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AIO Package

A Sneak Peek at AIO Consulting Package 3  Adult and child advertisements/posters included for external marketing.

 Evaluation Program detailed to increase adult student retention.

 Establishing a manageable children’s program curriculum: Rotating vs. Traditional Curriculums discussed.

 Creative use of dojo promotional gifts to increase retention, new sales and student satisfaction.

 Children’s Camp Curriculum described.  Dojo Times Newsletter for dojo members!

 Andy’s next email tip arrives in June!  And MUCH MORE!

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Coming Soon!  Member teleconferences to meet & discuss pertinent topics related to running a dojo.

 Y. Yamada, 8th dan, Shihan, Chief Instructor of New York Aikikai & Chairman of the Board of the United States Aikido Federation, sits down with AIO to discuss his experiences in Aikido and business.

 Michael Veltri, Chief Instructor & Owner of Okinowa Aikikai, Washington D.C. shares the story of how life’s path led him from a successful business career to creating a thriving dojo of over 200 students in downtown D.C.

 An in-depth look at various software programs available for Aikido dojos to help save time and increase membership.

 Creating a children’s testing format that promotes success, tion & revenue!




AI Journal M A Y / J U N E

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Improving your dojo one step at a time. Life is about setting goals.

We strive to achieve these goals; however, many times we are unsure of how to begin. Numerous dojo owners face the same challenge. The goals are clear: to increase student body, to keep more students, and to spread aikido. The question is “How do I reach these goals?� The transition from a concept to a system can be a long one if you do not have a clear plan. Advice you hear often from AIO is that continuing education is imperative towards achieving your goals. Many professions already mandate continuing education, such as physical therapists, accountants and teachers. Continuing education, whether mandated by law or done independently, allows individuals to gather new ideas that can help one reach personal and business goals. For a dojo owner, there are various sources for martial art business consulting, such as Aikido Instructors Organization. Through AIO, members learn different methods and strategies to implement in their dojos. To meet their goals, however, effort is still required. An idea is only successful if it completes the trip from a concept to a working system. So let me lay out a clear roadmap to help you achieve your goals, and to break the procrastination that keeps so many dojos from being prosperous and thriving. Step 1: Choose your system. The first place to start is by selecting one idea or system that strikes a nerve with you personally. It should be one that you support 100% and honestly believe you will complete. Step 2: Research your system. Whatever the idea is, you will need to gather as much information about the topic as possible. AIO has researched each of its systems and implemented them in an aikido dojo which, as an AIO member, will decrease your need to spend significant time on this step. By not having enough information to implement your system, even the best idea can fail. Step 3: Analyze the system. Now that you have the information you need, decide if you think any part of the system requires some customization for your dojo. Maybe you would like to implement a specific referral program, however, the program is geared towards children and you offer adult only classes. You will need to customize the system to suit your adult oriented dojo during this step.

Step 4: Plan on how to implement the system. Write down clear steps that are simple and easy to follow. Give yourself a timeframe for completion and stick to it. Caution! This step is often where many great ideas stall and never get started again. Over analyzing a plan can lead you into analysis paralysis, as it is often easier to analyze the plan than to implement it. Be honest with yourself and resist the excuses that accompany change. Remember that any change can be difficult, but change can also be what separates a failing dojo from a successful one. Step 5: Communicate with your staff and volunteers. Whenever you make a change that affects your student body, clear and positive communication is critical. Keeping your staff and volunteers involved will assist you in implementing the system. Effective communication will also keep the students informed of the positive changes and eliminate any fears the students may have regarding the change. With that said, too much communication can sabotage the change before it happens. Some dojocho feel the need to poll the students for their opinion about every decision because they are afraid of change. Unless the dojo is owned by its members, decisions should be made by the owner(s). Students may express their opinion, but, when it comes down to it, students want the head of their dojo to take the wheel when business changes need to be made. Step 6: Track the success of the system. Many business owners do not keep true statistics regarding implemented programs. Because of this, many dojocho inaccurately estimate their successes and failures. Tracking your programs enables you to make adjustments to the program for maximum results. Some systems will work perfectly upon your first attempt; others will need little changes to increase the level of success. You may even wish, after analyzing your results, to scrap a system all together. Without keeping data, you will never know what system is helping you meet your goals. Making your ideas come to life is more than wishing it to happen. Success comes from taking the time to implement your ideas, and then allowing the ideas to evolve with the needs of your dojo. Stop procrastinating. Attack an idea, make it your own, and start implementing your next system today!


