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The Top 3 Reasons Why Smaller is Better When Starting and Running Your Own Martial Arts School

Sep 17, 2008
When I first released my "Small Dojo, Big Profits" martial arts business manual in 2004, it received a lot of criticism. Funny thing about that... almost all of the "critics" hadn't actually read it - they just didn't like the title.

So, what was it about those four little words that caused such a stir of controversy around the "Small Dojo, Big Profits" manual?

Think about it... the title makes a bold statement - that "smaller is better" when it comes to starting and running your own martial arts school.

Now, I'll be the first person to tell you that there are a lot of people who do well running larger schools. However, none of those guys started big - every single one of them cut their teeth learning martial arts business methods by starting small and working their way up.

Even so, there are some very good reasons why you should consider running a smaller school... and by "small", I define it as less than 3,000 square feet and less than 250 students.

So, here are the top three reasons why "small dojo" equals "big profits" when starting and running your own martial arts school:

Reason #1: Less Square Footage Means Less Overhead...

And not just when it comes to rent... you also have to consider the cost of heating and cooling a large school (which is an even greater concern now, with the rising cost of energy) and the fact that someone is going to have to clean the place.

I had a good friend who ran a very successful school in about 2500 square feet. He decided to triple his space, and then discovered his electric bills were outrageously high, and he practically had to have a full-time employee just to keep the place clean.

Want to know how long it takes to clean my school? Between 15 and 30 minutes, tops. And, even in the dead of summer my electric bill never runs over $250... less than my energy bill at home. Smaller really is better...

Reason #2: Less Students Means Less Payroll...

When I tell new school owners that they can run their school solo until they get to around 100 students, they think I'm crazy. "What do you mean, Mike... don't I need to hire an assistant instructor and an 'enrollment director'?"

Whatever the heck that is - in my school, everyone is the "enrollment director". Just because someone wrote in a book 20 years ago that you need to have "X" staff members to have a successful school, doesn't make it so. Besides rent, your second greatest expense is going to be payroll... unless you learn to keep things small.

And, even a martial art school with 200-250 students can be run with just you, a part-time office person, and a part-time instructor. Get up past 300 students, though, and it's a whole different ball game. Repeat after me: "Smaller is better, smaller is better, smaller is better..."

Reason #3: Less Students Equals Less Headaches

One of the reasons you need additional employees in a larger school is customer service. Consider this... for every student you have under that age of 18, you are servicing two or three customers, not just one... which includes the student, and his or her parents.

Now, I don't know about you, but personally I don't want to spend all my free time taking care of all the "customer service needs" for several hundred people. When your enrollment is smaller (150 - 250 students) you can easily maintain customer service between yourself and a part-time staff member, and mostly during class-time hours.

Get much bigger than that, though, and you're looking at hiring a person to staff your Pro Shop, someone to answer the phones, someone to clean the toilets... I think you get the picture.

Now You Know That Smaller Really is Better When Starting and Running Your Own Martial Arts School

Okay, so there they are - the top three reasons why "Small Dojo" really does equal "Big Profits". I think you can see, what this really boils down to is keeping things simple, and not over-complicating your life and your school by getting bigger than you need to be.

And, if you'll run the numbers (you can use the worksheets in my business manual, or make up your own using a spreadsheet) I think you'll see that you can make a very comfortable living starting and running your own martial arts school with just 150 - 250 students.

Now, it's time for me to go... I'm about to go spend some quality time with a good book and a cappuccino at the local coffee shop. See, I can do that every day, because I have this really neat little business that makes a killer profit with just a minimal amount of effort and time investment.

Ah, I love running a small martial art school...
About the Author
Mike Massie is a long-time instructor of Japanese and Korean martial arts - but he's best known for his role as the martial arts industry's leading "anti-guru". He resides in Austin, Texas where he runs a studio and teaches full-time. You can find out more about Mike and his unique business approach to starting and running your own martial arts school by visiting SmallDojoBigProfits.com.
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