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“Rob Colasanti is a key figure in the modernization of martial arts. In the last 10 years, he’s been instrumental in teaching thousands of school owners throughout North America how to make their operations more professional and profitable. If your dream is to teach the martial arts for a living while avoiding amateur mistakes, then make this book your Business Bible.” John Corcoran Author, Editor, Speaker, Journalist

After helping build the world’s largest professional martial arts association, consulting with thousands of school owners and analyzing virtually every aspect of the industry for more than 14 years, The Martial Arts Business Bible is Rob Colasanti’s detailed account of what the martial arts industry has taught him. The Martial Arts Business Bible gives you a panoramic view of the martial arts industry, from the personal experiences of NAPMA’s former president. You’ll garner more than 80 chapters of unabridged information in key areas such as: • Motivation and inspiration for martial arts professionals • Proven staff development techniques • Simple strategies for increasing enrollments • Universal tips and tactics for business success • Personal development coaching • Alternate profit centers • Effective methods of boosting retention

The Martial Arts Business Bible Copyright © Rob Colasanti, 2011 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any process—photocopying, email, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise—without the written permission of the author.

Published by Rob Colasanti

Printed and Bound in the U.S.A. ISBN 0-9755254-1-7

Rob Colasanti


his book is dedicated to all of my many friends in the worldwide martial arts community, as well as to all instructors who are striving to reach their true potential and run professional schools that provide the absolute highest level of quality service to their students.

The Martial Arts Business Bible

Rob Colasanti

Table of Contents Foreward by Grand Master Jhoon Rhee...................................................................................11 Professional Profile: Rob Colasanti, Former President of NAPMA...........................................12 Preface.......................................................................................................................................13 Acknowledgements....................................................................................................................30 Introduction by Matt Furey.........................................................................................................31 1. An Evolution of Professionalism......................................................................................36 2. Martial Arts Industry Survey Results That May Surprise You.........................................42 3.

Martial Arts First, Business Second................................................................................44

4. Keep Your Eyes on the Target and Build the School of Your Dreams...........................46 5. Beware the “Dirty Dozen” of Martial Arts School Operations........................................48 6. The 1-2-3 Punch Combination that Always Scores a Knock Out..................................50 7. Take Your School to the Top Through the Power of Networking..................................52 8. How to Increase Your School’s Gross Income with

Multiple Streams of Revenue.....................................................................................54 9. 10 Critical Steps for Growing Your Martial Arts School in Any Economy......................56


One of the Fastest and Easiest Ways to Improve the Quality of Your Martial Arts ........ School Now!...............................................................................................................58


How to Eliminate the Trial and Error Phase of Your School’s Growth...........................60


In the Quest for School Growth the Pen is Mightier Than the Sword............................62


A Few Important School Statistics That You Need to Be Tracking................................64


The Pros and Cons of Owning Multiple Schools............................................................66


Your Competitors May Not Be as Tough as You Think.................................................68


The Myth of “Selling Out”...............................................................................................70


How to Win Big at the Information Game and Grow Your School on the Cheap..........72


How Lack of Focus Can Deliver a “Killer Blow” to Your Seemingly

Indestructible School.................................................................................................74


How the “Power of Passion” Can Rocket Your Success in the Martial Arts Biz...........76


How to Capitalize on the MMA Explosion......................................................................78


8 Simple Ways to Boost Your Income as a Martial Arts Teacher..................................80

The Martial Arts Business Bible

Table of Contents (continued) 22.

Systemize Every Area of Your School and Achieve Maximum Results.........................82


How to Select a Good Tuition Billing Company for Your School...................................84


Get Rid of Anyone Who’s Hindering Your School’s Growth or Taking

Advantage of You......................................................................................................86


10 Predictions for the Future of Our Industry and How You May Be Affected..............88


How to KICK BUTT with Free Publicity..........................................................................90


10 “White Belt” Mistakes to Avoid Making with Your School’s Website.......................97


The Truth About How Schools Across the Nation Are Getting Their Students............100


21 No-Cost/Low-Cost Lead Generators That Can Blast Your Student Count

Through the Roof.....................................................................................................102


Could Your School Be Leaving a Ton of Money on the Table?...................................112


Be Careful with Paid-in-Full Memberships...................................................................114


A Clever and Effective Way to Substantially Increase Your School’s

Product Sales...........................................................................................................116


How to Create Marketing Dominance Using Force Multipliers....................................118


How to Improve the Profitability of Your Marketing Without Spending

Another Dime...........................................................................................................120


Solve Your Students’ Pain with Solution-Based Selling...............................................122


22 Simple Referral Systems That Have Been Proven to Work in the Martial

Arts Industry.............................................................................................................124


Upgrade Programs 101 - What Are They?...................................................................132


Secrets to Increasing Retention and Earning Big Bucks with

Upgrade Programs..................................................................................................134

Color Photo Section.........................................................................................................138–147


How to Create a Shared Vision with Your Staff............................................................152

40. KRAs - The First Step to Getting BIG RESULTS at Your Martial Arts School.............154 41.

How to Increase Results and Decrease Stress with a Quality Program Director.........156

Rob Colasanti

Table of Contents (continued) 42.

Your Program Director’s “Holy Trinity”.........................................................................158


How Your Program Director Should Nurture Each New Lead Into a

Long-Term Student



5 Ways to Compensate a Program Director.................................................................162


Staff Training Begins with Developing Rock-Solid Phone Skills..................................164

46. Become a Transformational Leader and Inspire Your Students to 47.

Achieve Greatness...................................................................................................166 How to Transform Students Into Staff with a Quality Leadership Team......................168

48. How to Structure Your Leadership Team for Success.................................................170 49.

Charisma - It’s the Trait that Separates Good Instructors from Great Instructors......................................................................................................172

50. Develop “Black Belt” Listening Skills and Reap the Rewards of a More

Profitable School......................................................................................................174


You Want “Racehorses” Running Your Martial Arts School!........................................176


Why Your Best Staff Members Might Leave You.........................................................178


10 Ways to Appreciate Your Staff and Make Them Happy They’re

Working for You ......................................................................................................180


Honestly, Some Instructors Should NOT Own Schools - Are You One of Them?.......182


You’ve Gotta Love What You Do For a Living...or Find Something Else to Do...........184


What it Takes to Wear the Crown in the Martial Arts Business and Beyond...............188


How to Slip the Faulty Paradigm Sucker-Punch..........................................................190


When a Superior Black Belt is an Inferior Teacher the Whole School Suffers.............194


Hold Yourself to the Highest Standard and Position Yourself as a

Community Leader..................................................................................................196


Kick the Excuses - Success is a Matter of Choice.......................................................198


Explode Your School’s Growth Through the Guidance of a Quality Mentor................200


Teaching Martial Arts and Earning a Great Income Gives You the


Best of Both Worlds................................................................................................202 Develop the Mindset for Success or Risk Being Choked-Out in the Game of Business....................................................................................................204 

The Martial Arts Business Bible

Table of Contents (continued) 64.

Is it Time to Stop Making Your Landlord Rich?............................................................206


What to Do if You’re a “Jack of All Trades”...But Only a “Master” of One!................208

66. Your Beliefs Will Shape Your Future as a School Owner and Leader of Many...........210 67.

No Guts, No Glory.........................................................................................................212

68. Don’t “Dim Mok” Yourself.............................................................................................214 69.

Be a Finisher!.................................................................................................................216


Master the Art of Continuing Education and Earn Your

“Black Belt” in Business..........................................................................................218


Don’t Let Criticism Weaken Your Grip When Climbing the Ladder of Success..........220


What I’ve Learned...from Zig!........................................................................................222


10 of My Multi-Millionaire Interviewees Share Their Success Secrets with You..........224


Let’s Prevent Millions More from Quitting....................................................................228


10, Simple Time-Tested Tips to Improve Your Student Retention...............................230


Always Over-Deliver on Student Service......................................................................232


Kick Your Retention Up a Notch by Getting Regular Feedback

From Your Students!................................................................................................234

78. Do Your Students Realize How Much You Care?........................................................236 79.

Keep Your Quality Standards High...Just Don’t Run Your Students Off......................238


Don’t Be a WIMP When it Comes to Disciplining Your Students.................................240

81. The Perils of Dating Students.......................................................................................242 82.

“The Roots Under the Tree”..........................................................................................244

Afterword by Joe Lewis...........................................................................................................246

At the Top of Rob’s Recommended Reading List...................................................................250



Rob Colasanti



’ve seen the martial arts industry evolve tremendously since I first brought Taekwondo to America in 1956. Collectively, we’ve journeyed a long way and I’m so very proud of the progress our industry has made in such a short period of time. In fact, today’s schools are more professional and profitable than ever before in the history of the martial arts. Why? A major reason is because school owners now have a huge advantage over their predecessors. They have access to extremely affordable, top quality information products and services. These valuable resources have literally transformed our industry by giving instructors all the tools they need to succeed and prosper in the martial arts business world. Over the past decade, one individual who has been at the very forefront of the movement towards professionalism is Rob Colasanti. A third-degree black belt in my lineage, I have known Rob for many years. I can tell you that he lives by the martial arts philosophy—“The Lead By Example Action Philosophy.” I’m proud to say that I have seen him consistently apply the universal basic value, truth, to his steadfast mission of helping the martial arts industry to grow. Since 1994, Rob Colasanti has had his finger on the pulse of the martial arts industry. His hard work and dedication has lead him to become a respected leader among leaders in our field. Yet, Rob has never lost his humility or his focus. He stays on track just like a true martial artist should. Always learning, always growing, always giving back. Rob has played a major role in making martial arts business information mainstream. This indelible contribution has helped countless instructors to take their schools to the next level. In this book, Rob will share with you what he has learned as President of what was once the world’s largest professional martial arts association - NAPMA. I encourage you to put this valuable information to good use so that through the martial arts we can all continue to change the lives of our students one kick at a time and ultimately make our country a better place for all. With My Love,

Grand Master Jhoon Rhee 10th Degree Black Belt Father of American Tae Kwon Do 11

The Martial Arts Business Bible


Rob Colasanti

Professional Profile: Rob Colasanti, “Ambassador of the Martial Arts”


ob Colasanti has emerged as the leader of the next generation of martial arts professionals and is poised to become one of the primary forces to propel the industry to an even greater position of public prominence and respect.

Born in Queens, New York, during April 1970, Mr. Colasanti’s passion for the martial arts began at the age of 14; his family was now living in St. Petersburg, Florida. Colasanti began his martial arts training in early 1986 at John Graden’s USA Karate, in St. Petersburg, FL. He borrowed his grandfather’s little, red, Craftsman lawn mower and became the neighborhood lawn boy to pay for his first 18 months of tuition. By the rank of green belt, he had already joined the school’s professional staff. Then, seven days a week, for the next nine years, Colasanti worked in the trenches as a topnotch Program Director, private lesson teacher and Chief Instructor, as Graden’s USA Karate evolved into a successful multi-school operation with an award winning television show. When Colasanti became the first official employee to NAPMA in the beginning of 1995, he was a young third-degree black belt with very little knowledge of how the industry worked. But through his dedication, integrity and passion, he quickly evolved into a respected industry leader, and eventually became President of NAPMA—the premier martial arts business association of the twentieth century. He served as president for nine years. Colasanti is the author of the book, What I’ve Learned and its 2011, updated version, The Martial Arts Business Bible. Both have been widely read by young instructors as well as many other industry leaders. During his career he has had the honor of being interviewed by media outlets ranging from CNNfn to Time Magazine and continues to make himself available when it comes to spreading the good word about the benefits of martial arts training. Rob Colasanti has broadened his leadership role as the one professional responsible for introducing the leading minds of mainstream business, sales, marketing and personal development to the martial arts industry. His comprehensive interviews with brilliant and successful individuals such as Jackie Chan, Zig Ziglar, Anthony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Jay Abraham, Tom Hopkins, Matt Furey, Jean Claude Van Damme, Chet Holmes, Dr. Paul Hartunian, Lee Milteer, Tim “4-Hour Workweek” Ferris, Bill Amelio of Dell Computers and many others have been hailed by thousands. Colasanti has often been referred to as the “Napoleon Hill of the martial arts.” Further, Colasanti’s up-close-and-personal interviews with fight legends and martial arts business leaders have motivated and inspired countless martial arts instructors and school owners throughout the world; Kathy Long, Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, Steve LaVallee, Tommy Lee, Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, Billy “Tae Bo” Blanks, 13

The Martial Arts Business Bible

Evander Holyfield, Joe Lewis, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, Jeff Smith, Paul Garcia, Frank Shamrock, Joe Corley, Greg Sliva, Joon P. Choi, Rick Bell, “Judo” Gene LeBell, etc. Colasanti is no longer running NAPMA and Martial Arts Professional Magazine. However, he has emerged as a significant leader of the next generation of martial arts professionals and is poised to become one of the primary forces to propel the industry to an even greater position of public prominence and respect. Today, Rob Colasanti has become recognized as the goodwill “Ambassador of the Martial Arts.” He still maintains the martial arts skills and talents that launched his career. He is an American Council on Martial Arts (ACMA) certified instructor and a black belt under Joe Lewis, a.k.a. “The greatest fighter in the history of karate.” Colasanti is a much sought-after and popular speaker on school operations, industry trends and broad business concepts that apply directly to all martial arts professionals. Rob Colasanti is helping to write the next chapter of the modern history of the martial arts industry, and the story of his leadership and influence are destined to fill many more pages in the years to come. He may be contacted through

FROM TOP: In 2001, Mr. Tiger Shulman graciously gave me my first high-profile interview; I presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to the legendary Gene LeBell at the 2005 Martial Arts SuperShow; Bernard Kerik, former NYC police commissioner (right); Jose Jimenez, his lifelong friend and fellow Black Belt (center) and I discuss business at the 2006 Battle of Atlanta; In 2006, it was a great honor to be inducted into Joe Corley’s Centurion Club, with Bill Kipp and Dr. Maung Gyi, at the Battle of Atlanta.


Rob Colasanti



guess you could say I’m a martial arts guy, who came from humble beginnings.

At the age of 14, I was a huge ninja fan. I used to watch those fantastical, blood-spilling, sword-wielding Sho Kosugi movies on cable TV, record them on our VCR and then study the moves over and over again. After a while, I could throw some basic kicks and punches, as well as recite memorable lines like, “Only by passing through the gate of the eye can the shuriken reach the brain and cause death.” I wanted to be a ninja! But I was missing a critical component. A ninja doesn’t look like a ninja when he’s wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, now does he? So, I went to the good ole’ Wagon Wheel Flea Market in not so beautiful Pinellas Park, Florida and bought myself a real ninja uniform. And since my dad was present, they even allowed me to buy some cheap throwing stars. Mission complete. I had the uniform, I had the tabi boots, I had the Chinese stars and I had all the Sho Kosugi moves on video that I could possibly want to practice. Let me tell you, I was good to go. So I began practicing Ninjitsu in my backyard, by myself. I used to take empty, one-gallon, plastic milk containers, fill them with sand and dirt, tie a rope around the handle and hang them from the orange tree in our backyard. Then, I’d punch and kick the containers until they’d burst apart and all the sand would come spewing out with dramatic effect. Ah, yes…very satisfying for a young, fearless, wannabe ninja who was ready to take the world by storm. Now, that’s about the same time my across the street neighbor Dan Masi took notice of what was going on in my backyard. I guess our four foot high, chain link fence offered little camouflage for the so-called ninja in training. Dan was a very large individual. At 6’ 4” and weighing over 300 pounds he looked like a grizzly bear when he came walking towards you. Plus, he was tough! Real tough and real strong. No nonsense. This guy had been in more street fights, as well as real life brawls from his days working as a bouncer, than 90% of the martial arts instructors I’ve met during my career. He could “flip the switch” and go from very nice to extremely mean in the blink of an eye. This was a mental skill he took pride in having and allegedly learned to control over time.


The Martial Arts Business Bible

But, don’t get the wrong idea. Dan was a good guy and an excellent neighbor…as long as he liked you. Anyhow, Dan mentioned to me that he was a black belt in Kenpo Karate. He had studied under a guy named Jack Searcy and did some competing in the heavyweight division of various tournaments and local “badman” contests. In fact, he had once fought famed full-contact kickboxer “Oak Tree Edwards” at the Battle of Atlanta and lost due to a technicality. The bottom line is that he definitely knew his stuff. Upon recognizing my interest in learning martial arts, Dan volunteered to teach me some moves. “JACKPOT!” I figured this was my lucky break to finally learn real martial arts and instantly accepted the offer. So we relocated to Dan’s backyard where we began our training. Now, just like you would handle any brand new white belt who has zero experience, Dan really started me off slow… with kid gloves…lots of TLC and patience…cause white belts are kinda like “fragile eggs,” you know? The first thing he taught me was “The Dance of Death.” Oh, it was quite interesting getting joint locked, swept onto the ground and then flipped onto my stomach, as Dan proceed to punch and stomp my spine, in demonstration. As he explained, “If you can crush your opponent’s vertebrae, he’ll probably go into paralysis, and a guy can’t fight you if he can’t move his arms and legs. Got it?” “Yes, understood,” I quickly agreed. From there he began teaching me front snap kick, step-through side kick, eye and throat strikes, backfist, etc. Then, we moved right into some BARE KNUCKLE sparring. Yes, indeed. This was my entrée into martial arts training…and oddly enough, I enjoyed every last minute of it. Now just to be clear, Dan never bullied me and he never once injured me. He only encouraged and inspired me. He generously shared his knowledge and did so with my best interest at heart. For that, I shall always be grateful. Then, one day Dan made a comment to me in passing. He said, “You should get yourself a heavy bag since those milk containers don’t hold up very well.”


Rob Colasanti

Me, being the type that I am, followed his “instructions” to the letter. So I persuaded my dad to take me up to Service Merchandise where I bought a big ole,’ red Everlast heavy bag using most of the gift money I had saved up. Oh, that bag was a big one – the biggest they had! In fact, I still remember Dan’s face when he saw us pull into our driveway with the bag hanging out the trunk of our little four-cylinder Reliant K car. He just stared for a moment and mumbled, “From now on, I’m going to be careful what I tell you.” But now that I had the bag, I also had a challenge to overcome. There was nowhere, and I do mean nowhere, to hang that bag at our house. We lived in very cramped quarters. Me, my grandparents, my dad, and my pet bird named Jack all lived in a two-bedroom house that had less than 1,100 square feet of space. So that bag was NOT met with approval. And I certainly couldn’t hang it from the orange tree like I had been doing with the milk containers. So I came up with a great idea. There was an elementary school located about a mile and a half away. So I talked my dad into driving my bag and me to the school each night before dark. Then, I would lug the bag across the field, and with Dad’s help, we’d hang it from the monkey bars. Then my dad would patiently wait in the car, while I commenced to beating the hell out of that bag…”Rocky Balboa style.” No, I didn’t wear boxing gloves. No, I didn’t own a pair. No, I did not want any hand protection. Thinking I was Rocky or Sho, I’d simply punch that bag as hard as possible, until my knuckles began bleeding. Then I’d keep punching and punching and punching some more, until I had a bloody mess on my hands (no pun intended). When the pain became too much to handle, or I completely ran out of gas, I’d call it quits for the night. Then, my dad would help me unhook the bag and I’d lug it back across the field and throw it back into the trunk. Next day, same thing. It didn’t take long before I wore holes into the knuckles on both of my hands. In fact, I could see white and yellow meat when I looked down in there. But my knuckles would always scab over and heal after a few days of rest. Soon, my scabs turned into thick yellowy calluses that didn’t rip open anymore when I pounded them into the bag. Eventually, my knuckles became gnarly and hard. I was literally able to scrape ‘em down a brick wall and blood would no longer rise to the surface any more. They’d simply turn bright white, as the thick skin grated up like cheese. Stupid human trick? Hey, think what you like. I’m just telling you my story. Keep reading…


The Martial Arts Business Bible

Anyhow, this went on for nearly a year. Then one day Dan said to me, “I’ve done all I can do with you. You need to find yourself a karate school and a real instructor. You’re ready.” “A school?” I responded. “Huh. Good idea.” Dan mentioned, “There’s a karate guy named John Graden who is really good. I know of him and his brothers. He’s supposed to be opening a school somewhere here in the area. You should find out where and go check him out.” So I did some asking around. By happenstance, my friend Bill Greninger also knew of John Graden and said he’d soon be opening a school in the Tyrone Gardens Shopping Plaza, which was only a mile or so away from our house. “Convenient,” I thought. My interest was piqued.

The Neighborhood Got a New Lawn Boy So one day, my dad drove me down to Tyrone Gardens. It was a big, L-shaped shopping center. We parked the car and simply walked around looking for a karate school. But we couldn’t find one. Then, We came across a vacant place tucked all the way in the back. There was no signage, but the door was wide open. So we went inside. My dad shouted, “Hello, anybody here?” That’s when John Graden walked out from the back room with a paintbrush in one hand and a paint can in the other. Next thing you know, the three of were sitting on 5-gallon paint buckets while Mr. Graden told us a little about himself and the vision he had for this first school of his, which he was planning to open in about three weeks after fixing the place up a bit. He then tried to sell me lessons. The cost of the tuition was $470 cash for 18 months of unlimited martial arts training. In fact, he wrote the pricing on the back of his business card, which I kept all these years in my karate photo album. It is pictured to the right. Anyhow, we told Mr. Graden that we needed to think it over, thanked him for his time and drove off. Truth is, I couldn’t get that meeting out of my head. I was just dyin’ to finally begin training in a real school as Dan recommended. Oh, I wanted it REAL BAD. But the problem was that I had no money. Like, no money at all. I was only fourteen years old and had never had a job. But I came up with a plan.


Rob Colasanti

A few days later, I asked my dad and my grandparents if they would loan me the $470, if I promised to pay it back. Getting this deal done took a little “selling” on my part because my family had no idea what karate even was at the time. But they supported me as usual and were good enough to lend me the money, despite the fact that money was extremely tight in our household. What do I mean by “tight.” Well, my grandparents lived on a meager fixed income since Grandpa was a disabled World War II combat veteran, who fearlessly defended our country on the front lines in France, Germany, Africa, etc. He earned two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a bunch of other medals and honors. But then he paid the price for the rest of his life with a horrible case of PTSD, problems resulting from gangrene, shrapnel, frozen feet, ulcers and more. Grandma’s role had always been to run the household. She didn’t have a career other than to keep up with all of her duties at home. Very typical of her generation. And, my dad was also on a fixed income, which resulted from a horrendous construction accident that crushed his leg and permanently injured his back. It’s amazing how fast life can change. One minute the guy is helping build the World Trade Centers in New York City and making lots of money. The next minute the doctors are telling him he’ll never walk again and are looking to amputate his left leg. Yes, money was quite “tight” at our home, given the realities involved. But I had to figure out how to pay back the money my family lent me. After all, that was the deal and I fully intended to honor it. Once again I came up with a plan. I borrowed my grandfather’s little, red Craftsmen lawnmower and went knocking on doors. I literally became the neighborhood lawn boy and began cutting grass for $8 a job so that I could pay back the debt. Or, for $10, I also weed-whacked the customer’s yard. I didn’t like doing this work, but it enabled me to fulfill my dream of learning real martial arts from a real martial arts teacher. I did what I had to do. So I became a “pre-sale” at John Graden’s USA Karate and the first student to join his first school, before it had even opened.


The Martial Arts Business Bible

Yes indeed, I cut a lot of grass to pay for those lessons. And I continued cutting grass to pay for my brown belt program upgrade, which also happened during the first year. Now, I’ll let you in on a little something. I HARDLY EVER missed a karate class. In fact, I was at that school as much as, if not more, than pretty much anyone. Why? First, it was because I truly loved the training. I took to it like a fish takes to water. Second, it was because I seriously wanted to GET MY MONIES WORTH! Frankly speaking, I had to bust my butt in the hot Florida sun and inhale massive amounts of dust, in the afternoons after school and/or on the weekends, to pay for my lessons. So they really meant something to me. No one just paid my tuition for me, as is the case with most kids these days. For a few months they try piano lessons, then gymnastics, then soccer…then karate for a few months until T-ball season begins. Mommy and daddy just write the check. As the BMW drives up to the school, “There ya go little Johnny. Have fun doing all those loud yells. Here, don’t forget your belt. I’ll pick you up in 45 minutes. Love ya. (Smooch.)” That wasn’t my experience, I assure you. I had to WORK to afford my lessons.

Let the Training Begin! Anyhow, once I was in the white and yellow belt class, I trained hard. Very hard. And back then you had to, or you would have been run off. That was the culture in this particular school. There was no middle ground. Either you were 100% in, or you were going to end up 100% out. Plain and simple. It was like survival of the fittest. No one was pampered – PERIOD! Before long I made my orange belt, as you can see in the photo on the previous page. Then, I made my green belt and I was practically living at the school. Each day, my dad would drop me off in the early afternoon, and then pick me up around 8pm or 9pm. That’s what I wanted. I guess you could say I was a “dojo rat.” I was there


Rob Colasanti

so often, in fact, that Mr. Graden gave me a key to the school, which was a great honor. Very few people had a key to get inside the school, let alone a 15-year old green belt. Then, at the rank of blue belt, Mr. Graden would occasionally have me work with new people who were considering joining his school. “Wow! What an honor,” I thought. He’d have me go over in the corner with the “newbies” and I had free reign to teach them all sorts of basic techniques such as forebalance, opposite and equal reaction punching, knuckle push ups, front kick, back kick, Korean terminology, downward block, rising block, opening commands, defenses against choke holds, wrist grabs and full-nelsons, how to stun and run, etc. I was pretty much left to my own devices and could teach these prospective students just about anything I wanted…for a good solid hour! So I’d PACK-IN as much material as possible…to REALLY impress them with my knowledge…to really give them their monies worth… and I’d always make the lessons as challenging as possible for them. Is the hair on the back of your neck standing up? Despite the fact that I broke nearly every rule in the book when it comes to teaching a proper introductory lesson, I still did a pretty decent job. Sure, I didn’t have proper training yet. Sure, I was just a teenager. Sure, I really had no idea what I was doing and barely knew martial arts myself at that stage of the game. But I did have something important going for me. I had PASSION. My heart was in it. I was a true believer. And people could sense these things. Then, every once in a while, Mr. Graden would call me into his office and hand me a thick wad of cash for helping out. What a feeling it was to pocket a fistful of twenties back then. Heck, I wasn’t even expecting to get paid. It never even occurred to me that I could actually make money doing martial arts. But suddenly, I was making “good money” and the amounts kept increasing. Naturally, I wanted MORE! Soon I was asked to be the school’s first official Program Director, which was a paid position. If I remember correctly, I was given a few hundred bucks a week, plus a bonus of $20 for each student I enrolled. Nice! Believe me. Back then this seemed like a ton of dough, so I was thrilled. Not only was I on my way to earning a black belt (though me and the other students were regularly told that less than 2% of us were expected to make it that far), but I was also getting paid. Plus, I felt like a real “somebody” in the school. I was no longer just a student…I was a staff member. Much closer to the “main man.” Big difference. Then, on December 17, 1988, I made my first-degree black belt. Take my word for it, in this school that was a VERY BIG DEAL.


The Martial Arts Business Bible

The photo you see here to the left was my official black belt photo. This was significant, because once you earned your black belt, you got to put your photo on a wall in the school - The Hall of Black Belts. The photos were in chronological order with the others who also earned black belts and overlooked the training floor. So the closer to the front of line-up you were, the more impressive....and there weren’t very many photos at this point in time.

A Serious Imbalance Almost KO’d My Instructor’s School Now, from my oblivious perspective, all seemed good and well at the school. However, little did I know at the time, but the school was on the verge of going out of business. Early on, it was barely making ends meet. And I know this to be the case because I’ve since heard Mr. Graden tell this part of his story many times from the stage. Why was his school close to going under? Well, the reasons are simple when I reflect back on them now. Mainly, it was because the emphasis was on producing TOP QUALITY black belts and real fighters. Mr. Graden and some of the black belts in his “inner circle” were traveling the world fighting on the prestigious United States Karate Team (WAKO). They were trying to develop careers as kickboxers. They were competing in tournaments in and out of the country. Sparring with Joe Lewis in the afternoons. Chasing rank. These were their primary focuses. Concurrently, the school had no business systems of any kind. Business stuff was simply not part of the equation during the early days of this school. This resulted in a serious imbalance, so it’s no wonder the school almost went under. But then, Mr. Graden decided that he was going to turn things around. He made up his mind to grow his school and transform it into one that still offered great quality martial arts and still produced top quality black belts, but one that helped a lot more students than just the sixty or so “fanatics” who were training there.


Rob Colasanti

What a Turnaround! That’s when Mr. Graden began studying sales, marketing, customer service and so on. That’s when he learned how to raise tuition rates, incorporate upgrade programs, develop staff members like me, generate free publicity, structure the curriculum and belt exam process so it allowed for a wide variety of people to participate, and so on. That’s when he began educating himself and the few of us who were on staff at the time (see photo to the right - Rob Colasanti, Kathy Marlor, Ron Schnell, John Graden) on how to run a profitable commercial martial arts school. Let me tell you - it was like a hurricane of change came tearing through the place. Take it from a guy who was there, in the trenches, from start to finish. Take it from a guy who was on the ground floor helping to implement these changes one by one as I was directed. THEY WORKED! Before long there was a night and day difference in how Mr. Graden’s school operated. Soon, USA Karate was making lots of money. It was bursting at the seams with students and required multiple expansions. Mr. Graden began hosting his own television show, which was fantastic. It was a great honor to be a regular in some of the segments and commercials. Made me feel like a star. Next, he opened a second location and that school launched with all the systems that were proven to work in the first school. So, it too, was quite successful and I truly enjoyed working at that location as well, though I nearly lost my eye sparring there one Saturday morning after teaching class. But that is a whole other story…

I Saw it All…Well, Almost Looking back at it all, life was really good. And by the time I made my third degree black belt in February of 1994, I had become a serious and respected professional martial artist in one very tough school, where most students dropped out early because it was so “old school” for so long.


The Martial Arts Business Bible

So as you read this book, bear in mind that I’m not some guy who’s never trained hard in martial arts, or someone who has never been involved with a real martial arts school. Nor am I some guy who waltzed into the industry with information on how to grow a school that I read in somebody else’s book. No, not at all. The fact is that I’VE LIVED IT. So many of the things I advise you on here in “The Bible” are things that I personally experienced and implemented during the first half of my martial arts career, while working at the school level. Now, this leads me to the second half of the story. All of this happened just prior to Mr. Graden launching The National Association of Professional Martial Artists (NAPMA) in December of 1994. Interestingly enough, I became the new company’s first official employee. That’s when my education on the martial arts business REALLY began. Read on…

A Noble Career is Born It was October of 1994. I was a young third-degree Black Belt, and a professional martial artist with nine years worth of hard-core experience under my belt. Besides martial arts, the other focus in my life was going to medical school. At the time, I had just completed 191 credit hours of college, graduated USF with a biology degree, and even survived the grueling Medical College Aptitude Test (MCAT). Even though I had martial arts coursing through my veins, I was spending more time in a lab coat than I was in a gi after I had earned my third degree. I had to. I was in the final stages before heading off to become Dr. Colasanti, and I was fully prepared to meet the challenge head on. Then, as I rolled into 1995, I was met with some pretty disappointing news. My MCAT scores were not competitive enough to be accepted into USF’s Medical School, which I had my heart set on attending. I knew that this unfortunate news was going to delay my journey by at least one semester, and I was extremely bummed out. I felt like I had lost a championship fight that I spent years training for. But I stayed positive, and immediately registered to take the exam again later that year.


Rob Colasanti

In the meantime, I was kind of in limbo. Since I had just given up my nine-year employment at USA Karate in order to focus full-time on my education, I had no job and very little money. It was around this time when Mr. Graden mentioned to me that he had just launched an organization called the National Association of Professional Martial Artists, and offered me the opportunity to work for him out of his house one day a week. All I had to do was make follow-up calls every Wednesday night for a few hours, and get school owners to join. I was to be paid a commission for each member I enrolled, and I gladly accepted the offer. I figured it would help me get by for a few months before I left for medical school. So it was then that I began my NAPMA career in Mr. Graden’s spare bedroom, using an old Macintosh 520c laptop computer, a phone, and a list of leads. Pretty much blind as to what I was selling, I picked up the phone, and began trying to enroll school owners into this thing called NAPMA.

Sales, Sales and More Sales As NAPMA’s first official employee, I began producing strong results FAST—and I was quickly given the title of Membership Director. As an experienced Program Director at USA Karate, I had been selling martial arts memberships for many years. Selling NAPMA memberships was very similar, but much easier. With all the new memberships I was generating, Mr. Graden quickly increased my hours. Soon I was working full-time for NAPMA, and I actually put medical school on hold (temporarily, I thought) because NAPMA was so exciting and seemed to offer so much potential. So I’d teach private lessons in the morning at John Graden’s USA Karate, and then head right over to my tiny office space in the spare bedroom. Often, I was still sweating, and sometimes still bleeding from that morning’s sparring session. But after a quick shower and a change of clothes right there at the house, I’d start burning up the phone lines. I hit it hard all day, everyday, including weekends. I was building our membership base with the leads Mr. Graden was generating, and I was building it in a hurry. This was the same sort of thing I used to do at the martial arts schools, only this time I was engaged in a higher purpose—helping the martial arts industry to grow by getting school owners involved with a top quality (and much needed) program that gave them the education they needed to transform their schools. At the time, selling NAPMA memberships was a piece of cake. The reasons for this are now obvious to me


The Martial Arts Business Bible

First of all, martial arts business information was not very accessible or affordable back then. NAPMA made it very easy for schools to become involved by removing all of the common barriers to entry, such as style related issues, cost, having to purchase other services to get the information, etc. Plus, Mr. Graden was a highly credible source. He was a REAL martial artist and his information was rock solid. Plus, he was a great speaker and a prolific writer. Second, I had tons of valuable knowledge on how to run a karate school since I was part of the original staff that helped Mr. Graden transform his martial arts school from “dungeon dojo” to successful commercial school. What’s interesting is that even though I was young, even though I was only a lowly third degree black belt consulting with “masters” and “grand masters,” in most cases, I knew a whole lot more about how to run a school than they did and they realized this after one short phone conversation. This was key. Third, I had very strong solution-based selling skills, people skills, customer service skills and communication skills. Plus, I’ve always been an extremely honest guy and people tell me this quality instantly shines through my persona. One truly needs these kinds of qualities when selling memberships. (We’ll discuss this in greater detail later on here in “The Bible.”) All combined, my skill-set, along with proper timing and NAPMA offering a great service at the right price, made it quite simple for me to generate enrollments and keep our members happy after they joined and called-in to consult. Before long I had enrolled five hundred NAPMA members, then six hundred, then we totally outgrew the spare bedroom and moved into our first building. In fact, I had enrolled over 1,000 members into NAPMA before we even had a second employee in the membership department. Soon Mr. Graden began hiring additional staff members, he created Martial Arts Professional magazine, we were conducting seminars all over the US, and in 1997 I became the company’s very proud Vice President.