Affiliated Acceptance Corporation Answers Your Questions. Over the years, dojochos have asked us for our opinion regarding billing companies. Choosing whether or not to use a billing company is a personal decision for each dojo owner. However, the decision should be based on fact as opposed to misconception or rumor. To shed some light on the topic, AIO went directly to Affiliated Acceptance Corporation, a well known billing company in the martial arts community. The intent of this interview is to answer your questions, alleviate your concerns, and to reveal the truth behind how a billing company processes dues payments. AIO would like to thank AAC for taking the time to answer our questions, and for providing information on the inner workings of a billing company. The information provided in this article details the process related directly to AAC’s billing protocol. Because billing companies vary with their procedures, we encourage you to contact various billing companies, including AAC, to see which company meets your needs. After reading this article, you will have the knowledge to efficiently compare billing services and to make an educated decision for your dojo. We greatly appreciate the assistance received by AAC and its exceptional service to create this informative article for our AI Journal readers.


Politi, and today we have the long awaited and controversial topic the Aikido

AI Journal

AIO: Hello and welcome to another edition of AIO Live! I am your host, Andy

community has been waiting for; outsourcing your billing: the Truth, the Myth, Friend or Foe. Today we will shed light on this topic with our very special

guest from Affiliated Acceptance Corporation, Melissa Leeman. Melissa, welcome. Melissa: Thank you.

AIO: Melissa, I understand you brought some guests with you. Would you like to introduce them and tell me a little about their role in the company? Melissa: Yes, I have Jeff Reynolds with me, who is from our IT department.

Sabrina: Thank you. Jeff: Thank you. AIO: All right, Melissa, why don’t we start with you? I’d like you to give me a little background about yourself, what you did prior to joining AAC, and what you are doing now with AAC. Melissa: I’ve been with AAC for eight and one-half years now. Before coming to AAC, I managed a couple of tanning salons. Currently, I am the floor coordinator. I oversee daily operations out on the floor and coordinate what’s going on with Jeff in the software department. AIO: Great. Jeff, a little bit about you? Jeff: I’ve been with Affiliated for 14 years. Before that, I ran a martial arts school. I have always been involved in the IT industry and, because Affiliated


AIO: Welcome, Jeff and Sabrina.

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who is in our sales department.

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He oversees our software development. I also have Sabrina Reems with me,

with some of the software programming to make it more useful for dojos. AIO: Well, that’s excellent and how lucky we are to have a martial artist with us for this conversation, right? Jeff: I thought it would be interesting.

M A Y / J U N E

was moving into the martial arts market, I was able to come in and help them

AIO: (laughing) Yes. It brings a nice perspective to the table. Sabrina, a little bit about your background for our readers.


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Sabrina: I’ve been with Affiliated Acceptance for

AIO: Excellent. Melissa, Sabrina, would you like

three years. I started off in customer sales and cli-

to chime in?

ent services; now I’m in the sales department. Most of my previous employment background has been in the sales field. AIO: Melissa, I’ll put the first question to you. When was AAC founded and what, specifically, are the services you provide? Melissa: We are actually celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, so we’ve been in business since 1989. We cater to health clubs, martial arts schools and tanning salons. AIO: Any services above and beyond what you just

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Melissa: He covered most of it right there. AIO: (laughs) Melissa: Basically, we do the dirty work. We collect the money and we make sure they (the business) is getting paid. Sabrina: We also give the client more time to focus and grow their business while we take care of their billing. AIO: And that has certainly been an issue in the Aikido community; the issue of not interrupting the teaching on the mat with the professionalism

Melissa: We have software for the businesses, and

of running the dojo. It seems like the two some-

we also complete the collection efforts on billing for

how always get in the way of each other.

their services. Outside of just those three industries, we also help with daycares, some car washes,

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and just about any industry that would require a monthly billing option. We are capable of handling all types of businesses in need of billing services.

