bahrain. Everybody’s becoming a NAPMA member these days.
And one of the interesting things is I get to talk to these folks on the phone all the time, and some of the questions people ask are really kind of unique.
Just the other day, I was returning a phone call, we’ll say to Master So-and-so. So, I called up and I said, “Hi, this is Rob Colasanti from NAPMA. I’m returning a phone call from Master So-and-so. And the front desk girl says, “Hold on a second, I’ll get him.” She puts the phone down, she comes back about 45 seconds later, and she says, “Master so-and-so, he’s in the bathroom, and it sounds like he’s going to be a while. You’d better call back later.”
And I thought, “Oh my god, if anybody needed our way of the phone program, it certainly was this young lady.”
Then, just this week, I get a phone call from a guy and he says to me, “Rob, I need some advice. I need some quick advice.” He says, “I’m devising a policy, and the policy would state that if a child ever comes to the school and they’re the only kid in class that evening, then their parents would be forced to stay and watch the class or else they’ll have to take the kid out of there for that evening.” He said, “Can you help me tweak this policy?”
I said to him, “Wouldn’t it be a better idea to figure out how you could get more than one kid in the kids class on any given night?” And he said, “Yeah, I see your point.” I said, “Yeah, that’s why I make the big bucks over there at NAPMA.”
Some of these phone calls! This week again, another call. A lady calls up and she says, “Rob, I have 7 students, been in business for 2˝ years.” Let me repeat that: 7 students, 2˝ years in business. She says, “I’ve got 2 of my guys that have just entered into a full-contact kickboxing fight night.
She’s a grappling instructor, and she says, “Can you give me some quick advice over the phone on how to do kickboxing? And do you know of any places I can get some instructional DVD’s real fast on kickboxing?” And I said to her, “Ma’am, I’ve been doing kickboxing now for over 20 years.” I said, “We call fighters like yours fresh meat. And my advice to you is to not send these folks there, unless you want to see them humiliated, knocked out, and possibly injured for life. Instead, let’s get your school to the next level. Which, in your case, of course, is about 15 students.”
The industry is a very diverse place. And I have to tell you, at NAPMA, we just really do see it all.
One of the things that Master Oliver asked me to do by coming out here was to kind of give you a bit of a perspective on what’s going on out there across the nation right now, and really what the top school owners in the country are doing.
With NAPMA, we work with school owners that have, like this lady, 7 students. And we work with people who have literally thousands of students.
But one thing that I have found is that they all have some commonalities, if they’re at the top of the industry, the schools that are really doing well. They’re all doing some similar things. And that’s what I’m going to share with you here today.
But before we dive into that, I want to say that there’s never been a better time, in the history of the martial arts, to be in the martial arts business, to own or operate a martial arts school.
The reason I say that is because we’ve experienced what I like to call an evolution of professionalism in the last couple of decades.
As a matter of fact, how many of you have been in the martial arts just since the 80’s? Let me see your hands, please. Okay. For at least the 80’s; before, during? Most people in the room.
What’s interesting is then you may recall that even back in the 80’s, the average tuition was what, about $30 a month? You saw very few females training, very few kids in the early 80’s. The teaching style was that of negative reinforcement. It was very common, very militaristic. And hardly anybody can make a full-time, professional career out of teaching martial arts.
Well, all that’s changed in a very short period of time.
Today, I work with schools all over the place, that have 300, 500, 700, 1,000 active students. It’s not uncommon any more, you talk to guys that their tuition is $125, $155, $175, $200 a month for the classes. And I say, “Awesome! Great! Finally, martial arts instructors are being paid what they’re worth!”
Nothing can hold a candle to martial arts instruction. It’s not t-ball. It’s not soccer. It’s not piano lessons. We’ve been under-charging for our services way too long.
I’m seeing school owners now opening up 2, 3, 4, 5 schools. Many of them are doing it with complete confidence. And some of them are even buying the buildings that they’re teaching out of, which is a great idea because it’s a hopefully appreciating asset that you can use as part of your retirement.
So, it’s a great time to be in the martial arts industry today, as long as you can maximize that and plan ahead and do it the right way. It’s a great, great career.
I want to kind of jump into this seminar now with the very first topic. All of you should have one of these nifty little handouts in front of you. Remember that studies have proven time and time again, that by taking good notes you can only retain a certain percentage of what you hear. So, be sure to take good notes, because the real seminar begins when you walk out that door in an hour and a half from now. You want to take this knowledge, you want to take this information with you.