Rob Colasanti

We were blazing new trails, and everyday at NAPMA was like climbing aboard a runaway train.

How I Became “Ambassador of the Martial Arts” As NAPMA continued to evolve, I continued to absorb knowledge like a sponge. For the first six years, I spent most of my days on the phone with school owners. I literally spoke to thousands of them, representing every style, background, and affiliation imaginable. In fact, during this time I don’t know of anyone in the martial arts field who was speaking to more school owners on a regular basis than myself. I heard it all, constantly, from all corners of the industry. Daily, I was exposed to the business challenges, successes, complaints, statistics, ideas, marketing strategies, school programs, requests, personal problems, sales approaches, systems, staff training procedures and unique situations of a massive assortment of instructors throughout North America. To be honest, the volume was so high for so many years that it was tough to keep pace. NAPMA had become my laboratory, and it gave me a crash course on the inner workings of the martial arts industry and the school business, which expanded my knowledge light years beyond what I had learned during my nine plus years working at USA Karate. Because of my hard work, integrity, dedication, and ability to consistently produce solid results, I was able to earn the respect of many of the martial arts industry’s “brightest and best” in a relatively short period of time. I was becoming known in the industry and I began getting plenty of PEER ACCEPTANCE, which is very important in the martial arts community. Then, in 2001, I was once again promoted. I had become the President of NAPMA. During the eight years that I served as President, I chose to be a conduit of information, rather than the “expert” who was creating and presenting the information myself. My decision was to preserve NAPMA’s reputation as a grassroots association whose content was fueled by many different people and sources, rather than just one. In fact, on quite a few occasions, I was referred to as “the Larry King of the martial arts.” I guess that makes sense. After all, when you came on my Sounds of Success show, for example, which featured so many of the big names in the martial arts biz, you were treated with dignity. There was no pressure. You weren’t put on the spot. And I wasn’t a polarizer. I tried to bring out the best in everyone of my guests and highlight their positive accomplishments.


The Martial Arts Business Bible

Furthermore, I had no agenda. My goal was simply to share knowledge that would lead to the personal and professional growth of everyone involved. So my specialty was building quality relationships with all kinds of good people in the martial arts community who really had their acts together and were willing to “give back.” For more than a decade, I was able to get my fellow martial arts professionals to share their knowledge, information, business systems, success principles, trade secrets, mental strategies, curriculums, and wisdom with the NAPMA membership base and oftentimes with the entire industry through our magazine or convention. Basically, everyone trusted me and liked me. They knew I would do the right thing with their name and knowledge. Everyone took my call and virtually no one turned me down. And that’s how NAPMA continued to get so much quality content for so long. Everyone benefited in one way or another... NAPMA received the great content. The contributor received the positive exposure and did a good deed by putting back a little into the industry that rewarded him or her with so much abundance and prosperity. The people listening, reading or watching benefited from the outstanding knowledge and information that stemmed from the association I was running. Yes, it was a good system that worked very well, and I was able to keep it going smoothly for many years. So this is how I initially acquired the nickname “Ambassador of the Martial Arts.” Then, I decided to go beyond the martial arts industry to inspire some mainstream, “heavy hitters” to become involved. This began with the comprehensive audio interview and cover story I did with Tony Robbins. Amazingly, I even got Tony to record a custom, 45-minute video Keynote called The Five Keys to Wealth and Happiness, which aired at our convention. Brilliant stuff! From there I reached out to Jay Abraham for marketing know-how. Then, Tom Hopkins for sales skills. Then, Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Jean Claude Van Damme, and so on. Before long I had gotten many brilliant individuals from Jackie Chan to Evander Holyfield to share their knowledge. Clearly, everyone was benefiting from this approach. But then it all suddenly ended shortly after the company was sold in mid 2007.


Rob Colasanti

The new owner had a completely different vision than I. Soon, I no longer fit into the picture and was asked to leave. What are you gonna do? When life gives you lemons….ah, you know the rest.

I Was Part of Something Amazing! Sometimes I pinch myself when I think about my journey from being a “backyard ninja,” who came from very humble beginnings, to a quality black belt and then on to serve as President of what was once the largest professional martial arts association in the country. At its peak, the NAPMA organization had earned the business of approximately 2,100 active members representing more than twenty countries around the world. We certified over 6,000 instructors through our nationwide Cardio Karate seminar tour, which was lead by Jim Graden, during the big Fitness Kickboxing boom in the late nineties. Our popular World Conference became the largest professional martial arts convention and trade show that the industry had ever seen up to that point. And, our magazine, Martial Arts Professional, was reaching between 20,000 - 25,000 schools and instructors per month at its peak distribution. During its 14-year run, millions of copies – loaded with tons of valuable information - were mailed to instructors throughout the country (and to our International membership base) for free. My estimation is that NAPMA generated somewhere between 35 - 40 million dollars while I was a leader within it. But I don’t have the financial to provide an exact accounting. Anyhow, NAPMA was built the old fashioned way - through vision, passion, hard work and lots of relationship making. It was done on a shoestring budget. And we did it as karate guys,


The Martial Arts Business Bible

not as big business guys, who rolled up with a fancy business plan and lots of investment capital. As an association, we had no expensive upsells, or high priced upgrades. We placed no pressure on our members. No one was meant to feel like a “second class citizen” if they weren’t spending a fortune on the company. We had no agendas. WAIT - I take that back. Our agenda was helping instructors in any way possible and building a community where everyone felt welcome. Furthermore, our tuition was completely affordable at $99 per month. And, we considered customer service to be king. When you called NAPMA, you felt like you were talking with people that you could relate to…a company that genuinely cared about you…folks who were happy that you called. Though many “business experts” would shoot all kinds of holes in the way we ran the company, I stand by the fact that our method resulted in a near perfect match with our membership base and the average school owner in the industry who represented our prospects. In other words, NAPMA and its members were on the same wavelength. And that’s why NAPMA became such a “good fit” with the martial arts industry. In retrospect, I believe it was the NAPMA organization that took the movement towards professionalism in our industry to a whole new level. Lead by John Graden - we had the courage to blaze new trails, put school owners first rather than ourselves, and speak out against many of the restrictive traditions that were holding instructors back at the time. But most importantly, we made martial arts business information mainstream, and as a result we changed the lives of countless instructors and, subsequently, their students. What an amazing ride, what an amazing accomplishment…that’s NAPMA’s legacy! And I am deeply honored to have served the martial arts community through NAPMA for so many years. As I’ve stated from the very beginning of my career, in my book, the martial arts community is the greatest community on Earth…and shall always remain as such.


Rob Colasanti

What This Book Will Do for You That leads me to why I’ve decided to write this book. During my now twenty-five-year journey as a martial artist, and as the former President of NAPMA, I’ve learned scores about what it takes to become highly successful in the incredible field we’ve chosen. In addition, I’ve had the unique opportunity to work closely with many of the sharpest business minds, celebrity instructors, and top school owners our industry has ever known. So what does this mean for you? This is your big chance to siphon volumes of valuable information out of my brain, and put it into yours. To learn my best tips, tactics, advice, and trade secrets. Not just the valuable lessons I learned while working at a leading school for nearly a decade, but all the good stuff I learned on the industry level during the past fifteen years. By reading this book, you will learn from my mistakes, as well as my successes. You will garner motivation, inspiration, and practical, proven knowledge that will help you take your personal and professional goals to the next level and beyond. Sir or ma’am, my goal with this book is to give you the tools you need to transform your school into a smoother running, more efficient, safer, and more value-oriented place for your students. And, to show you how to substantially increase your profits, in the process. Ready to sharpen your edge? Then start reading. Put this incredible information to good use, and make the commitment right now to never stop growing as a professional martial artist. Here now is my gift to you. This is The Martial Arts Business Bible…


The Martial Arts Business Bible



s I wrote the Acknowledgements portion of this book, I realized how many incredible people have helped shape me into the person that I am today. I’m truly grateful, and I have so many wonderful people to thank.

For starters, I’d like to recognize a few of my colleagues in and out of the martial arts industry, whose knowledge and wisdom have had a profound impact on my development. My deepest appreciation goes out to the one and only Jay Abraham. You have been a mentor and friend to me for many years. Thanks a million for your generosity, wisdom and guidance! Much appreciation goes out to Dawn Barnes, Rick Bell, Bill and Milan Bly, the Cokinos family, John Corcoran, Joe Corley, Charlie Foxman, Dr. Fred Freed, Jeff Frick, Matt Furey, Joe Galea, Mark Graden, Bernard Kerik, Tommy Lee, Dr. Richard Phares, Brian Tracy, Gerard Turvey and Zig Ziglar. It’s an honor to have learned something special from each of you. Next, I wish to thank all of my martial arts friends and heroes who have inspired me to the bone, and supported me along the way. An extended, heartfelt bow goes out to George Alexander, Mike Anderson, Chief Master Bill Clark, Fred and Katie Degerberg, Fumio Demura, Paul Garcia, Jim Graden, Dr. Maung Gyi, Stephen Hayes, Roger Jarrett, Willie “The Bam” Johnson, Bill Kipp, Cung Le, Joe Lewis, Kathy Long, Tom Patire, Peyton Quinn, Randy Reid, Ernie Reyes, Sr., Grand Master Jhoon Rhee, Dan “The Beast” Severn, Frank Shamrock, Jeff Smith, Steve Stewart, Mike Swain, Keith Vitali, Don Warrener and Don “The Dragon” Wilson to name a few. Also, I can’t put into words how much I will always appreciate the steady guidance and golden opportunities that were given to me by NAPMA’s founder, and my first martial arts instructor, Mr. John Graden. Thank you, sir, for everything! Finally, I want to thank my loving family: my grandparents William and Rita, my father Robert Colasanti, Sr, and my Uncle Bill. I can never repay you for all the support you’ve given me throughout the years. Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my beautiful wife, Anja Lee, for all that she is, and all that she does. You’re the best of the best. I love you! Thank you, thank and all!


Rob Colasanti



first met Rob Colasanti in April of 1999. At the time he was vice president of the leading martial arts business association in the country. He took enormous pride in helping black belt instructors turn their passion into an income worthy of high praise. The reason for our visit at that time was straight forward: In order to position myself better in the market place and enjoy increased sales of my books and videos, I volunteered to give of my time and knowledge to the martial arts schools whom Rob and his company so ably served. Our first order of business was filming a 15-minute segment that could be used in their monthly package for school owners. I gave my all, sharing information that I knew would help any black belt instructor with the fitness and conditioning segment of their curriculum. After watching me teach, Rob got excited and asked if I was willing to film yet another segment, on a different topic. Without hesitation I willingly agreed, even when you could make a very good argument that I was shooting myself in the foot by giving away valuable information that I could be selling. When we finished filming the second segment, Rob began to walk toward his office as he motioned for me to “come here.” Once the two of us took our respective seats, I couldn’t help but note the power Rob held while seating behind his desk. This man had the power to help me along, or cast me to the side. Yet, never at any time, did he flaunt this power or make me feel like an underling. “I see a lot of martial artists come and go,” Rob said to me from behind his mahogany desk. “And you’re different. You have great content and a superb presentation style that is easy to follow. And you’re saying things that are important that no one else is saying.” “Well, thank you,” I said. “Here’s what I’d like to do,” said Rob. “I want to run these two video clips in our monthly package, and when we do, you’re welcome to enclose an advertisement piece for your products and services. I think when the martial arts school owners see you, they’ll want more of you.” “That sounds great,” I said. “Just let me know what percentage of the sales is fair to you.” “Matt, we don’t need a percentage. You willingly gave of your time and knowledge. Anything you make on the back-end of this is ALL YOURS.”


The Martial Arts Business Bible

Talk about music to my ears. As a result of how well Rob treated me that day and because of how he kept his word every step of the way afterward, Two years later, Rob contacted me again to speak at their company’s annual convention. And when I spoke the room was filled with black belt instructors from all over the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. As a result of how well Rob treated me that day and because of how he kept his word every step of the way in the days, weeks and months afterward, whenever Rob asked me to contribute in any way, it was a done deal. He got back what he put out. Two years later, Rob contacted me again to speak at their company’s annual convention. When I spoke the room was filled with black belt instructors from all over the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. This would have never happened if it wasn’t for the positioning Rob was willing to give me. Over the course of the next several years, a number of changes took place in this company. First, Rob got promoted to President. And as the new leader he helped build the company even stronger. Second, the company changed owners – more than once. In each instance, Rob remained on board as the President. After all, it would be suicidal for an owner to dispatch the very person whom many saw as the heart of the company. Then the company was sold again, and this time, the new owner did the unthinkable. And it didn’t take long for this once great company to deteriorate. A few months later, when Rob was demoted out of a job, I got together with him to discuss business. Perhaps there was a way he could help me from the outside, as a consultant, copywriter or promoter. The guy had so many talents and abilities - I couldn’t believe he was out of a job. After speaking with Rob for several hours, on business, philosophy, the martial arts and so on, I knew I could use his many talents in some way. Over the course of the last 15 months, Rob has worked on many copywriting projects for me – and I’ve sought his input and advice on numerous business matters. In each and every case, he has done everything asked of him, and then some. He has done so graciously and with humility.


Rob Colasanti

Even though Rob has much to brag on and toot his horn about in his masterpiece, The Martial Arts Business Bible, you’ll see that he doesn’t do so. He lets his knowledge and expertise do the talking. As you read The Martial Arts Business Bible, I think you’re going to immediately see that you’ve been given the keys to the kingdom. I can say with 100% conviction that what you’re getting in this book would normally take you 20 years and tens of thousands of dollars to learn. How Rob got all of it into one book is a miracle if you really want to know the truth. And I guess that why this book is called a BIBLE. It’s literally the Holy Grail for Black Belts who want to rise to the top – and take a whole lot of students with them. Best,

Matt Furey, “Zen Master of the Internet”


The Martial Arts Business Bible


Rob Colasanti


The Martial Arts Business Bible

1:  An Evolution of Professionalism


he martial arts industry has come a very long way in a very short period of time. And as the former President of NAPMA, I’m honored to say that I’ve had a front row seat as this evolution miraculously unfurled.

I began my martial arts training in the mid-80’s, which was not at all long ago. Many reading this book may have started ten or twenty years earlier than I did. So the stark contrast in how schools operate today versus how they operated in the past may be even greater in your rearview mirror, than in mine. Even so, I can tell you that when I became involved just 25 years ago, the industry was a much different place and schools didn’t operate anything like they do today. Many of the instructors teaching martial arts in the 80’s (and during the previous decades) were ex-military guys. They learned martial arts while stationed overseas as they were engaged in or preparing for real world, life and death combat. When they returned home they opened martial arts schools and began teaching the skills they picked-up while stationed in places such as Korea, Japan, Europe, Vietnam, etc. So, whom do you think most of these instructors appealed to and attracted to their classes?

“Thirty, forty years ago, many schools were ‘dungeon dojo’ types run by ex-military guys or real world bad asses.” Of course, they attracted other guys who were just like themselves. Individuals who wanted to learn survival skills and hardcore fighting material from tough-as-nails guys who could and would cut your heart out in an actual fight and eat it in front of you before you took your last breath. So naturally their schools were run in a way that was acceptable to this particular market of students. Yes, just thirty years ago running a martial arts school was quite different: •

The tuition was $25 or $30 per month

Very few women and children trained in martial arts

Negative reinforcement was the teaching style of the era


Many schools were “dungeon dojo” types run by “starving artists,” ex-military guys or real world bad asses.

Retention was of little or no concern

Business development was simply not part of the equation for most instructors

Hardly anyone could make a full-time living teaching martial arts, or provide career opportunities to others

There were very few martial arts business consultants, very little information on how to grow a school and hardly any networking for school growth purposes

“It seems as if a new ‘martial arts millionaire’ is born every time I turn around.” Now, fast forward the tape a few decades to today’s martial arts world and look at the amazing difference. At this very moment, I’m seeing: •

Approximately 70% of our students are children, many of which are preschoolers

Tuition rates have climbed to $150, $200 and $250 per month!

More women are training than ever before

Schools all over the country have reached student counts of 300, 500, 700 students. In fact, I used to network with one school in Cary, North Carolina that had approxi mately 2,000 students training under one roof!

Schools are reporting retention rates as high as 97%

Many schools provide their staff members with 401Ks, health insurance and long term career opportunities

Because of information and systemization, many instructors have been able to expand into multiple locations quite successfully and quite lucratively

Martial arts business consultants, info-rich billing companies, software companies and industry associations are prolific in our industry today, thereby making the latest knowledge readily available to all. These days anything you could possibly want to learn about running any aspect of school operations is simply a mouse click away.


Chapter One

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

And it seems as if a new “martial arts millionaire” is constantly being born. I know of MANY schools that are grossing over a million dollars per year in a single location.

What an incredible difference from the not so distant past, eh?

I’ve Witnessed SO MANY Schools Go From Rags to Riches During the past fifteen years, I’ve had the privilege of working with thousands of schools, big and small, and representing every style imaginable. Quite a few of these schools were run by individuals whom I became friends with and have maintained contact with over he years. It’s truly amazing to see just how much so many of these hardworking, persistent, entrepreneurial school owners have grown and prospered, though they were once “little guys.” I’ll give you an example. Just recently I was at an event in Florida with my friends Dave and Melodee Wheaton who flew in from Santa Barbara, CA. When I first met Master Wheaton back in the mid-nineties he had about eighty students at his hapkido school and was just making ends meet. Today, he and his lovely wife teach more than 600 active students. They have a gross income that’s just shy of a million dollars a year and they actually have plenty of free time to travel. In fact, they spend several months a year vacationing in exotic places such as Italy, Bali, Thailand, etc. They truly are living the dream!

“TopKick Martial Arts reports revenues in excess of four million dollars a year, across just five schools.” Another great example is my friend Phil Beatty. He struggled for six years to get his school off the ground. He just couldn’t seem to find the missing links in his business. But he never quit. He kept tweaking and learning and trying new approaches to make his school fly. He kept systemizing his business and improving his approach. Then, eventually, he struck gold.


Rob Colasanti

Today, Phil has over 300 active students and his school is growing like a weed. In fact, he recently had to add several thousand square feet of space just to make room for all of the students and activities his training center now offers. According to Phil, “I’m finally earning the income I always dreamed about. My school is making me wealthy.” Isn’t that AWESOME? I still remember speaking with Professor Brannon Beliso about twelve years ago when we first became acquainted. He had a small, typical, “old school-type” academy in San Francisco, CA. But he too kept learning and growing and systemizing his school. Year after year he and his business continued to evolve. Eventually, he discovered the right combination of systems and approaches that worked for him - personally and professionally. Today, Professor Beliso’s school of 3,800 square feet grosses over a million dollars a year and has done so for the past three years in a row. He has over 600 active students, teaches nearly everyday and is in phenomenal physical condition for a man in his fifties. Yes, he’s also living a martial arts professional’s dream. No doubt - Professor Beliso a real inspiration to anyone in the martial arts business and I sincerely wish him continued success. Now, just to be clear, I’m not taking credit for the success of any of these hard working individuals. They earned their successes themselves. But I can tell you that I was always present, always supporting in various ways whenever possible, always inspiring and always watching closely as their incredible transformations took place. Plus, as one of the main people in the industry who has been involved with the production and dissemination of martial arts business information, I was constantly bombarding the industry with educational content for school owners that was designed to help them grow. Not just in the few schools mentioned above, but in countless others throughout North America. So it should be no surprise that the amount of schools I’ve seen go from rags to riches during the past fifteen years is simply mind boggling. Then, there are the “masterminds” who operate John Cassidy’s TopKick Martial Arts. At the recent MASOU convention, where I did the keynote speech, Master Tu Le was also one of the expert presenters. I have to confess; even I was stunned by the unsurpassed quality of TopKick’s operational methods and systems, AS WELL AS THEIR NUMBERS.


The Martial Arts Business Bible

TopKick reports a gross income in excess of four million dollars per year, across just five schools! When have you ever heard of numbers such as those before?

I Don’t Believe in a “One Size Fits All” Approach to School Growth Now, here’s a key point that should NOT go unmentioned. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my career, it’s that there’s more than one way to grow a martial arts school. There are MANY ways. I’ve seen the proof over and over again. What do I mean? Well, martial arts schools are small businesses. They are run by different people with different personalities, who have different backgrounds and are in totally different locations. These individuals teach different styles, have different goals and objectives, and run their schools for different reasons. They have different skill people. What I’ve learned is that despite all of these differences ANY school can be successful using a wide range of totally different approaches. Let me give you a few examples: •

Some successful schools use contracts, while others don’t.

Some successful schools use billing companies, while others don’t.

Some successful schools teach all children, while some don’t teach any children.

Some successful schools teach MMA, while others are repulsed by the notion.

Some successful schools use upgrade programs, others do not.

Some successful schools focus on doing lots of cash outs, while others do hardly no cash outs at all.

Some successful schools use a rotating curriculum, others do not.

Some successful schools are EXTREMELY TRADITIONAL, while others are anything but traditional.

Some successful schools teach striking arts, others teach grappling arts. Some teach karate while others teach kung fu, ninjitsu, tae kwon do, jujitsu and so on.

Some successful schools are only 3,000 sq. ft., while others are 10,000 sq. ft.

Some successful schools teach over 1,000 students for a low monthly tuition, while others teach only 250 students and charge a premium for their lessons.


Rob Colasanti

Some successful schools have a very high average student value, while others do not, though they each make plenty of money.

Some successful schools place a heavy emphasis on marketing, while others do hardly no marketing at all.

Some successful schools place a big emphasis on running summer camps, while others have simply chosen not to do them at all.

Some successful schools are big on running after school martial arts programs, oth ers truly want nothing to do with it.

Some successful schools are part time, while others are full time in the business.

Some successful schools teach fitness kickboxing and various fitness related pro gramming, while others have never done so and wouldn’t want to.

Believe me, I could give you many other examples, but I think you get the idea. The bottom line is that there’s more than one way to make a martial arts school successful and anyone who tells you otherwise is either not being honest with you, or they’re trying to sell you something, such as a franchise. So the take home message is: YOU HAVE TO DETERMINE HOW YOU WANT TO RUN YOUR MARTIAL ARTS SCHOOL. THEN, FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE IT WORK USING THIS BOOK AND ANY OTHER RESOURCES THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO YOU.

Our Future is Bright As you go forward, bear in mind that there has never been a better time in the history of the martial arts to be in this wonderful profession you’ve chosen - the martial arts business. The reality is that fascinating success stories are not uncommon in the martial arts anymore. It’s because, as an industry, we’re finally starting to get our act together. We’re like the Ugly Duckling in transition and the evidence of this “evolution of professionalism” is beaming bright. As our industry becomes more and more professional (and mature) my advice to you is to make sure your school follows suit. It’s best to ride the horse in the direction it’s going and embrace healthy change NOW. Or, your school may eventually become the exception and your competition could end up working you over - round after round - like a cheap heavy bag. Just to be clear - this “evolution of professionalism” will challenge all of us to work a little bit harder and nudge us all to continuously sharpen our edges so we don’t fall behind. Yes, the bar is rising. But, in the end, it’s the best thing for everyone…especially our students. 41

The Martial Arts Business Bible

2: Martial Arts Industry Survey Results That May Surprise You


ot long before my NAPMA days ended, I conducted an industry-wide survey to learn more about the diverse group of professionals in our industry. The survey respondents represented a true cross-section of the martial arts industry. You will find below some of the interesting facts this survey generated, with some brief comments from yours truly. Question #1: What is your future career goal? Own and operate more than one school (49%) Become a full-time instructor/school owner (39%) [Comment: It’s clear that as our industry continues to evolve, more instructors are recognizing martial arts as a viable career opportunity and an excellent way to achieve their life goals by helping others achieve theirs.] Question #2: How many active students do you teach? 0–200 students (75%) [Comment: Since the vast majority of respondents still have fewer than 200 students, it could be concluded that our industry still has tremendous room for growth.] Question #3: What percentage of your students are children and adults? 50% of their total active students are children. (83%) 75% or more of their total active students are children. (39%) 30% or less of their total active students are adults. (57%) [Comment: It is no surprise that the majority of schools teach mostly children. This is one of the main reasons that continuing education is so important for all instructors and assistants.] Question #4: What is your total student enrollment goal? The average enrollment goal is 138 students. [Comment: This result is very interesting because it indicates that many school owners are still for the most part hobbyists, or they don’t realize the potential that exists in the martial arts business today.] Question #5: What style do you teach at your school? 20% answered “Tae Kwon Do” (This was the largest category). [Comment: No surprise here.] Question #6: Is your goal to own your school property? 38.5% state their goal is to own their school properties. 61.5% stated that is not their goal. [Comment: I’m surprised that more school owners would rather make their landlords rich than invest in their property and own an appreciating asset. Granted, property is not affordable in certain areas of the country, but these percentages still suggest a lack of basic knowledge when it comes to business and wealth building.]


Question #7: How many schools do you own and operate? 82% answered that they own and operate one school. [Comment: I’m of the opinion that, in time, many more school owners will become multischool operators, especially as systemization becomes more prolific.] Question #8: Including yourself, how many people are on your staff? 70% answered 1 or 2 office staff members. [Comment: This response provokes two primary thoughts. First, martial arts schools can be highly profitable, since they may not need many staff members to operate. Second, lack of staff is why so many martial arts schools find it challenging to grow.] Question #9: Do you have a Program Director? 49% answered that they did not have a Program Director. [Comment: Having a strong Program Director is unquestionably one of the keys to operating a successful school. The fact that nearly half of the respondents do not have one speaks volumes as to why the majority of them also have small schools.] Question #10: Do you operate a summer camp or after-school program? 58% answered that they have summer camp programs. 59% answered that they have after-school programs. [Comment: It’s good to see that many schools have created ancillary profit centers, which makes it easier for them to provide additional services to their students and, at the same time, earn a better living.] Question #11: Do you offer a pre-school program? 56% answered that they offer a pre-school program. [Comment: A decade ago, this response would have been nearly zero percent. It clearly shows that schools continue to diversify their services and integrate tradition with innovation. That number is probably higher today.] Question #12: Do you have a Black Belt Club program? 52% answered that they have a Black Belt Club program. [Comment: No one should ever give away a Black Belt, or even promise one to a student in trade for tuition. A Black Belt must be earned; however, I feel that having a well-systematized renewal/upgrade program, such as a Black Belt Club, is essential to achieve maximum results.] In conclusion, I want to make it clear that these results merely represent a profile of the average instructor who responded to the survey I conducted. It should not be misconstrued as a depiction of all martial arts professionals; however, these results do indeed confirm many of my thoughts and conclusions about the average instructor, their schools and our industry. Yes, we’ve made significant progress during the past few decades; but, as these results indicate, we’ve barely scratched the surface of our potential. That’s exciting!


Chapter Two

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

3: Martial Arts First, Business Second


believe that when trying to grow a martial arts school, martial arts should come first and business should come second. That’s because we are martial artists first-and-foremost… not Donald Trumps.

See, if you want to make a martial arts school successful, you do not do so by being a slick salesman. Nor by becoming a marketing wizard. Nor by copying the systems of successful schools and then just plugging them into place thinking your school will somehow run on autopilot. Sorry to disappoint, but it won’t happen. The key to making your school a huge success is to teach PHENOMENAL martial arts classes, to build the right culture within your school, to become a respected martial arts leader who walks the talk and to deliver LEGENDARY student service. THAT’S WHERE YOU BEGIN. Next, you master sales, lead gen, systemization, staff development, etc. Together, this combination of quality martial arts and quality business skills will rocket your school to the top! I’ll also add that most instructors I’ve met during my career did not open a martial arts business so they could be in “business.” I know that seems odd, but it’s true. So if you’re like most, then you probably opened your school because you love to teach, train and give back to others. You love to live the martial arts lifestyle. You love to sweat, constantly improve your skills and simply be a martial artist. Those things are generally first in the lineup. But, second, you also want to earn a decent living by becoming competent in business. So for most instructors, owning a martial arts school is not about being a Bluetooth, earpiece-wearing businessman, or getting rich quick. It’s about living the martial arts way of life, doing what you love to do most and enjoying the personal freedoms that come with selfemployment.

But again, it’s usually martial arts first…business second…for most. That’s why fancy material possessions and big money talk doesn’t seem to earn the respect of most of the martial artists I know. Flash these things and they’ll shrug their shoulders. However, what they will respect is the quality of your character, your martial arts skills and accomplishments, what you do for your students, how much you give back to your community, and your level of self-mastery and personal integrity. And that’s why so many “business experts” have quickly come and gone from our industry over the years. The door keeps getting slammed in their face and they can’t figure out why. It stymies them. Eventually, they pack up and shift to a different industry with the same pitch. They say, “Okay, now we’ll try to get into the pockets of chiropractors. Maybe that’ll work.” I say, “Good luck and good riddens.”


Additionally, the wisest instructors know that money usually doesn’t translate to happiness. It’s merely a tool. To paraphrase the Dali Lama, “The person who is the richest is the one who is happiest with the least.” You gotta have money, but it’s not usually top on the list of priorities in the martial arts community. Now just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t own a nice school, expensive car, fine watch or prestigious house. That’s not it at all. We all want to earn a decent living, enjoy nice things and be at least reasonably prosperous. Ultimately, we want to be happy. My point is that material possessions merely represent the rewards that we earn from living the martial arts way of life and helping MORE AND MORE students to achieve their goals. What’s interesting is that the more students you help by teaching them quality martial arts, the more money and material possessions will suddenly appear in your life. That’s just how it works. Do the right thing for long enough and the money will just follow.

Now here’s a slightly different twist to this topic. I’ve recently spoken with a number of martial arts professionals, who have a very small number of students training at their schools. They keep their schools small by choice. In some cases, their schools are private. Just because you can afford the tuition doesn’t mean you can get in. You must be accepted in, or invited to train. This relationship is about trust and learning martial arts, not money or business. Many instructors who own schools such as these earn their incomes as professionals in other fields, and teach martial arts for non-financial reasons, including dedication to their art, putting back into the community and being a leader/role model to their following of students. To school owners in this category, martial arts DEFINITELY comes first and business barely even enters the equation. Usually, they only want their schools to earn enough income to pay the bills so they can keep the doors open without a financial loss. They’re in a unique situation. However, if you own a commercial school, you’ll quickly go out of business operating in this manner. You must have profits to keep your doors open. So, while I recommend that you place martial arts first, I also recommend that you place business a close second. I’ve known too many instructors who put business near the bottom of their list, or left it off completely, and went out of business as a result. Another reason why martial arts should come first is because it is the traditions of martial arts, which define us. Our customs and traditions separate us from all the rest. So we would do our students a serious injustice if we ever allowed business to take precedence over important elements of martial arts training such as creating quality black belts; having high teaching standards; passing belt promotions; tradition with innovation; teaching realistic selfdefense; perfection of character; and maintaining our integrity. In summary, you can actually have a top quality, highly profitable and professional school, when you put business second. It’s happening all over the country and you can do it too.


Chapter Three

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

4: Keep Your Eyes on the Target and Build the School of Your Dreams


s a fellow martial arts professional, I understand how hectic your life can be.

Sometimes you may feel a bit overwhelmed: teaching classes, keeping-up with the bills, staying in shape, reserving quality time for the family, growing the school, etc. The question often becomes, “How do I know what to focus on, first?” To help you answer this question, I want to share one of the most important and valuable lessons I’ve learned during my career. It’s a lesson that will positively help you to stay on track and ultimately allow you to make your school prosper beyond your wildest dreams. The simple phrase I use is, “Keep your eyes on the target,” and it’s truly one of the greatest bits of wisdom I can pass along to you. The first step in the process is to define what the target is to you. But many instructors with whom I speak don’t have a clue. They rarely ever have their eyes on anything specific, strategic or meaningful, as it relates to what they truly want from life. For me, personally, the “target” represents the single most critical, important and high-return goal (or goals) that I must achieve. For instructors, some common examples of the “target” include: growing their school to 250 students; grossing X dollars per month; finding a worldclass Program Director; buying their building; going from part-time to full-time; becoming a millionaire, etc. The target can be just about anything you want it to be, but until you define the target, you can’t begin to keep your eyes on it.

“Stay focused on the target with as much ‘Black Belt level’ concentration, intensity, resilience and endurance as you can possibly muster.” The second step is to stay focused on the target with as much “Black Belt level” concentration, intensity, resilience and endurance as you can possibly muster. As simple as this may sound, staying focused on the target is one of the hardest things you’ll ever challenge yourself to do. In fact, it’s been my experience that most people spend more time with their eyes off the target than on it. This usually results in long-term mediocrity and underachievement. To achieve your personal and professional goals, you must become a pro at keeping your eyes on the target. Let me give you one specific example.