Jeff: Well, one of the things that also comes up is the worry that maybe we are not going to handle the students with the same level of professionalism as the instructor would. We have certainly addressed that issue, and all of our staff


AIO: Great. And, Jeff, since you have experienced

have been trained to be kind, but firm, and to

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both being on the martial arts school side of billing

follow proper procedures. We can also alter our

as well as working for a billing company, what are

behavior according to what the instructor needs,

some of the benefits you see with using a billing

or wants, to be done and how they want their


members to be handled.

Jeff: Well, having used AAC at my own dojo, I found

AIO: I couldn’t agree with you more. Would it be

that separating the business part from the teaching

safe to say that, by adding an outside billing

part was a big help. I found it very difficult to work

company, you’ve added professionalism to the

with students on a daily basis and then have to


chase them down to discuss money. Once I turned that over to AAC, it relieved that burden and we were able to focus on teaching, rather than all the behind-the-scenes money and collections efforts.


Jeff: I absolutely think that it did. It gave my wife and myself time to work with those individuals and not have to fight with them over past due

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Is that correct?

AIO: Good. Melissa, anything to add? Sabrina?

Jeff: That’s correct.

Sabrina: I let the client know that they set the pa-

AIO: There’s always been the talk, when you out-

rameters. We just enforce the procedures that

source something, that you lose control. It applies

they want followed. As far as interacting with

to all aspects of business, in that people feel if

the customer, we are enforcing what they have

they’re not doing it in-house and they are letting

advised us on how to handle the account which

somebody else do it, they are losing control. Now, I

takes the load off them.

necessarily don’t agree with that, but I want to hear it from your standpoint, about the control that you

Jeff: And that can take a lot of burden off of the

maintain when outsourcing something.

instructors. We can handle

Melissa: I think

the accounts if

that the way we

they allow

make sure that

freezes for

the client stays

medical rea-

in control is that

sons, if there is

we provide them

a cancellation

with reporting.

due to a relo-

They are able to


see comments

etc. Many

made on every

things occur

customer’s ac-

when manag-

count regarding

ing an ac-

the conversa-

count. De-

tions that they

pending upon what the instructor wants, we can

have had with our reps. We send them emails

set up those procedures and follow through with

whenever we have phone conversations with their

them, which keeps the instructor from having to

customers, if there are any issues. The dojo stays

handle those specific calls.

in full control. They tell us how, when and where to

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in a different mindset.


they want done and you are just following their lead.

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payments. It really does help to just get yourself

handle their accounts. They set all the guidelines for us to follow.

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AIO: Well, you both led me into my next question. Some questions that the owners of dojos in the Aikido community have asked are: Will

Jeff: The software that we have available lets them

they lose control? Do they have any say in how

see all of the things that Melissa is talking about: all

things are run regarding billing? It sounds like

of the comments, every transaction, and every letter

what you both, Sabrina and Jeff, said is that the

that we send on their behalf. They are able to see

dojos can actually set the parameters of what

and respond to whatever is happening. We have


AI Journal

the facilities in place for them to send us a quick

cedure that has been proven over twenty years.

note on a specific account, and to let us know any

It is hard if you have your own family working in

additional information that will help us in collecting

your dojo or if you are hiring students. Talk

that money. Moreover, they can let us know when

about not having control! That is when you don’t

to back off, because there are definitely times in a

have control. So, yes, we feel like we do pro-

martial arts environment where it is better to save

vide a really good service while keeping every-

the account and let somebody slide through. We

body connected to what is going on with the ac-

can do that too.

counts. The dojo is definitely not going to lose control.

AIO: So, the dojo can make special circumstances if they need to so that, although the majority of their accounts are being handled one way, they can have exceptions to the rule. Am I hearing that right?

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Melissa: Right. AIO: Okay. I’m going to go out on a limb here. Based on what I’ve been hearing from the three of you, and correct me if I’m wrong but, it almost sounds like

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they are going to have more con-

AIO: So what we have at this point is that the

“It felt uncomfortable to ask the student for a payment when I just wanted to teach.”

structor, can concentrate on teaching his students and spreading his art on the mat. He has, in effect, hired a professional group of people, in your case of about 100 staff members, that knows how to do billing, allowing him to spend more time on the mat. Melissa: Correct. AIO: Okay. We’ve got that point

trol by outsourcing then by trying to do it in-house. Am I stretching that a bit?

owner of the dojo, the chief in-

now. That sounds all well and good, and here’s


a question we have been asked many times.

