The Simple Models of The Martial Arts Business
By: Michael Dolpies
Why complicate things? Our business can be a relatively simple one to operate and make profitable.
I had a cup of coffee yesterday with two women. Both of them serial entrepreneurs, one a professional speaker, among other things, the other had been involved in numerous start ups and worked for the 3m corporation for a while. Annette and Sylvia are their names.
I met them through Sylvia’s husband who happens to be the president of my Toastmasters club. Toastmasters is where you can perfect your public speaking skills. Sylvia’s husband has a fascinating business- He builds cars for the super rich. I’m talking million dollar cars! I said I’d put my order in when the secret society was up to 1000 schools! I’ll keep you posted because I plan on interviewing him about his business and the super wealthy people that he has come in contact with! Now back to the coffee meeting…
I was telling them a little about the martial arts business. Based on both of their backgrounds- Annette owned a 10,000 sf restaurant for twenty-five years and Sylva being involved with all of those start ups, they both agreed that the martial arts business seemed like a very lucrative, simple business when done right! I agreed and of course started to formulate how I’d report this to all of you, so here goes!
Here are the basic business models, that when done right, can provide the owner with a very nice income/business. You may recognize yours right away or you may see that you are sort of back and forth between a two or more of them.
Model # 1- The one man band
I use “man” for simplicities sake! This model is how most of us start out. I started this way when I was eighteen years old in a 600 sf space! This could be profitable, but don’t kid yourself, this is a job 100%, not a business. There is only so far you can go on your own.
The natural progression in your growth would be to begin out sourcing. Don’t do your own billing and never collect payments at your school. Use Member Solutions or one of the other billing companies our software providers like
Model # 2- Owner operator assumes a role.
There are two simple, important jobs in our business. The first is Instructor, the second is Program Director. As an owner operator you can give yourself whatever role you choose. If you choose program director you’re gonna need to hire a full time or part time instructor. If you hire part time you should intend to make them full time as you grow. If, as the owner, you assume the program director role, you still must keep your pulse on the teaching floor and make sure all of your students know whose boss.
The owner can also higher out the program director. The good news about this is the fact that they don’t need any martial arts experience. You can train them. As long as they know how to sell and can teach a good intro you are good to go. As a side note- when hiring employees hire slow and fire fast and be sure to get a no compete agreement. Of course, there are many husband and wife teams who operate schools with the above model.
Model # 3- Owner builds more of a business.
This model can be an outgrowth of model # 2. As the school grows and becomes more established the owner can higher out both roles. With good training and careful monitoring the owner can simply become the marketer and leader of the school. With this model the owner really won’t have a ton of “day to day” chores at the school. The owner won’t be teaching all classes because there’s someone full time who does that and the owner will not be doing intros because the program director will be doing those. With this model you can cut your hours back and get some freedom. BUT you can never take your finger off the pulse of the school and disappear for too long unless you are using model # 4.
Model # 4- The partnership model.
This is how I got going with my school back in 1999. These models can work and aid in creating piece of mind when done right. Having two people with a solid vested interest can do wonders for a school. In some cases one owner can be hands off. In that case be sure that compensation is fair for the person doing the day to day. Business partners can assume the role that they feel comfortable with. Be sure to check with a legal advisor and an accountant before entering into a partnership!
In the “MA-Biz Secret Society” we have clients that span every model. If you feel as though I have missed one please let me know, this list is by no means the end all be all!
© 2008 By Michael Dolpies