Let’s say you presently teach 150 students and you want to increase that number to 250. Specifically, how do you keep your eyes on the target? For starters, you get yourself some quality marketing materials and the knowledge of how to use them. Then, you spend the majority of your time using these resources to support all the various activities that directly help you increase your enrollments and retention. This means you substantially increase the number of prospects to whom you give VIP passes. You double, triple or quadruple the number of outbound membership calls you make to prospects. You start a massive effort to stop dropouts before they occur. You radically increase the number of referrals you request. You become better at consultative selling. You dramatically increase your efforts to generate leads with activities such as web marketing, flyer distribution, lead box placement, direct mail marketing, print advertising, demonstrations, school talks, distributing press releases, hosting special events and so on. These types of activities will take you closer to your target of 250 students. And you must constantly measure your progress. Don’t overlook this step! What gets measured gets done. At the same time, if the target is 250 students, then you must avoid all activities that cause you to take your eyes off the target. These activities include failing to dramatically increase your marketing activities in all available media; spending too much time teaching or training; finally rolling into the office at 10 a.m. and leaving early; reliving past glories with your old fight buddies in the middle of the day; paralysis by analysis; idle chitchat; using your valuable time to file papers, vacuum floors or clean mirrors instead of delegating those of $8-per-hour chores to $8-per-hour workers; being interrupted by every little distraction that comes along; working at a slow pace, instead of a fast tempo; taking on every little time-consuming, low-return project that comes your way; etc. These are the types of low return activities that will stop you from reaching your goal of 250 students. In a nutshell, keeping your eyes on the target means identifying exactly what you want, and then staying totally focused on getting it. Once you commit to this strategy, then the majority of your actions will support your goal of reaching the target. Mostly everything else you do will become secondary in terms of priority. Sticking to this takes tremendous discipline, endurance, sacrifice and long-term vision. But, I can tell you from experience…the rewards you’ll receive will be well worth the prices you pay.


Chapter Four

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

5: Beware the “Dirty Dozen” of Martial Arts School Operations


n a regular basis, I speak with school owners who have student counts ranging from ten to over a thousand. Some of these instructors can barely make rent, while others can barely make enough room for all of their students. Naturally, I make it my business to find out why this dichotomy exists. What I’ve learned is that in almost all cases, unsuccessful owners have fallen victim to what I like to call the “dirty dozen.”

1.  Poorly Designed Curriculum

Your curriculum can make or break your school. If your curriculum is outdated, boring, toomuch-too-soon, or non-age appropriate, your retention will suffer, and so will your school. Successful owners constantly tweak their curriculum so it generates higher results and parent/student satisfaction.

2.  No Program Director

Many struggling schools have one person doing the work of both a program director and a chief instructor. In my experience, this usually leads to burnout for the owner and stunted growth for the school. Having a competent program director is an absolute must for longterm growth.

3.  "White Belt" Marketing

With all due respect, many school owners are “white belt” marketers. As a result, they end up wasting hard-earned money on ineffective marketing that generates poor results. Or, they don’t promote their school at all. Smart owners understand that you constantly have to add new leads into the pipeline and therefore they become highly proficient in marketing that generates results.

4.  Not Keeping Statistics

Owners who do not keep track of their statistics have no idea what areas of their school needs improvement. They are flying blind. On the other hand, most successful owners keep meticulous track of, and learn how to analyze their numbers. If you do not know where you’ve been, it’s impossible to know where you are going. You’ve got to stay on top of the numbers at all times.

5.  No System for Product Sales

Aside from tuition and special events, product sales are another main area of a school’s income. If you do not have a solid system in place for product sales, you are seriously missing out on a hot pocket of potential revenue. The key here is to build product sales into your curriculum. More on this later.

6.  No Leadership Team Program

Having a quality staff is considered by many to be one of the most important elements for operating a successful school. Consequently, if you have no Leadership Team, you’re going to have a very hard time finding staff members. Your Leadership Team (students who volunteer or pay to be on the team) is your present bench strength and your foundation for future staff.


7.  No Structured Renewal or Upgrade System

Have you implemented a structured renewal or upgrade system, such as a Black Belt Club, Masters Club, or Leadership Training? This is one of the best things you can do for both your students and your school. Most successful, high grossing schools employ programs such as these. Most struggling schools do not.

8.  Fear of Delegation

Successful owners delegate. This allows them to focus their efforts on high return activities that only they can do. The fact is that unless you learn to delegate, you’ll never be able to grow your school to its maximum potential. Stop being the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer!

9.  No Continuing Education

Your growth as a school owner will be proportionate with your willingness to further your own knowledge base. School owners who do not attend seminars, read school support materials, network, or listen to educational programs are doomed to mediocrity. On the other hand, top owners are lifelong students that try to learn something new every single day.

10.  No Retirement Plan

You don’t want to die broke, do you? You also probably don’t want to be teaching fore-balance to a six year old when you’re sixty-five, right? Unless you start earning a decent income now and properly saving for your retirement, you just might find yourself in this exact situation later on down the road.

11.  Undercharging for Tuition

Charging too little for tuition is prolific throughout our industry. Unfortunately, the majority of instructors undervalue the worth of their services. Please remember that there is a tremendous amount of elasticity in price and people will generally pay what you ask. This is why some instructors are now charging as much as $359 per month for classes and getting it!

12.  Getting Out of Shape

Have you been teaching too much and training too little? Are the ends of your belt a bit shorter these days? Are you eating dinner at 10 p.m. after your school shuts down? Let’s hope not. Getting out of shape is one of the worst things you can let happen to yourself. It will destroy your self-confidence, image, productivity, mental clarity and health. The solution is to live a healthy lifestyle, and make time to train—period. As a professional martial artist, you invest a lot of time into helping your students achieve a higher quality of life. While that’s a noble mission, you must not forget about yourself. If you want to teach more students, earn more income, and increase the quality of your own life, then beware the “dirty dozen.”


Chapter Five

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

6: The 1-2-3 Punch Combination That Always Scores a Knock Out


t’s interesting to talk to Black Belts across the country, and find out just how, or why, they got into the martial arts school business. I often inquire as to what made them select teaching as their profession of choice. As you’ll read below, they report a number of different reasons.

Case #1: PASSION

Most often, a Black Belt becomes a school owner because he has a true passion for the arts. Owning a school will allow him to remain in his comfort zone, and continue doing what he loves to do most: teaching martial arts.


Other Black Belts open schools because they become orphaned. This occurs, for example, when they relocate, or leave their school on bad terms. Also, Black Belts can become orphans if their instructor’s school goes out of business. Regardless of the circumstances, the point is that they get disconnected from their instructor somewhere along the way, and go on to open their own school.


Sometimes a Black Belt will become an owner when the school’s main instructor retires, or expires. In order to prevent the school’s tradition from dying, a senior student will typically take the helm. Usually, this Black Belt is the highest-ranking student in the school, and feels obligated to “carry the torch.”


A Black Belt can become an owner when the school’s main instructor expands into multiple locations, or starts a franchise or school licensing venture.

Case #5: INCOME

Opening a school enables Black Belts to earn a living. They realize that not only will they be able to train full-time, but, better yet, they’ll get paid for it, too. Martial arts simply switches from their hobby to their trade.


Many Black Belts build a following of students by teaching from a variety of locations such as local community centers, YMCA’s, health clubs, churches, etc. An effective strategy, they transfer all the students from these separate locations into one centrally located school. Clearly, our industry is comprised of a diverse bunch of professionals who opened schools for a variety of different reasons. Regardless of how you ended up in the business, you have one thing in common with everybody else. Now that you own a martial arts school, which is also a business, it’s up to you to make it successful!


School owners…here’s a simple 1-2-3 punch combination that will help you reach your goals and achieve peak performance in the very unique livelihood that you’ve chosen.

1.  Create a Vision (The Jab): Joe Lewis says, “The primary purpose of the jab is

to stabilize the target.” Secondarily, it allows one to bridge-the-gap, and to set up other, more powerful techniques. As a school owner, having a clear-cut vision as to where you’d eventually like to take your school, is just as important as having a good jab. It is, indeed, the critical first step towards success. You must know EXACTLY what you want to accomplish with your school; this year, in five years, in ten years, etc. Furthermore, your vision will help you to create a defined set of goals. Write these goals down, and review them regularly. They will add meaning to your actions, and give you direction. And be sure to KEEP SCORE. You’ve got to track your progress on a daily basis and tweak accordingly. Just remember that all great achievements begin with a CLEAR VISION and a specific set of goals. What are yours? (More on vision later.)

2. Seek Education (The Reverse Punch): Think of education as being the

reverse punch in our 1-2-3 punch combination. In other words, once you have a vision as to where you’d like to take your school, you’ll then need continuous education to provide you with the tools to make it happen. I specialize in helping martial arts school owners strengthen their businesses. My support is very affordable, and it can thrust your school light-years into the future. But first you have to be willing to try new ideas, be coachable, have passion and make use of the plentiful information that is provided. Not everyone fits the bill.

3. Follow-Through On Your Ideas (The Hook): You’ve stunned the opponent

with your jab, and staggered him with your reverse punch. Now, it’s time to knock him out with the hook! In business, this means following-through on the many ideas that you learn. It’s just as important as coming back with the hook when sparring. Once I teach you what to do, then you simply have to do it! Take action on your ideas, and finish what you’ve started. IMPLEMENT! You’ve got to complete the job in order to be successful. Otherwise, your knowledge becomes wasted, and your vision can’t happen. Without a doubt, follow-through is the “punch” that really makes the difference when trying to make your vision come true. In conclusion, it doesn’t matter how you ended up owning a school. The point is that you do. Now, it’s time to make the most of it. So remember to use this 1-2-3 punch combination as you fight your way to the top, and turn your vision into a reality.


Chapter Six

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

7: Take Your School to the Top Through the Power of Networking


etworking is one of the most important things that you can ever do to grow yourself and your school.

When you network, you acquire a whole new perspective. You meet new people, hear different ideas, and learn fresh approaches that you may have never thought of on your own. As a result, networking can speed up your growth, and trim years off your learning curve. In fact, some of the most successful people I associate with are experts at networking. They are masters at the art of “brain-picking,” and have learned to absorb others’ information like a sponge. Many top instructors I know constantly network with other instructors, to share ideas on curriculum, staff training, selling, demonstrations, testing procedures, wealth building, marketing, organizing special events, etc. This gives them a major operational advantage over owners who don’t take the time to network. But there’s one benefit of networking that is far more valuable than the rest. You see, networking gives you the chance to meet certain individuals who can help you achieve your goals much faster than you could on your own. If you’re fortunate enough to team-up with such people, often they can open all the right doors for you. Indeed, this can expedite your growth by light years. At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s sometimes not what you know, but whom you know.

Here are several ways that you can begin networking immediately: 1.  Get involved with a MasterMind group such as mine. Visit to send your information request. MasterMind groups are all about using the power of networking to grow your school to new heights. 2. As we discussed earlier in this book, one of the fastest ways to grow is to visit a successful school and learn all that you can by watching how they operate. Be sure to call before your visit just to make sure the timing is okay. DO NOT just show up out of the blue. They may turn you away. 3.  Attend an industry convention or two. This is one of the best networking opportunities you’ll ever have. 4. Join a quality martial arts business organization or online community and network with the other school owners. Personally, I network all the time. I do it by Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, phone, email and inperson. By the way, social networking is free. When I began using Facebook, I had over 1,000 martial arts “friends in the first week! Lately, as I’ve already mentioned, I’ve been networking quite a bit in person. In my opinion, that’s the best kind of networking that you can do. Nothing can take the place of a success


ful in-person meeting, or melding of the minds. Plus, when you meet someone face to face and they feel comfortable with you, they’ll typically introduce you to all of their friends. Before long, you can build an army of contacts to network with. In my experience, a school owner who doesn’t network is like a bug under a rock. Often, they end up missing everything that exists outside of their own little world. This gives them narrow-minded perspectives relative to owners who network regularly. So make sure you keep up with your networking. It can really make a huge difference in your career as a martial arts school owner.

Rob Colasanti seen here with Arnold Schwarzenegger after completing Arnold’s Martial Arts Professional Magazine cover story, which was direct mailed to approximately 24,000 martial arts schools in North America.


Chapter Seven

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

8: How to Increase Your School’s Gross Income with Multiple Streams of Revenue


hen running a martial arts school, you do not want to depend solely on the revenue you earn from your core program. Instead, you want to create multiple streams of revenue, just as most other successful businesses do.

First, when you create multiple income streams, your school will be much stronger and more stable. You’ll be in a far better position to weather bad economic conditions, shifts in the market, seasonal fluctuations and competitors’ challenges. If your only source of revenue is your karate program, for example, then you’ll really feel the pinch if that karate program suddenly declines, for whatever reason. Second, when your school begins to derive income from a variety of sources, rather than just one or two, your bottom line will grow dramatically. I’ve experienced this phenomenon personally, and I’ve seen it happen in the schools of countless instructors. Creating multiple revenue streams is one of the fastest, easiest and smartest ways to rocket your income and profitability to a whole new level. Third, most martial arts instructors I know did not open their schools to become rich. They did it to perpetuate their art, to do what they love to do, to change the lives of their students through the benefits of martial arts training, etc. Yes, creating multiple income streams will definitely increase your gross. But it will also allow your school to appeal to a much wider range of prospects. So your student-count will increase, enabling you to influence entirely different sectors of the market with your valuable teachings. In the eyes of most school owners, that’s a beautiful thing, i.e. more martial arts for more people in the community. It’s clear that developing multiple income streams for your school can be highly advantageous. Let me share with you some of the income streams that school owners around the world tell me they are enjoying:

Core Service Tuition

The initial investments and residual tuition dollars you receive from your core service will represent the biggest chunk of your school’s income. Every school has this one from day one.

Upgrade Program Tuition

At the bare minimum, your school should have some kind of a Black Belt Club (BBC) upgrade program. Imagine how much more income you could generate if you offered additional programs, such as a BBC, a Masters Club, a Leadership Course or a Certified Instructor Training (CIT) program.

Private Lessons

Many instructors make a substantial amount of additional income teaching private lessons. I was one of them. This is a no-brainer, additional income stream that I encourage you to pursue.


Product Sales

If your school doesn’t already have a pro shop, then I highly recommend you develop and open one as soon as possible. Students will purchase everything from gis and gear to nutritional supplements and beverages. An extra two-, three-, four- or five-thousand dollars a month will really boost your bottom line at the end of the year.

Special Events

If your school is not hosting at least one special event a month, then you’re overlooking another healthy income stream. Consider summer camps, buddy days, lock-ins, birthday parties, movie nights, special guest seminars, interschool tournaments and other similar events that will attract more attention to your school. Take the time to determine which of these events best fits your customs, traditions, personality and situation. The key is to do them consistently and work on growing the amount of participants.

Multiple Schools and Satellite Locations

More and more school owners operate several schools, or they run satellite programs in gyms, health clubs, YMCAs, churches, recreational facilities, academic schools, junior colleges, etc. They can become additional income streams.

After-School Martial Arts

Transporting kids to your school for several hours a day for an after-school martial arts program can become a new business within your business. Since the parents of these students pay approximately $300 - $400 a month, it has been a highly profitable venture for the many school owners who have been able to integrate such a program.

Additional Programs and Services

Additional programs and courses are the most common and successful extra-revenue streams for most of the school owners with whom I speak. I know of some schools that doubled their incomes simply by adding a preschool program. Other examples of alternate profit centers include summer camps (one of the best), Tai Chi, Yoga, weapons classes, MMA, massage therapy, an early morning martial arts program for people with unusual schedules, weight training, CDT, Krav Maga, FAST Defense, UBC and lessons in virtually any other style of martial arts than those of your core program. As I believe I’ve made clear, creating multiple sources of income can dramatically increase your gross and help insulate your school from most adverse market conditions. Think of it this way: You usually don’t spar with just one weapon. You shouldn’t try to run your school that way either.


Chapter Eight

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

9: 10 Critical Steps for Growing Your Martial Arts School in Any Economy


s we approach the end of this book, I’d like to give you ten tips that will help you grow your school, no matter what style you teach, no matter where you are located and regardless of the current economic climate.

1. Develop the Correct Mindset

Right off the bat, you must begin to think of your school as a business, instead of a hobby, clubhouse, shrine or anything else along these lines. Once you accept the fact that your school is a business, you will begin to operate it as such, and your overall results will begin to improve immediately.

2. Set Worthwhile Goals for Your School

Next time you’re sparring, try doing so while wearing a blindfold. That’s exactly what it is like if you’re running your school without goals. Every successful, productive, high-achieving individual I know is very goal-oriented. You must set goals and then structure your time and activities to coincide with those goals.

3. Become a Lead Generating Machine

You operate a membership-driven organization. Lead generation is the genesis of your new student flow and the main factor that will eventually lead to your school’s growth; therefore, you must master the art of lead generation. This book is loaded with all sorts of tips and ideas on generating leads. Be sure to apply them.

4. Create a Rock-Solid Sales Process

Selling is where the rubber meets the road. You can generate all the leads you want, but if you can’t effectively convert those leads to paying students, then they are practically worthless. It also does you little good, in terms of business, to be a great instructor, if you can’t sell what you offer. Being a topnotch martial artist/teacher is about 20% of what it takes to succeed. The other 80% is marketing and selling; therefore, you must become highly proficient in the area of sales.

5. Build a Strong Staff

I’ve seen more martial arts schools suffer, due to lack of quality staff, than any other factor. Industry-wide, it seems to be our primary limiting factor. One of the keys to growing any business is to hire the correct amount of the right employees and train and motivate them to consistently perform at very high levels. Then, you must work on keeping them. Proper staff building and maximizing their performance can be challenging, but it’s unquestionably one of key factors that will determine your success.


6. Incorporate a Series of Upgrade Programs

As I’ve discussed repeatedly throughout this book, many of the highest grossing and most profitable schools in the nation offer an entry-level program that is very affordable and appealing, with a low barrier to entry. This enables them to more easily convert prospects into students; but that’s just the first step in the process. Next, they systematically upgrade the entry-level students into more extensive and expensive programs that provide additional benefits, and are designed to retain students longer. Whether you know it or not, this “ascension model” is not unique to the martial arts. It exists in virtually every other industry on the planet. If such a model is not presently part of your school’s membership structure, then I highly recommend you implement one.

7. Keep Your Retention High

You’ve heard it a million times before, but I’ll repeat it one more time. You must use as many ways as you can to “lock the back door,” or “plug the holes in the bottom of your bucket.” Until you learn how to subordinate your attrition to your enrollments, your student count will never grow. Improving your retention is a high-return activity in which you must immerse yourself at all times.

8. Embrace Continuing Education

The most successful, results-generating, fast-growing, positive, motivated, happy and prosperous people that I know, in and out of the martial arts industry, are those who are continuously learning. They’re constantly reading new books, attending seminars, networking, listening to educational audio CDs, participating in MasterMind groups, etc. If you’ve not yet embraced continuing education, then I really must question whether or not you’re genuinely serious about growing your school.

9. Choose Your Peer Group Wisely

The bottom line is that if you trot with turkeys…you’ll become one of them. Enough said!

10. Focus on What Counts

If you’re trying to grow your martial arts school, then you must realize that what counts is prospecting, enrolling new students, upgrading students, retaining students, teaching jawdropping and awesome classes, training your staff and delivering eleven-on-a-scale-of-ten student service. These are the activities you must focus on like a laser. Virtually everything else should take a back seat. Running a martial arts school is not rocket science. But you must do these ten things correctly and consistently if you want to make it a success. You can do it!


Chapter Nine

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

10: One of the Fastest and Easiest Ways to Improve the Quality of Your Martial Arts School NOW!


s a lifelong martial artist, I’ve resolved to live by the Law of Positive Discontent. Simply put, I’m never 100% satisfied with my progress, but in a healthy and positive way.

I believe that there’s always room for improvement in everything. Always an opportunity to do a little better, climb a little higher, learn a little more, create something new, or provide our members with a little extra service. I never stop tweaking. To me, that’s what growth is all about. When it comes to growing a martial arts school, I recommend you adopt the same philosophy. But in order to improve, you first have to know what changes to make. How do you know what they are? Well, an easy and effective way is to start visiting other schools. Do this, and you’ll learn volumes about yourself and others. You’ll enter a brand new world— with every visit —and you’ll expose yourself to the information you need to take your school to the next level and beyond.

Rob Colasanti and Melody Shuman visit Steve Stewart’s school in London, Ontario, Canada.


It should come as no surprise that visiting schools is one of my favorite things to do. I always bring home a treasure chest of knowledge, no matter whose school I visit. As you can see in the photo below, I had the opportunity to tour my friend Steve Stewart’s Modern Martial Arts Academy in Canada. What a highly organized and impressive school! It’s conveniently located between an academic school and a church. Is that what they mean by location, location, location? Steve teaches over five hundred students, and his school is loaded with unique features such as the video camera system that allows him to observe each of his training areas at all times. I thought that was a great idea for increasing safety and decreasing liability. As long as you’re receptive to new ideas, you’ll bring home a “golden nugget” such as this one every time. But the best part of visiting other schools is that it creates a barometer by which you can gauge the success of your own operation. In other words, you have to have a standard to measure your own progress against - a marker, if you will. Sometimes you’ll walk into someone’s school, and the “eureka phenomenon” will occur. Jackpot! You’ll bring home a whole satchel full of “golden nuggets” that could change the very way you run your school forever. Sometimes, you’ll learn exactly how not to do something. That, too, is extremely valuable information. In other cases, you’ll validate what you’re already doing. A little reassurance is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. But, before any of this can happen, you’ve got to get out there, and invest the resources necessary to make it so. In the recent past, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Dr. Kum Sung’s school in New Jersey, Tiger Schulmann’s School in New York, Joon P. Choi’s school in Ohio, Cesar Ozuna’s School in Florida, Mike Mertens’ school in New York, and Ernie Reyes’ school in California, just to name a few. Plus, when I was in Germany recently I stopped into my good friend Oliver Drexler’s school, which is amazingly large for his population. The take-home message is that sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know, and decisions can be very easy to make when we don’t have all the facts. When you visit other schools, you fix this. Only then does it make sense to apply the Law of Positive Discontent. So I hope that I’ve inspired you to begin visiting other schools. There’s no doubt that it’s one of the best things you can do to broaden your horizons, and one of the fastest ways to grow your school. That...I guarantee!


Chapter Ten

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

11: How to Eliminate the Trial and Error Phase of Your School’s Growth


’ve discovered that in the martial arts business success is a relative term. That’s why I’ll typically avoid giving you advice on how to become more “successful” until I first understand what “success” means to you. Let me explain.

Some instructors with whom I speak associate success with becoming rich, or having thousands of students. In their eyes, bigger is better. They want to earn “mega-dollars” and they won’t be satisfied until they have seven figures in their bank account. Nothing wrong with that. However, other instructors I know do not consider money, multiple locations or legions of students, hallmarks of their success. They’re more interested in quality of life. They want less stress, less responsibility and more free time. To them, success is going fishing on the weekends, having more time to spend with their family or just being able to spar in the middle of the week, if they feel like it. As I said, there are many different definitions of success. So, it’s not my place to determine what “success” means for you. You have to define it for yourself, based upon your values and the vision you have for your future. However, I will tell you that there has never been a better time in the history of the martial arts for you to become “successful,” if your goal is to build a highly profitable, properly systemized, thriving martial arts school that kicks butt and takes names. The reason this is true is because for the first time in history the finest martial arts business information and resources ever created are readily available to you and extremely affordable to acquire. These days, you can easily and inexpensively learn anything you could possibly want to know about running a top quality, high-grossing, professional school…if that’s something you’re interested in developing. Now, step back for a moment and just think about how fortunate you are to be in the martial arts business at this particular point in time. Many of today’s most successful school owners grew their schools the hard way. They figured out their systems through years of trial and error, and built their schools piece by piece during the course of decades. Today, it doesn’t have to be that way. Qualified martial arts business consultants such as myself can hand you everything you need to know to run a topnotch school, on a silver platter, thereby virtually eliminating the trial and error phase of your school’s growth. This can save you years of wasted time, headaches, risk and money. What value can you put on such an incredible opportunity?


For these reasons and others, I’m of the opinion that there are no more excuses for lack of “success” in the martial arts business, if your desire is to turn martial arts into your full time career and operate a peak performing school. There are simply too many resources and people who can effectively show you the way. So how can someone like you benefit from someone like me? For starters, I’ll show you how to jump-start your progress toward your goals immediately while avoiding all of the common mistakes. This will save you quite a lot of time, and time is the most precious commodity you have. Even more, I can help you increase your student count, ability to generate leads, profitability, retention, business acumen and overall professionalism. And, I’ll hold you accountable while serving as a “sounding board” for you and your staff. Send me a message through if you’re interested.

Along these lines, my advice to you is as follows: First, define “success.” Make sure you have a crystal clear definition of what that word means to you and how it works in relation to the vision that you have for your school. If you can’t see the target, you can’t hit it. Second, visit and become a member of my MasterMind group today, so that I can become part of your team and help you reach your goals quicker and more efficiently than you ever thought possible. Third, make the commitment to be highly action-oriented from this point forward and implement the valuable information you learn from me and others. This is key. You’ve got to “work you plan,” on a constant basis, if you expected to build momentum and get strong results. If you’re not willing to do this, then you’re kidding yourself when it comes to becoming “successful.” Fourth, aim for constant and never ending improvement. Always work on improving yourself, your school, your staff and the circumstances surrounding your life. This will enable you to consistently grow in every area that counts. Take these four steps and you’ll put your school on the fast track to “success.” I’ve seen countless others do it, and I know that you can, too. In a very short period of time, the martial arts industry has evolved out of the Stone Age and into the Information Age. I see this as a tremendous opportunity for all instructors regardless of style, background, or affiliation. Furthermore, I believe that information is power, if you use it properly. And information is available in great abundance today. So I strongly encourage you to take full advantage of it. It will definitely help you eliminate the trial and error phase of your school’s growth.


Chapter Eleven

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

12: In the Quest for School Growth the Pen is Mightier Than the Sword


ould you like to dramatically improve your school’s overall results? How about in key areas such as your incoming info call volume, special event registrations, your image in your community, new student leads web leads, responses to your upgrade programs, and ultimately your income? If you’d like to see quantum leaps in all of these areas and others, then my suggestion is to develop “Black Belt” writing skills. Since the beginning of my career, writing has always been an integral part of my job. As NAPMA’s original Membership Director in 1994, most of my writing initially included marketing letters designed to recruit members. I’d write my very best copy, and turn it in to the owner for his approval. Almost always, he’d send my writings back to me totally rewritten. This was frustrating, to say the least. But the fact is that he was a much better writer than I was, with much more experience. So I went with the flow. Anyhow, this pattern persisted for several years. I wrote it, he re-wrote it—no matter what it was. Ahhhhhhh! But, eventually his corrections became less and less as my writing improved. Soon there were no more corrections, and I was completely autonomous in my writing for his company. This eventually blossomed into me writing speeches, scripts, newspieces, magazine articles, reports, press releases, books, interviews, e-News blasts, emails that sell, product catalogs, website copy and much more. All of this translated to MONEY! One of the lessons this process taught me was that good writing is a skill that must be developed over time. Very few people can sit down at the keyboard, and bang out fantastic written material without any prior practice. Good writing - especially copy that sells - requires coaching, practice, and experience—no different than earning a Black Belt. The key is to stay the course no matter what, because once you have solid writing skills under your belt, you massively increase your potential for personal and professional growth, as well as generating income. At the same time, you decrease your dependency on others. As a school owner, imagine the advantage you’ll have when you can write powerful marketing pieces to prospects as easily as you throw your side kick. Think of how much better you could communicate with your students and parents when you have the ability to write effective renewal letters, newsletter copy, special event speeches, bulk emails, and other written retention builders. Let’s not forget the importance of being able to craft professionally written letters to politicians, community officials, local business leaders, school principals, and corporations. What about press releases, television commercials, proposals, agreements, curriculum manuals, or a book about your system? All of this is possible when you master the art of writing. What’s sad is that I’ve come across many topnotch martial arts professionals who have not yet figured out that the pen is mightier than the sword when trying to grow a school. Verbally, they’ll tell you all about a proven successful strategy they’ve been using for years. They’ll talk


your ear off about it with earth-shattering confidence. They’ll sell you on it. Get you all excited about it. Then, you ask them to turn what they just told you into a report, and they instantly clam-up. I’ve heard things like, “Uh, well, maybe I can get my mom to write it.” I’m not joking about that either. Do you see an imbalance here? So whether you’re a White Belt-wordsmith or a tenth-degree scribe-master, here are five simple tips that will help take your writing skills to the next level:

1.  Practice Makes Perfect

Quality writing is a skill that must be learned and developed over time. The more you work at it the better you get. You’ve got to learn how to type with proficiency, and practice, practice, practice.

2.  Write, Read and Lead

I believe there is a direct correlation between writing, reading and leading. Excellent leaders almost always have strong reading and writing skills. You’re a leader within your school. So try to read at least one book per month. The more you read the better your writing will become, and the better leader you will be.

3.  Don’t Waste Good Junk Mail

Next time someone sends you an obviously well-written marketing letter or email, attempting to sell you on a product or service, don’t just ditch it. Add it to your swipe file. Furthermore, you should study the author’s writing with the objective of learning how to improve your own copywriting skills. Pay attention to the open, the bullet points, the offer, the post script, etc. Then, apply the most effective elements to your own writings. Over time, this will add up to make a huge difference in your writing abilities and the results you get.

4.  Find a Mentor

You had a martial arts mentor, right? Next, find a master writer, and become a mentee to that person. That’s what I did. Today, I would encourage you to study the writing skills of Matt Furey and purchase the copywriting products he offers at

5.  Don’t Be Too Cool for School

Investing in quality copywriting info-products can make a huge difference in your ability to write powerful, interesting, personality driven, captivating copy. Also, you’ll want to invest in a workshop or seminar that teaches you the secrets of direct response copyrighting. Learning how to write copy that sells will put many extra dollars in your pocket and help you grow your school. I know of many people who have made millions through copywriting. Who knows? You may be the next. 63

Chapter Twelve

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

13: A Few Important School Statistics That You Need to Be Tracking


ne of the most important things you can do in your school is to begin tracking and analyzing your school’s daily, weekly, monthly and yearly numbers. You’ve got to make it a habit, just like brushing your teeth in the morning.

In fact, I suggest that you never shut your school down for the evening until you’ve tallied and reviewed that day’s statistics. That requires self-discipline. But you already have plenty of that, right? Here are a few key numbers that I want you to make sure you’re looking at each and every day:

Information Calls

Keep a stat sheet near every phone in your school. Whenever someone calls to inquire about classes, put a tick mark in this category for that day. Also, track how they heard about you, so you know what marketing is working and where to best invest your marketing dollars going forward. You may find that 30% of your calls are stemming from bandit signs, while only 10% are coming from your phone book ad. This is good to know. At the end of each day, transfer the total number of calls, and how they heard about you, to your master stat sheet.

Appointments Set

Whenever you receive a qualified information call, the goal is to schedule that prospect for an appointment to visit your school. Be sure to record the total number of daily appointments that you set. This will enable you to determine an information-call to appointment-set ratio, which will help you gauge the effectiveness of your phone skills. If you notice that too many of your info calls are not willing to come in for an appointment, then you’ll need to rework your phone presentation. There’s no sense in spending good money on marketing and lead generation only to drop the ball here.

Appointments Who Enrolled in Intros

Another stat you should keep is the number of appointments who enrolled in your introductory course. Similarly, if the ratio of appointments to intros is too low, then you know you’ve got to improve the presentation you use to sell your intro course.

Introductory Lessons

Each day, record the amount of first and second lesson intros you taught. This is important information. If your stats show a pattern of students not completing their introductory course, then you know you have to adjust your introductory course material, train your intro instructor to do a better job or fix something else that’s causing students to not want to return.



Of course, you’ll need to keep track of how many introductory lesson students converted to actual enrollments. If your enrollment number does not equal at least 80% of completed intros, then you have some work to do, probably in your introductory lesson presentation or enrollment conference. To fix this, start tracking what the specific objections to joining your school are and then role-play ways to overcome them. Keep tweaking and monitoring until you get the numbers up.

Collected Revenue

In most schools, revenue is generated from tuition, initial investments, product sales, and special events. You want a separate category on your stat sheet for each source of revenue you have. Using subcategories is also recommended. For example, under tuition you may create a subcategory for EFTs, credit cards, down payments, cash, etc. Each day, add up the amounts to determine your total collected revenue.

Active Student Count

There are lots of ways to determine your active count. Perhaps the easiest is to count all the students who attended class at least four times this month, and consider them active.

Average Student Value

This is one of the most important numbers to track. Simply take your active student count and divide it into your monthly total gross income. Your goal is to monitor this number monthly and constantly work on increasing the various revenue areas of the school to get the average student value to rise. An average student value of over $200 is very good. While there are many other statistics you could keep, these represent the basic numbers you need to be on top of every day at minimum. Once you have these numbers recorded, the next step is to learn how to analyze them to your advantage, just as I was doing above. Please become very good at this. Knowing your numbers allows you to create an action plan for improving the results in each area of your school. If you do not stay on top of this information every day, you’re flying blind. As I said in an earlier chapter, if you don’t know where you’ve been, it’s hard to know where you are going. Keeping accurate statistics, whether it be with a basic manual system or a sophisticated computer software, will give you direction, and enable you to set goals for improvement. As an owner or operator of a martial arts school, few things are more important than keeping track of your stats. The top school owners in the nation that I work with watch their numbers like hawks.


Chapter Thirteen

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

14: The Pros and Cons of Owning Multiple Schools


common question that crosses the minds of school owners around the world is whether or not to expand into multiple locations. Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons concerning this very important decision.

First, let’s look at some of the pros. Multiple locations can result in increased revenue from school branded product sales, tuition, testing fees, inter-school tournaments, private lessons, special events and more. It can mean greater profits, more clout, market dominance, extra advertising power, added exposure, and better opportunities. In addition, having more than one school allows you to influence the lives of more people in your community by providing quality martial arts instruction. According to my friend John Bussard of Kicks Karate, “Owning multiple locations has its benefits. Because I have five schools with approximately 2,000 students, we see tremendous momentum with referrals, word of mouth, etc. I’m able to offer a great benefit package to employees including health insurance, a 401k, and a good salary. This creates enhanced staff security and confidence. Also, being a multi-school owner gives me more freedom, since I have other people assisting with the operation of my schools. Last but certainly not least, it can mean a lot more cash for the owner.” Now, let’s consider some of the cons. Opening a second school isn’t always like breaking two boards instead of just one. Most people can do that will little extra effort. Instead, opening a second school is more like the difference between breaking one board and then trying to break three or four boards in a stack. It depends on your business skills, the economy, your location, competition, etc. To get the second school growing, your expenses, staff challenges, commuting time, liability, organizational demands, and overall level of stress may increase considerably. As a multiple-school operator, you must be a systems designer, people developer, and staff supervisor. I’m really not trying to be doom and gloom here. I’m simply sharing with you that there is more to running multiple schools than being good at running just one school. It’s not the same thing. See, when you become a multiple location owner your role in the organization changes. You’re going to become less of a hands-on instructor, and more of a manager. You’ll have to learn to get your work done through the help of other people. If that’s not your forte, then owning multiple locations may not be for you. It’s also important to point out that opening multiple locations can be very risky if you don’t know what you’re doing. In fact, many such ventures do not succeed because instructors expand prematurely.


