Building a Martial Arts SchoolAwhile back I dropped in on one of our Martial Arts academies. During my visit, the school manager (a great, hard working, ethical guy) was explaining to me how he was working on this incredibly sophisticated formula to track students’ progress and attendance. He felt like he was onto something, but there were a lot of moving parts and it would be some time before he had it all figured out. My thought was…it sounds too complicated.

It reminded me of a story I once heard about a famous landscape architect. He was a master at what he did. He traveled the world creating amazing gardens and landscapes for prestigious locations. It is said that on days when he felt particularly challenged, he would pull out a piece of paper from his pocket, look at it, nod, fold it up and get to work creating another masterpiece. People were astounded by the brilliant designs that would seem to come out of nowhere after he studied that tiny piece of paper. Eventually this master designer died. His collogues approached his widow and asked her for that mysterious piece of paper, which they were convinced contained the secret formula to his success. After much to-do, she allowed them one glance at the old slip of paper. As they gathered around, they unfolded the paper and looked at the writing, convinced that whatever was written on it would be the key to their success. It simply said, “When laying sod, always put the green side up.”

I love this story because it reminds me that so often we manage to over-complicate our lives, our careers, our relationships. For example: In my field, martial arts school operators tend to get easily sidetracked by the latest trend or the newest ad, and in the process they sometimes forget that in order to have continued success, they must stick to just a few basic concepts.

#1 Be the cleanest school in town
#2 Be the friendliest place in town
#3 Always try your best to teach a great class, never just a good one
#4 Make sure to run your business as a business: charge a fair price, have great student communication and keep your costs in line.
#5 Get the word out. Never stop promoting your school and the benefits of Martial Arts training.

So, the next time you find yourself in over your head and not sure of which way to turn, remember, “When laying sod, always put the green side up,” or stick to the basics when running a martial arts school.