The things that I’m going to be talking about today are not theoretical. They are tested and proven. The material I’m talking about today is the stuff that’s really working out there. And the very first thing that I see the top school owners in the nation doing, the top thing, is that they think of their school as a business.
That’s very important, because what happens is this thing occurs that I’ve termed maprogenesis. I wrote about this in my book. It’s really how does a guy go from being a student to a helper, to a black belt, to an assistant instructor, to ultimately owning or operating a commercial martial arts school? That process occurs in different ways.
In some cases, the person’s instructor passes on. In other cases, they just get the torch handed to them, because their instructor gets out of the business. In other cases, they have a falling-out with their instructor and they just simply part ways. Some guys want to turn their hobby into a profession.
Does that fit the bill for anybody in this room? Any of those? I see a lot of nodding heads. There’s only so many ways.
The point is that what we see is that a martial arts school, a very basic, generic model, can be a business that’s divided into 2 opposite yet equal halves.
One half would be the teaching half. The other half could be considered the business half. And what we see is that most instructors initially start to think of only the teaching half. They think of just the martial arts portion of it – the part where you’re doing the kicks and the punches and the forms and the fighting. And they totally neglect this business half.
In many cases, these are the small schools in the country, the ones that are only focused on the teaching half.
But I’d like to tell you that at NAPMA, one thing that I’ve noticed is that it doesn’t matter what type of style you teach, you can still have a successful school. Let me give you some examples.
Brazilian jujitsu. Many guys that teach Brazilian jujitsu, I just know because we work with them. They are very small operators, guys that are teaching out of garages and back yards and basements. They’re struggling to make ends meet.
However, you see guys who are in Brazilian jujitsu who are very successful, like Palo Fernando. We’re going to put him on the cover of the magazine next month. Palo has over 400 active Brazilian jujitsu students. And it’s not the style, it’s how he operates his school that matters. And that makes the biggest difference.
Another case, kung fu. Robert Brown, for example. Does anybody in here know Sifu Brown? A couple of people? He has over 500 active students at his kung fu school.
So again, it’s not the style that matters, it’s how you operate the school.
Ron D. Chang, anybody in here know the Changs? Yes, indeed. They have over 2,000 active students at their tae kwon do school, under one 20,000-square-foot roof.
So, it’s not the style that matters.
Some other examples. Dawn Barns. She’s the most successful female school owner in the world today. She’s grossing over $3-million a year with 4 schools. So, we see females that are doing it.
Skip Chapman, aikido. He’s a NAPMA member with over 200 active aikido students. Most aikido schools do not have 200 active students.
We see it in fitness kickboxing. NAPMA member Charley Foxman has about 550 active students. The amazing thing is that Charlie is 63 years old and he teaches most of the classes himself. There’s not many fitness kickboxing schools with 550 active students.
John D. Pasquale, he’s a NAPMA member who has over 7,000 karate-do students in the Illinois area. He’s got about 75 clubs that are under his jurisdiction.
Ali Alberigo’s got over 1,500 ninjitsu students, and I could go on and on and on.
So, the key is that it’s not the style that matters, it’s how you operate your school that makes all the difference in the world.
The very first thing that the top schools in the nation do, that I work with, is that they begin to realize that their school has 2 halves to it. There is a business half and there’s a teaching half. And what they’ve learned to do is pay equal attention to both halves of the school, and not just one.
It’s the guys that have 50 students or 75 students or 100 students almost invariably are the ones that are focusing primarily on the teaching half, and they are ignoring the business half. They think, “If I build it, they will come. If I’m a great martial artist and I can kick higher, and if I get in better and better shape,” they’re going to fill their school with students.
And everybody knows that that simply is not the case.
Now, when we look at the teaching half of the school, as I said earlier, what goes on here is the kicking and the punching and the forms and the belt testing and making sure that these students leave sweaty, smiling and sore, all the things that we do as martial artists.
But what are some of the things that go on, on the business side? That’s what I want to talk about now, because I would presume that all of you are experts already on the teaching half of the school.
The business side carries other things, such as lead generation. That is the genesis of how you grow a membership-driven organization. It doesn’t matter if it’s NAPMA or your karate school, it all begins with lead generation.
Marketing. Advertising. And incidentally, advertising is a subcategory of marketing, just to be clear. The marketing is the overall big picture, the strategy and the tactics. Advertising is just one of those tactics.
How about generating PR for the school? I’ll tell you what, one of the fastest ways to grow a school is to become considered the martial arts star in your town and to have great involvement with the community. That’s a function that goes on, on the business half of the school, certainly not on the teaching half.