Telltale signs of premature expansion include: 1. Their first school has a small active student count. 2. Their first school does not have an abundance of staff members or anyone on staff who is truly dependable. 3. Their first school is barely profitable or in the red. 4. They haven’t yet learned how to operate their first school properly and have no knack for business. 5. They did not develop effective systems for operating their first school, so they have no effective system for operating their second school. Owners who expand under these circumstances rarely survive. They seem to ignore the fact that the newly opened school has to rely on the resources of the original school until it can stand on its own two feet and become a viable, independent business of its own. And sometimes that takes longer than expected. Accordingly, when instructors can no longer fund or staff their second school they typically lose it. And, if their first school was weak to begin with, then they may lose it, too. When that happens, it might be time for a career change. So unless you are careful, multiple schools can turn into multiple headaches. There are three main elements that make multi-school operations work. Number one is staffing. You must find really good employees, pay them well, train them even better and then delegate. Number two is a complete systemization of your operation. Your systems must work very well in your first school, before you can apply them to other locations. Number three; you have to become a good team leader, businessman, marketer and manager to keep the operation in check. Finally, I’d like to point out that single school ownership can mean less stress, less overhead, less employee problems, and a higher net income. On the other hand, I know many multi-school owners who have profited handsomely and are very happy operating a number of schools in their areas. So, is bigger better? It can be. It just depends on what your goals are and whether or not you’re more suited to be the operator of one school or several. You know the answer to that question far better than I. Think about it.


Chapter Fourteen

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

15: Your Competitors May Not Be as Tough as You Think


while back, my good friend Chris Natzke from Aurora, Colorado called me in a bit of a panic.

He was worried because a new school was just about to break ground less than a mile down the road from him. Adding to his anxiety was the fact that his new competitor was directly connected to a nationally-recognized chain school operator with a reputation for being a marketing wizard. Chris was deeply concerned that his school might soon take a big hit. Well, more than a year after Chris’ competitor began teaching classes, Chris and I touched base and discussed exactly what affects the competition had on his school. The results may surprise you. According to Chris, “MY BUSINESS HAS GONE THROUGH THE ROOF!” Chris proudly reported that all his classes from Little Ninjas to Fitness Kickboxing were packed and booming. His staff had never performed better and their team spirit was flyin’ high. His product sales soared. And his school’s revenues broke all previous records. NICE! Despite the competition, Chris had even raised his school’s tuition several times during that year. He said that one day he suddenly realized that his lessons were worth more than what he was charging. So he asked for more money and he received more money. (Amazing how that works.) This gave him the cash flow he needed to begin steadily invested in his retirement in various ways, including investing in properties. Overall, his school had kicked some major butt the year after his “worst nightmare” moved into his neighborhood - just a mile up the road. Interesting, isn’t’ it? As Chris’ experience illustrates, competition doesn’t always hurt you. In fact, it can be one of the healthiest things that can happen to your school. For starters, competition can serve as a powerful wake up call that spurs you to work a little smarter, stay a little later, and sharpen your focus. Competition motivates you to eliminate complacency, laziness, and sloppiness. It inspires you to rally your troops, polish your skills, and truly get serious about running your school. Competition can help you grow. Another thing - your competitors’ advertising dollars will often increase the awareness of the very service you are selling. How? Instead of only YOU promoting the benefits of martial arts in your community, now YOUR COMPETITOR is promoting them, too. All of this extra promotion reaches greater numbers of prospects, and thereby expands the entire market of potential new students for everyone. It makes prospects shop around. So they end up visiting the advertiser’s competitors, because they want to make the best decision. Right? So if you’ve really got your act together, you can do very well when a new competitor rolls into town. That’s just the way it works out sometimes.


In fact, a good example of how competition can increase market awareness occurs in the fast food industry. It’s not uncommon to see a Burger King open up on the same street as a McDonald’s. Have you noticed this? I see it all the time. When this happens, do people stop eating at McDonald’s? No. Instead, more people start eating at Burger King. Next, Taco Bell comes along, then a KFC, then a Wendy’s and so on. They may open directly next door to their competition. The more fast food restaurants that open-up, the greater the public’s awareness of fast food. Ultimately, more people begin eating it. (And that’s one reason why the people in our country are so darn overweight these days). While martial arts schools are drastically different than fast food restaurants, the same concept applies where competition is concerned. When more schools open up and promote the benefits of martial arts training, more people give martial arts a try and word spreads. Another benefit of competition is that it creates a “quality barometer” within the marketplace. In other words, it gives the market a gauge for measuring the quality of one school versus another. These days, people are comparative shoppers and they should be. I know that I am. And, this can be one of your strongest advantages if you’re running one of the best schools in your area. But be careful, because the reverse also holds true. In my days as a Program Director and Instructor at John Graden’s USA Karate, I would generally support a prospect’s decision to check out other local schools before making their final decision as to whether or not to join ours. In fact, I sometimes encouraged it, especially when I sensed the prospect was hell-bent on doing it anyhow. See, I knew that we offered the best service in town. I knew that we had some EXTREMELY talented and inspiring teachers on our staff. Our school had a lot of energy and personality. We had a reputation for being the best in the area. We had a television show. We had a quality curriculum. We were super passionate about teaching martial arts. We ran a highly systemized school that was nothing short of impressive - even on a national level. And even though we were the most expensive school in our area, serious prospects almost always came back to enroll after shopping around. No other school in our area was able to offer what we could. And that’s a really good position to be in. Wouldn’t you agree? Finally, while competition can be frustrating, it’s just a reality of being in business. My advice is to not lose any sleep over it. After all, you have no control over someone opening a school down the street from you. It’s better to focus on the things you can control, such as how well you run your school. And this book is LOADED with ideas to set you in motion. As Chris Natzke says, “I’m competing with six other schools, all within a two mile radius of mine, yet my school is rapidly growing. This just goes to prove that it’s what you do that matters, not who’s down the street.”


Chapter Fifteen

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

16:  The Myth of “Selling Out”


’ve spoken to so many instructors who were strongly against this thing called “selling out.” Even more, they were extremely cautious about how they ran their schools, so that they didn’t sell out, or ever even accused of selling out.

What’s interesting is that when I’ve asked them what selling out meant, they really couldn’t put it into words. They just knew it was a really bad thing to do. If you ask fifty different school owners, “What is selling out?” you’ll probably get fifty different answers and considerable stuttering. At its core, the average instructor considers a “sell out” to be someone who compromises the integrity of his art or his beliefs, during the pursuit of money.

Therefore, some common reasons an instructor would be accused of selling out are if he: • Outgrows the local pack of instructors and evolves into a successful commercial martial arts school owner with several hundred students, especially kids. (Considered a “belt factory” by accusers.) • Opens multiple locations and teaches martial arts that do not match the accuser’s “quality” standards. (Considered a “McDojo” by accusers.) • Modernizes his curriculum so it’s not unbearably difficult anymore and allows more students to achieve the rank of Black Belt. (Considered a “diploma mill” by accusers.) The fact is that the term “selling out” is extremely relative and purely a matter of opinion. After all, what gives anyone the right to say that another instructor has sold out? Compared to whom? How does anyone know if and when the integrity of someone’s particular art or beliefs has been compromised for money? Who’s qualified to make these determinations? It’s a confusing situation. What’s NOT confusing is that instructors who accuse others of selling out are often non-business oriented individuals who are still living in the past. These instructors use this phrase as a way of justifying their own level of success, or lack thereof. In other words, they may have a grand total of forty-five students, all of whom probably eat raw meat and could rip the heads off average black belts. They may only promote one student to Black Belt every year, or so. They may be struggling to pay the electric bill. Whatever the description of their school and teaching habits, the reason for it is because they still haven’t sold out! Now, I realize that this is a very touchy subject. There has always been a fine line between being a true artist of a particular craft, and making money at it. This is especially a prevalent attitude in the martial arts world. 70

Many of today’s instructors inherited the mentality that there’s something wrong with making money from teaching. They think it’s acceptable or even noble to be a starving artist. This is why some instructors are still somewhat ashamed to charge what they’re actually worth, and I’ve seen evidence of this in nearly every style of martial arts, everywhere. The bulk of our industry is still comprised of small, part-time operators. Often, this is by choice and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as a school is small and part time by choice. Other times, it’s part-time (and struggling) because of other factors, such as not wanting to sell out. Huh? Let’s investigate this more closely.

“Selling out is a myth. This is evolution!” Are you selling out if you’re good at marketing and sales? No! Those skills help you to enroll more students and build your brand in the community. Are you selling out if you teach 300 students instead of 30? No! That makes our society better and enables you to earn ten times the tuition so that you can better feed your family. Are you selling out if you place business a close second to living a martial arts way of life? No! Not if you’re trying to run a business and pay your rent. See where I’m going with this? So if you’re one of the instructors who has not taken the opportunity to grow your school and it’s because you don’t want to sell out, then I ask you, “Does selling out really even exist?” I am convinced that it’s best to mix tradition with innovation and I’ve been preaching that message for more than a decade. This combination leads to healthy growth as professional martial artists. Furthermore, I’ve consistently promoted the idea that, as an industry, we must work extra hard to improve and maintain the highest quality of students, so that we do not diminish the image of Black Belt. But to do this, we must also be willing to break free of our comfort zones and cut ourselves loose from the chains of the past, so that we can appeal to more sectors of the population and enhance our collective retention. All of these things require change and education in the areas that count. This is not selling out. Selling out is a myth. This is evolution!


Chapter Sixteen

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

17: How to Win Big at the Information Game and Grow Your School on the Cheap


hen it comes to martial arts information products and services, you don’t need to discover very many “good ideas” to get a substantial return on your investment. Experienced information investors know this.

They don’t expect to scoop up ten, fifteen or twenty good ideas each time they attend a seminar, meet with a business coach such as myself, or purchase a quality information product. No, they’re satisfied if they scoop up just one good idea because that’s usually all it takes for them to earn their money back many times over. But, unfortunately, not every instructor has figured out how the information game works yet - especially when you subscribe to an inexpensive monthly information service. So allow me to pull back the curtain and shed some light on this HIGHLY PROFITABLE subject for you now. First, the secret to maximizing your investment with a monthly information membership is to have the correct understanding and expectations right from the get go. You have to realize that you’ll rarely ever use (or even like) all of the content you receive each month. The fact is that some of it simply won’t apply to your specific situation. No problem. You definitely do not have to use every shred of what you receive, nor should you expect to, in order to get your monies worth. Second, with an open mind, review your new round of materials item by item. Your goal is to try to find just one or two helpful ideas that will benefit your school. Not twenty new ideas just one or two that can help you in important areas such as enrollments, upgrades, retention, staff training, special events, curriculum design, saving time, revenue generation, enhancing profits, publicity, marketing, mindset, etc. At times, you’ll find several new ideas in one round of materials. Great! Other times, you won’t find any. No problem. It’s okay if you don’t find any. That’s part of the game. It won’t be long before your next round of materials arrives and you start the process over again. Perhaps then, your shovel with hit the buried treasure. That’s how you have to look at it. To take this one step further, I know many top instructors who are perfectly happy if they unearth just one good idea a year from their membership with any number of monthly information providers. That’s because they’ll turn that one idea from that one provider into a whole lot more than what it costs them to be an annual member of all of them combined. This is especially true for instructors who operate big schools or multiple locations, because they have so many more students, bigger budgets, more staff for implementation purposes, etc. So the successful nature of the idea is expanded proportionally. For example, if you learn how to successfully raise your tuition in a school with forty students, you get one result. But if you learn how to raise your tuition in a school with 400 students, you get a completely different result. Get the idea? 72

Third, make sure you take immediate action on the good ideas you do end up finding. Money is attracted to speed. So don’t let those precious gems sit on your desk collecting dust for months on end before you act. You’ve got to get busy fast and aggressively ATTACK, because no good idea will ever work by itself, as I stated earlier in this book. You’ve got to implement, implement, implement.

Now that I’ve walked you through the basics, let me bring the entire strategy together for you so you can start to “Win Big at the Information Game,” too Understand that over the course of time, you won’t need to implement very many new ideas at all in order to recoup the overall cost of your information investment. The fact is that you’ll probably make your investment back many times over with just one good idea, especially if you use that idea long-term. Do the math and you’ll find this to be accurate. In fact, I’ve seen this scenario play out countless times when school owners are exposed to and implement new ideas such as adding upgrade programs, starting after-school martial arts, raising tuition rates, incorporating programs such as UBC, CDT, preschool classes, Krav Maga, MMA, etc. Or, when their eyes are opened as to how to train a Program Director, how to do “built-in product sales,” learning how to overcome objections in enrollment presentations, etc. These sort of things are like toll booths for school owners. Day after day…any can continue to pay you dividends. And how much did you pay to get that one good idea that’s now making you lots of money? Answer: Very little. How many other ideas like it did you receive throughout the course of your membership that are also paying you dividends? How many more ideas will you get in the future? So, it’s a no brainer! In conclusion, when you invest in a quality, monthly information membership for your school, I highly recommend that you DO NOT focus on what materials you don’t use. There will be plenty of items you will have no use for. That’s fine. Instead, focus on how much return on investment you earned from the materials you did use. Focus on how much you’ll earn from the next good idea you receive. That’s the correct strategy and the secret to winning big at the information game! Take it from a guy who used to operate the biggest martial arts information company in the industry. This is the correct mindset/strategy and I know for a fact that it works, because I’ve seen it happen countless times. It WILL work for you, too, if you give it a chance. Did a light bulb just go off for you?


Chapter Seventeen

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

18: How Lack of Focus Can Deliver a “Killer Blow” to Your Seemingly Indestructible School


ver the years, I’ve spoken to numerous school owners who nearly lost their school because they lost their focus. In most cases, the details these owners provide are the same. Based upon their descriptions, I’ve compiled the following story, which summarizes how lack of focus can gradually destroy a school. Don’t let this happen to you! “Mr. Jones” was a charismatic instructor who always poured his heart and soul into every class he taught. Before long, his school became successful. During the evenings, other local schools were empty while his was packed. In fact, “Mr. Jones” had at least 350 students training at his school on a regular basis. The tuition checks were rolling in, retail sales were booming, special events were huge, and his retention was nearly perfect. Plus, he had a comfortable home, a nice car, and a hearty income. After many years of hard work and dedication, he had finally made it in the martial arts business. This is when “Mr. Jones” began to lose his focus. With visions of an early retirement, he became overconfident, and just didn’t feel that it was necessary to work as hard anymore. So he put his staff in charge of the daily operations, stopped supervising their performance and slowly began weaning himself away from the school more and more. Eventually, he started sleeping in on a regular basis, and taking days off in the middle of the week. In fact, golf became his new hobby.

“Mr. Jones suddenly realized that because of his own neglect his school was on the verge of going under.” Like many owners who lose their focus, “Mr. Jones,” too, assumed his school was being run the same way that it was when he was at the helm. Unfortunately, he was wrong. In fact, his school was actually dying a slow death. Gradually, over the months, all aspects of his business were beginning to slide. But “Mr. Jones” didn’t even notice the changes that were taking place…because they were occurring very slowly, and he was rarely ever there. Besides, he was busy with other things, like traveling, socializing, and exercising his vanity muscles.


As time marched on, his school became weaker and weaker. Then, one day, “Mr. Jones” finally noticed the huge decrease in his monthly billing checks. This caused him to become very concerned. So, for the first time in many months, “Mr. Jones” began spending time at the school to investigate what was going on. What he found was not pretty. He discovered that the quality of the instruction had greatly diminished in his absence. The students were in no way inspired by the new Chief Instructor, who had only a fraction of “Mr. Jones’” experience, talent, and charisma. In fact, many of the students had switched to a local competitor’s school because of this. Also, new student calls weren’t being made, outgoing sales calls had all but stopped, his enrollment conference script wasn’t being followed, meetings were not being held, the Program Director was teaching his own version of an introductory lesson, etc, etc, etc! The school had taken a major nosedive. This caused “Mr. Jones” to panic. He had a high-priced staff, a hefty rent, and a student count that looked as though it was snacked on by a school of hungry piranhas. Even more, his personal expenses were sky-high since he was used to living the lifestyle of a playboy. Suddenly, reality set in, and “Mr. Jones” realized that, because of his own neglect, his school was on the verge of going under. He was about to lose it all. At this point, he had no choice but to demote his Chief Instructor, slash salaries to generate cash flow, and immediately take over the day to day operations of the school. “Mr. Jones” knew that he was going to have to work twice as hard to undo the mess he created. For many months, his new focus would be on trying to nurse his school back to health. --------------------------------------When consulting with the “Mr. Jones’” of the world, the above-mentioned pattern of events is usually what’s described. They build their school up to a comfortable level, get overconfident, lose their focus, give their staff way too much responsibility way too quickly, and then distance themselves from the school, for various reasons. At first, they think they have the perfect situation. But little by little, the piranhas set in. Eventually, there’s nothing left but a pile of bones. That’s when they rush back to the school in an effort to repair the damage. Sometimes, they are in time to salvage the wreck. Other times the school just dies. Either way, they end up right back on the deck doing all of the things that made their school successful in the first place. Remember that nobody will ever care about your school as much as you do. Also, keep in mind that complacency can kill any business. So if you want to avoid becoming a “Mr. Jones,” make sure you never lose your focus.


Chapter Eighteen

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

19: How the “Power of Passion” Can Rocket Your Success in the Martial Arts Biz


ave you ever wondered how it’s possible that some of the wealthiest and most successful people in the world were never formally educated? Or, how others who started out with only minimal knowledge of a particular field went on to revolutionize it? I have, and I’ve determined that one of the primary reasons for this is PASSION. While the word “passion” has many definitions, we’ll be discussing the one that means fervent devotion to a particular cause. In this context, passion gives one the ability to make amazing things happen. Even in situations of incompetence or lack of knowledge, passion has been known to create phenomenal results. A powerful driving force, this single emotion can bring your wildest dreams, visions, and hopes to fruition. The interesting thing about passion is that it’s not like other emotions that can readily be turned on and off. Instead, passion evolves from a deeply rooted inspiration, excitement, or desire that may build up for years before finally exploding to the surface. Once it erupts, an individual will then discover a strong need to achieve, acquire, or fulfill whatever it is that’s been brewing inside. Ultimately, passion will enhance one’s endurance, attitude, and drive toward accomplishment. This positively influences performance, and helps one to reach maximum potential. That’s why individuals who are truly passionate about something never quit trying, no matter how difficult the circumstances become. Without passion, this level of dedication would be impossible to maintain. Unless one has a genuine, burning desire to achieve a particular goal, the adversity met along the way is almost guaranteed to deter them. If you want to run a highly successful martial art school, it’s important to have the same level of passion. Whether you have it or not, your students and staff probably already realize it. That’s because your level of passion shines through in everything you do. It’s in your voice when you teach, it’s in the way you treat your staff, and it’s in your level of enthusiasm when selling the benefits of your school. This being the case, passion is a very hard emotion to fake. Either you truly have it, or you truly don’t. Passion runs rampant in the martial arts field. But sometimes this passion is limited only to specific areas such as teaching, training, competing, making money, etc. However, I have found that the most successful owners are those that are equally passionate in all of these areas, and more. You have to have a balance. You see, your passion for something gives you a purpose in life, a reason to get out of bed in the morning. When you’re passionate about your goals, you’re much more likely to achieve them.


For a school owner, common goals might be to grow to a certain number of students, reach a certain income level, win certain tournaments, develop multiple locations, change students’ lives, etc. With passion, all of these desires can be fulfilled, regardless of what level you’re currently at.

“Your level of passion can be heard in your voice when you teach, seen in the way you treat your staff, and felt by the level of enthusiasm you have when discussing the benefits of your school.” But perhaps the most unique effect of true passion is how it allows you to attract new people into your life who are just as passionate as yourself. As they say, “like attracts like.” It’s true. For some reason, we tend to align ourselves with other people who have values, goals, and perceptions similar to our own. Brian Tracy refers to this phenomenon as “the Law of Attraction.” It’s how great people come together to form great teams in all avenues of life... especially at martial art schools. I hope this helps you to realize the power of passion. Once you discover what your true passions are, you’ll be one step closer to reaching your dreams. Then, by implement much of the tactical and psychological information found here in “The Bible” you’ll begin to turn your passion into actions that generate quantifiable results. But just to be clear, having passion is only the foundation upon which you build your castle. Passion alone will not get you very far. It’s like positive thinking. You’ll likely fail without it, but it’s not going to suddenly make you an overnight success. You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and actually make things happen. So from now on, live each day with passion, and you’ll start to magnetize many good things towards you and your school!


Chapter Nineteen

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

20: How to Capitalize on the MMA Explosion


he Tae Bo boom that occurred during the second half of the nineties resulted in one of the biggest boosts the martial arts industry has ever received. Thanks to Billy Blanks’ glorious infomercials, martial arts school owners of every kind, throughout the country, began receiving info calls from women asking, “Do you teach Tae Bo?” A similar phenomenon recently took place with Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Only this time, it was adult males who were calling schools and asking, “Do you teach MMA?” In fact, as a sport, MMA has received incredible amounts of nationwide publicity, and its popularity is continuing to increase. The sport has all but KO’d boxing. So it’s clear that the MMA craze that’s circled the globe might present you with a valuable opportunity. If you’ve considered incorporating MMA into your school, here are a few of my observations and suggestions on how to proceed:

1. Teach MMA with a TMA Structure: First, what is MMA? To me, it’s a combination of ground fighting, stand-up fighting and self-defense, mixed into an extremely challenging workout. The MMA shows and events you see on TV are largely designed for entertainment purposes, and the culture portrayed would probably not be a logical fit for most schools.

In a commercial martial arts school, however, it makes sense to create an MMA program that follows all of the customs and traditions that already exist in most schools: respect, courtesy, discipline, a belt system, uniforms, age appropriate material, safety guidelines, etc. According to MMA legend, my good friend and business partner, Frank Shamrock, “My roots are in traditional martial arts (TMA), so we teach MMA with a traditional martial arts structure, and just as we would teach any other martial arts class.” For more information or to get certified in Shamrock MMA, visit This concept definitely works. My friend Terry Riggs had approximately 400 MMA students training at his school in Canada at the time of this writing - mostly kids. Similarly, Paulo Fernando teaches more than 400 students at his San Diego-based BJJ/MMA school. 50% of his students were kids at the time this was written. So this illustrates that it’s not your style that matters. It’s how you market, sell, structure and operate your school that largely determines your level of success. It also shows you that MMA is definitely a viable source of revenue for school owners who didn’t start out teaching MMA, or who never did MMA in their lives. Keep reading...

2. Determine Who Will Teach Your MMA Classes:

If you’re an instructor who is experienced in ground fighting and stand up fighting, then you may already have the basic expertise needed to offer MMA classes at your school. Those instructors who are not qualified or comfortable teaching MMA are simply hiring other instructors who are qualified. That’s what my good friend Phil Beatty did at his Elite Training


Center in St. Pete, FL. He hired an incredibly talented Gracie black belt by the name of Eduardo DiLima and expanded it from there. Now, Phil’s hottest program is MMA. In fact, he’s gradually become somewhat of an MMA school and he’s kicking some serious butt in his area.

3. Develop an Appropriate MMA Curriculum:

I recommend that your MMA curriculum be safe, fun, age- appropriate and extremely challenging. It doesn’t have to be designed to create the next “king of the cage,” but it should satisfy the needs and expectations of the average student who is interested in learning “MMA.” Kids can also participate in a properly structured MMA program as previously mentioned. “My most popular class is the Wildcats MMA Class for kids,” added Shamrock.

4. Incorporate MMA Into Your Marketing:

I’ve spoken with many instructors who were already teaching “MMA,” but didn’t realize it. Simply advertising “MMA” can make a substantial difference in your enrollments. For example, imagine marketing Tae Bo classes in 1997 when Tae Bo was at the height of its popularity. Marketing MMA, at this point in time, is the equivalent. Perhaps, that’s why the Tiger Schulmann organization and others have incorporated “mixed martial arts” into their advertising. Smart move!

5. Use MMA for Upgrades, Attracting New Students and CrossMarketing: Many commercial martial arts schools are beginning to offer MMA as a bene-

fit of joining their Black Belt Clubs or Master’s Club programs. Clearly, this can be an effective strategy for increasing interest in upgrades. You can also use MMA classes as a standalone profit center as Phil Beatty does. Once you build an MMA student base, then you need to cross-market your traditional programs to these students. As we witnessed with fitness kickboxing in the 90s, many of the participants will enroll into the regular martial arts classes, as well, even if they didn’t initially enroll for that purpose. The same will happen with MMA students who want to expand their horizons, too. In conclusion, incorporating an MMA program into your school may or may not make sense for you. But realize that your MMA program DOESN’T have to involve anything that turns your off, i.e. brutality, foul language, disrespect, poor image, certain types of students, etc. . MMA is a good opportunity for some. It’s proven to be a moneymaker for many. The choice is yours.


Chapter Twenty

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

21: 8 Simple Ways to Boost Your Income as a Martial Arts Teacher


ant to heat-up your school’s gross—FAST? The key is to target specific revenuerelated areas of your school, develop an action plan for improvement, and then focus on it like a laser.

If you do any combination of these eight suggestions, and you do them well, I have no doubt that you could easily increase your school’s revenues by at least $15,000 per year and possibly as much as six figures depending on your situation. Here now is a list of eight simple suggestions to get you started!

1. Raise Your Tuition

If you’re still charging sixty or seventy bucks per month for lessons…TWENTY KNUCKLES! Make that twenty knuckles in the parking lot, on glass! The average price of tuition in the U.S. is one hundred dollars per month or more. So if you haven’t raised your rates in the last decade or two, I suggest you do so (incrementally) for all new students coming in. I’ve seen this one action step alone result in six figure bumps in school owners’ incomes. Just be sure you are delivering a service that is equal to your fee.

2. Host More Special Events

Did I ever tell you about the time that I caught Chicken Pox at one of our school lock-ins? Hey, it was worth it, ‘cause we got the gross up that month. Seriously though, if you’re not doing at least one special event per month, your school’s gross is not as high as it could be. How about birthday parties, holiday shopping sprees, weapons seminars, movie nights, awards banquets, lock-ins, celebrity guest instructors, etc? I suggest you conduct at least one special event per month, and post your calendar of events six months in advance so students and parent can make plans to attend. Then, constantly promote your next round of events from the training floor, through your website and in your school newsletter.

3. Collect More Tuition Up-Front

Some instructors firmly believe that you must collect a student’s total contract value sooner rather than later. For example, if a student enrolls for a year or two or three, they try to collect all the tuition in the first couple of months. Or, they try to get the student cashed-out upon enrolling. One reason they do this is so the school gets paid the full contract amount even if the student drops out. While other instructors have philosophical challenges with this strategy, the bottom line is that collecting more tuition up front will indeed raise your gross. Just remember in the martial arts biz, student service reigns supreme. You cannot take more money up-front and then offer poor service. This will result in a disaster!

4. Increase Your Enrollments

Increasing your enrollments will obviously boost your gross. But first you must increase the amount of new student leads you are receiving. You do this through lots of clever marketing


as mentioned throughout this book. Yes, marketing is the key. To that end, are you staying busy with holiday gift certificates promotions, VIP passes, demos, Buddy Days, print ads, web marketing, telemarketing, referral contests, direct mailers, academic school talks, etc? The point is that more marketing creates more leads. With more leads you’ll generate more enrollments, and ultimately you’ll increase your school’s revenues.

5. Pump-up Your Product Sales

Now I know this sounds simple, but if you actually focus on selling more products in your school, you probably will. I’ve seen schools increase their product sales literally by several thousand percent simply by putting some extra effort into it. Are you offering nutritional supplements, specialty items for preschoolers, healthy hydration products, apparel, or a diverse selection of equipment? Has your staff been trained on suggestive selling? Are you using Built-In products sales as described in this book? Are you making announcements in class, featuring products each month, reselling used equipment, handing out catalogs, etc? C’mon, you know this stuff. My goal here is simply to remind you to take action!

6. Diversify Your Services

Many school owners who have successfully increased their gross have done so by offering additional services such as preschool classes, after school martial arts, CDT, Krav Maga, Kanarek’s F.I.G.H.T System, summer camps, the UBC, tai chi, fitness kickboxing, etc. Any of these programs can bring more tuition dollars, referrals, and product sales into your school. You just have to choose the alternate profit centers that make sense for you.

7. Conduct More Renewals and Upgrades

Many top-grossing schools conduct a high percentage of membership renewals and upgrades. Black Belt Club and Masters Club programs, for instance, can have a huge financial impact, especially if you can get ten to fifteen percent of your students to cash out. So the strategy is to first systemize this area of your school, and then simply start conducting more of them. The initial investments, increased monthly tuition, and cash outs you receive will do wonders for improving your gross. Be sure to study the material in this book on upgrade programs and IMPLEMENT!

8. Maximize Initial Investments

I’ve learned that some schools do not ask for initial investments at all. Unless they know something I don’t know, this is a mistake. Look at it this way… if you’re enrolling just ten students per month, and they each put down only $199…well, you do the math. Oh, and add in your renewal and upgrade initial investments too, at say, an average of $249 each. This translates to big bucks! Collecting initial investments and/or collecting them in greater dollar amounts is a fast and easy way to accelerate your cash flow, and give your gross a nice shot in the arm.


Chapter Twenty-One

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

22: Systemize Every Area of Your School and Achieve Maximum Results


uring the most recent decade, many martial arts instructors have discovered the systems required for operating top quality schools. As a result, many of today’s schools are more efficient and MORE PROFITABLE than ever before.

So what is a system? A system is a well-thought-out method or procedure for completing a task. It’s a way of getting consistent, replicatable results in a particular function of your school. When you have systems, you’re not leaving your results to chance. You’re attempting to control the results. It’s really that simple. Anyhow, I’ve found that the top instructors in our industry are those who have created simple, well thought-out, highly organized systems to administer all of the important areas of their schools. Their success is NO accident, I assure you. By contrast, nearly every struggling school owner with whom I speak does not use systems, or the systems they’re using are flawed. In fact, many of these individuals do not even know what a system is, which is a big reason they are struggling. The fact is that systemizing the key areas of your school delivers many powerful benefits. Systemization increases efficiency, quality, organization, consistency, growth potential and profitability. It decreases stress, wasted time, confusion, poor results and overhead. Systems help you to streamline your school and make it easier for you to operate. Plus, when you have effective systems in place, your school’s success is tied far more to the quality of the systems and far less to the personalities of individual staff members. That’s exactly what you want if your goal is to grow.

How to Get Systems for Your School I encourage you to develop QUALITY SYSTEMS for key areas of your school, such as generating and converting leads, answering the phone, quality control, class planning, getting referrals, hosting belt graduations, conducting school tours, ongoing training and managing of staff members, financial control, teaching introductory lessons, collecting and archiving prospects’ data, selling memberships, tracking attendance, student service, collecting tuition, conducting upgrades, hiring and firing, tracking and boosting retention, communicating with students and parents, selling products and testing students, hosting internal events, etc. Your systems for key areas such as those mentioned above must be determined, written out, logically linked, monitored, tweaked and consistently followed by your entire staff, if your goal is to achieve maximum results. Here now are three common ways to obtain systems for your school:


1. Become a Franchisee or Licensee (if you dare)

Franchising and licensing programs are on the rise within our industry. I see this as a natural progression. Those who have established these types of businesses have, in most cases, invested quite a bit of time, money, research and effort into figuring out all the best systems required to operate their particular brand of martial arts schools. When you become involved with groups such as these, you are immediately exposed to their systems and you are coached on how to use them. They’ve done all the heavy lifting. So this can trim years off your learning curve. That’s the pro. What about the con(s)? Just make sure you read all the fine print, speak to others in the organization and/or those who dropped out and run everything past your attorney before you commit. I know many instructors who joined a franchise, paid a ton of money to buy in (often six figures), then wanted out for various reasons, but couldn’t get out. Some who succeeded in breaking their contracts lost all of their up-front money and suffered a fortune in legal bills and stress. And typically, as part of the deal, they are legally prohibited from speaking about it to anyone. Yes, franchising/licensing has been a REAL NIGHTMARE for some. So be very careful here.

2. Utilize Today’s Information Products and Services

Several organizations in the martial arts industry provide quality, affordable information products on how to systemize a school and/or they expose you to the systems of a variety of successful school owners who are also part of the organization. For example, before my days at NAPMA ended, I introduced our members to Paul Garcia’s upgrade system, the Hensley’s build-in-product-sales system, Greg Tearney’s junior black belt system, Dawn Barnes’ system for teaching children, Greg Silva’s systems on student service, Tommy Lee’s system for sales and overcoming objections and a large list of other valuable, proven systems. Everything was included in their membership fee of just $99 per month. Using this strategy, you’ll get an eclectic approach to developing systems. But it can be pretty darn effective and very inexpensive if you’re willing to work at it.

3. Network and Develop the Systems Yourself

Another method is to network, research and grind through the trial and error process to develop your own systems, one at a time. This way takes the most time, often results in the largest failure rate and almost always causes you to reinvent the wheel; but it is definitely a method that has worked for many instructors, including my own. In conclusion, if your goal is to operate the most efficient and profitable school possible, or to expand into multiple locations, then I strongly suggest you begin to systemize your school TODAY. It’s one of the most important things you can ever do to grow your school. Just keep in mind that the best systems in the world will do you little good unless you have the discipline to constantly stay on top of them and make them work for you. 83

Chapter Twenty-Two

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

23: How to Select a Good Tuition Billing Company for Your School


ne of the most common questions I used to receive is, “Which billing company should I choose to handle my school’s tuition and do I really need one?”