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Melissa: Basically, what they are doing is hiring. We

Some dojos are still in the growing mode and

have a staff of about 100 people right now. So they

they do not have many students. Is it expensive

are hiring a staff of 100 people to help run their busi-

to hire a billing company, even for smaller dojo,

ness and they are adding those people on for a very

and, typically, what are the charges? If you had

low cost.

three students or ten students, does it make a

AIO: (laughing) A hundred people. Jeff, if you had 100 people to run your dojo, what would that have done for your business? Jeff: (laughs) Well, I wouldn’t be here. There is no way you can even hire one person for the cost that we’re talking about and have them do all of the billing on a regular scheduled basis following a set pro-


difference, or is it only when you hit a certain number that you should go to an outside source? Is there a critical mass number, or is it open to any number of students? Sabrina: We have found that it actually makes it easier if the dojo starts with a low number of students.

Melissa: Then they can grow their business and Melissa: It’s part of the contract.

ning. So as far as cost-wise goes, our EFT drafts are 25 cents. If they can get a student to

AIO: Okay. So now they can go onto your system,

give them a checking or savings account num-

load student information, edit it, and look at all the

ber for us to draft from for the payment, that is

reports. By reports, I assume, Jeff, from an IT

only going to cost them a quarter a month.

standpoint, reports meaning what you billed out, who has paid, who is delinquent, and the length of

AIO: So for 10 students, if they are all going to

their delinquency.

sign up with you as the billing company, you would typically only charge the dojo 25 cents per

Jeff: Absolutely. And then it goes even further than

student for all 10 students per student. For

that. You can access renewal and expiration re-

$2.50 a month you will handle the billing?

ports so that you can see the remaining term of the

student’s membership. Even more than just the imMelissa: Correct. And that is the reoccurring cost

mediate financial information, we are giving the dojo

for them each month.

everything they need to follow their accounts receivable. They can see projections needed if they are

AIO: Does that include everything? Does it in-

trying to get financing. They can show their banker

clude any reports they might get?

what is going to happen in the next 6 months, 12

Melissa: We have a $20 monthly service fee

months, etc.

which gives them access to our website. There

AIO: That’s excellent. So, if a dojo is looking to

they can pull up all of kinds of reports, load con-

grow or change the space that it is renting or buy a

tracts, cancel customers, make changes to cus-

space, your projections are coming directly from the

tomer accounts, etc.

students’ dues payments, which can be given in financial format to their banker to see if they qualify


for a loan. Is that correct? Jeff: That is correct. AIO: All right. Melissa, do you want to add anything? Sabrina? Sabrina: Only to say that we are full service which, compared to some of the other services that are out there, means that we follow up on the customers that may have had a financial situation.

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have control of the billing from the begin-

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a i k i d o i n t r u c t o r s . c o m

AIO: Is that an optional charge or is that part of the

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AIO: Really?


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an online system to pull your reports, it sounds more than reasonable; almost too good to be true. Melissa: Another offer that we have is that we also report to the three major credit bureaus. So, if they (the dojos) are signing up students on term contracts, we are able to report to the credit bureaus on those as well. AIO: Oh, you are? Melissa: Yes. AIO: Okay, if you are reporting to the bureaus, you are not acting just as a third party collec-

M A Y / J U N E

AIO: Excellent. I assume you have some competi-

tion source. You are still acting as the upfront

tion in the industry. There are other billing compa-

creditor versus, let’s say, a collection agency,

nies that may be doing something similar. Is there a


large varying of price differences? Is everyone

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around the same price? Do you really choose a

Jeff: We offer full service collections and that is

company on the level of customer service, or is the

something that is optional. It is a choice that the

pricing all over the place?

client can make. The fact that we report to the credit bureaus in the long term is going to allow


Melissa: I think the pricing is probably more all over

the dojo to have a revenue stream ten years

the place. Our pricing is based on how you run your

from now, whether they are teaching or not. The


students at some point are going to need to buy

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Jeff: We really try to charge based on transactions. You are picking how you want things done. That means that there are certain things we are always going to do on an account, such as sending out a welcome letter. However, there are a lot of things that the dojo can do to control costs. The fact that

a car or a house and that is when the money is going to start flowing back into the dojo. Again, that is something that is optional if the dojo chooses to do that. It really can help balance your business in the long term. AIO: So again, the dojo here has the control.

we charge a flat rate and not a percentage of fees in the martial arts industry is a huge thing.

