Biggest Issue When You Started A School

Michele123

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Just a few thoughts.

Re: word of mouth
When I joined my current school last November, there were almost no colored belts in the adult class. There were only two and one was preparing for a black belt test. In January that student passed and now there was only one other colored belt besides myself. In April nothing had changed. My Instructor implemented an incentive program for students who have people join and pay at least one month worth of classes. Suddenly there are a bunch of new people. There are now seven adult colored belts (up from two in April) that attend regularly. In that time there are two people who have joined because I recommended it. One was a child and the other an adult. I didnt wait for the topic to come up. Instead I brought it up to people who I thought it would be fun to be in class together. I spoke to people I genuinely wanted to train with. I only spoke to three adults. One had legitimate health and family issues. One wasnt interested and one joined. (And we are having a blast together).

Re: Pricing and commitment
Ive never been able to afford what MA is worth. I am in fact, currently trading computer skills for classes for my family (Im building a customized database system for him to keep track of everything and run the business side of things from. I will also be working on his website next). In talking to the other students, it appears I put in far more practice hours on my own than any other adult in class except maybe around testing time. Also, I would NEVER prefer to attend a small class. One of the benefits of MA is everyone learning from one another. Pdg talked about sparring, but in so many other areas too. Hearing a technique explained to another student who is having trouble with an aspect I am not, still increases my understanding. The comradeship and support students give one another is an amazing motivator. Having the same techniques or drills explained to me by the instructor one night and one of the black belts another night, increases my understanding. I get different aspects from the different people. I am motivated to continue to promote our school so that the class size becomes LARGER, not smaller. I find the model suggested by the OP incredibly distasteful and not one I would ever use were I to become an instructor again someday.


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martialartsnerd

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Well, you've got to realise something.

I have 2 kids, a wife, a house and a variety of animals to support - anything that is strictly for me comes after all those financially.

If I do some extra work and get some extra money, chances are that'll go towards something for them first, because they are my absolute priority.

There is absolutely nothing about any training regime that would put me into the "how can I afford it" mindset, because it would mean forcing sacrifices upon them for my own selfish ends.

Personal sacrifice is one thing, but expecting those who are dependent upon me to sacrifice for my fun? Not happening. No way.

So the real question is, why would I want to undertake tuition from a school running your business model?

Got the answer to the question: The personal training would be more for instructor level, since you did bring up a very valid point about training quality in relation to the diversity of students in a class. Still thinking my way through, though.
 
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martialartsnerd

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Hmm, after all this discussion, I'm thinking: book -> membership site -> group classes -> instructor training. Books would contain the drills and basic movements in the style. Membership sites would begin the community building and contain the techniques, and everything after would solidify it. Quality of martial arts training (especially the emphasis of the principles behind the movements rather than just the movements themselves) would have to take heavy emphasis in the group classes (allowing for a more intellectual depth to martial arts training rather than just keeping things in the purely physical realm), and the instructor training would place heavy emphasis on turning those who get to that point into, well, instructors who can then repeat the process to help scale it.
 
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pdg

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I've been pondering too...

But say you ended up going the high-priced option, and say it was... $2500 for 5 months, structured with three weekly training sessions for 2 hours

So we're talking 6 hours per week for 5 months right?

Not knowing which 5 months, I'll work on the average of 4.33 weeks per month. So, 21.65 weeks.

Let's call it 21.

126 hours...

$19.84 per hour.

Say two students, round up the income - 40 bucks an hour.

Using current mid market exchange rates, that's 瞿30 per hour (again rounded up a few pennies).

Take out premises costs (or travel if you teach at the client's location), equipment purchase and depreciation, insurances, taxes, overheads such as marketing and administration (healthcare if you're in a country with no NHS)...

Group lessons aren't going to bring you all that much as a company if you're employing someone to teach at them (with all the extra costs associated with employing someone), so to make that part of the business pay reasonably you're going to be looking at like maybe 3 concurrent classes running*.

Really, although $500 a month sounds a lot (far more than I would ever consider), broken down to an hourly rate it's actually cheap.

A quick Google reveals that entry level personal training around here (fitness gym type training) starts at around 瞿45/hour. To you, that's $60~ for one person. That's with lower insurance rates and no healthcare costs...