Since this question has always been so common, I’d like to provide a response here in The Martial Arts Business Bible. First of all, it’s important to realize that it’s very difficult for me to decide which billing company is best for YOU. That’s because selecting the right billing company depends heavily on what you’re looking for, and therefore it involves some due diligence. Keep in mind, the billing company you choose will handle the vast majority of your school’s revenue, and will often deal directly with your students. That’s pretty serious. So it’s not the kind of decision that I would recommend leaving up to someone else’s discretion. Instead, I suggest the following approach to get you going:

Step 1: Research the Market The first step to take when selecting a tuition billing company is to research the market. You want to investigate as many different billing companies as possible. That way you can get a feel for what’s out there, and begin narrowing down your options. Just a friendly word of advice: do your homework before you make a final decision and be sure to read all the fine print in the agreement. Sometimes, it can be very difficult to get out, once you get in.

Step 2: Contact Them by Phone and Ask Lots of Questions After you’ve narrowed down the companies that interest you, make a list of the questions you want answered. Then, call each of them to ask your questions and get more information. Ask them to explain why you should choose them over one of their competitors. Let them do their best to sell you on their service. If they truly care about your business, they’ll work very hard to gain it. Also, go with your gut a little here. Some companies may give you a much better feeling than others.

Step 3: Have Them Mail You Some Information After the billing company representative has answered all of your questions, ask them to send you some information for further evaluation. Be up-front, and tell them that you’re shopping around because you want to make the best decision for your school. Once you receive their information packet, it’s very important to read it over carefully. Again, you want to read all the fine print, and check into every detail that you do not understand. For example, you’ll want to find out if there are any additional fees, such as annual membership dues, special NSF collection charges, account cancellation fees, monthly minimums, delays on when you receive the money they collected for you, etc. What percentage of collections do they get, and how does this compare to their competitors? Do they offer consulting in addition to billing? How many times do they redraft NSF accounts, and when? What is their policy if you want to switch billing companies? Must you use their service exclusively? 84

How does this company actually make its money, when their ads claim they charge so little? These are the kinds of questions I suggest you find out before finally selecting a billing company.

Step 4: Speak to Some of Their Clients Talking to a billing company’s clients is one of the best ways to get an accurate description of the quality of their service and how effective a job they do for their clients. Of course, the company’s salespeople will tell you their company’s service is the best in the field. Yeah, yeah, yeah… what I want to know is what their clients think of them. I recommend getting the names and numbers of at least five of their clients. Also, I suggest getting this information from a source other than the billing company, if possible. Why? Because you can guarantee that if they select the names, they’re going to pick their friends, most satisfied clients, and the individuals they know will give their company the best review. That’s natural. Personally, I prefer non-biased testimonials.

Step 5: Make a Decision Once you’ve researched the market, spoken to the different companies’ representatives, reviewed their information and websites, taken a free test-drive of whatever software they’re using, and gotten a real world description of their track record, it’s time to make an educated decision. After all of that is said and done, you’ll have a good conscience knowing that you made every effort to select the best company to handle your school’s billing. Finally, I’d like to add that I recommend you use a tuition billing company for a number of reasons. For one thing, I believe that it can be confusing to students if a school owner is both the “good sensei” and “evil bill-collector” at the same time. Plus, we instructors are typically “softies” when it comes to our students. That can get expensive. Even more, it can be counterproductive from a time management standpoint for you or your staff to be in the office making collection calls, instead of on the deck teaching or enrolling more students. And who needs the headaches? Similarly, many owners don’t like being their own cancellation department. Too time consuming, too negative, too stressful. So they have the billing company handle cancellation requests and requests put payments on hold. For these reasons and others, a good billing company that charges you fairly, offers you other benefits and does what they say they’re going to do can be a great, outsourced addition to your team. It usually IS worth every penny you pay them. Maybe that’s why most of the top schools I know of all use billing companies. Example: My friend John Bussard tells me that he’s running 350K worth of tuition PER MONTH through his billing company. WOW! So delegating this aspect of your school to a company that specializes in it can be a very good idea. The key is finding the right one for you!


Chapter Twenty-Three

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

24: Get Rid of Anyone Who’s Hindering Your School’s Growth or Taking Advantage of You


ll professions are blemished by a small percentage of unscrupulous individuals who will take advantage of others, given the opportunity to do so. There have always been unlawful attorneys, hypocritical doctors, and thieving accountants. Unfortunately, the martial arts field has its fair share of criminals, too. Sadly, this is not just my opinion. It is my direct experience, after having consulted with thousands of martial arts school owners throughout the years. In fact, you’d be surprised to know just how many times I’ve received phone calls from subservient school owners who call up to secretly reveal how they are being taken advantage of by their “Master,” “Grandmaster,” or “Association.” Watching over their shoulder, and whispering into the phone, they describe some of the abuses they put up with.

Here are 11 of the most common complaints I’ve heard: 1. Being forced to buy gis and equipment at full price from their “Pseudo-Master,” instead of being able to buy their merchandise wholesale from a gear company 2. Having to relinquish the majority of their school’s testing fees to the “Pseudo-Master,” who they typically fly in once or twice a year for testing purposes only. 3. H  aving to pay a percentage of the school’s gross income to the “Pseudo-Master,” who does nothing to help the school grow or improve its operations. 4.  Paying exorbitant licensing fees to use the name of a school that is recognized by practically no one. 5.  Being kept on hold for years longer than necessary before being tested for a higher degree of black belt. 6.  Controlling what owners can advertise, or hang on the walls in their own schools. I know of one instructor whose “Pseudo-Master” came into her school, ripped a poster off the wall, and tore it up right in front of the students. He didn’t like the fact that the instructor and student, depicted in the poster, were smiling. 7. Restricting the use of modern ideas that are proven to generate new students or boost retention. 8. Setting parameters as to what parts of town instructors can accept students from. 9.  Forcing instructors to change the name of their school so they do not compete with the “Pseudo-Master,” who just moved into town. 10. Belittling instructors to make them believe they can’t survive without the “PseudoMaster.”


11.  Threatening to take away an instructor’s rank and blackball him/her from the association if they don’t comply with the “Pseudo-Master’s” rules and regulations. This is just a sampling of how certain “superiors” in the martial arts field take advantage of naïve followers. You’d almost think these pseudo-extortionists were above the law, considering their Mafia-like approach to dealing with others. In my opinion, they are perpetuating a form of organized crime that’s disguised by martial arts mysticism and a self-created image of godliness. Coincidentally, school owners who allow themselves to be subjected to these types of leaders typically have the smallest, least profitable, dinosaur-like schools in the area. According to the owners themselves, their school is the way it is because their “control-freak PseudoMaster” has them in a “straightjacket.” They claim they are worked very hard and make barely enough money to feed their families. Often, they wonder if they are school owners or indentured servants. After hearing them describe their situations, sometimes I wonder the same. For example, many “under-the-thumb owners” are usually prohibited from making simple adjustments that could help increase student retention. Sometimes they are forced to make their students wait eight or ten years before testing them for Black Belt. Or, they are not allowed to deviate from the archaic curriculum that makes the “Pseudo-Master’s” system all that it is. The list of restrictions is deep and weird. What a shame! Just remember that no one can take advantage of you without your permission. Today, there’s absolutely no reason why any instructor should put up with this kind of abuse. First of all, there are plenty of excellent style-based associations out there that do not take advantage of their members in any way, shape, or form. They provide rank in a professional manner without subjecting their members to abuses such as the eleven cited above. Secondly, there’s so much martial arts business information readily available in the industry today that instructors no longer have to rely on a “Pseudo-Master” for any kind of business guidance whatsoever. So if you’re an instructor who feels as though a certain superior is taking advantage of you, ask yourself these two questions. 1. What does my “Master” do for me that I can’t do for myself? 2. If the “Master” no longer existed, would my school wither up and die, or would it begin to blossom? I’ll bet you can answer these questions without hesitation. I’ll bet you’re sick of being treated the way you are. Now, you just have to find the courage to cut loose the chains. Do it. It will be short-term pain, for long-term gain. I’ve never seen otherwise.


Chapter Twenty-Four

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

25: 10 Predictions for the Future of Our Industry and How You May Be Affected


s you discovered in the previous chapter, I’ve had the honor of conducting many powerful interviews with gurus, who posses volumes of knowledge, which can be learn by all martial arts professionals for the betterment of our industry.

On other occasions, I’ve been the interviewee. For instance, Joe Galea of Member Solutions once interviewed me. During the interview, he asked, “Changes in the martial arts industry are taking place at lightning speeds, as compared to just ten or twenty years ago. In your opinion, what will we see five to ten years from now?” My 10 predictions I responded with were:

1. More Multi-School Operators

As school owners continue to become savvier business owners and successfully systematize how they operate, it’s becoming easier for them to open multiple locations. The trend is definitely moving toward multi-school ownership and this will become even more prolific in the future.

2. Further Consolidation of Schools

Presently, I’m seeing the big schools become bigger, because they’ve diversified their services and embraced all aspects of professionalism. In time, more of the small, unprofessional schools will go out of business and the big schools will continue to expand.

3. More Licensing and Franchising of Schools

As our industry continues to evolve, more highly successful martial arts professionals will begin to franchise and license their systems to others. Early evidence suggests that this is occurring now and it will continue to increase over time, though selling franchises in the martial arts is indeed an uphill battle and will be for a long time to come.

4. Less Information Providers

You’ve probably noticed that there is a flood of information in our industry right now. Everyone is an information provider these days. Actually, that is a good thing. But in time, I predict the novelty will wear off for many of the smaller players and only a few established companies will be providing the vast majority of the information that circulates in our field.

5. Less Quality in Our Black Belts

It saddens me to say it, but I feel that as schools become increasingly commercialized and more of the smaller schools vanish, the quality of our Black Belts will decrease. Personally, that hurts. I can only urge you to do everything in your power to keep your standards sky high, so that we do not destroy the true worth of earning a Black Belt.


6. Tuition Will Continue to Increase

When I started training during the 80’s, my tuition was $35 per month. Today, I regularly speak to instructors who are charging $250-300 per month. I’m not Nostradamus, but it’s rather clear that tuition prices will continue to trend upwards.

7. More Career Martial Artists

It is not unusual to find quality instructors earning more than $100,000 a year. As schools become larger and more profitable, they will have the resources to create more career martial artists and pay them extremely well. Fewer instructors will change professions due to inadequate salary arrangements and weak benefit packages.

8. More Students Involved in the Martial Arts

Today’s schools offer a diversity of services, which is enabling them to attract more students than ever before. Also, the marketing of martial arts and its benefits is constantly getting better. On top of this, increasing professionalism and systemization is increasing our collective retention. More students are staying longer and schools are getting bigger. For these reasons and many others, it’s clear that the number of people participating in martial arts programs will continue to increase, as times marches on.

9. Sporadic Governmental Regulation

As of the writing of this chapter, there have been more than 20 attempts to regulate martial arts in the state of New Jersey. I live in Pinellas County, Florida, and our Licensing Board for Children’s Centers said the following about the schools in my area, “They are currently being evaluated to determine if licensure is needed to continue offering their existing children’s programs.” Regulation has also been attempted, or had some degree of success, in New Hampshire, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Since regulation can result in a windfall of revenue for the government, I predict that it is only a matter of time before our industry is faced with increased government regulation. In its inimitable manner, government will realize that it hasn’t scrutinized the industry yet and that there are no educational prerequisites for opening a school, or mandatory continuing education programs for operating it.

10. Many More Martial Arts Millionaires

A growing trend during the first decade of the 21st century is more and more martial arts millionaires, young and old. More professionals are buying their buildings, investing wisely, running their schools like businesses and being paid what they’re worth. They’re amassing impressive amounts of wealth and this will only continue into the future. Will you be the next martial arts millionaire?


Chapter Twenty-Five

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

26: How to KICK BUTT with Free Publicity


few days prior to me writing this chapter, I was in front of my house playing catch with my son. While we were throwing the ball back and forth, my neighbor came walking by and we began to chat.

“How’s it going, Gary,” I said. “Really good,” he responded with a big smile on his face. “My scooter business has taken off like a rocket.” “Awesome! Congrats! What caused that to happen?” I asked. Well, Gary went on to tell me that a month or so ago a newspaper reporter visited his shop to inquire about buying one of the small, gas-operated scooters he sells for a relative. The reporter ended up purchasing one and then asked if she could do a story on his business. Gary happily agreed and shortly thereafter the news piece appeared in our local paper – The Saint Petersburg Times. Immediately after the story ran, Gary’s phone began to ring like crazy! Next thing you know, a local TV station that noticed the newspaper article called Gary and asked if they could come out and film a short segment about his business. After all, with the economy being in such bad shape these days, many people want to save money on gas and transportation. Or, they’ve lost their cars, need to downsize, etc. Again, Gary agreed. This time, however, he and his scooter business appeared on one of the 6pm local news channels. This time…his phone really went berserk! Next - two other local news stations, which compete against the initial news station, also contacted Gary about doing a segment. Naturally, he was more than happy to let them come out, too. So in a very short period of time, Gary’s scooter business received a newspaper story and three TV segments, plus the segments were also shown on the websites of all of these media. And he received all of this publicity for FREE! Now what do you think this did for Gary’s business? While I do not have any financial data to share with you, I can tell you that according to Gary, “I’ve consistently been getting at least 20 calls per day from all over the place. I can’t keep the scooters in stock. We’re actually in a backorder situation. It’s amazing!”


Free Publicity Can Do Wonders for Your School The fact is that getting free PR is one of the best things you can do to grow your school and your own celebrity. It sure beats spending money to run an ad and taking all that financial risk. With free PR, not only does it NOT cost you any money, but also, someone else is touting the benefits of what you do, or positioning you as an expert in your field. You’re not the one doing the heavy lifting. You just can’t beat it! The first time I saw the incredible power of publicity was at my instructor’s school back in the 80’s. John Graden was a “master” at this. He was regularly featured in the sports section of our local newspaper, he was frequently appearing on morning shows with local TV hosts, he was doing regular radio interviews and various news crews were often at our school filming for the nightly news. On quite a few occasions, I was in the footage as Mr. Graden’s uki, holding the targets, getting thrown, doing one steps, etc. Plus, Mr. Graden launched his own TV show that was a huge hit in the Tampa Bay area. A few of the key staff members and myself were regulars on the show and it was a great honor. Especially, since I was in my young twenties at the time. Anyhow, I can tell you from firsthand experience that all of this publicity (paid and free) made a huge difference in the success of the school. Mr. Graden became a local celebrity, the new student leads came pouring-in and our school was considered THE place to learn martial arts in our area. Even more, when new students came in to inquire about lessons, they often looked at us as if we were celebrities to a certain extent. Why? Because they had seen us on local TV shows, or heard us on the radio, or watched our PSAs, or read the stories in the newspaper, etc. Again, most of this exposure was generated totally for free by Mr. Graden. Another person I can tell you about who harnessed the power of free publicity is my good friend Matt Furey. Matt actually built a multi-million dollar information publishing empire all without spending a nickel on advertising. Every bit of the exposure Matt used to initially launch and grow his business was acquired for free through news pieces, magazine cover stories, writing ongoing columns for various publications, shooting videos that were sent to the members of organizations, blogging (before it was even called blogging), doing audio interviews, etc. Today, Matt is still making millions. So, believe me, you definitely should be hitting the “publicity heavy-bag” hard!


Chapter Twenty-Six

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

Words of Wisdom from a Publicity Genius One of the celebrities I reached out to and interviewed for the betterment of the martial arts industry was Dr. Paul Hartunian. If you haven’t studied his work yet, you should. Dr. Hartunian is known as “the man who sold the Brooklyn Bridge.” He’s a genius when it comes to generating free publicity and it was an honor to extensively interview him. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the audio interview, as well as the story I ran on him in the magazine I used to publish. According to Dr. Hartunian, “One thing you should understand is that most high profile martial arts professionals are high profile because they make it their business to always stay in front of your face. Yes, every community has one or two instructors whom everyone knows as a ‘Martial Arts Star.’ When the topic of martial arts comes up, their names aren’t far behind. Why do you think that is? Is this because they have a better education, better martial arts or more talents than you? Is it because they’re lucky? Not exactly. Rob Colasanti pictured here with

The reason is because they take every publicity expert, Dr. Paul Hartunian - “The opportunity to let the public know they are man who sold the Brooklyn Bridge.” there. They advertise, they speak at the local academic schools, they join the community associations, they network, they’re involved with fundraisers, etc. So this keeps them in the limelight. Smart move. The good news for you, however, is that even though these people are very active and are considered the martial arts experts in town, very few of them know how to properly use free publicity.” I agree with Dr. Hartunian. Very few instructors are doing what John Graden did back in the day, as one example. That’s why I recommend that you make it your business to become the guy who DOES understand how to use free publicity and then jump all over it. This will help you set your school and yourself apart from all the others. Begin by reading as many books as you can find on how to generate publicity. It’s not a complicated subject so you will pick up on what to do and how to do it quickly.


Rob Colasanti

Also, research what other people are doing when it comes to getting publicity. Think of someone on a local level who seems to magically appear every time you turn around. Why? They always seem to surface. What are they doing to make that happen? How? Model them as it makes sense for you. Don’t scoff at them, or be jealous. Learn from them! Along these lines, you want to be featured in your local community newspapers and their websites as often as possible. The same applies to TV and radio. The same with local magazines or any other local print media you can find. And you want your photo printed along with whatever article, column, or news piece they run. Your goal is to develop name and face recognition in your town. You need to establish a brand…and it’s best if you can do it without spending any money. Sound good? Then, as your name becomes more and more known, the media people will want to know more about you. The size of the articles and exposure can increase. The amount of time you get on the local radio and TV stations can increase. You’ll have momentum. It will be like a snowball rolling down hill. Your media exposure will get bigger and bigger. But first you have to prime the pump a little. You have to take some initial steps and get things going. You have to start somewhere. Remember Gary and his scooter business? Look at how the free publicity snowballed for him…and he wasn’t even looking for it! When you get some momentum going, your file containing all of the exposure you’ve received will grow nice and thick. Well guess what? That’s the same file you’ll start showing to all of the new prospects that visit your school to inquire about lessons. That’s the file that will give you instant credibility. So be sure to ALWAYS get copies of your radio and TV interviews. Also, always save copies of any articles, news pieces, press releases, stories, etc. that feature your name. These things are like gold. Now, just for the record and to set the proper expectations, will every release work every time? Will every interview you do make your phone ring off the hook? NO WAY!!! It’s simply not possible. Think of it this way. Do all of your print ads work every time? Does every outbound call you make to a prospect produce a sale? Do you enroll every student who completes your intro course? Of course not. The same holds true for press releases and other media you generate.


The Martial Arts Business Bible

However, this “secret weapon” CAN be an easy, free and effective way of increasing your exposure, skyrocketing your image in the community, attracting new students and so much more. But first, you have to put a slew of potential PR generators to work for you and stay very busy in this area until your efforts finally begin to add up and show results.

Here are some excellent FREE PR pointers to get you going: • Create a database of all the media people in your community. Do your best to become known amongst these people over time and make it clear that you can be a valuable resource to them. And, build their trust by only going to them with quality information and angles that are properly presented. Otherwise, they’ll view you as a pest and your chances of getting published by them will be ruined.

• Learn how to write press releases. Your press releases should be short, to the point and beneficial to each media’s respective audience. Your releases should not come across like a free ad for you or your business. If they do, they will quickly be thrown in the trash – GUARANTEED. You want to come across like an educator, consultant, expert, or dogooder. Also, always be sure to include professionally taken photos with any release, story, article or storyline you submit. You want to make it as easy as possible for busy editors to approve whatever it is that you’ve sent.

• Leverage your relationships with students and other individuals who may have contacts with anyone in the media. Use these relationships to your advantage. Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s whom you know that counts. Take advantage of every opportunity to get your PR machine cranking.

• Submit press releases regularly. Whenever something of interest happens at your school, send your press releases to everyone on your media list. If you don’t capitalize on valuable PR opportunities, you’re simply missing the boat and leaving money on the table. Examples of news-worthy topics include a student who’s competing internationally for the USA or your town, winning a state title or competition of any significance that makes your hometown look good, a student who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds through martial arts lessons, fundraisers your school is doing for various causes, milestones your school


Rob Colasanti

has reached such as completing 100,000 “random acts of kindness” in your town, free community services you’re offering such as anti-bullying seminars, kids who are loosing weight and/or improving grades through martial arts training, etc.

• Start a blog. Studies show that 77% of all Internet users read blogs. So blogging will also help you to get your name out there and position you as an expert in your field, if you do a decent job with the content and market your blog properly. Plus, if the right people see your blog, it could result in various opportunities to get in front of much larger audiences of prospective students or lots of additional free PR.

• Do Public Service Announcements (PSAs) every chance you get. Anytime you can get on TV or radio for free…GRAB IT! PSA’s aren’t supposed to be commercials for your school, but they will get your name out there into the community in a powerful way. They’ll position you as a martial arts expert (in safety awareness, self-defense, anti-bullying, fitness, etc.) and the producer will almost always allow you to mention your school name or web address as part of the deal.

• Write a book. I’ve already mentioned this “golden nugget” here in “The Bible,” but it’s worth mentioning again now. Being a published author will help you get the free PR you’re looking for. It raises your status. And once you begin getting all sorts of free exposure, it’s nice to be identified as the author of a book on the subject you’re discussing. Wouldn’t you agree? Indeed, having a book will further position you as an authority in your field and add to your credibility.

• Conduct as many radio and TV interviews as possible. This will really help you get recognized fast. Remember to get a copy of these interviews and appearances, as well as any corresponding photos of you in the studio, being interviewed, demonstrating, etc. By the way, why do you think people go on talk shows most of the time? It’s because they have something to promote or a brand to build. As a school owner who wants to grow and become a star in your town, you are no different.

• Try to get yourself a regular column in any written or online media. That’s what my friend Julio Anta of Anta’s Fitness and Self-Defense Center in Miami, FL did. He landed a column in a local publication and this had a very positive affect on the growth of his school


The Martial Arts Business Bible

early on. It opened up a number of doors for him that otherwise would have remained closed. So if you can become a regular columnist, you’d be nuts not to jump all over that opportunity.

• Publish a newsletter. Make sure as many people as possible are receiving your school newsletter, either mailed to them in hardcopy, sent to them electronically or both. Constantly drip on your prospects, the media and important people in your town who can provide you with free exposure to their audiences, or spread your name through word of mouth. The more you get your name and message out there into the community, the more PR opportunities will suddenly find you.

• Do as much public speaking as possible. This can be tough for some instructors, but boy is it important when it comes to generating free publicity for you and your school. Seize the opportunity whenever you can get in front of an audience of potential students… especially if the host is willing to pay you to speak. Me? As I write this chapter, I’m also preparing for a keynote speech I’ve been hired to conduct at an upcoming martial arts business convention. Yes, I do practice what I preach.

• Use Social Media. Don’t overlook Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter. These are convenient places to distribute your releases, connect with reporters, drive traffic to your blog and increase your brand recognition, etc. I made the mistake of putting off social networking myself. Then, once I got on Facebook, I accumulated about 1,000 “friends” in the first week. So sites such as these can give you lots of free PR if you use them properly. Also, don’t forget to submit articles to online magazines and sites such as They’ll publish your articles for free. And, be sure to use to show the world what you do on video for free.

• Be unique and recognizable. Try to create an image and persona that is as distinct as possible. This will help you to be recognized and remembered. It will give you another slight edge and that’s good because every little bit counts. Now you don’t have to go as far as Lady Gaga does, but a smidgeon of that will do wonders to separate you from everyone else in your area. Be creative. Also, get your photo out there as much as possible, as often as possible. Name recognition and being identifiable by the public is key. Example: I was dining at Peter Lugar’s steakhouse in New York recently and a man came over to my table and said, “Excuse me, but are you Rob Colasanti.” See…this publicity stuff works! 96

27: 10 “White Belt” Mistakes to Avoid Making with Your School’s Website


he other day a friend of mine from New York called to say hi and see how I was doing. While on the phone, he mentioned that his school had a new website. So I typed in the URL, said “Uh-oh” and gave him some much needed feedback.

In a few seconds, I noticed that my dear ole’ friend was making the same kinds of mistakes I’ve seen school owners all over the world make when it comes to their schools’ websites. To put it mildly, my friend was quite stunned when he heard what I had to say. He had definitely overlooked some of the basics. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no “master” of the web. But I certainly do know more than the average bird. So here’s a few “White Belt” mistakes I suggest you avoid:

1. Having a website that DOESN’T move prospective students towards an eventual sale, i.e. weak headlines, no headlines, no well-written sales copy, no call to action, etc.

2. Having a site that doesn’t have the ability to automatically respond to prospects and automatically report statistics to you.

3. Having too much flash, too many distractions, too many photos, too much information that does not lead someone towards a sale, annoying intros, too much design and so on. Always subordinate these kinds of “effects” to quality sales copy and substance that convinces someone to choose your school over your competition.

4. No explanation of the many incredible benefits of training at YOUR martial arts school. Be sure to clearly communicate the BENEFITS for kids and adults.

5. No testimonials or social proof that helps separate your school from all the others in your community. Use print and video. This will dramatically improve your credibility.

6. Not having a way to collect data from visitors. At minimum, you should offer a free report that prospects can download after entering their contact information. Or, you could offer them a free intro course when they register online. By collecting your prospects’ information, you can follow-up with them about taking lessons, immediately upon receipt and forever after.

7. Not using your website to build a powerful marketing database. HUGE mistake!

8. Not being able to track information such as the amount of visitors you’re getting, how many of them downloaded your free content, how many people signed up for whatever free offer you’re giving, what pages are being read the most, what they’re clicking, etc.

9. The layout of the site makes navigating a difficult, frustrating or confusing process.

10. Not continuously driving traffic to your website through online and offline efforts, which gets prospects into your marketing “funnel,” effectively convincing them that your school is the best choice for their needs. Mainly, the purpose of your site should be to generate qualified LEADS that a staff member can quickly follow-up on, though some do in fact use their site as a way to sell inexpensive, short-term programs such as intros or kickboxing courses. 97

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible


Rob Colasanti


The Martial Arts Business Bible

28: The Truth About How Schools Across the Nation Are Getting Their Students


obody really knows the exact number of martial arts schools or students in the United States; however, students join martial arts schools every day. So how are schools attracting the majority of their new students?

Recently, I asked about twenty of my school owner friends located throughout North America and Europe, where their new students were coming from and how these people are hearing about their schools. Their responses to this question validated my thinking that schools are actually using a wide range of approaches to drum up new students. However, “word-of-mouth” was by far the most common method, according to most of those I asked. Word-of-mouth simply means that people are telling other people about a particular school. Sometimes this word-of mouth stems from students. Sometimes it stems from parents, other local businesses, friends and family members of students, former students and so on. Basically, it’s one person referring another person to a particular martial arts school because they think that the school they’re referring is a good one for whatever reason. And they’re doing it without being asked to do so and for no reward. That’s a beautiful thing! Now realize that word-of-mouth is an unsolicited referral. And referrals are the least expensive and highest quality source of new students you’ll ever receive. How can you get more? Well, when you teach great classes, provide outstanding student service, build quality relationships with your students and their families, become a leader in your community, develop a reputation for being THE martial arts expert in your town and implement effective marketing systems, as taught in this book, then your word-of-mouth traffic will increase tremendously. Word travels quickly... When this happens, you’ll start to enroll more students for less up front costs. Look at it this way. You can run an ad for $1,000 and enroll five new students for an acquisition cost of $200 each. Or, you can get five new students for FREE because they were referred to your school by people they know, like and trust. Which would you rather have? Additionally, another big reason why schools are reporting so much success through wordof-mouth these days is because martial arts has never received more mainstream exposure than it is receiving today throughout the media, but especially television and movies. Nice! Even more, a major martial arts-type activity occasionally sweeps the nation, further increasing interest in the arts and benefiting the entire industry. Millions of students flocked to martial arts schools thanks to the Tae Bo boom of the late 90’s. Before that it was the Karate Kid movies. Before that, it was Bruce Lee who inspired countless people to try martial arts. Now, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is all the rage. Who knows what the next “big one” will be. Regardless, all of these kinds of things dramatically increase the general public’s awareness


about martial arts, and all of the free exposure they bring gets people talking and drives large numbers of prospects to martial arts schools. Great. But while you may benefit from occasional martial arts movies or trends, you have no control over them. These “influences” are like free bonuses that give you a boost every now and again; however, it’s the quality and effectiveness of your day-to-day business skills, as detailed here in “The Bible,” that will really make the difference in your school’s growth. Now, aside from word-of-mouth, my various friends who operate successful schools also reported that they are receiving their new students through a wide range of marketing efforts, such as web marketing, activities that generate free PR, walk-ins, television advertising, and a variety of grassroots activities, including flyer distribution, signage, demonstrations, billboards, guest passes, birthday parties and gift certificates. So different methods work for different instructors, located in different communities. The key is to find out what works best for YOU by testing different things. Once you learn what gets results for you, then you keep doing more of it. And pounce on it while you can, as what works today may not work tomorrow. At the same time, you stop doing whatever marketing is not working for you. Why waste money? When your marketing doesn’t at least break even, you put the brakes on it and move on. In summary, most schools in the U.S. seem to be getting their new students primarily through word-of-mouth and, secondarily, through a variety of other marketing activities that work well for them in combination and when done regularly.

Knowing this, I highly recommend you take the following actions: First, implement no less than five effective referral systems that catalyze word-of-mouth activity for you. There’s 22 referral programs listed the Referral System chapter of this book. Look - if you’re doing a good job at your, then school others will be glad to tell everyone they know about it. So this is a great way for you to get new students for free, or for very little cost. Second, stay extremely busy with your marketing. Be clever. Incorporate as many effective marketing activities as you can that continuously dump fresh leads into your funnel. Growing a martial arts school is a numbers game. The more quality leads you get the more enrollments you’ll get. Then, the more people will start spreading the good word about your school. See how it works? Third, become the martial arts star in your town. Gobble-up as much free PR as you can. Become involved with as many community events as possible. Do PSAs, radio shows, TV appearances, free seminars for various causes, fundraisers, school talks and anything else that gets your name out there in a positive way. Start a blog. Above all, WRITE A BOOK! That one tip is worth it’s weight in gold. It makes you an instant authority. DO IT NOW! These three steps alone will do wonders for your word-of-mouth traffic and subsequently your school’s growth. I hope you take this seriously. 101

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

29: 21 No-Cost/Low-Cost Lead Generators That Can Blast Your Student Count Through the Roof!


f your goal is to increase your student count, then you must realize that generating new student leads will be the genesis of that growth.

This is especially the case early-on, or if your school is still relatively small. You’ve got to “prime the pump,” as Zig Ziglar says. You’ve got to build momentum in the line and not let the pressure drop, or you have to start all over from the beginning. On the other hand, lead generation is just as important if you are trying to maintain or further grow a larger or already established school with several hundred students or more. In this case, lead generation is key, but for a different reason. The bigger your school, the more students will drop out each month. So you constantly have to fill the pipeline with new student leads, just to make up for the students you will lose each month. So if you’re losing ten students per month, for example, you need to enroll ten students just to break even. Right? In either case, your lead generation activities must be consistent, not episodic. That’s because growing a school - big or small - is a never-ending process of finding quality leads for a low acquisition cost. In other words, your goal is to collect as many quality leads as you can, from as many different sources as you can for the least amount of expense. Once you begin to do this effectively, then you’ll be able to meet more prospective students, teach more introductory lessons and conduct more enrollment and upgrade conferences with qualified individuals—resulting in an increase of your school’s active student count, revenues and profitability. Yes, lead generation is the key. But one of the big misconceptions among many school owners is that effective lead generation requires large expenditures. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that many of the lead-generating methods which work really well—for a martial arts school—are either no cost or low-cost. The kinds of activities I’m referring to usually require a little elbow-greese, volunteerism and creativity, more so than money. They trick is to find which ones work best for you and then continue to do them over and over again for as long as they give you results. Find ‘em and stay on ‘em. In fact, you can take action immediately with the following 21 lead generators BECAUSE all of them require little or no cost. Have fun!




Referrals are the least expensive and highest quality source of new student leads. You should have at least five referral systems that are actively generating leads. Refer to the Referral System chapter in this book for 22 proven systems and a whole lot more details on how to make referrals work for you.


Guest Passes

Guest passes are one of the best ways to generate new leads for your school. They’re extremely inexpensive to produce. The primary strategy is to distribute as many as possible, consistently and constantly.


Testimonials, or Social Proof

Testimonials are extremely powerful and cost you absolutely nothing to acquire. They are totally free. There may not be any other type of small business that can acquire testimonials easier than a martial arts school. Simply, ask your students to “testify” to the fun they experience, the benefits they receive and the quality of your instruction. Use those testimonials throughout your marketing. They’re an excellent way to generate new leads because you didn’t say your school is great, your students did; and that is always extremely powerful. Ask your students write a paragraph titled, What Martial Arts Has Done for Me, whenever they test for their next belt. Make it a requirement. This specific method is one of the easiest ways to accumulate quickly volumes of social proof.



School newsletters are yet another easy way to generate new leads. Once you create your newsletter, you can distribute it as a hard-copy document and/or email it to your prospect list. Don’t just send your hard-copy newsletter to your students and parents, but also to local government officials, community leaders, guidance counselors, the principals of local academic schools and all of the other high-profile people in your community. All of these types interact with many people on a regular basis and have the ability to recommend your school to them. That’s exactly what you want.


Chapter Twenty-Nine

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

Many schools are distributing a digital form of their school newsletters, saving time and money on printing, folding, stamping and mailing. A PDF version can be placed on your Web site and easily downloaded to any computer.


Signs, Banners and Posters

Because of the development of large-format digital printing technology, the cost of producing school window banners, bandit signs and posters for academic school presentations (to state just a few ideas) is very low. Be creative and place these items in high-traffic areas throughout your community, so the greatest number of future students sees them.


School Web Site

If you do not yet have a website for your school, then you are severely behind the times. A properly designed school Web site can be a low-cost and highly effective method to generate leads because it is always working! There are many sources of expertise to develop your school Web site. Just make sure that whomever makes your website understands marketing! You want your website to generate leads above anything else, so it must be created by someone who isn’t out to just make it look pretty. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. It’s got to be set up for effective lead generation and automatic follow-up. This is critical!


