Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Martial Arts Instructor One Man Show Pt. 2

In my first post we discussed the disadvantages of operating as a One-Man-Show on a long term basis. In this post we will discuss tips to transition your role of running a business into owning a business.


It is very scary to release control of business tasks, especially when times are tough economically. I remember the first time I had a new instructor teach a class for me. I stood behind the front counter white knuckled, cringing, and analyzing everything that went on inside as if everything I had worked so hard to accomplish would be wrecked in 45 minutes. That was the most stressful class I never taught. :) After the class I thought sure I would lose students, they would not enjoy themselves, or somehow be upset that I didn't teach. This was not the case at all, in fact they actually enjoyed the class because it was different! Now was it as good as I could have taught it? Probably not, but this instructor now had an opportunity to improve and share his unique teaching style with the students. You cannot let fear get in the way of progress. Successful people often do what others are too scared or lazy to do.

I was terribly afraid to have employees answer the phone, because I knew that my phone closing rate was 90%+. Every time that phone rang and I was able to answer it was money in the bank for me. That was my reasoning for always answering the phone and not allowing others to have the opportunity. This went on for years, until finally I realized I couldn't just train my staff on what to say, and expect mock rehearsals to prepare them. I actually had to let them get on the phone. Yes, I lost money in the short term.  Appointment rates went down to 70% or 75% for a while, but by allowing them to make mistakes (and coaching them along) I was able to free up enough time to focus on another aspect of my business which more than made up for the cost of a few missed appointments. A few months later they are at a closing rate of 80-85% and I don't have to answer the phone anymore because ITS OK. The time I used to spend on the phone is now spent on social marketing, spending time with my family, traveling to a martial arts seminar, or something that gives me a higher return financially or even personally than the extra 5-10%. Who knows, in a year they could have a 95% closing rate and do a better job than I ever could!

Tips for overcoming fear

1. Stop making excuses.

2. Get out a pen and paper right now and write down every single job/task that you do in your school. Everything. Here is an example of my own school's task list to help you get started.

3. In your free time, take out your camera phone or use free screen capture software and film each and every task being performed with yourself explaining how it should be done, common mistakes, and your expectations. Don't make a huge project out of it, just start with a few 5 minute videos next time you actually go and do the task and build from there. You are doing it anyway, so you might as well video it!

4. Save this on your office computer so your staff can always get to it.

5. Start small and give one task at a time to your staff member, volunteer, etc.. (this will be discussed in a moment)

6. Review the video with them, or email it to them. You can even have them make their own video of themselves doing the task and have them send it back to you verifying that they know how to do the task and that they watched your video. Rate them on it. Make them repeat it over and over until they rate a perfect score.

7. Inspect what you expect. Don't assume they are doing everything you ask of them. Periodically check and hold them accountable for their results.

8.  You have to train them how to do something many times, and continue to remind them several times. They will forget, they will mess up, and this happens with even the best staff members. Nobody is perfect.

Low or No Cost

Most school owners in this position cannot afford to hire a staff member because they are stuck in the transitional phase. There are many FREE options to accomplish this even if you cannot afford to hire someone. Many of these are temporary solutions, but will get the ball rolling. Remember, your students are loyal, appreciate everything you do, and will gladly help in any way they can. With that in mind, do not abuse your students. They are the reason you continue to have a business.

1. Volunteer Hours - You can require students to perform 1 or 2 volunteer hours per testing cycle or month which could range from answering the phone and taking a message when you are in class, cleaning, distributing flyers, holding pads in class, etc..

2. Cleaning  - At the end of the last class, usually adults, you can make it the responsibility of everyone to clean the mats (usually takes everyone 5 minutes). Ask if anyone has an old vacuum or mop bucket, etc.. and they will usually donate one for free. The most cleaning equipment, the less time it takes everyone to finish. This is an age old tradition in martial arts.

3. Volunteer Coaches - Have select parents or higher ranks hold pads in class, etc.

4. Setup a once a month training session with these volunteers/leadership team and practice the skills they will be doing. Don't just assume they know automatically know how to help or that you can train them as the classes are going! Email them the videos you took or put them on youtube.

5. Allow a student to train free in exchange for cleaning, or working the front desk, etc.. When a student loses his job or has to quit for financial reasons offer them an option like this. Its a win win solution.

6. "Hire" a student to market for you and pay him/her a commission based on a each student they can bring in to enroll. You must provide marketing materials such as flyers, doorhangers, business cards, etc.. The good thing is that they get paid on their results, so if they do not perform you do not have to pay them.

Remember, you should control your business- not the other way around.

-Jeremy Molley

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