Melissa: Correct.

AIO: I agree. If you have just five students and you

AIO: That’s excellent. The more that I am hear-

hear that, with the cost of 25 cents (per student) and

ing from the three of you, the more it sounds like

$20 at the end of the month, you will have your bill-

the dojos control more than I thought they would

ing taken care of for you, as well as have access to

before we started this call. It sounds like that


AI Journal

they have all the say in the world with how this

Melissa: Basically, what we do is send you a packet

program is going to work, especially with Affili-

of about four or five pages that require the dojo’s

ated Acceptance Corporation.

authorization. Once we receive that package back,

along with one customer agreement, your account is

are in the sales environment, is that correct? Sabrina: Yes. AIO: When you are out there talking to martial art schools, what are some of the objections you are hearing. What are some of the fears that they have? Sabrina: I would say the control issue is a concern. They want to know exactly what we are

afternoon. AIO: What do they need internally to get started? Hardware, let’s say.

Melissa: There is no hardware required. They only need access to the internet. If they do not have a

computer at the school, they can access the website from their home. AIO: Could you go through the process of signing up a student? Is it cumbersome? Is it simple?

doing for them and what that includes. New

Melissa: When the member comes in to sign up,

members who have never really interacted with

the instructor signs him up on a month-to-month, 6

a professional billing company are hesitant to

month, or 12 month agreement. That agreement

fully turn everything over. Turning over their

would then get loaded into our system. That same

customer’s contract, being unsure of what ex-

day we would send all new customers welcome let-

actly happens, and how these customers will be

ters letting them know who we are, and that their

taken care of are frequent concerns.

account will be drafted for a specific dollar amount

AIO: When you’re talking with them, some of the

on a certain day.

ways you overcome some of these objections

AIO: A letter of introduction so that there are no sur-

would be . . .?

prises. You are proactive. You let them know

manage the account and that we just enforce it for them. That they set up the parameters and


ahead of time who you are and what’s going to be taking place.

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Sabrina: How they are the ones that actually

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AIO: Sabrina, let me ask you something. You

set up in our system and you are ready to go that

Melissa: Exactly.

we follow through with them for the dojo. Jeff: The dojo owner can even customize the letter AIO: Okay. Now let me ask you this; how diffi-

so that they can promote any special event happen-

cult is it to get started or to enroll a student? Is it

ing in the dojo. We try to not just send form letters.

a big process? Are there a lot of steps? Run us through a little bit of what it takes to enroll some-

AIO: So again, the dojo can customize and have


control on what you say in these letters.

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Melissa: That’s correct.


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Melissa: On the welcome letter, that’s correct. AIO: I’m keeping track here. I’m up to number 19 of

current without harassing the customer. If the dojo wants us to call them, we can do that as well.

things the dojo has control over! (laughing) Here’s a question for you that is very important, both in com-

AIO: Are there additional charges to have the

munity and in public relations. Does the dojo have

customer called?

control when somebody goes delinquent? Are they automatically put into collections? Can you tell me what happens when somebody goes delinquent?

Melissa: No, there are not. AIO: Okay, so you are very passive. You send

Melissa: We have three different phases. Phase 1 is

them a letter, and certainly 72 days is more than

when a customer is 1 to 72 days late. What we do

enough of a grace period for payment. So after

is mail the customer a letter explaining that we have

72 days, do you automatically report to the dojo

set them up for a special draft to bring them current.

that a payment has been missed? Is there a

They are notified of this draft via mail. We try to not

special report that you generate automatically?

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make too many phone calls to them because we prefer to give them a chance to bring the account

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Melissa: We have an auto-generated email that notifies them of the delinquency.