Internet Search Engines

One of the primary benefits of the Internet is search engine services, such as Google, Yahoo, etc., that make it very easy for anyone to search for martial arts schools in your community. Many school owners have experienced a dramatic increase in leads generated from Internet searches, and this method will only continue to grow in importance every year. The same person who creates your Web site, depending on his level of expertise, may be able to help you with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The goal is for your school’s Web site address to be at the top of local search listings, or at least on the first page.


Rob Colasanti


Yellow Pages

You don’t need the biggest ad in the Yellow Pages, but you should be listed. Bold, all-caps lettering or red lettering is often just as effective as a “display” with your logo and/or a photo—and it’s much cheaper. Be careful about placing an ad in too many different sections of the Yellow Pages, as this will increase your cost quickly. Make a list of all the sections you could appear and then try different combinations every year to see which works best. Your Yellow Page ad will generate leads, even if it is just a one-line message that directs prospects to your Web site. Remember, the Yellow Pages is more like a reference for consumers. You should expect the messages and images in your other lead generation methods to do the real job of communicating and motivating consumers to buy. The Yellow Pages is often where they find your phone number when they are ready to contact you.


Print Media Advertising

Placing ads in your local print media—local and community newspapers, a coupon book or Penny Saver-type publication does generate leads, but you must use the medium correctly. A “mass advertising” media, such as print, requires repetition and regularity; so one ad in one publication every few months is not a wise strategy. It’s often a waste of money. Print media advertising can be expensive, but it need not be, depending on a variety of factors, such as ad size, color or black and white, ad position, the publications’ circulation, etc. You must be willing to test different ad messages, sizes, placements, publications and frequency to determine what combination is most effective and low-cost for you. Print media, as with all mass advertising media (radio, TV, billboard, etc.), is a good idea when it operates like an “investment,” meaning that the dollars you spend are returned to you (plus some profits) from the new business they generate—and then you re-investment those dollars again and again. One of the best ways to help you “invest” your print media budget efficiently and effectively is to ask other small businesses in your area which newspapers and other publications have worked for them. Ask those small businesses whose customers are part of the same target audience as yours. These could be any type of business that offers products and services to families: dry cleaner, car repair, bank, florist, shoe store, shoe repair, optometrist, hair and nail salons, day spas, daycare schools, etc.


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Direct Mail

Despite the rising cost of printing and postage, direct mail is still a strong lead generation method. Your mailbox wouldn’t be filled with direct mail from major companies if it didn’t work. Direct mail is also a lead generation method that should operate as an “investment.” The old business adage is true: You must spend money to make money; but, if you do it wisely, then you should recoup your investment, so you can put it to work again.

My friend Jay Abraham refers to direct mail as “a ten-thousand-person sales department.” You can only effectively make a sales presentation to one prospect at a time, but direct mail can communicate with thousands of prospects, simultaneously. Direct mail professionals teach that there are three primary elements to the effective use of direct mail: the quality of the list, the copywriter who wrote the piece, the offer, the message and the packaging. The importance of the last two are almost negligible compared to the quality of your list. Nothing will destroy a direct mail campaign faster than a bad list; so don’t even think about implementing a direct mail lead generation method until you have developed a great list of prospects. Your local bookstore is filled with books on how to develop direct mail lists and all the other fine points of this lead generation method. Also, my good friend Matt Furey is one of the best copywriters in the county. You can check out his work at There are also seminars you can attend from Matt and others, and you can find much information on the Internet. I’ve already touched upon the importance of effective copywriting earlier in this book. (See The Pen is Always Mightier than the Sword in the Battle for School Growth.)



Flyers are one of the least expensive methods to attract new students with powerful images and benefit statements. A few hundred flyers cost pennies apiece and could generate thousands of dollars in revenue through the “training life” of just one student. If you are still using black and white flyers, then “invest” a little extra in color flyers, occasionally, to test how many more leads are generated with color. You can slowly work your way to all colored flyers, thus maximizing the benefit of this lead generation method. Companies, such as Kinkos, Sir Speedy and similar local quick-print services, are now able to provide color flyers at affordable rates. Flyers should be distributed to students regularly for internal promotions; and at all events and presentations outside the school. They can also be a direct mail piece, included in an advertising bag flyer, and distributed to homes and apartments throughout your immediate neighborhood and surrounding community.


Rob Colasanti



Postcards are probably the lower cost method of direct mail because the cards are inexpensive, compared to more elaborate direct mail pieces, and you pay the least amount of postage. There are many vendors on the Internet that will print your postcards, manage your mailing list and mail your postcards; all at an affordable price, freeing you to spend more time with students and staff.

Direct mail campaigns, especially postcards, require that the same list of prospects receives more than one card and message to be effective. One card sent to one list once is virtually a waste of money.


Door Hangers/Advertising Bag Flyers

This lead generation method can be very low cost, especially if you have a staff, Leadership Team or older students distribute door hangers or advertising bag flyers throughout the residential neighborhoods near your school. You can purchase these items for only pennies apiece. Advertising bags can be more effective than door hangers because you can place several pieces in an advertising bag: a flyer, a guest pass, testimonials, your newsletter, etc.



Brochures are very versatile lead generators. They can be a direct mail piece, mailed in an envelope or stuffed in an advertising bag. You should also distribute them during demonstrations, academic school presentations/talks, seminars and mall events. Display one in a clear, plastic point-of-purchase stand at your front counter with a stack of them for quick and easy distribution to all visitors.


Internal Events and Promotions

Host at least one event or promotion per month at your school because it will increase your school’s gross revenues and maintain a high level of excitement and interest for your students. Events and promotions also generate plenty of leads, too. There are certainly events and promotions in the following list that you can easily plan and manage for a very low cost:


The Martial Arts Business Bible

Buddy Weeks (Better than Buddy Days, because they offer more convenience)

Ice cream social nights (a class with an ice cream bar set up afterwards)

Birthday parties (This is one of the best lead generators of all time.)

Mother’s and Father’s Day promotions: mothers and fathers train for a week for free during May and June

School picnics

Belt promotions or graduation shows (have your testing students bring a “witness”)

Awards banquets

Sleepovers or kid’s night-in parties

Movie nights at your school

Holiday shopping sprees

Inter-school tournaments

Halloween parties

Easter egg hunts

Taking your students to big martial arts movie debuts, i.e. Kung Fu Panda, The Karate Kid, The Forbidden Kingdom, etc.

Free self-defense seminars, anti-bully seminars, child health days, kid safety, etc.

Open Houses

A summer barbecue

Grand openings (and re-openings)

Pumpkin carving party



Demonstrations are also a type of event and, although they can require some planning and work, they are also fun for all involved, and often generate many good leads. The key is to plan and conduct many highly entertaining and well-choreographed demonstrations that are well promoted, so you can attract a large crowd. Demonstrations increase your school’s visibility, enhance its reputation and image and cause a word-of-mouth buzz that can generate plenty of leads.


Rob Colasanti

Start by developing a list of businesses, schools and other locations where you could present demonstrations. These certainly include all academic schools in your community; demonstrations are often welcomed as half-time events at football, basketball games. If you teach mixed martial arts, then try to schedule demonstrations at your local college or university. Check with the office of your malls and shopping centers; they are always looking for “entertainment” to attract visitors to the mall. Large companies or corporations with their own cafeterias or employee break areas outside could be perfect venues and audiences for your demonstration.


Academic School Presentation/Talks

This lead generation method begins by establishing an excellent working relationship with those principals, teachers and guidance counselors. School presentation and talks are tremendously efficient because you have the opportunity to address a “captured” audience of students, with the permission and, often the endorsement, of the principals and teachers. Many schools will allow you to distribute printed materials to the students to take home to their parents.


Associate Marketing

Associate marketing is a lead generation method that refers to partnering with other local small businesses in your community. These may be businesses where you shop and you already have a relationship with them as a customer, or these business owners may be your neighbors, your children attend school together or you’re members of the same civic organization. These could be a dry cleaner, a local restaurant, hair salon, car repair shop, grocery store, etc. My instructor John Graden was the first person I saw use this idea. Anyhow, you give each of them 10 gift certificates that look very fancy. They should look and feel extremely valuable, printed on heavy stock, with a fancy envelope. You may even want to use a piece of vellum paper, as you might see inside a wedding invitation. The gift certificates are worth $100, and are redeemable for a full month of training at your school. Ask them to give the gift certificates to their very best customers; those they would like to reward for being loyal customers. Tell the business owners that you are providing the gift certificates in appreciation for the excellent service they consistently give you and the great relationship you have with them. You can take this lead generation method one step further. Inform those business owners that if any of their customers enroll as regular students after the free month of training, then you will give the business owners $100 in cash for each new student; that’s a potential $1,000


The Martial Arts Business Bible

incentive, and any small business owner should be happy to partner with your for that kind of reward.


Lead Boxes

The lead box method could be easily dismissed because many of the leads it generates are often of a relatively low quality. Lead boxes do work and, if your objective is to grow your student count, then you want to collect as many different leads from as many different sources as possible. It may take a bit more follow-up time to separate the jewels from the junk, but a lead box system can be effective once you have the system in place and operating smoothly. For more information, contact Jimmy Mack at


Invite-A-Friend Cards

Sometimes, a seemingly insignificant lead generation method can produce very significant results. Stapling an Invite-A-Friend Card to each Intent-To-Promote Form is just such an idea. Many schools use Intent-To-Promote Forms to inform students that they are ready to be promoted to their next belts. These promotions are not tests. The best ones are planned and staged like a show or celebration, with music, demonstrations, much enthusiasm and applause and complimentary refreshments. Best of all, they attract many parents and spectators. It’s a perfect opportunity for students being promoted to invite their friends to the event, and a perfect opportunity for you to plant the seed of interest in martial arts training in those friends who are experiencing the excitement and belt ceremony up-close and personal, and that is very powerful. This method may generate fewer leads, but you are more likely to enroll more of them as students than other lead generation methods because they are truly a “captive” audience, observing the fun and pageantry of martial arts in-person—and you will have to spend very little money to attract them and your students will do most of the work.


Free Publicity/Press Releases

School publicity, usually in the form of press releases and photographs, distributed to the local media, can be considered the foundation for all the other lead generation methods. The public is more likely to recognize your name and give it credibility when they are “captured”


Rob Colasanti

by your other lead generation methods because they’ve seen your school in the local newspapers or, better yet, on the local 6 o’clock News. Because publicity doesn’t necessarily generate leads directly, instructors often overlook its value as a lead generation method. Publicity costs nothing, but can often do a better job than paid advertising to communicate your message to your community; promote you as a local leader, self-defense expert and martial arts authority; and develop a positive image of your training and school environment in the minds of the public. Your local media needs local news story to fill a paper every day or once a week and radio and TV stations 24/7. The media has always been very interested in martial arts-related subject matter because it often involves human-interest stories, action, athletics, mind/body/spirit activities or perceived mysticisms, based on its century-long traditions. Because of current social issues, such as abduction of children, bullying, Internet predators, etc., the self-defense methods and messages you teach everyday become newsworthy. You begin by developing a contact list of all local media outlets and then writing and submitting press releases to them to announce every event hosted by your school, every presentation you make to local groups. -------------------------------------------------------------------------Now, a major lead-generating misconception is that you can concentrate all of your efforts on just one method, such as a Yellow Pages ad or distributing flyers. That simply does not work. Worse yet, are those school owners who don’t implement any lead generating methods at all, expecting that the leads will find them. That makes for a rather empty school. Instead, you must be aggressive, consistent, creative and proactive to generate quality leads, and you must implement as many of these lead-generating methods as you’re able to manage effectively. Only then can you expect to maintain a steady flow of prospects to grow your school. You’ve got to always keep your pipeline full of leads if you expect to subordinate your attrition to your new enrollments and steadily grow your school. As you begin to collect many leads from a variety of sources, you’ll quickly learn which lead generators work for you. That is the time to concentrate your efforts and invest more resources into the lead generators that produce solid results. As you begin to collect many leads from a variety of sources, you’ll quickly learn which methods work best for you. Once you know this, then you’ll be able to concentrate your efforts and invest more resources in those particular lead generators that you know will produce solid results. Don’t be afraid to test. But always measure and monitor the results. Lead generation/marketing: The growth of your student base begins there. It truly is one of the Key Result Areas (KRAs) for anyone operating a commercial martial arts school.


The Martial Arts Business Bible

30: Could Your School Be Leaving a Ton of Money on the Table?


hen my first MasterMind group was forming, I had the task of reviewing all of the applications. My next step was to contact each individual to review their situation and determine if they would be a “good fit” for the group.

One of the gentlemen with whom I spoke was operating a kung fu school with approximately 350 active students. We’ll refer to him as Master X. Master X was a NAPMA member, a member of the Glazer/Kennedy coaching group and he was partaking in several other high-end educational programs within the martial arts industry. He was clearly investing quite a bit into educational resources for growing his school. I also accepted him into my MasterMind group. His school was consistently grossing between seventy-five and eighty thousand dollars per month. That exact same day I spoke to another MasterMind candidate who operates a tae kwon do school. Great guy. Let’s refer to him as Master Y. Master Y was teaching approximately 300 active students and was currently receiving the monthly NAPMA package as well. He opted not to join my MasterMind, though I honestly believe that he would have doubled his gross very quickly if he had become part of this group. His school was consistently grossing between eighteen and twenty thousand dollars per month. Now, that’s the scenario and we mustn’t overlook the fact that there are two very important lessons in here:

1. Your Average Student Value May Be Way Too Low

While both of the school owners mentioned above teach a similar amount of students, Master X has an average student value of approximately $228 per month, while Master Y has an average student value of approximately $66 per month. It’s obvious that Master X knows something about running a highly profitable school that Master Y does not. As a school owner, you want to pay very close attention to your average student value. If your goal is to increase your revenues and profitability, you want to work on incrementally increasing your average student value. So one of the keys to generating more revenue/profitability in a martial arts school is not necessarily having a huge school with a very large amount of students. Instead, a more effective approach might be to have a smaller, more manageable school with less overhead and fewer students, but to structure your program so that your students invest more money at your facility. In other words, you want to operate more like Master X, and less like Master Y. Clearly, one of these Masters is working harder, while the other is working smarter. Translation: Master Y is leaving a ton of money on the table at his school.


2. The More You Learn, the More You Earn I find that there is a direct relationship between how much you invest in your education, plus your effectiveness in implementing what you learn, and how successful you eventually become as an entrepreneur. Many of the sharpest, top-earning school owners I know are the ones who are not cheap when it comes to investing in products, programs, seminars and services that will contribute to their ongoing growth as a business owner. It also seems that the more they invest, the more positive results they create. This has become blatantly obvious to me when working with peak performing individuals in and out of the martial arts industry. By comparison, I find that many struggling instructors, or instructors who have not yet discovered how to maximize their schools’ potential are the same instructors who have never invested in the types of resources that can help them improve their situations. Again, a direct relationship exists here. The moral of the story is that knowledge is power and you should acquire as much knowledge as you possibly can. The last thing you ever want is to be pennywise and dollar foolish when it comes to your education. In summary, some school owners have the knowledge and systems in place, which allow them to dramatically outperform other school owners in a similar situation. Simply put, the Master X’s in the industry have learned how to optimize their schools’ results, while the Master Y’s, who are working at least as hard, if not harder, have not. To this end, take a close look at your school and make sure you’re not leaving a ton of money on the table.

Eric (right) and George Sbarge were in Rob Colasanti’s MasterMind group. They maintain a very impressive average student value that typically exceeds $200 per month. Amazing!


Chapter Thirty

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

31:  Be Careful with Paid-in-Full Memberships


very so often a new buzz works its way through the martial arts industry. Several years ago the latest buzz had to do with paid-in-full memberships (PIFs), otherwise known as cash-outs.

Cash-outs are nothing new. However, recently there was a strong movement towards high numbers of high dollar cashouts in schools across the country and even in Europe. By now you’ve probably heard the lavish success stories of instructors who grossed large amounts of money month after month. I’m talking about $50K, $60K, $70K in single month! How, you ask? It’s because these instructors were collecting most of their students’ tuition dollars up front, and before their students had a chance to drop out. Today, instructors are applying this “get as much money, as quickly as possible” strategy to all age groups of students, as often as they can, and without batting an eyelash. The reason for this is obvious. Instructors can make a whole lot more money...much quicker. One concern, though, is that student service can become an afterthought in a situation where most students have already paid for years of lessons in advance, and paid the maximum they could possibly afford at that time. Now I’m certainly not implying that all instructors who conduct a high volume of cash-outs stop focusing on student retention. That is not the case. But the reality is that some instructors are likely to give way to the temptation. Another concern is when a cash-out heavy school goes out of business for any number of reasons. When this happens all of the cashed-out students lose their investments. Usually it’s thousands of dollars per students. I’ve seen this happen and it’s terrible for the martial arts industry’s reputation when this sort of thing hits the newspapers, or local TV news. So we must be careful here. Recently, a number of well-known industry leaders and instructors have voiced their concerns. For starters, EFC Chairman Nick Cokinos vigorously commented, “Martial arts schools are facing a serious decision. Are we a selling organization, or a service organization? A selling organization is pretty clearly defined in that there is a crew of salesmen out there maximizing the sale of their product. A service organization is radically different, in that it is an academy, oriented around student service, and totally involved in a close student-teacher relationship designed to bring out the best in each and every one of its students. That’s the top priority, not how much money you can get out of them before they quit.” Likewise, other industry heavyweights have expressed integrity-based apprehensions.


The former president of IFC/EasyPay, Rick Bell, pointed out, “Now that our industry is finally experiencing some mainstream acceptance as a valid education form, we would do well to demonstrate some restraint when it comes to extracting money from a trusting student. Just because we can do a thing, does not mean that we should do a thing. Should instructors use their power and position to talk the parents of a five year old into paying them cash in advance for a multi-year program?” While these concerns are valid, cash-outs certainly aren’t a bad thing when used correctly. One of the first leaders to widely educate our industry on the proper use of cash-outs was NAPMA founder John Graden, in his best-selling book How to Open and Operate a Successful Martial Arts School. Here, Graden teaches, “PIFs are dangerous to the degree that you: 1. Spend the money before you’ve earned it. I recommend you open a special reserve account for PIF revenue, and let it build to offset the liability of the lessons you owe. Your liability account should never drop below the amount of outstanding lessons you still owe. 2. Have inconsistencies in your enrollments. If you have months when you enroll twenty people, followed by months of enrolling just five, then you cannot rely on PIFs. Obviously, in the months you enroll just five people, your income is going to take a huge hit. Your other PIF students are no longer sources of real income. You are totally dependent on new PIFs coming in, and if they do not, you end up scrambling to meet your obligations.” Clearly, instructors must use cash-outs intelligently because there are numerous risk factors involved. Plus, it’s no secret that many school owners are excellent athletes and teachers rather than money-managers… hence the need for billing companies. Instead of putting cash-out money into a reserve account, many instructors typically spend it on fancy cars, new TVs, vacations, bigger homes, etc. One instructor who was big into cash outs bought himself a Ferarri. I know this because I saw a photo of the car in the newspaper after his school went belly-up and the car was repossessed. Spending cash-out money foolishly can lead to devastating consequences in the wake of a market downturn, a competition-related slowdown, lawsuits, refund requests, or an injury that prevents the main instructor from teaching. Plus, how much is a school worth to a potential buyer when all the students are cashed-out, and there is no money in the bank? The answer is: not much.

These risks are real, and they must be taken seriously. As history has taught us, the road to cash-outs can be laced with many land mines if one does not handle them correctly. Again, I’m not saying that cash-outs are bad. Actually, they can be very positive if you use them to supplement your regular monthly tuition collections. However, I do think cash-outs should be used in moderation and with the right blend of ethics, moral practice, and integrity. 115

Chapter Thirty-One

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

32: A Clever and Effective Way to Substantially Increase Your School’s Product Sales


here are three primary sources of revenue in a typical martial arts school: membership tuition for all the various programs being offered, special event tuition and product sales.

Together, these three “pillars of revenue” comprise the bulk of a school’s monthly gross. That being the case, you’d think that schools would pay close attention to each of these key areas. Regretfully, that isn’t always the case. Many schools pay little attention to their product sales and as a result they end up leaving a chunk of money on the table. It’s been my experience that product sales in many schools are weak. This area of the business is often underemphasized, misunderstood and neglected. In fact, it’s not uncommon that I visit a school only to see a half-hearted product sales effort that consists of little more than some uniforms, belts and safety gear displayed in a bulky, glass case that’s hidden in a low-traffic corner of the school. Other instructors display a mish-mash of low-priced martial arts novelty items, such as throwing stars, Bruce Lee books, Asian stress-relief balls, and Tiger Balm—barely make an effort to sell any of it—and think that they’re doing a good job with product sales. Not even close. In fact, offering a random assortment of items such as these that do not even integrate into the school’s curriculum can send a confusing message to students. “Why should I buy a bo staff if my instructor doesn’t teach the bo?” The real reason that product sales are anemic in many schools has less to do with not wanting to rock the traditional applecart by actually selling pro-shop items for a profit and more to do with lack of systemization and business knowledge. It’s important to reiterate that all areas of a martial arts school must be systematized. Common areas of systemization include lead generation, enrollment processes, upgrading students, staff training, tuition collections, belt testing, etc. Product sales are no different. This area of a school must also be systematized before it can ever reach its true potential. Enter the Hensleys... Pat and Eric Hensley of Chuck Norris’ UFAF have systematized martial arts product sales, as well—if not better—than any school owners in our industry. This was rather clear after my recent audio interview with them. After years of tweaking their methods and closely monitoring their results, they have product sales down to a science. At the crux of their product sales strategy is what’s known as “built-in product sales,” a brilliant method by which various products must be purchased by students to participate in the school’s classes, as they progress through the ranks. These products are essentially “builtinto” the training. So school owners can actually count on the sale of these products. They know when students will need to buy the various products that are part of their training and they can forecast this for as long as students continue to train.


For example, when students enroll they may need to purchase some special training DVDs to make sure they get started on the right foot. This results in a built-in product sale. When a student earns his Blue Belt he may need to purchase a Bo staff and other items to participate in the classes being taught at that particular level. There’s another built-in sale. When this student is promoted to Brown Belt he may need to purchase a set of kamas, a special carrying bag, another training DVD or book, and so on. Those are some more built-in product sales. Get the idea? The way the Hensleys have systematized and maximized built-in product sales is both clever and impressive. It has resulted in a nice bump in their monthly gross income, rock-solid consistency in their monthly product sales and a substantial improvement in their school’s student retention. It sure beats putting out a bunch of products and wondering if anyone will buy them. Amazingly, to achieve these phenomenal results, the Hensleys do very little selling. Mr. Hensley, in particular, is a highly experienced, old school Black Belt under Chuck Norris. He has also earned multiple, high-ranking Black Belts in other arts and is a veteran tournament competitor. He’s not a “salesperson;” he’s an authentic martial artist. The key is that the system he and his wife have created actually removes much of the need for selling. The system does most of the sales work for them, automatically. The phenomenal results they achieve are a by-product of their system’s effective design. Even more, the Hensleys operate what could very well be the most successful Holiday Shopping Spree our industry has ever seen. They consistently average $33,000 of product sales during a three-day, annual holiday shopping event. That’s more than the total monthly gross of many schools! Again, it’s all in the design of their system, the incorporation of built-in product sales and their passion for quality service to their students and their families.

I want you to take away these three main points from this chapter: 1.  Product sales can be a main pillar of revenue for your school and should not be neglected. 2.  Built-in product sales are the best method I’ve seen for selling products in a martial arts school. They pretty much guarantee the sale of products during the term of a student’s training at your school. 3.  You really should create effective systems for each area of your school, including product sales.


Chapter Thirty-Two

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

33: How to Create Marketing Dominance Using Force Multipliers


he military uses the term “force multipliers” to describe various tactics that can provide unique advantages in battle. What’s interesting is that this concept can easily be applied to your school’s marketing.

Some obvious examples of common marketing tactics are lead gen via the Internet, telemarketing, flyers, door hangers, Yellow Page ads, brochures, websites, radio spots, demonstrations, VIP passes, direct mailers, signage and special events. However, I’ve learned that just acquiring and occasionally using various tactical marketing tools such as the aforementioned, usually doesn’t cause an instructor to suddenly become flooded with leads. It’s the use of these tools, plus the cross-integration of various force multipliers that often create the biggest results. Here are six important force multipliers that will help you improve your marketing results:

1. Superior Knowledge

If you hired someone like my good friend and marketing wizard Jay Abraham to be your school’s full-time marketer for a year, then you’d probably have a much higher student count than if you hired a marketing student fresh out of college. Agree? Clearly, knowledge is a critical force multiplier. If you have superior knowledge about marketing, then you’ll be able to use all of your marketing tools much more effectively and synergistically. You’ll experience success with unique strategies that your competitors do not even know exist. Ultimately, this will translate to stronger revenues and helping more students experience the life changing benefits of martial arts training at your school.

2. Diversified Marketing

Many school owners do not implement nearly enough lead generating mechanisms. In turn, they do not generate fresh leads from nearly as many different sources as they should. An effective strategy is to obtain leads from as many different sources as possible. Your goal is to generate two leads from the demo you conducted, three from the newspaper ad you ran, six from the school talk you gave, two from referrals, five from your web marketing strategies, four from your telemarketing efforts, etc. So diversity in marketing is an important force multiplier. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket and expect your school to grow.

3. Name Recognition

Obviously, if everyone in your town considers you to be the authority on martial arts and your school to be the central source for martial arts lessons, then you have a serious advantage when it comes to getting the public to pay closer attention to your marketing. I know of many school owners who have developed a powerful reputation through years of networking, community involvement, quality instruction, legendary customer service and positive PR. This gives them a leg-up over their relatively unknown competitors. So establishing rock-solid 118

name recognition, or branding, is a very powerful force multiplier that you should constantly be embellishing. If you want your marketing to generate better results, then it’s a good idea to become recognized as the martial arts star in your area.

4. Consistent Approach

One of the most important elements of successful marketing is consistency. Generating a constant flow of new prospects requires a consistent effort, so we try our best not to let our members become episodic or lazy in the area of marketing. Let’s face it; people are busy. It may take six, eight or ten different marketing attempts before you hit the right hot button that convinces someone to finally their hand. So, non-bashful consistency is a critical force multiplier that you don’t want to overlook.

5. Spending Power

I’m sure you know that profitable schools with a strong cash flow typically have a much more liberal marketing budget than underperforming schools with shallow pockets. They can afford to spend much more on their marketing, truly diversify their marketing efforts and keep the consistency high. Beyond this being common sense, I also see clear-cut evidence of it when communicating with top owners. My friend Jason Yi is grossing 1.3 million dollars a year in one location. He can definitely afford to invest more into his marketing, than say the guy up the street from him with only 24 paying students. It’s an extreme example, but you get the idea.

6. Overcome Inertia

Access to basic marketing tools is easy these days. The challenge is that many instructors do not do anything with the materials they receive. Therein, lies a problem. The fact is that you have to implement, implement, implement! You have to be a self-starter when it comes to marketing. You have to be action-oriented, systematic, strategic and creative. I’ve found that instructors who are truly serious about success have trained themselves to overcome inertia, which results in a powerful force multiplier that always leaves their lazy competitors in the dust. Other less obvious marketing force multipliers include timing, testing, staff quality, location, leadership and the ability to recognize your competitors’ force multipliers. The point is that all of these elements give you an added advantage in marketing and their sum is greater than their parts. So your goal is to identify these force multipliers and use them to make your overall marketing much more effective. Following this advice will get you one step closer to building the martial arts school of your dreams.


Chapter Thirty-Three

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

34: How to Improve the Profitability of Your Marketing Without Spending Another Dime


any factors contribute to making a martial arts school successful. One of the biggest factors, which must never be ignored, is profitability. Your goal is to make all areas of your school as PROFITABLE as possible and not waste money.

This is especially true in the area of marketing. One approach to NOT wasting money on marketing is to take full advantage of the opportunities and leads you already have in front of your nose before you spend another dime on additional PAID marketing (or advertising) activities. Here now are a few tested and proven strategies that will help you to fully maximize the opportunities you already have in place, for increasing your enrollment count, before you invest additional money on additional marketing:

1. Obtain referrals from your existing students

Referrals are the least expensive and highest quality source of new business that you’ll ever receive. In fact, many school owners report that referrals from word of mouth and/or from deliberately using effective referral systems are their number one source of new students. So you too can capitalize on referrals by implementing a few good referral programs and then using them consistently. Remember, the profitability on referrals is huge because referrals are free or very inexpensive. [Note: Be sure to read the chapter in this book that gives you 22 referral system ideas.]

2. Re-enroll your former students

All schools lose students no matter how tightly they’ve locked the back door. Students drop out for dozens of reasons. Usually, it’s not because they dislike you or your school. Rather, it’s because certain events take place in their lives that cause them to take a break from their training. Right? The good news is that you can get many of your former students to return, if you make the effort and do it right. Take the time to contact them, make them an irresistible offer, reexplain the benefits, push the right hot buttons... and some of your ex’s will definitely rejoin. You’ll find that often they are willing to jump back on board because whatever circumstances caused them to drop out of your school in the past, no longer exist today. In fact, some of your ex-students probably thought about contacting you to start classes again, but never did because they were too busy or too embarrassed to reach out to you. I used to hear that a lot. All the more reason you need to be proactive and contact them. A simple phone call, email or a handwritten card in the mail is often all it takes to break the ice and get them to become happily involved with training at your school once again. Let me tell you - rejoin campaigns really do work. During my time at NAPMA, I literally reenrolled hundreds of schools that were ready, willing and able to receive our service again after some time had passed. The best part is that rejoin campaigns are typically free or 120

extremely inexpensive to conduct. Show your former students that you care, be personable and make them a great offer, i.e. same tuition rate as when they trained in the past, some free private lessons, free safety gear, a free month to check out the new curriculum, etc. Incentives such as these can go a long way when presented properly and with good timing.

3. Work your existing prospect list

One big mistake that many owners make is that they spend more money on marketing, to generate even more leads, before they work their existing prospect list to exhaustion. Even worse, some don’t work their list at all. Oh, Lord! I can’t tell you how many times a school owner confessed to me that he has a pile of leads in his desk drawer that he’s never followed-up on. Yet, he continues to market and along with that comes more bills. Frankly, I recommend you work your current QUALIFIED lead list over like a cheap heavy bag before any new money is invested on generating more leads. Otherwise, you’re just throwing your money away, leaving money on the table and further jacking-up your expenses unnecessarily. How does that make any sense? Don’t let the precious leads you’ve already generated die on the vine or simply go to waste because you’re too lazy, too “busy,” or too undisciplined to follow-up. If necessary, delegate this responsibility to a staff member who can be held accountable for the results. The key is to maximize the leads your generate and learn how to squeeze every last drop out of them!

4. Improve your current marketing efforts

If you’re a “White Belt” marketer who’s making all the basic mistakes, then you should stop the bleeding immediately, and learn how to market correctly. I might be stating the obvious here, but you need to begin reading a variety of books on marketing until your eyes practically start to bleed. You should devour the marketing works of Jay Abraham, Dan Kennedy, Andrew Wood and Matt Furey to name a few. And, become involved in a good MasterMind group so you can exchange ideas with others who may be getting far better results than you. If your marketing is NOT getting results, then you need to figure out why. Then, you need to test and tweak accordingly. But until you do, you will continue to throw money away and weaken your profitability. Would you rather have a marketing campaign that costs you a grand and generates ten quality leads, or fifty quality leads? See my point? Much of it has to do with your ability to market correctly and effectively. Not all marketing is created equal! In summary, don’t think that the solution to increased enrollments is always to pump more money into marketing. That is not always the case. Sometimes, a more profitable approach is to spend more time working the leads you’ve already generated and/or fixing your current marketing systems and know-how. Follow this advice and your marketing profitability is guaranteed to increase. 121

Chapter Thirty-Four

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

35: Solve Your Students’ Pain with Solution-Based Selling


et’s discuss one of the most vital functions of any school. I’m talkin’ about the most misunderstood and scary part of the business for most owners. Ironically, all schools rely on this ONE function to stay in business.

The subject I’m referring to is SELLING. As a Program Director for many years, one of the most valuable sales skills I ever learned was solution-based selling. Sound complicated? It’s not. In fact, solution-based selling is very basic. It occurs when you assume the role of a consultant, and are there to “help” the student instead of “sell” the student. In this role, you are viewed as a professional consultant of the martial arts, and your mission is to help someone facilitate a decision that will make a positive difference in his or her life. You are NOT viewed as a slick salesperson out to make a fast commission. Solution-based selling is an example of soft selling, and it’s based upon integrity and helping others get what they want. That’s why it works so well at a martial arts school.

There are 3 aspects of solution-based selling that I want you to remember: 1. Ask the Right Questions

This is extremely important to the process. The key here is to gather information whether you’re selling someone over the phone or in person. You want to find out as much as you can about what the prospect wants or needs. Otherwise, you might try to get them involved using the wrong approach. You may try to sell them the wrong thing. You might push all the wrong “hot buttons” and ruin the sale. Make sense? Like a good engineer you have to understand what forces and stresses are at work before you can build a bridge. Questions like “What is it about martial arts that interests you?” or “Tell me a little bit about your he shy, or is he real outgoing?” or “When we help you build that confidence you say you’re lacking, how will that change your life” are the types of questions that help you determine the “stresses.” Just remember to be very relaxed and very conversational when you ask. That’s one of the keys to making this process work effectively. The whole conversation should be very smooth and effortless. It can’t seem disingenuous or canned. Take your time, but always stay in control by leading the conversation where you want it to go. Let your prospect feel that you really care.

2. Listen for Clues Without Interrupting

This is often a very weak area among many sales people. They don’t like to listen. Instead they like to do all of the talking or bragging. That doesn’t help you when you’re trying to make 122

a sale. It actually hurts you. What will help you is if you resist the urge to speak while a prospective student is trying to answer YOUR questions. It is imperative that you let the other person tell you what their true needs and wants are…without interruption. Being a good listener gives the prospect what’s known as “psychological air.” This makes them feel comfortable opening up to you and it’s when they’ll reveal their true “hot buttons” for joining. Selling is mainly an emotional event. So, you want this to occur. Also, remember the phrase “telling is not selling.” If you think otherwise, you may eventually have to start taking the bus to get your school each day. Nuf said!