From my own business calculations, 3 employees kept busy is the minimum amount required to make employing someone financially worthwhile. More info on request.
 

dvcochran

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Word of mouth is undefeatable, but it's not the most predictable, which is why it's not often most businesses' go-to's.
You are very tangible product minded instead of service product minded. Word of mouth in my context has great value for both avenues but in the service world where you are the product the value is much greater. In the inverse, bad word of mouth has a much steeper inclination in damaging reputation. As you say it is undefeatable. Tangible product doesn't have the ability to immediately adjust to the customers needs the way the physical can. An Instructor is part teacher, part philosopher, part psychologist and much more. When that spreads through your students, it is a powerful product and advertising campaign.
 

dvcochran

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Our changing room is pretty much a walk-in closet. Weve got hooks on the walls, and 4 adults getting changed at the same time starts to get a bit cramped. The womens changing room is identical. Weve got one bathroom. At least everythings clean and in good repair. Id imagine those things have probably turned off a few prospective students though. People get weird about being all up-close when theyre changing. I usually do too, but I easily tolerate it because the trainings worth it.
Yea, especially after class when everything is drenched in sweat and three guys are taking their jock strap off at the same time!
 
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martialartsnerd

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You are very tangible product minded instead of service product minded. Word of mouth in my context has great value for both avenues but in the service world where you are the product the value is much greater. In the inverse, bad word of mouth has a much steeper inclination in damaging reputation. As you say it is undefeatable. Tangible product doesn't have the ability to immediately adjust to the customers needs the way the physical can. An Instructor is part teacher, part philosopher, part psychologist and much more. When that spreads through your students, it is a powerful product and advertising campaign.

That's a fair point, and there have been ways to systemize and measure the impact of word of mouth.
 
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martialartsnerd

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I've been pondering too...



So we're talking 6 hours per week for 5 months right?

Not knowing which 5 months, I'll work on the average of 4.33 weeks per month. So, 21.65 weeks.

Let's call it 21.

126 hours...

$19.84 per hour.

Say two students, round up the income - 40 bucks an hour.

Using current mid market exchange rates, that's 瞿30 per hour (again rounded up a few pennies).

Take out premises costs (or travel if you teach at the client's location), equipment purchase and depreciation, insurances, taxes, overheads such as marketing and administration (healthcare if you're in a country with no NHS)...

Group lessons aren't going to bring you all that much as a company if you're employing someone to teach at them (with all the extra costs associated with employing someone), so to make that part of the business pay reasonably you're going to be looking at like maybe 3 concurrent classes running*.

Really, although $500 a month sounds a lot (far more than I would ever consider), broken down to an hourly rate it's actually cheap.

A quick Google reveals that entry level personal training around here (fitness gym type training) starts at around 瞿45/hour. To you, that's $60~ for one person. That's with lower insurance rates and no healthcare costs...



From my own business calculations, 3 employees kept busy is the minimum amount required to make employing someone financially worthwhile. More info on request.

A man with his numbers, I respect that. But yes, there's still some things to iron out here, and it's definitely a bigger problem than I initially thought. But damn if I'm gonna back down from solving this.
 

pdg

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See, here's the thing, I'm not totally against a tiered system just so long as it's tiered correctly.

In fact, I currently subscribe to one...

Here's how it works for me:

If I do one session per week, it'd cost something like 瞿30 per month.

I'm on the 'unlimited' pack, where I can attend every class they hold (9 hours a week) and I pay about 瞿40/month. For me it works out much cheaper per hour, but me being there more doesn't increase their costs because they're already open with the lights on, win/win.

I reckon that if I offered enough cash, the head instructor would agree to private lessons (he may already for all I know, but I've never asked and it's certainly not pushed or even advertised).

The head instructor is only there for a couple of the sessions per week, and access to those is grade restricted.


So, tier it somewhat similar.

First, ditch the online learning. It's a terrible idea and MA is entirely unsuitable for it. Market online, have a club forum, have a social media presence. Even supply online supplemental learning resources (descriptions, demonstrations) just not lessons.

Have a relatively cheap entry package with assistant instructors, like the 1/week I can do.

Have a step up pack, as I'm on.

Maybe split it more so there are a few extra sessions with the head instructor for an extra nominal fee over the step up.

Offer private lessons if you want.



Thing with private lessons though, they're not very lucrative from a business perspective and not necessarily easier on the instructor.

Have a 1hr class with 10 people paying 瞿6 per hour (that's less than the 1/week option I could do). You run through some stuff, answer questions, wander round, observe and teach. People will help each other out (like there's stuff I know that others don't and vice versa).

Now for one on one, you'd have to charge them 瞿60/hr to make the same money (overheads are the same really, you need the same facilities). It's harder work, because they'll soon notice if you're not watching intently.


In summary, the parts I completely disagree with:

Online learning - have a search on this very forum and see the consensus when someone suggests they could learn off YouTube.

Almost compulsory upselling - not pleasant at all. Make every student eligible for the same potential advancement, but maybe at different speeds (we have minimum attendance and time in grade to be eligible to test, so a once per week student cannot physically test as often as multi/week people). Don't try to use every lesson as a feeder to private tuition with restrictions on those who don't comply.
 

