Martial Arts Business. Thinking Thru the Evolution of a School’s Consciousness
Martial Arts School Owner Advice, Unsolicited (of course):
Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs serves as a model for this viewpoint I’d like to give you; that there is a process of development of a school that most often begins with learning how to be a “real” business, one that has a functional plant/site, all the physical tools it needs, where there’s a plan for paying expenses required to operate the school, a system for spreading word of the school, and adequate management of resources ——you know, the same old things that make or break all businesses: The ABC’s of hanging a shingle, “running” a business, and balancing the numbers.
One of my chief complaints with the “martial arts industry” as it is today, is how much of the material is about business basics —and chiefly, how many of the school owners I meet who are stuck there, still (after years) trying to figure out how to keep the numbers, how often and/or how to get new students (market), and how to use a day planner, answer phones, design ads, build a website on their own, you know….the basics that should be learned in, what? 2 years max? Some people I talk to have made these things their primary focus ——and thus, it’s always SURVIVAL time.
Staff development, the ability to practice “management” — as in “getting things done thru the efforts of others.” 90% of the school owners I meet haven’t ever read even a single book or taken a course in staff development. Staff training ends up being nonexistent or painfully dysfunctional —and undeveloped, staff members are often performing and producing at a fraction of their potential —and feel under-paid, trapped, and as if they’re not evolving.
Students; when you have good teachers —then 20, 50, 200, 400 students —or any number of people beyond the 1 to 5 people that might make up “the staff” of a school, you have a very new, very dynamic, very powerful machine —that is not what it was in the “basics” stage, that is not what a school is that has a strong owner and a good staff, you have a power-tool that can be managed in a way that creates something new, something far more dynamic and valuable with, than without. At this stage in a school’s potential development, the owner and staff need to join forces with the students to create something far beyond what the school was BEFORE the student body evolved to be a group that the school doesn’t just serve, but that becomes a part of what the school is, what it creates.
The WORKING SCHOOL. The working school has the basics down —and understands that the basics have their place, but they are not “the school.” The basics are equivalent to getting up in the morning, showering, getting dressed, and going about the day. This is NOT what the school is, it’s what the school does, without much thought, so that it make go do things of a higher purpose. The WORKING SCHOOL is making money, managing people well, all systems are in place and it’s working. A WORKING SCHOOL is then an animal in and of itself, with powers, abilities, and resources to use for things beyond the processes that got the school to BE a working school.
Out of the Dojo and Into the World. A working school, with an evolved owner, staff, and senior body of students, represents an eco-system that has in its sphere of influence 100’s or even 1000’s of people connected to people in the school, that are not IN the school, but nevertheless capable of being affected by the work of the school. A school that works and is evolved makes REAL contribution, goes after real problems in the community, it’s members step off the mat —and into the fabric of the community, using the work of the school as it’s foundation and fuel tank. This level of development isn’t a marketing ploy, it’s a fully evolved organization that has the ability, the wherewithal, and the understanding / wisdom to recognize and actualize itself —in the community, as a member of the community, and something far beyond “a business.”
A school that can’t master the basics is destined to get stuck there, in a “Groundhog Day” of reliving the same experience over and over. A teacher with a vision of social engagement, who doesn’t keep her numbers and use them to better manage her time, is destined to struggle.
This piece is written, for me, as I work thru the argument of why school owners need to THINK WRONG (thank you JB) about the present dominant paradigm of the martial arts industry. So many schools and teachers are stuck at the bottom of the pyramid (as product and services are sold there, they’re abundant, they make school owners good customers), while the higher levels require the people in the school to create, to engage non-business elements of a working school, and making products and services for sale for this level of school is far more challenging, far more complex.
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