AI Journal

AIO: Oh, you do? Okay. Now, let’s say you

lect the money for the dojo. You talked a lot about

have tried to collect the dues a few times. You

the owner having control and we work closely with

have sent letters and the person is not respond-

that owner to determine how he wants to set up his

ing; you just cannot get them to pay. Are they

membership billing, whether it is open ended with-

put into collections? Do you go back to the dojo

out terms or term memberships that renew as

and ask them what they want to do?

terms. It is an important consideration. It is just a matter of us working together with the dojos and understanding their needs in the community.

and they will stay in that phase for 103 days. During Phase 2, the customer receives more

AIO: That certainly is important and I echo your sen-

letters and we begin making phone calls. After

timents there. If you could, please clarify for our

Phase 2, when the account is over 104 days

readers the difference between a payment proces-

past due, the customer receives more frequent

sor and a billing company.

letters and calls. Sending a customer to collec-

AIO: Okay.

the account for you. We are going to make the phone calls and send out letters when a payment

Melissa: Again, the dojo has full control over how

does not go through. We are always attempting to

their account is managed. If they do not want us

get that payment, even after it declines the first time.

to handle delinquent accounts after they go 72 days past due, we can cancel them out of our

AIO: And a payment processor?

system and the dojo can handle them in-house. Melissa: A payment processor only processes the AIO: Martial arts schools in general are very

payment one time and then they are done with it.

concerned about their reputation in the community; it is very important to them. I know you cannot speak for other billing companies, but I would ask, in general, what are some of the steps that a billing company takes to ensure that the dojo and its members are satisfied with their billing experience? Jeff: You are absolutely right that it is an issue. You work very hard to build your reputation in a

AIO: They are done? Melissa: That’s right. AIO: Okay, so they are more of a mechanized machine, more of a mechanical thing. They just do one thing and that is it? Melissa: Exactly.

community, and you do not want it to be ruined

AIO: Okay. If you had to pick or describe the single

by somebody who is harassing the students. By

largest benefit of using a billing company versus

the same token, it is our responsibility to collect

processing payments in-house, what would it be?

the dues. So we try to walk that line between becoming overly pushy but firm enough to col-


ing company, are going to handle the back end of

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Melissa: What we do differently is that we, as a bill-

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tions is always an option for the dojo.

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Melissa: At that point, the customer is in Phase 2


AI Journal

Melissa: The ability to focus on and grow

to give my very special thanks to Melissa, Jeff and

your business instead of having to worry

Sabrina, and most importantly to Affiliated Accep-

about the billing. We do that for you while

tance Corporation for helping us bring new infor-

you focus on getting new members and

mation to the Aikido Community. Thank you all.

building relationships with your current mem-

AIO Live brings the news and business informa-


tion you want to hear to make you successful. Yesterday’s a cancelled check. Tomorrow’s a

Jeff: For me personally, it was the ability to

promise for a note. Today’s the only day we have,

have a teacher-student relationship that

so spend it wisely.

wasn’t being interrupted by finances. That was about the last thing in the world that I wanted to do as an instructor. We were a small group and we were all very close. It felt uncomfortable to ask the student for a payment when I just wanted to teach.

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AIO: Absolutely. Thank you. As we come to a close of this segment of AIO Live, I want

Andy Politi - Sales Consultant: Andy has been training in Aikido since 1995 under Chapman Sensei and holds the rank of Sandan. Andy has specialized in business development and sales training for the past 29 years in various industries including banking, finance, asset management, biotech, pharmaceutical, and martial arts. Andy attributes his success to the support of his loving wife and three daughters.

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Frequently Used Billing Terms Term Billing: When a student enrolls for a length of time greater than a month-to-month membership. Frequent terms for billing are 3, 6, and 12 months.


Open Billing: When a student enrolls for a membership that does not have a term. This type of membership is typically a month-to-month membership.

a i k i d o i n t r u c t o r s . c o m

Renewal Billing: When a student has completed their initial term membership, their billing goes into renewal. The renewal billing can be month-to-month or term periods depending on the dojo’s dues options. Payment Options: Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) - Funds are directly debited from a checking or savings account. Typically the least expensive way to process dues. Credit Card - Dues are automatically charged to a specific credit card provided by the student. Coupon Book/Statement - A student is mailed either a coupon book or a monthly bill to submit payment. Freeze: Where a student has suspended their membership for a period of time. Notice: A period of time required by the billing company to freeze or cancel an agreement.


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Aikido Instructors Journal #3  

The official journal of Aikido Instructors Organization.