JR 137

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Yea, especially after class when everything is drenched in sweat and three guys are taking their jock strap off at the same time!
We dont have air conditioning in our dojo. It gets pretty rough with the heat and humidity in June-August.

Actually, theres a small window unit sized air conditioner above the door. Turning it on 20 minutes before the first class starts doesnt do much, especially when youre in the first class.

And the gentleman who teaches on Tuesdays motto is I dont believe in air conditioning. He allows us to wear a Seido t-shirt when the temperature is above 85 rather than the gi top.

Yeah, it gets hot. And a couple guys crammed into the changing room after that isnt the most pleasant thing. But it builds character :)
 

Gerry Seymour

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So many different conversations going on in this thread. But in a good way.

Regarding word of mouth...
I have several friends, ranging from close friends to friends who are a little more than acquaintancess who send their kids to a few different McDojo chains. Ive also had parents of my (academic) students who send their kids to those places, and a few people ask me about where I train.

Ive told them all about where I train, what we do, how its different than the McDojos theyre at, and how much it costs. None of it was initiated by me, none of it was bashing their McDojos, none of it was me trying to sell anyone anything. In fact, Ive said a few times that I dont have anything to gain by referring you there. It was all pleasant conversation.

Ive talked to family members about it. Some asked me directly, some indirectly.

Ive given everyone whos asked all pertinent information without sounding like a salesman, hounding them, etc.

Not a single person has called, let alone shown up. Ive told just about all of them that my CI lets anyone try a few classes for free if theyre interested in joining.

The McDojo goers are quite happy with everything they get, apparently. Its more than just a MA school; they do so many other things like movie night, homework club, etc. Of course none of thats free and it costs extra in addition to their tuition. Several of the conversations started with them complaining about the cost and all the nickel and diming. And telling them about a school that teaches actual karate, is less than half the price, without hidden fees and up sells, and they still refuse to check it out. Even after telling them my CI would gladly let them take a few classes for free if theyre unsure.

For the kids, its all about frills - flashy uniforms, cool patches on their uniforms, impractical learning of weapons like nunchucks, more dancing and acrobatics than actual MA, movie night, field trips to the kids indoor parks, etc. Again, all of that costs extra. Maybe my word of mouth reference would carry more weight if our dojo did this stuff?

For the adults, all I can assume is theyre in love with the idea of training, but once its a reality its too much work. Even if they can try it out free.

Then theres two guys I used to train with back in the day at my former dojo. Ones a cop who wants to get back into it (our former teacher moved). Hes more in love with the idea of training again than actually training again, I guess. The other guys teacher just closed her dojo due to her declining health (Parkinsons). Our dojo has a relatively similar curriculum, is closer to his house, is cheaper, and he knows of and truly respects my CI. I told him he should stop by and talk to my CI. I told him my CI has let people train a handful of times for free if theyre undecided. 7 months later and nothing. Hes trained a few times with our former teacher whos about an hour away. Even our former teacher told him he should definitely check out my dojo; he trained under my current CI when he was coming up through the ranks. Again, nothing.

Word of mouth, huh?
Thats pretty similar to my experience.

Its not all that way (Ive had a student intro a friend, and one couples adult daughter joined for a summer), but its certainly never been enough IME to fill a class.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Good questions all, and I'm quite glad we're having this discussion so that I can actually turn this all into an idea lab, of sorts.

But say you ended up going the high-priced option, and say it was... $2500 for 5 months, structured with three weekly training sessions for 2 hours that you can set, and you'd get more of the instructor's attention because it was you and maybe one other student. (This hypothetical supposes that you went for the personal training). What kind of results do you think you can expect from that?

As for the push-up analogy, if you're the only one doing push-ups versus a dozen others doing push-ups, where's the instructor's focus gonna be?

And as for you paying more money, why wouldn't you? What benefit would it be to make an uninformed purchase when it's a high-ticket purchase?
Theres a flaw in that model when you port it to MA. In my experience, too-small classes can be as problematic - in different ways - as too-large ones. A range of sparring/drilling partners is better than just one or two.
 

Gerry Seymour

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See, here's the thing, I'm not totally against a tiered system just so long as it's tiered correctly.

In fact, I currently subscribe to one...

Here's how it works for me:

If I do one session per week, it'd cost something like 瞿30 per month.

I'm on the 'unlimited' pack, where I can attend every class they hold (9 hours a week) and I pay about 瞿40/month. For me it works out much cheaper per hour, but me being there more doesn't increase their costs because they're already open with the lights on, win/win.

I reckon that if I offered enough cash, the head instructor would agree to private lessons (he may already for all I know, but I've never asked and it's certainly not pushed or even advertised).

The head instructor is only there for a couple of the sessions per week, and access to those is grade restricted.


So, tier it somewhat similar.