3. Persuasively Communicate the Benefits This is the final stage.

Thus far, you have asked the prospect all the right questions. You’ve listened very attentively to what they need and want and asked more questions when necessary. You’ve carefully narrowed down an understanding of exactly what they want so there is no doubt as to how you should proceed and which “hot buttons” you should push. The other person feels comfortable with you because you’ve taken the time to listen to what THEY want instead of trying to tell them what YOU like or want. You’ve aligned with them and it feels good to you and them. Now that you’ve gotten this far, you have permission to start selling. At this point, it’s your job to explain to the prospect precisely how your school can help them to achieve their goals. They just told you what their goals are. Now, as a consultant, it's up to you to take the information you gathered, and PROVE to them that your school can help them to get what they want. You need to be a “master” at doing this, if you’re not already. So practice, rehearse, script and role play until you nail it! Finally, I want to mention that solution-based selling should not be the only technique in your arsenal. You have to be an expert in all aspects of selling and you should be studying sales for the rest of your career. Your wallet will shrink in proportion to how rusty you let your selling skills become. Always remember that and I hope it scares you just a little. Also, if you do not have superior telephone skills, a professional-looking school, a culture that encourages new student enrollments, and a solid benefit-oriented introductory lesson, you will greatly diminish your chances of being successful with this method or any other. Most of the selling should be done before you ever get to the office. So the concept of solution-based selling is really just a foundation from which to work. But it’s a very important one. Don’t you agree?


Chapter Thirty-Five

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

36: 22 Simple Referral Systems that Have Been Proven to Work in the Martial Arts Industry


’m often amazed at how few school’s use referral systems when they typically cost nothing (or very little) and provide the best leads any school owner will ever find. But it’s not just martial arts schools that make this dreaded mistake.

I remember speaking to marketing legend Jay Abraham once. He told me that most of the countless thousands of businesses he’s consulted with during his career didn’t use them either. He went on to say that only a razor thin percentage of these businesses (large and small) were using just one or two referral systems. Even less were using three or more on a regular basis. But Jay’s advice, which I’ll pass along to you now, is to use no less than five. Yes, you read that correctly. USE NO LESS THAN FIVE REFERRAL SYSTEMS AT ALL TIMES! So what is a referral system? Well, it’s a method you use to get your current students and/or their parents, or anyone else, to provide you with the names of people they know, who may also be interested in becoming a student at your school.

“Referrals are the least expensive and highest quality source of new students that any school owner can get.” It’s as simple as that. But the referrals will not just fall out of the sky. YOU HAVE TO ASK FOR THEM. And you have to be creative with your approach. Even more, you have to work your referral systems on a constant and never-ending basis. Only then will you get strong results. Now, as you’ve read in this book already, word-of-mouth is the primary method by which schools are acquiring new students these days. Word-of-mouth is great, if the words are positive and being heard by someone who fits the description of an ideal student at your school. However, word-of-mouth is an informal process and you can’t control it.


On the other hand, referral systems are formal methods that you do control. And that helps make them so darn effective. See, most of the people that you ask for referrals are already involved in the martial arts (as students or parents at your school). So they’re already believers in what you do. They’ve already experienced the life changing benefits. They already respect you and appreciate what you’ve done for them or one of their loved ones. So, of course, they’d be happy to refer others who may also want to get involved.

Any Size School Will Benefit from Referral Programs Let me add that referral systems work great for schools of all sizes. Even the smallest schools can use referral systems successfully because most are no-cost or very low cost, which, of course, is a budgetary necessity when you have less students. The fact is that small schools simply don’t have the marketing dollars to advertise the expensive way— BUT — they can afford referral programs that are very easy to implement, very effective and very INEXPENSIVE. Referral systems are just as effective for the largest schools, since they have larger student bodies from which to ask for referrals. Even if a big school rolls out all kinds of marketing artillery (direct response letters, TV commercials, newspaper ads, billboards, radio ads, etc.) to blast its message across town, referral systems should still be the first “soldiers” in the front lines. Referrals are the least expensive and highest quality source of new students that any school owner can get.

Some Tips to Get Your Referral Systems Flowing Before starting, keep in mind that NOT ALL referral systems will work in all schools. So you’ll want to spend a little time TESTING and determining which referral systems will work best in your particular school and for your particular situation. Choosing the wrong referral system will give you poor results, which could make you hesitant to pursue referrals afterwards. Don’t become discouraged; if one system doesn’t seem to work in your school, for whatever reason, then try another. Eventually you’ll strike gold.


Chapter Thirty-Six

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

Also, the effectiveness or outcome of your referral system depends on the quality of the referrals you receive. You can ensure that you are receiving qualified referrals by asking students and parents for more information than just a name and phone number. Get all of each referral’s contact information whenever possible and find out all you can about them. The more you know about the referral before you contact him or her, the more likely you’ll enroll that person into at least your introductory program when you make contact. Another tip to consider: the success of your referral system is also dependent on the quality of your appointment-making skills, your introductory lesson and enrollment conference. Good, qualified referrals can be wasted if your front-end process is not up to snuff. In other words, don’t blame your referral system for being a failure, if the problem is with your telephone skills or enrollment process. Most importantly YOU HAVE TO BE PERSISTENT. Ali Alberigo of Long Island Ninjitsu says that 60% of his new students come from referrals. How is this possible?

“It’s no wonder he says he enrolled 375 students from referrals last year alone.” Well he and his staff place a huge emphasis on ASKING for them. They ask and ask and ask. In fact, they never stop asking until they are literally told not to ask anymore. And, if someone says they don’t want to provide a referral, they diplomatically ask “why?” and then continue trying. Also, they follow up on referral leads relentlessly. I do mean RELENTLESSLY. They are very aggressive with their referral program, while most instructors are very passive. Also, Mr. Alberigo and his staff members CONSTANTLY HELP their students to get referrals. In other words, they work with their students when it comes to obtaining referrals, they thoroughly educate their students about the school’s referral program and even provide students with literature that enables them to successfully acquire the referrals. Plus they provide a goal. Each student is encouraged to refer five people to the school during the year. Each time they refer someone who joins they get a gift. For example, for referral


Rob Colasanti

number one who joins, the student receives $50 that they can spend in the school’s proshop, plus a t-shirt. For referral number two who joins, the student receives another $50 they can spend in the proshop, plus a jacket. For referral three, they get $50, plus a scooter. Something similar for referral four. Then, when they reach their fifth enrolled referral, they get a year of training for FREE. So the big push is for students to refer enough other students to get a year of free training for themselves. Very clever, indeed. According to Mr. Alberigo, “The key with referral programs is to follow up, follow through and nurture your students to get them to their referral goal.” Since Mr. Alberigo puts this much effort into his referral system, it’s no wonder he says that he enrolled some 375 students from referrals last year alone.

Here’s 21 Other Referral Systems That Work! Make Sure You Implement No Less Than Five of Them

Referral systems are typically very flexible, so feel free to customize, modify and/or adjust any of the following to better fit your school and situation. [Note: All of the referral systems mentioned below cost little or nothing to implement. Some require that you print a card or guest pass to distribute to the referrer. And a few of these systems suggest offering pro shop merchandise or popular consumer products that will cost you real money. But even if you operate a small school, offering a special prize worth even hundreds of dollars is still an excellent trade-off for five or more qualified referrals that may eventually spend thousands of dollars at your school.] 1. Give each new student five VIP passes. Explain to them that when students give these out to their friends, the school has to spend less money on marketing and therefore it can keep its tuition prices low.

2. Tell your current students that the school will donate $100 to their favorite charities for each referral that enrolls.


The Martial Arts Business Bible

3. Give current students complimentary memberships into your upgrade programs for every five students they refer who enroll. For example, if the student is in your Trial program, upgrade them to your Black Belt Club for no additional tuition dollars.

4. As I’ve recommended in this book, you (or your Program Director) should contact newly enrolled students as part of your new student follow-up procedure. As you make those calls, ask your new students for referrals. Remember, new students are always your best source of referrals, not students who have trained for years at your school.

5. Ask your current students to call or email their friends and encourage them to try martial arts at your school. Current students receive a gift for each prospect that enrolls.

6. When a current student has decided to stop training, ask him if he knows someone who would like to take his place at your school. If the student isn’t leaving on bad terms (and most don’t), then they may be thrilled to refer someone to you.

7. Give each current student who provides a qualified referral that enrolls a written “Thank You” note and 25 lottery tickets.

8. Give your referrals a $100-gift certificate for a one-month beginner’s course at your school. If they enroll into one of your regular student memberships (Trial Program, BBC, Masters Club, Leadership Training), following the beginner’s course, then the referring student receives $100 in “karate bucks” or “dojo dollars” to spend in your pro shop.

9. Ask all newly enrolled students during their enrollment conferences for the names and phone numbers of “their best friends” and permission to call him or her. Tell the newly enrolled students that their friends will receive a free introductory lesson and uniform on behalf of the referring friend. I originally heard this idea from Tommy Lee of Step By Step Success Systems.


Rob Colasanti

10. Kyoshi Steve LaVallee, who I’ve had the honor of collaborating with in various ways during the past fifteen years, suggests that you ask each of your current students to invite a “witness” to belt promotions. This is a FANTASTIC way to get the friends of your students to see the incredible benefits and excitement of martial arts training. From there, you can work on enrolling them. 11. Select or create an item of perceived value, i.e. a unique martial arts gift such as a beautiful samurai sword, or elite private lesson package with the highest-ranking teacher at your school. Current students receive the gift in exchange for providing a certain number of qualified referrals, or referrals who ultimately enroll in your school.

12. Schedule regular office chats with your students and, while you discuss a number of subjects, ask them for referrals. As a Program Director for more than a decade this was a technique I constantly used to find new student leads. I’d simply hand them a pen and some referral cards and ask them to start writing. Get all that you can get.

13. Consider referrals contests if other referral systems are not working. In other words, offer a special prize, such as a PS3 or a Weber Gas Grill. This type of referral program may be most effective during the fourth quarter of the year when people are desperately trying to buy gifts for friends and family.

14. Larger schools are apt to have the marketing budgets to offer prizes, such as plane tickets, vacations, all-day family passes to popular entertainment venues and amusement parks and “Nights Out on the Town” for adults. I remember being at my good friend Fred Degerberg’s school in Chicago once and he was giving away a 7-day cruise for two, as part of his referral contest. These high-quality prizes are certainly worth it, if your referral program generates 60, 80, 100 or more qualified leads.

15. “My best referral idea comes from Rob Colasanti’s, Hitting Hard in the Martial Arts Business tele-seminar. I reduced current students’ tuitions by five (Eurodollars) for every new student they refer who enrolls; 10 for qualified referrals; etc. Students who refer six or more new students receive one year of tuition for free. I’ve used this referral program since December 2006 and generated six new students. Thanks for a great referral idea Rob!” Contributed by Oliver Drexler, Germany


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16. “All students at our school receive House of the Samurai business cards with their names and titles, such as “Black Belt Club Member,” imprinted on them. The card also includes “Two Free Weeks On Me.” If a perspective student presents a card and then enrolls in one of our regular programs, then the referring student receives a “Thank-You” card and $50. Referring students also earn the right to wear our school’s Esprit de Corps patch on their gis, with the title “Team Spirit” in Japanese Kanji. We are a traditional Dojo and only wear one other patch over our heart so the referral patch truly stands out. It is worn at the bottom of the gi jacket in place of the manufacturer’s label, which we remove. There are 6 different patches (1,2,3,5,7 and 10), each representing the number of referrals. Each patch has a different color combination: (1) Black kanji/white background; (2) Red kanji/ white background; (3) White kanji/black background; (5) Red kanji/black background; (7) Silver metallic kanji/black background; and (10) Gold metallic kanji/black background. These business cards have been quite popular with both our adults and juniors. We print them in-house, so they are low-cost and readily available.” Contributed by Richie Bernard, New Hampshire

17. “One of our best referral systems is to give prospects two-week passes during their enrollment or appointment conferences. We ask prospects to invite a friend to come to class. Our regular students like to distribute two-week passes, as well. We obtain the contact information of those prospects that use the two-week passes and follow up with phone calls, a written invitation and, of course, the two weeks of free classes.” Contributed by Dr. Chris Dewey, Mississippi

18. “We conducted a month-long referral contest that netted 15 new students. We gave the referring students one month’s tuition for each referral that enrolled. We also awarded the prize checks during class to bring attention to the contest.” Contributed by Keith Wilkes, Pennsylvania

19. “I recommend that you create a bully or stranger awareness program and ask your students to invite their friends to the free program (parents must attend). During the program, distribute a professional looking gift certificate for a free week of classes.” Contributed by Charlie Foxman, Missouri


Rob Colasanti

20. “We schedule a Buddy Day. Prior to the event, we distribute complimentary passes to our students, so they can bring a buddy or family member with them. We also conduct inhouse referral contests for money or prizes to generate referrals during a specific time frame.” Contributed by Rick Dye, Washington

21. “We use a two-coupon VIP referral system with all new students, upgrade students and students of the month.” Contributed by Dale “Apollo” Cook, Oklahoma


Now, let me close by giving you another valuable tip about asking for referrals. You never ask someone by saying, “Do you know of anyone who might be interested in taking martial arts here at our school?” The other person might simply say “no.” Then you’re out of luck, or you’ve got to rephrase the question or somehow circle back to it in a different way. Why bother? Instead, phrase the question differently. You want to say something like, “Who do you know that might be interested in taking martial arts lessons here at our school?” Then slide a referral card and a pen over to them while they’re thinking about it. The difference is subtle, but it can make all the difference in the world.


The Martial Arts Business Bible

37: Upgrade Programs 101 — What Are They?


hen I first began studying martial arts, the school I trained at did not offer upgrade programs. However, at one point, the owner became very serious about growing his school and so adding upgrade programs was one of the first big changes he made. Since I was the school’s Program Director at the time, I was one of the main people who sold these programs for many years. So I can tell you from firsthand experience that this one adjustment made a massive difference in the overall health and profitability of our school. It was HUGE! Today, I’m of the opinion that upgrade programs should be the “heart” of any modern martial arts school that’s aiming for peak profitability and retention. Whenever I speak to instructors who are earning the “big bucks” I find that it’s usually because they’ve implemented a wellthought-out upgrade system that works well for them. Yet, many of today’s instructors still do not know what upgrade programs are, or why one should implement an upgrade system. In this chapter, I want to provide you with a very broad and generalized framework for one of the more common, linear upgrade systems that many schools are using in our industry today. Consider the following model for upgrading students:

Intro Course and Trial Program

Many instructors get students involved in the school by offering a one-, two- or three-lesson introductory course. After the intro lessons, instructors typically offer students one option—a short, affordable, low-barrier-to-entry “Trial Program,” which is meant to be very non-threatening and convenient for students to join. Once a new student has enrolled into their school and begins to experience the life-changing benefits of martial arts, then the next step is to upgrade their membership to the next level. That is usually the Black Belt Club membership.

Upgrade 1: Black Belt Club (BBC)

The Black Belt Club concept is not new. In fact, school owners have been offering this program since 1970. Today, most schools feature a BBC as the initial upgrade from the Trial membership. And many schools present students with the option to join the BBC just a few months into their Trial program—some schools, after just a few weeks. During the early stages of the new student’s classes, there’s a heavy emphasis placed on getting the new student to understand that their goal in training is to become a black belt, not to just dabble in the training. So they are taught that BBC is a program for serious students who are ready to make the commitment to earn a black belt. Most BBC programs include a student-benefits package consisting of a special uniform, a unique BBC patch and BBC belt; various discounts; extra classes or additional training time during each class; and more advanced training. Of course, the school charges a higher tuition for this program. A 50% increase in tuition is not uncommon. 132

Upgrade 2: Masters Club

The next upgrade in the linear model is Masters Club. This membership tends to parallel the BBC membership quite closely and can be offered to BBC students several months into their BBC training. Or, this upgrade can be offered to Trial students rather than BBC. It depends on how gung-ho they are. If the student wants to think it over then you can downsell from Masters Club to BBC and offer them Masters Club membership again in the future. Anyhow, Masters Club typically offers training beyond the rank of Black Belt. It, too, usually includes a unique student-benefits package and curriculum, as determined by the school. In addition, Masters Club students often have the opportunity to learn unique material, such as MMA, XMA, weapons training, a totally different art, etc. The tuition for this upgrade program can be more expensive than the BBC, or sometimes just the duration of the membership increases. For example, the BBC might be a 36 month course at $165, but Masters Club might be a 60 month course for $165. In other cases, the duration of each of these two upgrade programs is the same, but the tuition dollars are higher for Masters Club. It just depends on how you want to structure it.

Upgrade 3: Leadership Training

Next, you can upgrade your BBC or Masters Club students to Leadership Training and charge even more tuition dollars. It’s interesting that leadership training was once provided for free at most schools, such as the school where I trained. That’s no longer the case. In fact, leadership-training programs have quickly become some of the highest-priced upgrade programs in the industry. Instructors charge a hefty premium for leadership training, which is designed to transform students into leaders; a tremendous “hot button” for parents. The program requires a quality leadership class and much hands-on training and nurturing, as well as plenty of actual teaching opportunities for each leadership student. (See Leadership Team chapters in this book.)

Upgrade 4: Certified Instructor Training

The final upgrade program is typically Certified Instructor Training and is not too common. These courses can be complex and groom students to become professional instructors, Program Directors, partners, licensees or branch operators. It’s not uncommon for these types of upgrade programs to cost in the $10,000 range or more. Because our industry has evolved so much in recent years, becoming a professional martial artist has never been a more viable career opportunity for many students. So some schools are selling this opportunity as a membership upgrade. In conclusion, I encourage you to implement a logical, integrity-based upgrade system that is in harmony with your school’s culture and your goals. In my opinion, upgrade programs can be very healthy for a school’s retention and income, though they should never guarantee a Black Belt. They can also be extremely beneficial for your students, and add dramatically to the excitement of their total martial arts experience. That’s a true win-win! 133

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

38: Secrets to Increasing Retention and Earning Big Bucks with Upgrade Programs


t is very likely that if you’ve been training in the martial arts for at least a few decades, then the school where you trained didn’t offer upgrade programs. That’s because, during the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and even the 90’s, upgrade programs just didn’t exist in the majority of schools; however, upgrade programs are quickly becoming a major trend and positive advancement in today’s martial arts schools. Upgrade programs can be key ingredients for almost any modern martial arts school that’s aiming for peak profitability and retention. Whenever I speak to instructors who are earning the “big bucks,” I find that it’s usually because they’ve implemented a series of upgrade programs and effective systems for selling and delivering them. One thing I really like about upgrade programs is the fact that they give you the opportunity to dramatically increase your “average student value.” For example, you may be charging $159 per month for your trial program tuition. But you can charge $257 per month for your Masters Club upgrade program. Or, you can charge $359 per month for Leadership Training. When you make this strategy work, you can have a school that teaches less students and has less overhead, but is much more profitable and manageable. Why more manageable? Because you don’t need as many students (or staff members) to reach your financial goals when your tuition reaches these levels. [Note: The above referenced tuition amounts vary significantly based upon geography, current economic conditions and other factors.] There are many different ways to structure upgrade programs and the related systems that support them. Gather ten instructors in a room, and you’ll probably hear ten different approaches to running them. Generally speaking, there are two main approaches when it comes to overall structure. First, we have the linear model. Here, you would enroll a student into a six or twelve month trial program. Then, at some point in the student’s training, you would try to upgrade them into another program, such as a Black Belt Club. Then, after a period of time, you’d try to upgrade them into the next program. Maybe it’s leadership training. Then, the next upgrade program that’s in line after that. Now, this model works fine for some. However, I don’t think it’s the best way to go for two main reasons. 1. Every time you go back to the student to ask for more money you take a withdrawal from their emotional bank account. Students may perceive this as nickel and diming. You better be making a whole bunch of “deposits” into their emotional bank account just to balance things out, if you’re going to always be asking them for more and more money. 2. It creates extra work for you. Instead of making one or two sales presentations, you end up making as many as you have upgrade programs. Plus, you have to do this with each student. I think it’s better to keep the selling to a minimum.


Instead, I prefer a non-linear model. Here, you would enroll the student into a six or twelve month trial program. Then, after approximately two months of training, you would attempt to upgrade the student into the highest-level upgrade program you offer. Let’s say it’s leadership training, though it certainly doesn’t have to be. Now, if the student absolutely refuses to upgrade into the leadership training program, then your strategy would be to downsell them into another upgrade program, such as Masters Club. I feel that it’s best to get the money stuff out of the way all at once and as close to the beginning of a student’s training as possible. Plus, early on, they’re at the peak of their enthusiasm. Many instructors feel that doing it this way just makes the whole process more effective and more efficient. One very important point I need to make here. If you’re going to use this non-linear method, then you want to make sure that your upgrade programs are for the same length of time, i.e. all 36 months, 48 months or 72 months. The reason is because you want to take the “time” objection off the table. In other words, if both the leadership training term and the Masters Club term are the same, then the only thing the student needs to justify is the cost of tuition. For example, the Masters Club investment is $257 per month for 36 months and he receives X. Or, the Leadership Training investment is $357 per month for 36 months and he receives Y. This makes matters less complicated from a selling perspective. Now, I’ve got to tell you. I used to speak to a ton of school owners. In fact, I was constantly reviewing their school’s numbers, especially those schools who were in my MasterMind groups. Truth be told, I see some serious problems in the area of upgrades.

Here are a few BIG MISTAKES you definitely don’t want to be making: 1. Teaching upgrade programs for free. Believe it or not, this is much more common than you may think. 2. Only increasing your upgrade program tuition by twenty or thirty bucks, per upgrade. I recommend a forty to fifty percent bump for each upgrade. 3. Structuring your upgrade programs so they actually encourage students NOT to join them. A great example of this is offering your Leadership Training class on a Saturday morning, or at a time when the student wouldn’t ordinarily be at the school. This often results in a deal breaker, because it forces mom or dad to make another trip to the school. This can be very inconvenient for many parents. It’s best to incorporate all of the upgrade program material into the classes that the student is already attending, so extra travel doesn’t result in an objection that you can’t overcome.


Chapter Thirty-Eight

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

4. Giving the student a choice to reenroll in their six or twelve month trial program and continue learning new material and progressing towards black belt, if they decide NOT to upgrade. Now in many schools, they use a rotating curriculum. So, if the student doesn’t upgrade they end up staying in the first level of the program. This means that they only learn new material up to a certain rank, such as green belt. Then, the material rotates back to the beginning when they reach the end of that level. In essence, they never learn anything new, past a certain point, because they do not progress into the next level of belt curriculum. They just end up stuck in the first level, learning the same curriculum over and over again. You have to be comfortable with this approach before you can implement it at your school, but it sure does provide students with a good incentive to upgrade. 5. Making the term of one upgrade program 36 months and the other 48 months, when offering them simultaneously. Again, the student has to make a decision on time commitment and financial commitment. This often results in them choosing the program that demands less of a time commitment and less of a tuition investment. Another area I want to discuss with you has to do with culture. This is an area where most schools really drop the ball. The culture in their school is not one that encourages upgrades. One of the secrets to making upgrades work and getting approximately 75% of your students into these programs has to do with culture. You want to begin prepping the student for their future upgrade from the minute they walk through the door. You want them to be indoctrinated into the school’s philosophy before they even take their intro course. You want your new students to realize that your school is about whatever your upgrade programs are. You DO NOT want your students to think that your school is just about your six or twelve month trial program. They have to understand fully that the trial program is just what it sounds like. A trial. Each new student must be made to understand that they do not presently qualify for your upgrade programs, but that you and your staff will be evaluating them over the next few months to determine if they’d be a good fit. Let each new student know that you’ll be meeting with him or her to discuss this when you feel the time is right. Now, when you do it this way, a few things occur: a. The student understands that the trial program he enrolled in is not the be-all-end-all program. b. The student is wondering when and if he’ll qualify for the program he really should be enrolled in. c. The student is aware that at some point the instructor will be meeting with him to discuss the upgrade opportunity.


Rob Colasanti

d. It comes as no surprise to the student when you ask to meet with them to discuss the upgrade. e. The student will be very glad when you finally present them with the opportunity to get involved with the school’s upgrade program. Yet another key point has to do with visuals. If your upgrade students wear a different patch, uniform or belt, then you want to make sure that the new students see that from the moment they enter the school. Here’s an example: let’s say that upgraded students wear red uniforms and trial students wear white uniforms. You want your trial students to notice right off the bat that they’re not wearing red uniforms. In a school that does upgrades properly, the white uniforms will be the minority and everyone notices this. Get the idea? Also, along these lines, you want your upgrade students to have access to extra material. Often, this material is really cool, different and exciting. Unfortunately, the trial students won’t be able to learn it. They usually bow out during the last fifteen minutes of class when the upgraded students practice this extra material. Another critical area to discuss has to do with educating your students as to the benefits of your upgrade programs and how upgrading will help them progress to black belt and beyond. This education needs to begin before new students even take their intro lessons. But once a student enrolls in your trial program you need to constantly “drip” education and information to them that sets the stage for the future upgrade conference. Again, that should occur approximately two months after the initial enrollment. Often, the education process involves a combination of emails, constant “selling from the floor,” letters in the mail, “upgrade prep” office chats, printed literature and DVDs, CDs and webinars that they must review. In other words, don’t think it’s sufficient to just suddenly offer upgrade programs and raise your tuition rates. Anyone can do that and it’s only about ten percent of the battle. Making upgrade programs work effectively involves getting everyone in the school (staff and students) on the same page. It involves proper selling and marketing. Plus, it involves setting up the correct culture in your school, so that upgrade programs are considered the norm and not the exception. In conclusion, I encourage you to implement a logical, integrity-based upgrade system that is in harmony with your school’s philosophy and your goals. In my opinion, upgrade programs can be very healthy for a school’s retention and income, though they should never guarantee a black belt or higher degrees of black belt. They can also be extremely beneficial for your students and add dramatically to the excitement of their total martial arts experience. That’s a true win-win!


The Martial Arts Business Bible

Here I am performing on our school’s USA Karate Television series, which aired for more than a decade in the Tampa Bay area.

That’s me destroying five boards with a fighting jump turn kick on my second-degree Black Belt exam.


Rob Colasanti

For my third-degree Black Belt exam and promotion, I shattered some baseball bats with my shin. What was I thinking?

A popular image that’s been seen around the world, I’m blitzing forward against my instructor, Mr. John Graden.

As a professional martial artist, my specialty was kickboxing.


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The Martial Arts Business Bible

My third degree exam had two ambulance calls. One of which took place during this grueling three mile run. Here I am crossing the finish line with a black eye and a severely swollen foot from side kicking another fighter in the elbow right before the run. Ouch! We really earned our belts.

In the early days I used to coordinate the stuffing of NAPMA’s monthly membership kits. Then, we’d deliver them to the post office in our own cars.

Jean Claude Van Damme greets me as we begin our interview in his Southern California home.


Rob Colasanti

I always like to encourage young students to stick with their martial arts training, as I’m doing here at the 2006 Martial Arts SuperShow in Las Vegas, Nevada.

During my career at NAPMA, I had the honor of interacting with superstar personalities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Bernard Kerik, Pat Morita and a host of others.

As NAPMA’s Public Relations spokesperson for many years, I conducted interviews on the martial arts with media sources ranging from Time magazine to video documentaries.


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The Martial Arts Business Bible

Rob Colasanti seen here with Dan Kennedy - one of the most sought after marketing and business building geniuses in the world today.

Rob Colasanti with dear friend, Kathy “The Punisher� Long - 5-Time World Female Kickboxing Champion.

Rob Colasanti preparing to interview the legendary Joe Lewis (a.k.a. The Greatest Fighter in the History of Karate) for Echo of Greatness, a comprehensive audio interview and magazine cover story, which was sent to school owners around the world. (Photo by Joanne Allen)


Rob Colasanti

Rob Colasanti exchanging ideas with legendary fighter, actor, trainer to the stars and stuntman, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Los Angeles, CA.

Rob Colasanti had the rare opportunity to meet legendary Kiss guitarist and entrepreneur extraordinaire, Gene “The God of Rock ‘n Roll” Simmons, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Rob Colasanti interviewing Jackie Chan, in his trailer, on the set of Rush Hour III.


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The Martial Arts Business Bible

Rob Colasanti with marketing legend and founder of The Company Corporation, Ted Nicholas.

Rob Colasanti with “The Real Deal” Evander Holyfield.

Rob Colasanti with longtime friend, Bill “Superfoot” Wallace.


Rob Colasanti

Rob Colasanti with his former business partner, MMA superstar, Frank “The Legend� Shamrock.


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The Martial Arts Business Bible

Rob Colasanti with the legendary Chuck Norris.

Rob Colasanti with 10th degree Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, inventor of martial arts safety equipment and teacher of Bruce Lee.

Rob Colasanti with popular author, speaker and success coach, Lee Milteer, of Millionaire Smarts.


Rob Colasanti

Rob Colasanti was featured on the cover of Dojo Digest Magazine in 2010.


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The Martial Arts Business Bible

Rob Colasanti enjoying a casual lunch with Zig Ziglar, at Born to Win, in Dallas, TX.

Rob Colasanti seen here with the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Rob Colasanti

Rob Colasanti with the lovely and elegant Linda Lee Cadwell; Bruce Lee’s only wife.

Rob Colasanti is a popular speaker on the subject of martial arts school operations, business success principles and the martial arts industry.


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Rob Colasanti


The Martial Arts Business Bible

39:  How to Create a Shared Vision with Your Staff


find that some instructors have difficulty growing their schools because they lack a crystalclear vision of what they want to accomplish as business owners.

They have no definite purpose, no “main thing,” no priority or no overarching objective. They have no “master plan” for the future. No goals. No target. So they are completely reactive when it comes to dealing with the daily operations of their schools. Basically, they just show up and teach. Naturally, instructors who fit this bill have staff members who are equally directionless. It’s like the blind leading the blind. Clearly, this is not the way to run a school. In fact, make sure you do the exact opposite if your plan is to grow. You need to get everyone on the same page. First, take the time to create a vision for yourself and your school. You want to know precisely how many students you would like to be teaching; how much income you want to be earning; what kind of lifestyle you want to be leading; approximately when your vision will become a reality based upon your projections; what your dream school will look like; what would make you happy; etc. It’s your business and your career, so you should know these things. Don’t go without them and don’t leave them to chance. Next, you need to make sure that your staff members also share your vision. Otherwise, you’ll be in a constant tug-of-war with your own employees, which makes for a miserable situation. See, your school is going to grow through effective teamwork. So if everyone on your staff is NOT rowing the boat in the same direction (toward the vision), then you won’t get very far at all. Back-biting, weak team spirit, half-hearted performance, poor results and other daily struggles will make it next to impossible for you to achieve your vision. You must get your team to “buy into your vision” and believe in it, almost as passionately as you do. When you accomplish this, you’ll have a “shared vision” with your staff. This will speed up progress and help ensure the longterm success of your school. So how do you get everyone marching to the beat of the same drum? First, I recommend that YOU do some soul-searching and create the framework for your school’s vision. As I said earlier, the school is your business, so you need to be the one to do this. Not someone else. Then, involve the individual staff members as much as possible, so they can add a little input. By letting your staff become part of the “vision” process, they will feel included. They will feel important. They will feel a sense of ownership in the vision. This is what you want. Finally, when everyone agrees with the vision you’ve created “together,” then it will no longer be of significance to you ONLY. It will be of significance to everyone on your staff, and they


will begin fighting to achieve it. They will become passionate about it, emotional about it, protective of it. They will work hard to make it happen. They will support it as if it was their own. This is also something you want, as opposed to the opposite. Second, clarify each staff member’s responsibilities, goals and incentives, as they relate to achieving the vision. Everyone must fully understand their specific role and each staff member should help determine what that role is. In other words, let them help create their own job descriptions, performance standards and penalties for missing the mark. Of course, it’s all gotta make sense and you’ll always have the final word. But the idea is to get them involved. Then your job is to hold them accountable to what is agreed upon. Third, let’s discuss what to do when a staff member refuses to “share” in the school’s vision. Occasionally this does happen when a school owner gets serious about transforming his school from a “dungeon dojo” into a modern, professional school. A staff member (usually a black belt who’s been around forever) accuses the owner of selling-out, watering down the system, becoming a belt factory or just being out for the money. Frankly, if you just can’t get that employee to see the light despite your efforts, the best solution is usually to tell them to pack-up and move-on. Now I know full-well that it can be difficult to let certain staff members go, but sometimes it’s the best decision for everyone involved, and a necessary step if you want to turn your vision into a reality. Never let any employee hold you back (or hold you hostage in your own school), no matter how important you think that employee may be to your school, or how much they are liked by your students. You’ll regret it later on down the road. Keep in mind that if you are too weak to get rid of difficult employees, then they may become like a cancer that makes you and others in your school chronically sick. All sorts of problems might manifest, i.e. ongoing personality conflicts, hard feelings, temper tantrums, regular arguments, gossiping, undermining, getting students to feel sorry for them and dislike you, running off other staff members, sabotage, bad-mouthing behind your back, etc. NO THANK YOU! In closing, I can tell you from experience that creating a shared vision, rather than a dictatorship with your staff, works well when managed properly. When I used this approach in the past, my staff was very happy and productive. There was so much clarity of purpose, so much harmony and so much complimentary teamwork that you could actually feel it when you walked into the building. My staff and I had a shared vision, and we were all moving toward it like an army of one. I DID NOT have to crack the whip on them to get things done. They did what they were supposed to do, when they were supposed to do it, on their own. I encourage you to try this approach at your school. 153

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

40: KRAs­ — The First Step to Getting BIG RESULTS at Your Martial Arts School


hether you operate a small school or a large school, it’s extremely important to stay focused on your Key Result Areas (KRAs).

These are the twenty-percent of the activities that will give you eighty-percent of your results. They are the most important tasks you can work on. They are the high return activities that will lead you to progress and success. Let’s take a look at six KRAs that make sense for you as a school owner.

