Thick Headed Instructors in The Martial Arts Business

It seems like at some point any accomplished martial arts business person has gone through this.

It happened to me a few years back.

It happened to my close personal friend, Brett Lechtenberg.

It has happened to numerous clients over the years.

Every successful school owner has this “War Story.”

The inspiration for writing to you about it came to me this week because I got a call from a client who was experiencing it right now.

What am I talking about?

When an “Instructor/Employee” leaves abruptly, without your blessing and tries to take your students with him.

I can totally understand if an instructor sees no future in working with you. Or, if he’s being held back and wants to move on. That’s cool!

But, what’s not cool is pre-meditating a plan for months, stealing student info, trade secrets, contacts and ideas. Usually it’s all driven by greed with malicious intent.

In the case of my client this week – the instructor who left was someone who had grown up in the school. This kid was practically “raised” by my client.

When that’s the case it’s easy to let your guard down.

As you can imagine we had a really long conversation.

Here are the main take aways…

  1. “Stick to your guns.” He uses a billing company and now is the time more than ever to be a “jerk” when people want to cancel. I won’t go into the details of why this is the right thing to do in this situation.
  2. Strengthen the bond with every student.
  3. Minimize the Drama. Meaning, most people just want to train and can care less about the drama of your instructor leaving. If you pay too much attention to it, people will simply quit. The truth is they have enough drama in their lives and don’t need yours.

Speaking of Thick Headed…

A little bit about my story…

After selling my school in Philly, I opened a school from scratch in a new town where my wife and I just moved to.

We did not know a soul in our new town.

We moved in in November, by March we did our Grand Opening. By June our billing volume was a little over 17K per month. Not too bad. And keep in mind, that was just billing, not total gross.

Anyway. When we started I was teaching and doing the marketing and my wife was the program director.

Things were good, but I always knew I would not stay teaching every day. Not wanting to teach every day has nothing to do with not loving it. It’s mainly due to my entrepreneurial A.D.D.

So I was on the look out for an instructor to train in my system. We did not have the luxury of a core team of assistants on deck chomping at the bit to teach classes. Our school was new!

After, going through a few candidates I finally kept someone on and slowly began to increase his class load eventually making him full-time.

Life changed a little and I had also been operating another business in addition to my school (the one I have now).

Anyway, a few months later, things were going really well with both the school and the new biz.

Coming up on my 10th year in running schools, I was itching to do some different things.

My wife and I were getting ready to move again to peruse some new things.

The stage was set.

The school was running each day and not totally depending on me. Of course, I went in everyday, talked to people, jumped on the mat and did some enrollments.

But there was both an instructor and a program director in place.

I communicated my idea of eventually selling the school to the instructor I hired. He was all for it.

Naturally it would take a few months.

But since I moved he would be getting the best training and preparation for taking over.

I had no idea he was hatching a plan to screw me, my students and eventually himself.

Long story short…

While he was filling my pipe with the goal of buying the school he got one of the parents in the school to bank roll the opening of a brand new facility.

And boy – were they foolish!

They must have spent 65K to open.

Within 18 Months the school they opened was closed.

See, their plan did not go as expected.

All of the students DID NOT follow them.

And even though I was miles away I went down to teach and also found someone to take over who eventually bought the school.

Because I am transparent I will tell you this…

The guy who took over was a knuckle head.

My options were limited at the time.

And although he was not smart enough to keep a great thing going. He did succeed in two areas…

  1. He helped me foil their plan. When you expect 17K per month to simply follow you to your new business and you don’t even get a third of it business can be tough and that’s why their school failed.
  2. He also helped me get out of a sticky situation.

Anyway– lessons learned!

My wife warned me about the instructor who tried to take my students.

I ignored my own gut-feeling that this guy was too thick-headed to be a good business owner/partner.

I’ve never really shared these details publicly so this was sorta fun.

As you can imagine when ever I deal with clients who have staff challenges or staff issues I am able to help them.

So be careful out there in the jungle.


If you want more war stories.

If you want some help growing your school.

You can get into an exclusive circle of smart martial arts business owners right here…

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