First, ditch the online learning. It's a terrible idea and MA is entirely unsuitable for it. Market online, have a club forum, have a social media presence. Even supply online supplemental learning resources (descriptions, demonstrations) just not lessons.

Have a relatively cheap entry package with assistant instructors, like the 1/week I can do.

Have a step up pack, as I'm on.

Maybe split it more so there are a few extra sessions with the head instructor for an extra nominal fee over the step up.

Offer private lessons if you want.



Thing with private lessons though, they're not very lucrative from a business perspective and not necessarily easier on the instructor.

Have a 1hr class with 10 people paying 瞿6 per hour (that's less than the 1/week option I could do). You run through some stuff, answer questions, wander round, observe and teach. People will help each other out (like there's stuff I know that others don't and vice versa).

Now for one on one, you'd have to charge them 瞿60/hr to make the same money (overheads are the same really, you need the same facilities). It's harder work, because they'll soon notice if you're not watching intently.


In summary, the parts I completely disagree with:

Online learning - have a search on this very forum and see the consensus when someone suggests they could learn off YouTube.

Almost compulsory upselling - not pleasant at all. Make every student eligible for the same potential advancement, but maybe at different speeds (we have minimum attendance and time in grade to be eligible to test, so a once per week student cannot physically test as often as multi/week people). Don't try to use every lesson as a feeder to private tuition with restrictions on those who don't comply.
Id almost be willing to flip the model and have the online stuff be premium add-one for someone like you or me who wants to dig in at home.
 

Gerry Seymour

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That's a very fair point, especially if students and instructors pre-schedule things in advance. And you're right that diversity of opponents IS a must in martial arts, regardless of which combative purpose they train for, whether that's self-defense or for competition. Definitely something for me to think about, and thank you for taking that opening! I'll have to think of an answer.

EDIT: It wouldn't be a case of being micromanaged. The instructor's job, as anywhere else, is to iron out any bad habits you may have, and it's predominantly personal training, but you're right in that I need to rethink the funnel.
Most of us (unstoppable) have trouble when we have only one or two students at a time. We fiddle too much, because we wanna teach. Thats when the micro-managing happens, and thats definitely how it feels to the student.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Hmm, after all this discussion, I'm thinking: book -> membership site -> group classes -> instructor training. Books would contain the drills and basic movements in the style. Membership sites would begin the community building and contain the techniques, and everything after would solidify it. Quality of martial arts training (especially the emphasis of the principles behind the movements rather than just the movements themselves) would have to take heavy emphasis in the group classes (allowing for a more intellectual depth to martial arts training rather than just keeping things in the purely physical realm), and the instructor training would place heavy emphasis on turning those who get to that point into, well, instructors who can then repeat the process to help scale it.
I dont know how youd get membership sites to work for folks who arent training together. The sense of community comes from sharing sweat and grunts of discomfort - the shared struggle. And from the laughs that come with it. That can happen with folks training separately (like on MT), but it requires some common experiences.
 

pdg

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Id almost be willing to flip the model and have the online stuff be premium add-one for someone like you or me who wants to dig in at home.

That'd be a possibility, or like a "members only" section on the website or something.

I learn quite a bit from online resources, but I'd only ever look upon it as supplemental - maybe when the system Ewan McGregor and Scarlet Johansson used on "The Island" becomes available it'll be a different matter...
 
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martialartsnerd

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That's a fair point on one end, though I've seen online modules work fairly well for others (PTTA comes to mind first and foremost, but Anakserak also had a similar case of this back when Bapak Guru-Besar Dr. Andre GnustGraichen was alive and available, and my old Tai Chi class at the park where Master Ching Lee often used videos for the same purpose), where students would learn the most textbook version of the techniques in use through the videos and have their techniques refined by the instructor, though the latter two were decidedly nonprofit and PTTA is the only one I know of doing so as a business venture. My Balintawak teacher's still trying to get the online stuff truly off the ground, but 'till then, I'll have to wait 'till he gets back from his overseas stuff. Granted, they are the exception, but of the three, PTTA has a widely recognized following in the states, and Master Lee's Tai Chi is well-regarded in CMA in the Bay Area.

Granted, Master Lee's Tai Chi instruction is exceptional because of his local availability when those of us who learn from the videos he posted want to further refine our skills through his personal instruction, and Tuhon Jared Wihongi's skills were already proven. I suppose for an instructor who's fairly new to the scene, I'd need to establish a reputation for the instructor where online materials would be fairly good. @pdg, you're right about the whole compulsory upselling, though. I'll have to work on that. @gpseymour, very good point on community building, but if Tuhon Wihongi can figure this out, then I know who I'll need to get in contact with next.

EDIT: Hmm, that's where the qualification step comes in. If the student DOES show a strong desire for the other steps in the purchasing funnel, only then would the upsells be necessary... hmm, nuances, nuances.
 
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