How about answering the phone properly? I told you initially about the young lady who told me that her instructor was going to be a while in the bathroom. That’s not how you answer a telephone. That’s got to be systematized.
How about a system for dealing with introductory students? If you don’t have a proper system for dealing with the introductory students, there’s a good possibility all of your advertising dollars are going to go to waste.
A system for upgrades. That is so important if you’re running a modern martial arts school. Most of the very successful schools in the nation that I deal with, most of them, not all of them, there’s very few absolutes in the martial arts business because we’re such an eclectic community, but most of them have a well-systematized upgrade program.
How about financial management and tuition collection? That’s got to be systemized. That happens on the business half.
What about event planning? How about staff training? Staff training is a big one.
As Zig Ziglar says, “The only thing worse than training a staff member and having them leave on you is not training a staff member and having them stay.” And that’s very true. Staff training is a function that happens on the business side.
What about a system for product sales and tracking inventory, and all of the printing needs of the business? How about tracking attendance and following-up? Paying bills? Come on, you’ve got to do this stuff.
I still remember one of the schools that I was affiliate with. One day, we went in there to teach classes. Actually, I was in there doing a private lesson, incidentally, and one of the other instructors from our group came in and went back behind the office, and she came out with a stack of bills like this. Literally, she came out, her mouth was wide open. You’d almost think that her chin was going to hit the ground. She was going, “Oh my god, look at all of these bills, unpaid for like months!”
It’s a true story. She was saying, “Guys, I’ll lick the stamps. I’ll write the envelopes out for you. There’s a stack of bills here that are unpaid!”
That’s an example of some guys that were focused entirely here. Their mind is over here.
I was there doing another private lesson one day, in the morning with a chiropractic radiologist, and some guy drove up in a little car. He didn’t say anything, just got out of the car, came on the inside of the front door and put this big orange sticker. He rolled it on there. And before he walked out the door, he said, “Have a nice day!” And that was the beginning of the end for that school. It was just another month or so before they foreclosed.
The business half of the school, you have to understand that if you’re going to grow a successful commercial martial arts school, you’ve got to pay equal attention to both of these halves. And there’s so many examples in the industry where this is done well.
Look at the case of Tim and Dave Kovar. Tim Kovar is great on the business side. Dave Kovar is a master on the teaching side.
Look at Dawn Barns and Ben Yellen. Dawn Barns, she’s the one in the uniform. She’s out there teaching those classes. Ben Yellen, he’s on the business side.
How about Quanginym Rayus. Ernie Rayus, Sr. He’s on the teaching side. Who’s on the business side? Tony Thompson.
We see it in many, many cases. But the take-home message is that no matter how high you want to take your school, if you want to create the future that you envision, if you want to build the martial arts school of your dreams, there’s no way around it, you’ve got to have experience on both halves. You’ve got to treat them equally. And essentially what you need is someone who’s – and I use it metaphorically – a “black belt” on both halves of that school.
That’s really the first thing that I see these guys doing. There’s nobody in the country I know of, right now, that’s running a real successful, highly-efficient, very profitable school that didn’t ultimately become good at the business side of things. Very important that I drive that point home, because it really is the foundation.
The second thing I see them doing, and this is critically important, is they run systems-driven schools. I want you to write that in on your sheet, to complete the sentence I have here. Most of the martial arts schools in the country are small and are not driven by systems. Most of the schools are small and they are not driven by systems.
As a matter of fact, the school that I came up in, as a student back in the 80’s, was a classic example of that. There was no system for anything. No upgrade system. There was no marketing system. There was no system for developing staff. There was no system for anything.
As a matter of fact, the first system we had was for dealing with new students that came in. And the system was as follows: if a new student came in, first of all, it almost seemed like an inconvenience. I know that sounds unrealistic, but it’s true. It’s almost like, “Gee, we have to stop what we’re doing. We’ve got another guy here that wants to train.” And that was the mentality.
So, what they would do is they’d take that student and give them to me. I was a teenage blue belt. My job was to take them over in the corner an spend an hour with them, doing whatever came to mind – opposite and equal reaction: punching, you want to escape from a headlock. And, of course, I’m teaching this stuff with the skill level of a blue belt that was untrained.
And that was our system for dealing with introductory students.
So, it’s no surprise that that school almost went out of business. It wasn’t systematized in any way, shape or form.
One of the things that I have noticed is that the industry can be layered as follows. And you’re going to fit into one of these categories.
I like to think of the industry as a pyramid that is chunked up into a couple of different sectors. In fact, if you look at your handout, you’ll see a pyramid that’s divided into 4 sectors. And when we talk about systemization, most schools fit into this: the very bottom of this pyramid is comprised of the very small-time operators, the guys that are teaching out of YMCA’s, health clubs, fitness centers, churches, basements, backyards.
