Running a Successful Martial Arts School: Are You Able to Pursue Your Mission?

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running a successful martial arts school

Should you measure your school’s success by its account balance?

The answer is a very clear, NO. That said if your school is thriving financially, you will have the resources to focus on your actual mission, why you are in business in the first place

Making money is not why you are in business; it is the result of running a business, but it’s a mandatory result. As our President Jeff Gardner stated in our Martial Arts Benchmark Report, “to put it bluntly, if you don’t make money, it is likely that you won’t be around long for your students. To truly be committed to your students, you owe it to them to take a hard look at your finances so you can continue to be there for them.”

Get your copy of our Martial Arts Benchmark Report!

If you are not focused on the financial metrics of your business, you are essentially flying a plane without instrument panel gauges. Wouldn’t you like to know:

  • Your altitude?
  • How fast you are going?
  • How much fuel you have?

Knowing this information can be the difference between life and death. The same can be said for your business. So if making money is not why you are in business, what is?

Accomplishing your purpose is the definition of success, so we need to dig into the aspirations for your business. What is the reason you get out of bed everyday? “Over half of the business owners I speak to say they got into this business to teach their art, make students successful and give back to their communities” says Gardner. Once you’ve established your mission, it becomes much easier to build a plan to execute on. If you haven’t written it down, that is your first step towards success. Here are three factors beyond finances that must be a focus of your business in order to allow you the freedom to fulfill your true mission.

1) Build Out Processes

Have you ever been to a restaurant where they know your name, and are always glad you came? Cheers to that! When everything feels consistent, smooth and easy, your members build an association of value with your school. This allows you to charge what you are really worth and not discount.automate processes

So how do you create that feeling? The first step is to automate as much as possible. When you have billing on autopay, belt tracking setup and email automations built to simplify your sales process, you’re freed up to spend your time connecting with students, staff and community.

Additionally, when your students see consistency in something like belt promotions, they begin to respect the process and can focus on the art, rather than fixating on their next promotion. Belt tracking of course should not be 100% automated. With Zen Planner, you have the ability to track time, attendance and skill tests at each rank giving you the same data for all of your students, ensuring no student ever falls through the cracks. With this you can factor in subjective input from instructors as a fourth level of guidance to make a promotion decision.

2) Hire the Right Staff

One of the most important aspects of hiring is ensuring you hire people that believe in your mission, not just someone that needs a job. Employees who believe in your values will work for you like they own the school versus someone who just needs a job and is punching the clock for a paycheck.

Once you hire you want to train your staff to work for you and free up your time. This starts with having clear roles and expectations. An employee handbook is key for making sure everyone is on the same page; you cannot hold your staff accountable for something that was never communicated. Also an employee handbook is like automating your hiring process and can cut down on training time.

3) Bring in Students Who are a Fit

When you have a perspective student evaluating your school, you should be evaluating them as well. Don’t pitch them on your school, rather ask questions and dig into their goals and personal objectives. Not everyone will align with your existing (or ideal) community or program offering. It is okay to tell them that and suggest a competitor.

If you believe in the art, then just like hiring staff, you want to bring in students that will align with your mission. Having this mentality is palpable and goes a long way with your students.

adult martial arts class

This mindset breeds a strong community, one that your students want to brag about. Wouldn’t you love a team of advocates that believe in your mission and are out pitching their friends that would be a fit for your school?

Every school owner should be focused on further studying their art, spending time with their students and positively impacting their community. To have this freedom requires a plan and hard work. While you must put time in on the front end, you will start to reap the benefits of time saved in the long run.

Think of your school like you would a child. You must teach it how to crawl, but then one day it will walk. You must teach it how to eat, and pretty soon, it will be feeding itself. Before you know it, your baby will be mowing the lawn for you. None of this happens overnight and you must have a clear structure for your child before it can become an adult. So write down your mission, put in the work up front and set a path in motion; the reward will be worth your efforts.


Interested in seeing what financially thriving schools are doing to create success for themselves? Get your copy of our Martial Arts Benchmark Report.

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gabe zen planner

Gabe Anderson, Marketing Specialist

Zen Planner

Gabe is a native Coloradan, passionate skier and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt who feels most at home in deep pow or training on the mat. Gabe comes to us with over 10 years of experience running a startup clothing brand and is currently a Marketing Specialist at Zen Planner.

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