You may think that after years of hard work, blood, and tears your path to the top is complete once you reach the stage of owning your own martial arts studio. The money will make itself. You’ll just take in adoration and respect from your euphoric students. With time, you’ll retire to the Bahamas and a network of shiny-eyed instructors will spread your legacy around the world, earnestly working each day to create you a passive income.
What could go wrong from here? Well, for one, you could go bankrupt. Not many businesses make it far down the road in this dog-eat-dog economy, even though those who do collect the paychecks that their less fortunate colleagues would if they had a good business plan. Forbes reports:
“Only about half of small businesses survive past the five-year mark, ranging from 45.4% to 51% depending on the year the business was started. Beyond that, only about one in three small businesses get to the 10-year mark and live to tell the tale.”
And here, more specifically, is New York Times:
“The industry is not complicated - the main expenses are rent and liability insurance, and all that is needed is open space, some mats, and a sturdy floor. But like most small businesses, the dojos have a high failure rate.”
You might think that since millions of adults today enjoy martial arts, all you have to do is rent a space, tell a friend in a pub and hope the word goes around. Buddha just sat under a tree for 30 years and he didn’t do too bad. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Although the word-of-mouth approach works to an extent, getting you a fraction of a percent of potential attendees, those that neglect correct SMM and advertising practices pay a colossal price. Remember! The two foundational rules of doing business: NEVER trade with borrowed funds and never neglect your PR person. The other struggles of having your own martial arts studio stem from not having enough money and operational prudence. So what are the main three?
1) Not getting enough revenue
If the only participants that come to your dojo are friends and family and a couple of mates from the pub, you will soon find out you had no idea what “struggling to pay rent” really means. Although there are exceptions, renting a space is very expensive these days, and customers are the lifeblood of your business, so make sure you promote your business everywhere any anyhow you can.
The best way is to get a professional to do it. Hire someone with a proven track record of success in the advertising industry to get your gym out there. The fee will be worth it ten times over.
What are the alternatives you could do in parallel? Also, guest bloggers are the way to go. People will be flattered to write about your business, and you’ll find many, many people who write well on dedicated forums. Write about your business on other websites/Facebook page/wherever you can.
Another little trick to start earning revenue from the gym is by selling custom products. This can be through boxing gloves, rashguards, muay thai shorts all with your gym’s logo on it. These can be sold at a higher price due to the fact that it contains your gym logo/colours, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to show off that they’re associated with a martial arts gym? You can find out more about this here.
2) Getting too busy with the business side of things
If you’re after making money, you’ll probably want to get into IT. There’s easily 10 times more money there than in martial arts. Most people in martial arts do it for the love (unless they’ve read the 1) point and their dojos are heaving with ecstatic clients jumping up and down begging to be taken in).
Administration can take up your whole day if you let it. Making money is famously tough, and the problem is that it takes time and effort. You’ll have to work 18-hour days the first year if you start your own, business, says Tony Robbins, and when you get to the point when the rewards start coming in, it feels like it would be a shame to stop now. You only need a couple more months, and then you’ll be happy. Once you buy the Chevy.
The problem is, as psychologists know, that the more you get paid, the more you spend, and you just can’t make yourself happy by acquiring more money. So take our word for it - and the earlier, the better - it’s worth it to make sure there’s some work/life balance in your life.
What ultimately counts is having your loved ones near you, some kind of a sense of humour, and good health. The rest will fall into place. Don’t get too carried away managing. Some businesses won’t kill you, but they’ll take your life.
You can look to bring in reputable freelancers or online virtual assistants to help assist you with this. You can find these on Upwork.com.
3) Incompetent competition who gives the industry a bad name
Long story short, pretty much anyone could open a dojo. Why people fall for instructors who clearly don’t know what they’re doing is still beyond us.
True, sometimes a Master comes in disguise. For example, Bruce Lee was skinny and didn’t look like a menace at all. And neither do some of the best kyoshis. But that doesn’t mean that everyone out there is a master in disguise.
You’ll have to be faced with the fact that some people will either think martial arts suck because of a bad experience or concentrate on the ass-kicking side of things instead of cultivating the spiritual (again inevitably leading to bad experiences).
So what do you do? Unfortunately, there is no easy fix for bad rep created by incompetent teachers, so all that you will be left with eventually is perfecting your craft, being brutally honest, and letting people make their own choices.