Actually, I had Kathy Long over for dinner at my house the other night when she was in town, and she was telling me her school is in her backyard. She can fit about 8 people on the training floor at one time, and she’s running the Azteca Martial Arts Training Center.
There’s a ton, and I don’t know if you realize that, there’s a ton of guys out there that fit into this category. And that bottom layer of the industry is the biggest layer. And most of these guys that are in this category, they don’t have systems of any kind, whatsoever.
And you know what else? They don’t want them. They don’t want to, because they’re not really running their school as a business. They’re kind of like hobbyists.
Here’s a great example. About 2 weeks ago, I went to a Joe Louis seminar in Tampa, Florida. And afterwards, we went to lunch with the owner of the school that the seminar was at. He was sitting right at the table and I said to him, “Eddie, that was a great seminar. I like your school. How long have you been there?” He said, “Well, I’ve been there about 3˝ years.” I said, “Oh, that’s great.” I said, “How many students do you have?” And he looked up in the air and went like this. And then he said, “I have about 20.”
I can see the look on some of your faces. A couple of you guys went like this. A couple of you kind of looked at each other. You’re thinking, “3˝ years, 20 students?” That wasn’t my reaction, because I’ve been around these guys.
Eddie’s situation is very different. Eddie has a great day job. His wife has a great job. He just wants that school, so he can perpetuate his art, have an official Joe Louis training center, get out there on the weekends and kickbox. He’s open about 3, 4 nights a week for a couple hours a day. And he said to me, “You know, if the school costs $1,700 or $1,800 a month to keep open, I just want to make $2,400, $2,500 a month and I pocket the rest of the money.” He’s happy as a clam.
That’s these guys down here. It’s not right, it’s not wrong, it just is what it is. That’s what these people want.
The point I need you to understand is that these folks have no systems.
Posted On:9/03/2007 3:58pm
Gladiators Academy Lafayette, LA Style: Judo, MMA, White Trash JJ
Yea your system works we all know that due to the number of kid ninjas running around. No one ever said proper business management is a bad thing. Managing a mediocre or sub par school that operates under the palacy of martial arts is the base root of the problem.
Performance arts that are taught in many schools that are then operated in a high pressure sales tactics and unmeasurable tactical results are what many of us here loath. Children black belts, women self defense classes that teach little to no material useful to the women. Contracts and programs that "insure" students black belts. All of these things are the problem your organization perpetuates. Regardless of how its done it effects martial arts as a whole.
The name dropping doesn't impress me or many here. I can drop a list of names that I can call at a moments notice when I need help, many more relevant. Guess what? They don't charge me anything. Why? Because they are martial artist that understand the pressure of establishing and running a school.
Can your system help people with a business plan and sales and phone pitches? Yes I believe it can. Should I have to pay you for your services? Yes. Do I have to pay you? No. Many of us can't bring ourselves to resort to such tactics to get students and we will suffer accordingly. But through the help of our friends and family we will move ahead. But don't think that people who teach at a rec center or a "Y" don't have any intelligence or drive. Most of us that do just want to be able to sleep with ourselves and not be labeled as con artist or McDojo.
Judo is only gentle for the guy on top.
Posted On:9/03/2007 4:53pm
Style: Systema & BJJ
i too would be interested in a forum to support this topic more broadly
many have touched on BJJ, and privates...etc, and i actually had been thinking about this topic lately.
On the topic of higher level belts, at what point does someone stop paying fees for training? when they reach BB? or do they continue to pay as long as they are training there? Or if they start teaching or assisting, they don't pay? pay less?
I ask because from my previous MA experiences, I've been priviledged enough so far that my past instructor wouldn't accept fees from me after a few years of dedication.
I ask this about BJJ, because its got such a tight quality control factor to it that i'm sure there's more stringent guidelines than just an instructor saying, I like this guy, he doesnt have to pay for training anymore
Or if they keep paying, does say a brown belt have to pay any more or less than a noob? since the brown belt probably needs more advanced instruction than others? Or are brown belts more likely to actually just do privates at that point?
The Bottom Brick
Posted On:9/03/2007 5:25pm
Style: BJJ, Ju-Jitsu
Have you ever considered that you might be better suited to selling network marketing products instead of doing Martial Arts?
Given your posting here and what I have read about you. Perhaps being part of the Martial Arts community isnt what you were meant to be.
"Sifu, I"m niether - I'm a fire dragon so don't **** with me!"
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