KRA 1: Team Building

A major limiting factor for most school owners is lack of staff. To combat this, I suggest you create a system for team building. Leadership Team is one of the best methods I’ve ever seen for this and we’ll cover the basics later on in this book. But for now, let me just say that your Leadership Team will be your bench strength, and your foundation for future staff. So if you want to grow, especially as a multi-school operator, then you must become very good at team building and managing others.

KRA 2: New Student Enrollments and Membership Upgrades

Few things can be more important to the health of your school than enrolling and upgrading new students on a constant basis. Being an expert at solution-based selling is a key factor, so study this subject hard. In solution-based selling, you: 1. Ask the right questions. 2. Listen carefully without interruption. 3. Persuasively communicate the benefits of your school. Solution-based selling is an example of a soft sell. It works perfectly in quality schools where most of the selling is done before the student ever gets to the office. Read the chapter on this very important subject right here in “The Bible.”

KRA 3: Retention

One of the keys to establishing a rock-solid school is having high retention. You’ve got to figure out as many ways as possible to plug the holes in the bottom of your bucket. However, the first step towards improving your retention is to know how to calculate it. To do this, you take the amount of students you begin the fiscal period with. Add the amount of new students you enrolled during the fiscal period. Then, divide this number into the number of active students your school actually ended the fiscal period with. Most schools operate at a fifty-percent retention rate. Eighty-percent is considered very good. Some of the top schools in the US maintain a 97% retention rate. What is yours?


KRA 4: Quality

The most successful owners I network with are always focused on enhancing the quality of their schools. They’re constantly striving to improve their school’s look, curriculum, phone skills, enrollment presentation, customer service, staff training, marketing skills, testing procedure, referral programs, etc. I recommend you do the same. Also, it’s extremely enlightening to visit other schools. Doing so will give you a barometer by which you can gauge the quality of your own school.

KRA 5: Profitability

As the owner of a martial arts school, you always need to keep your eye on profitability. Remember, every dollar you trim off your expenses is a dollar that goes towards your profits. In fact, many owners have dramatically increased profits by substantially increasing their tuition, adding upgrade programs for a premium and trimming their expenses wherever possible. The trend today has shifted to having a smaller school (2,500 - 3,500 sq.ft.) with less students who each pay more for their lessons, less staff members, less overhead, less stress and much higher profits. Sound good to you?

KRA 6: Marketing and Lead Gen

The effectiveness of your marketing will impact the goals you’ve set for your school’s growth perhaps more than anything else. Regardless of the size of your budget, the best advice I can give you when it comes to marketing is to work on it constantly so that you get a steady stream of new student leads from a variety of different sources. As you learned, if you read or listened to all of the work I did with marketing genius Jay Abraham, you want to apply the “Parthenon Principle” to your marketing strategy. Simply stated, this means that you want to be collecting leads from as many sources as possible at all times, rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket. Marketing is a KRA that every modern martial arts professional who wants to grow must learn to master. ------------------------------------------------------------------------So there you have it...six basic Key Result Areas that you should be focused on to grow your school. Now keep in mind that your list of KRAs can change over time along with you and your school. You may need to add, subtract, or modify them. Also, each individual KRA can increase or decrease in terms of priority, depending upon your school’s needs at any given time. Example: Your main KRA might be generating enrollments now, but it in the future it may shift to retention. Attack them in terms of priority, but attack ‘em all every day! The important thing is that both you and your staff members know exactly what your KRAs are, and that you spend the majority of your time working on them, rather than working on low return activities that do not move you closer to your goals. Grasping this is the first step towards getting the results you’re looking for with your school. 155

Chapter Forty

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

41: How to Increase Results and Decrease Stress with a Quality Program Director


t’s important to realize that there are two separate halves to operating a commercial martial arts school. There is a teaching half, and a business half.

Take my advice, you must pay equal attention to both halves if you want your school to grow and prosper. In struggling schools, I typically see one person trying to keep up with everything. They’re teaching the classes, answering the phones, enrolling the new students, selling the gear, doing the intros, conducting stripe exams, and so on… geeeez! In the end, all areas of the school suffer because one person can only do so much. On the other hand, the most successful schools I network with have small and dedicated teams operating their businesses. They place a specialist in each key area of the school and make that person responsible for its results, rather than trying to wear all of the hats themselves.

See if this logic makes sense to you: A Chief Instructor’s job is to run the teaching half of the school. Sometimes this person is the owner and sometimes it’s a qualified individual whom the owner places in this position. Either way, this individual is usually responsible for teaching the classes, developing the curriculum, overseeing stripe exams, managing the Leadership Team (or its Captain), motivating the students, producing great Black Belts, and more. Being the Chief Instructor is a big responsibility that will ultimately determine the school’s level of retention - strong or weak. And as you know from reading this book, having good retention is absolutely critical. Let’s face it - it doesn’t matter how many students you enroll, if you can’t keep the ones you have. Get ten, lose ten and you’re like a hampster on a wheel. So running the teaching half of the school PROPERLY is a full time responsibility, and the Chief Instructor should dedicate himself to it accordingly. However, many Chief Instructors I consult with make teaching a part time job. That’s because they’re always bogged down with a zillion other administrative-type duties that pull their focus away from the training floor. So they end up working harder and harder for less results. Often, they become burnt-out and frustrated. What instructors in this situation could really use is a really good Program Director with whom to share the workload. Putting a competent Program Director in charge of the business half of a school can quickly decrease stress and increase results. While the Chief Instructor is on the training floor, devoting one-hundred percent effort to teaching great classes, the Program Director can be in the office focusing on administrative duties. [Note: Sometimes the Program Director is the owner of the school because he is best at sales, marketing and developing positive relations with new students.] 156

In fact, the Program Director will orchestrate the entire process of getting new students for the school. This includes generating fresh leads, handling information calls, teaching intros, conducting enrollment conferences, following-up, renewing memberships, upgrading students’ memberships and more. Just as the teaching half of the school benefits from one full-time individual who is focused on managing it, so too does the business half. So why don’t more struggling schools have Program Directors? Most claim that they can’t seem to find the right person…year after year, after year. Yet, other schools have a waiting list for this position. Could it be that certain instructors overcomplicate the search? Perhaps they don’t truly understand what constitutes a good Program Director? In my experience, finding the right Program Director may not be as difficult as you think.

Here Are Some Tips to Get You Going Above all, I suggest scouting for someone who is exceptionally strong in two key areas. First, they should be a really good people-person with a great attitude and a natural at building relationships with new students and parents. You want your Program Director to be charismatic, clean-cut, well-spoken, personable, detail-oriented and highly professional. Since it is the Program Director who will make the first impression on all new students entering your school, he/she must be a master of people skills…not necessarily of martial arts skills. That being the case, even an under-ranking student or Leadership Team member could qualify if they receive proper training and have the correct set of attributes. Second, your Program Director should be an excellent salesperson. This is key! Think about it. They’re selling when they teach introductory lessons, when they conduct enrollment conferences, when they answer information calls, when they present renewal agreements and upgrade programs, etc. A powerful sidekick won’t help them much in these areas. But strong solution-based sales skills definitely will. They are selling CONSTANTLY. So the point is that there are two separate halves to a commercial martial arts school and both must be operating smoothly, efficiently and effectively at all times to achieve maximum results. Indeed, it’s a mistake to try to run both halves with just one over-worked person. In my experience, this leads to a sloppy situation, poor results, and lots of unwanted stress. There’s simply too much to do, and not enough of any one person to go around. The solution, for many instructors, has been to find the right Program Director. This one employee can make all the difference in the world when it comes to growing a school. 157

Chapter Forty-One

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

42: Your Program Director’s “Holy Trinity”


s you learned in the previous chapter, a key staff member for virtually any martial arts school is the Program Director.

As a young black belt working at John Graden’s USA Karate in St. Petersburg, Florida, this was a role that I excelled at for many years. Based upon that experience, I can sum up the major focus of my job by mentioning just three critical activities that I did daily —prospecting, presenting, and following-up. Let’s take a closer look at each of these three Key Result Areas (KRAs) one at a time.

1. Prospecting

As a Program Director, I always asked myself the question: “Where is my next student going to come from?” I quickly learned that the answer was through prospecting, which is the process of lead generation. This was the activity that ultimately led me to the results I was looking for— new students for our school. To that end, I spent at least 50% of my time prospecting. Prospecting can occur in various ways. No-cost/low-cost methods include flyers, door hangers, lead boxes, referral programs, buddy days, demonstrations, telemarketing, and so on. We learned this earlier in this book. Then, of course, there are the more expensive methods, which include newspaper ads, direct response mailings, large yellow page ads, television commercials, radio ads, etc. Actually, I suggest you use a combination of the two methods to get your phone ringing and your door swinging, as your budget allows.

Rob Colasanti began his career as a Program Director for both USA Karate in St. Petersubrg, Florida and NAPMA.


The key, however, is to be very active with your prospecting. Just making an occasional outbound telemarketing call or hosting a monthly event is rarely enough to pack your school with students. You’ve got to hit the market with a com-

bination attack, at all times. That will create synergy with your prospecting efforts, and you’ll begin to attract new student inquiries from many different sources instead of just a few. (More on this later.)

2. Presenting

Presenting was my favorite part of the “trinity.” It’s the direct result of prospecting. Presenting occurs when you take prospective students on a tour of the school, conduct an introductory lesson, or host an enrollment, renewal, or upgrade conference. These are the pay dirt activities. So the more time your Program Director spends presenting...the better. Typically, this activity accounted for about 15% of my time. We have already discussed the critical importance of solution-based selling. As I mentioned, I’ve found that this process is the very best way to present students with the opportunity to join your martial arts school. That’s why I strongly encourage you and your Program Director to master the art of solution-based selling. It will make presenting your favorite part of the “trinity,” too.

3. Following-up

It’s a known fact that a sales professional can increase his or her percentage for closing a sale by up to 1,000% simply by following-up. For a Program Director, no truer words have ever been spoken. When I really focused on prospecting, leads began pouring in from all different directions. The last thing I wanted was for those valuable leads to go to waste. To put this in perspective, just think of how much each lead costs your school to acquire. For example, if you spend a thousand dollars on advertising and promoting during a particular month, and you receive ten leads, then each lead cost you one hundred dollars. Not following up on one of these leads is like burning a hundred-dollar bill. Following-up is mandatory, and you’ve got to pounce on your leads while they’re hot. In fact, I suggest you follow-up on all leads within twenty-four hours. If you don’t, then your leads will gradually go from hot, to warm, to cool, to cold. Then, they’ll be gone for good. Also, the more you prospect and present, the more following-up will be required. That’s because prospective students often want to “think it over” or “talk to their other half” before joining. Don’t let these prospects fade into the sunset. Following-up with prospects in this category is a must. Track them using a software, hardcopy card system or whatever. Be persistent, but professional, and stay on ‘em until you get a “yes” or “no” answer. As a Program Director I wore many hats. My list of duties ranged from emptying the trash to teaching the classes. However, I never lost sight of the fact that my Key Result Areas were prospecting, presenting, and following-up. This was my “holy trinity.” Now, make it yours. 159

Chapter Forty-Two

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

43: How Your Program Director Should Nurture Each New Lead Into a Long-Term Student


want to touch upon the sequence of events that will allow your Program Director to transform an ordinary lead into a new student, and beyond. I call this sequence The Life Cycle of a New Student Lead.

If you train your Program Director to become an autonomous expert at the following steps, you’ll be able to substantially increase your student count, and focus much more on the teaching half of your school. That’s probably what you enjoy most about running your school anyhow…right? Here’s what your Program Director should be doing:

1. Sets the Appointment

Let’s say the new lead’s life cycle officially begins when a prospect calls your school. A competent Program Director will eagerly field that call before the third ring, ask all the right questions, build rapport, and quickly set an appointment to visit the school. They will NOT engage in long conversations about unimportant details, or let the caller take control of the call. A Program Director with excellent phone skills will be on and off the phone with an appointment set in just a few minutes flat.

2. Schedules the Intros

When the prospect arrives, (ensured by the Program Director’s courteous confirmation calls, emails and postcards that remind the prospect of their appointment), they will fill out a guest information card, and receive a brief tour of the school. Then, it’s off to the office where the Program Director will masterfully analyze the prospect’s needs and wants, review the benefits of training, and explain how your school will help them achieve their goals. If all goes well, the Program Director will successfully schedule the prospect to take an introductory course.

3. Teaches the Intros

Next, your Program Director confirms the intro lesson appointments by phone and email, and teaches the lessons. Here your Program Director’s goal is to motivate much more than educate, push emotional hot buttons, build rapport, and show the student (and/or their parents) that martial arts is a safe, fun, highly beneficial activity that they are fully capable of doing. Two, fifteen to twenty minute, benefit-oriented intros work well.

4. Conducts the Enrollment Conference

Once the intro lessons are complete, your Program Director should rosin up his bow, and orchestrate the enrollment conference. This is a critical activity for him or her to become extremely good at doing. All prior activities with the prospect were conducted so they could get to this important point in the process. If your Program Director did a great job during the intro course, and if the school is razor sharp in all areas, then about 80% of the selling will have already been accomplished before the intro student ever enters the office. Still, your


Program Director should be a master at selling because sales skills are often needed to help the prospect make the best decision. Tip: Have your Program Director use a professionally created “Enrollment Binder,” that walks prospects through the enrollment (or renewal) conference step by step. This will help make your sales conferences more organized and consistent. Plus, it will help engage the prospect, find “hot buttons,” and ensure that no important points are missed.

5. Helps the New Student Integrate

Handwritten notes, new student calls, emails, and office chats are effective in helping the new student feel comfortable with their decision to join your school and become a black belt someday. Even more, I suggest that your Program Director assists in the White Belt classes. Why? Because new students can be like “fragile eggs,” and the last thing your Program Director wants to do is initiate a relationship with a brand new student, shift them into their White Belt class, and then forget about them. No way. Instead, the Program Director should be out there on the training floor (for at least a few minutes during each class) to help the new student integrate into your school during their first couple months of their training.

6. Seeks Referrals

During his/her new student phone calls or office chats, your Program Director should be asking for referrals. They should properly script their request and ask for as many as they can get. Referrals are the least expensive and highest quality leads your school will ever receive. So be sure to study the chapter in this book called 22 Simple Referral Systems that Have Been Proven to Work in the Martial Arts Industry.

7. Conducts the Renewal or Upgrade Conference

With the Program Director’s nurturing and support of the school’s Chief Instructor the new student will make a smooth transition into the school. Going forward, your Program Director wants to make sure that he (and the rest of your staff) provides the highest levels of customer service possible. Why? Because soon it will be renewal or upgrade time. Generally, the new student is ready two to four months after the initial enrollment. And a smart Program Director knows that if the customer service at his/her school is legendary, it will make this task much easier and his income will most likely rise accordingly. By taking each student from a lead to an upgraded student on a longterm training program, a Program Director absorbs much of the school’s administrative workload. This allows the Chief Instructor to stay focused on teaching great classes and building student retention. When it comes to growing a school, it’s all about creating and keeping students. As The Life Cycle of a Lead illustrates, Program Directors are key to this process.


Chapter Forty-Three

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

44:  5 Ways to Compensate a Program Director


ooking for some fresh ideas on how to compensate a Program Director?

The first step is to find out how much your prospective Program Director needs to earn. A dad with three kids and a wife has much different needs than a twenty-one year old bachelor. The former probably has a mortgage, a car payment or two, much higher insurance expenses, much bigger living expenses, etc. This must be taken into consideration. Second, find out how much they would like to earn. In other words, what are their financial goals? It might be a lot, it might be a little. Don’t assume one way or the other. Knowing these two important facts will help you determine if you can afford to hire the individual, and how to best structure their compensation plan so it’s a win-win. Here are five popular methods of compensation for you to consider:

1. The Volunteer Method

If you’re just getting started with your school, or simply can not afford to hire a salaried Program Director, then I suggest you look for a volunteer. A Leadership Team member, relative, student, or parent of one of your students could work. The idea is to have them help out on a short-term, part-time basis, while you develop enough cash flow to hire a dedicated employee to fill this critically important position. But be sure you train them well and supervise them properly, or you could have a mess on your hands.

2. The Commission Only Method

A risk-free and affordable way to begin compensating a part-time Program Director is by paying them a commission for each enrollment they generate. In this case, you only end up paying for results, and you’re actually paying for these results with a portion of the revenue the individual creates for the school. Now the commission amount varies and there is no set rule. Some schools pay $50 per enrollment. Some pay $100. Some pay the entire initial investment to the Program Director, which is usually $99, $149, $199, etc. Others stagger the payments in case the new student suddenly drops out, i.e. the Program Director receives half of their bonus this month and the other half next month if the students are still training and paying.

3. The Base Salary with Bonus Method

This method works well for a truly dedicated part-time or full-time Program Director. Provide them with an hourly wage that is fair based upon their talents, devotion, needs, and the average income in your area. This will comprise their base salary. Then, give them a bonus for each new student they enroll. Again, that amount varies from school to school. But by doing some simple math you can project what their income will be if they do a good job and hit the reasonable goals you’ve created for them.


4. The Enrollment Amount, Minus Base Salary Method

This method works well for compensating a full-time Program Director in an established school. Start by guaranteeing the employee a monthly base salary. Whatever the amount is, it should be enough to at least cover their monthly expenses. So, even if they or the school has an off month, your Program Director will never earn less than their base. However, you want to make it clear that in order to keep their job, they need to at least enroll enough students during a month to pay for their base salary. That’s the benchmark for continued employment, though you can be as strict or lenient with this policy as you want. At month’s end, multiply each of their new enrollments by a predetermined dollar amount. Then, subtract their base salary from their enrollment dollar amount to determine their bonus. Here’s an example: Let’s say your Program Director’s base salary is $2,000 per month. Plus, he earns $100 for each new enrollment. Now let’s say that he enrolled 30 new students during a particular month. You would take his base salary of $2,000, and subtract it from an enrollment figure of $3,000 (30 x $100). Using this example, the Program Director will walk away with a $1,000 bonus check on top of their base salary. But, using these numbers, he needs to enroll at least 20 students per month to pay for his base. Less than that and it’s time to have a chat.

5. The Percentage Method

This method can become a bit complex. But the basic idea is to create a compensation plan that does not limit the Program Director’s financial growth, yet gives the school the maximum amount of leverage when it comes to paying for performance and devotion. The first step is to determine how much of a salary you want to pay your Program Director after understanding their needs and wants. Next, assign a specific percentage to a combination of key areas that comprise your school’s current monthly gross that, when added up, equal the amount of salary you want to pay. These areas could include product sales, testing fees, collected tuition, contract amount written, initial investments, etc. To be clear, you pick a few of these areas that the Program Director influences and give him a percentage of each. That’s his salary. Similarly, to make matters simple, some owners choose to base their Program Director’s salary solely on a percentage of the total monthly gross. Either way, if the school slows or grows, the Program Director’s salary adjusts proportionately. This method places a heavy emphasis on school-wide involvement and strong performance. It works for some. While there are certainly other methods for compensating Program Directors, these five are the most common. Keep in mind that they do not include health or dental insurance, 401K contributions, or paid vacation time, though you’ll want to use extras such as these as negotiation tools.


Chapter Forty-Four

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

45: Staff Training Begins with Developing Rock-Solid Phone Skills


hen I was running NAPMA, I was on the phone constantly. It was such a great experience when the person answering my call had excellent phone skills.

I’m referring to the kind of staff member who sounds friendly, enthusiastic, patient, courteous, and professional. People such as these always made me feel important. They gave me the impression that the school they represented was as topnotch as they were and paid close attention to the details. Such individuals immediately make me feel welcome, at ease, impressed. On the contrary, many schools I contacted allowed staff members with horrible phone skills to answer their phones. Typically, their tone conveyed that they were in a hurry, and that my call was inconveniencing them. Their voice and delivery indicated that they were stressed out or overwhelmed. Sometimes, they were more than just curt—they were flat out rude. I couldn’t help but feel that they were a reflection of the rest of their school’s employees and customer service skills. Ultimately, front-end-people like these can end up costing you a fortune… in lost business! Clearly, the person you have answering your phone should have expert phone skills. Nothing less will do. In fact, I’ve actually de-hired receptionists who couldn’t be trained to my standards. I tell you this because I want you to realize I’m as serious as a heart attack when it comes to answering a telephone properly. It all begins there. Here now are some of my best tips for developing phenomenal phone skills:

Sound Inviting

The tone of your voice should project warmth, care, sincerity, courtesy, and appreciation. Make the caller feel glad they called your school. Make them feel happy that they’re doing business with you, as opposed to the opposite.

Master Standard Lines

Mastering standard lines like “Thank you for calling USA Karate, my name is Rob, how may I help you?” is a thousand times better than winging it, or answering the phone with something brash like “Karate school!” Also, keep in mind that role-playing is one of the best ways to finetune phone skills, and develop a smooth delivery. You should be doing role plays with your staff on a regular basis.


Follow the Two Ring Rule

My rule of thumb is to answer the phone after no more than three rings. Two is better. Don’t keep the caller waiting any longer than necessary. Plus, when the phone rings, it often translates to money in one way or another. So be very glad when your phone rings. Now here’s another simple tip: When someone calls, always remember to smile on the first ring. On the second ring, say your opening line.

Answer the Phone Calmly and Warmly

Doesn’t it make you feel awkward when someone frantically takes your call? Or, when they rapidly blurt out a line like “ThankyouforcallingcanIhelpyou?!” followed by a huge stressrelated sigh? Avoid sounding like you’re in a hurry, even if you are. Don’t penalize the caller because you’re busy or under pressure.

Speak Like a Professional

Avoid asking questions like, “Who are you?” or making statements like “Gimme that number again.” Instead, “May I have your name, sir?” and “Can you please repeat your phone number, ma’am?” is a much more professional approach.

Take Accurate Messages

It’s embarrassing when you return a call from Bill, and his name is really Phil; or when you can’t return a prospective student’s call because you don’t have all the correct digits in their phone number. Right? Train your receptionist (and all of your staff members and assistants) to listen carefully, and repeat the information back to the caller, to ensure its accuracy.

Proper Physiology Projects Enthusiasm

Your voice will always sound more enthusiastic to the caller if you sit up straight, and smile when you are speaking. This will also help you sound happy, as opposed to monotone and bored. Your goal is to always create an image for the caller that the sun is shining over your school, even if it’s raining.

Be Courteous

Few things irritate me more than when you ask to speak to someone, and the receptionist just clicks a button without saying a word. Example: Can I speak to Mr. Smith. CLICK! A better approach would be, “Yes, sir. If you’ll hold one moment, I’ll be glad to see if he’s available.” Don’t forget to use common courtesies just because the other person isn’t standing in front of you.


Chapter Forty-Five

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

46: Become a Transformational Leader and Inspire Your Students to Achieve Greatness


s a martial arts professional, you are a role model for others. You are a mentor, coach and friend. You are a shining light in your community. You are a leader!

Being a leader is not easy. In fact, it’s quite challenging and it requires effort every minute of the day; but this does not intimidate you. That’s why you did not choose the path of least resistance, the path of being a follower. You chose to be leader, and now it’s time to make the most of your chosen role for the benefit of yourself, your school, students, family and the community in which you live. I suggest that you’ll have your greatest impact on the people you lead when you become a master of transformational leadership. A transformational leader is one who adjusts with the times and taps into the emotional and spiritual reservoirs of others, to create higher levels of performance and extensive change. Jesus, Gandhi, Lincoln, Alexander the Great, Churchill, Bruce Lee, Gitchin Funakoshi, Jigoro Kano and Jhoon Rhee can all be considered transformational leaders. Not all transformational leaders represent good, however; some, such as Adolph Hitler, Genghis Khan and Jim Jones, represent evil. As martial arts instructors, we stand for the highest and best principles and values of humanity. We use our energy and influence to effect positive change around us. Transformational leadership is a responsibility that is as worthy of you, as you are worthy of it. I’m convinced that collectively, we martial arts professionals have much room to grow within the vast area of leadership. In fact, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what we could accomplish, if our collective leadership skills were stronger. It all begins with you. Don’t think you’re above it and that it should begin with the guy up the street from you. That’s the wrong attitude to have. To this end, when you are a more effective transformational leader you will attract more students to your school. Your students will invariably stay longer and their performance will increase. Parents will recognize that the benefits derived from their relationships with you continue to grow. Your staff members will be happier and more content with their employment. The teaching skills of your instructors and the overall value of your lessons will improve. You’ll have the ability to mobilize the masses and impact your community in ways you never before thought possible. Plus, everyone in your circle of influence will be marching to the beat of the same drum. Those are just some of the benefits of effective transformational leadership.


Now, here are five key elements that you can implement immediately to become a more pronounced transformational leader and inspire your students, staff and those around you to achieve greatness:

1. Think Outside the Box

Bobby Kennedy once said, “Some men see things the way they are and ask why. I see things as they could be and ask why not.” To become a more effective transformational leader, you must embrace innovation, welcome healthy change and be willing to challenge the conventional ways of thinking.

2. Embellish Your Charisma

How do you know when you’re in the company of a charismatic person? You just know because you feel it. My friend, Grandmaster Yong Sung Lee, beams with charisma, and this makes others naturally want to follow him. Embellish your charisma, and you will notice increasing influence of others.

3. Create a Meaningful Vision

You must create a vision that rallies others around a noble cause, a major goal or an important need. You must then convince your staff to buy into the vision. That is creating a shared vision. In any case, a transformational leader without a vision is like a car without an engine. Neither is traveling very far.

4. Stimulate the Emotions of Others

Effective transformational leadership occurs when you stir the emotions of your followers (students), such that they connect with you and your vision, mentally, physically and spiritually. Once you make a strong connection, then you can begin to guide others to entirely new levels of commitment, performance and accomplishment.

5. Empower Others Through Encouragement

As a transformational leader, one of your goals is to provide constant feedback, encouragement and praise. This is more important to most people than fame, fortune or material items. The more your make others feel recognized and appreciated, the more committed they will be to your cause.


Chapter Forty-Six

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

47: How to Transform Students Into Staff with a Quality Leadership Team


n my opinion, staffing is the limiting factor in the growth and development of most martial arts schools. Let’s face it; it can be challenging to build a staff given the field we’re in.

After all, only about 1% of the population practices martial arts to begin with. Out of that 1%, it is estimated that at least 60% of our student population is comprised of children. Obviously, kids do not qualify as prospective staff members until they grow up. So, that narrows the selection pool down even further. From the prospects we have left, how many of them actually want to become professional martial artists like us? How many of them already have careers? How many of these prospects can actually afford to work at an average martial arts school, given the realities of the earning potential and bare-bones benefit packages that are typically offered? The fact is that most schools have tiny budgets, especially in the early stages of their development. While there are plenty of schools that do indeed generate a substantial income, and can afford to hire a staff and provide great benefits, the majority of schools I consult with can’t. It’s simply not in their budget. So, it’s a catch twenty-two. They know they need staff members in order to grow, but they don’t have the money to pay them. So, the question many staff-less instructors would like answered is: How do they develop a staff, considering their limited budget? How do they get one started? Here’s an answer: The first step many successful schools took towards building their staffs was to develop a Leadership Team; GOLD, SWAT, STORM, HIT, etc. In fact, when I chat with top instructors, I often ask them the following question: “Knowing what you now know about operating a successful commercial martial arts school (or schools), if you had to start all over again, what are some of the main things you would do to climb back up to the top of the heap?” Almost always, within their first few responses, they say, “I would develop a Leadership Team.” And that’s a major reason why I recommend you do the same. You see, Leadership Team can be the foundation for future staff at your school. It can give you instant “bench strength,” and you can start one no matter how big or small your school may be. Ultimately, it’s one of the best shots you have at consistently transforming students into staff members, over the course of time. Now, there are two Leadership Team models to consider; the paid upgrade program model and the free volunteer model. Both can work well depending on how you operate your school. For example, if your school already offers “leadership training” as a paid upgrade program, then also offering a free Leadership Team program as a staff generator may send a confusing message to your students. There’s going to be too much crossover between the material taught in the expensive leadership upgrade program and the free leadership program.


Instead, the free Leadership Team for staff development model works best in schools that are not already using leadership training as an upgrade. Schools that do use leadership training, as an upgrade, would probably be better suited if they added something like a Certified Instructor Training course (CIT), as yet another upgrade within their school. Generally, this is the most expensive of all upgrade programs, since it teaches the students proprietary business information and prepares them for becoming a paid instructor or future school operator. This is an excellent way to earn additional income and develop future staff members at the same time. Anyhow, the way staff building stems from a free Leadership Team program is simple. Your Leadership Team members begin to assist in class, often as adolescent under-ranks. They become leaders in your school and Black Belts as they grow. Eventually, these students will need jobs, and many of them would love to do what you do for a living. Plus, they’ve already had a small taste of the gratification that goes along with being a martial arts instructor, just from participating on your Leadership Team. This is the perfect opportunity for you to offer them jobs as paid Assistant Instructors. From there, you’ll have a good shot at developing them into salaried Chief Instructors, Program Directors, licensees, branch location operators, etc. What’s interesting is that many schools have a surplus of staff members using this method. That was certainly the case at the school where I did all my training. We had more staff members than we knew what to do with. Furthermore, whenever a staff member left our school, an ambitious Leadership Team member immediately replaced them. But the only reason we had this situation was because we had a strong Leadership Team program. Now, let me change gears for just a moment. It’s important to realize that the goal of effective school management is to get your work done through the help of other people. That requires a staff. How do you intend to build your staff? What’s your strategy? Do you have one in place? If not, the odds of you building a staff are slim. You need a game plan. In conclusion, I think it’s important to reaffirm that building a staff at a martial arts school takes continuous scouting, creativity and proper planning. For most school owners, there’s no quick and easy way to create and keep employees. Unlike other small businesses, we typically can’t just run an ad in the local newspaper or online job-listing site and get flooded with resumes. That’s why many schools take a different approach. They take a long-term perspective on staff development through the use of a Leadership Team. So, unless you have unlimited resources and can afford to throw big bucks at prospective employees, a free Leadership Team program could be the best way for you to gradually build your staff.


Chapter Forty-Seven

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

48: How to Structure Your Leadership Team for Success


s we’ve already discussed, creating a solid Leadership Team can help you build the staff of your dreams. Now, I’d like to give you some pointers that will enable you to structure a successful volunteer-based, no-extra-tuition-required Leadership Team program in your school, immediately. Let me start by saying that a properly structured Leadership Team program is a win-win situation. Think of it this way. People come to your school to learn self-defense, get in shape, become a Black Belt, etc. And yes, they receive all of these benefits. But when they join your Leadership Team, they get so much more. First, Leadership Team members learn how to overcome the number one fear: public speaking. Second, they learn how to teach. And as you know, one of the best ways for students to fully understand their techniques, is to learn how to teach them to others. Third, Leadership Team members are taught how to be leaders. Well, that’s an invaluable and priceless skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Likewise, Leadership Team offers a variety of benefits to your school. Your team members can assist you with warm ups, cool downs, and stretching. They are taught to keep a close eye out for the safety of other students while you’re teaching. In addition, Leadership Team members can be trained to assist with attendance procedures, make new students feel welcome, help students who are struggling with their techniques during class, and coach small groups on basic testing material. So, Leadership Team members allow you (or your Chief Instructor) to become a multiplication sign. This is extremely helpful, especially if your school has a small staff and you’re not using a rotating curriculum. And, as we previously discussed, Leadership Team can be your foundation for future staff. When it comes to selecting Leadership Team members, I suggest you select based upon attitude, first. Students who rarely miss a class, support your school 100%, have strong social skills, and enjoy helping others always work best. The quality of their technique is important, but it should be considered secondary to attitude. Once you select your Leadership Team members, you must create a Leadership Team class with a well-structured curriculum. This is how you will begin to transform students into leaders, and give them true value when they become part of your Leadership Team. So what happens in Leadership Team class? It’s common to practice drills that teach your members how to teach properly (pedagogy), how to ensure safety in the classroom, how to identify and assist “C” students, how to motivate, how to be an effective communicator, how to conduct mini-private lessons, etc.


If you’re going to have a Leadership Team program, you must have some kind of a Leadership Team class. Otherwise, you’re gypping your students. Next, I recommend you appoint a Leadership Team Captain. Here, the strategy is to let the captain be in charge of your team, so you can focus on other activities that only you can do for your school. His or her duties would commonly include; scheduling team members to help out in your daily classes, monitoring the performance of each team member, developing the team’s leadership skills through the use of your leadership curriculum, documenting team activities for your school’s protection, following up, organizing team events, and providing you with detailed reports. For an owner, appointing a Leadership Team Captain is an example of smart management, good teamwork, and effective delegation. Now, I think it’s important to point out what Leadership Team is NOT. It’s definitely not a way for you to get free labor, so you can avoid hiring a paid staff. If your Leadership Team members become free workers, then you’ll run the risk of opening yourself up to various labor law violations. Furthermore, Leadership Team members should not teach classes in place of a qualified Chief Instructor. A Leadership Team member’s job is to assist with classes, and be role models to the other students. Their job is not to take over the classes and work for free. There’s a big difference. Just be careful not to take advantage of your team. Finally, I’d like to mention that it’s risky to waive or reduce a Leadership Team member’s normal tuition in trade for assisting, since the IRS considers bartering to be a taxable event. While the odds of the government catching up with you for this are probably remote, it’s best to play by the rules. For this reason, it’s recommended that you continue to charge your team members at least their regular tuition. Or, as I stated in the previous chapter, you also have the option of charging student a premium to be on your Leadership Team, rather than letting them participate for free. If the value is there and you promote it properly, students will pay for it. If you haven’t started your Leadership Team yet, for the purpose of staff development or added profits, I suggest you do. It can be very rewarding. But, please, realize that before you can teach others how to be leaders, you must first be a good leader yourself. That takes constant effort and discipline. For starters, I recommend that you devour the bodies of work of John Maxwell, Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins and Matt Furey, for starters. So, study hard, practice what you preach, and always lead by example.


Chapter Forty-Eight

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

49: Charisma — It’s the Trait That Separates Good Instructors from Great Instructors


have found that a martial arts instructor’s level of success usually parallels his level of charisma.

That’s because when an instructor has charisma, all school-related programs and procedures just seem to fall into place easier. But when an instructor is missing it, running a school can seem like an uphill battle. Indeed, I’m convinced that charisma is a quality that often separates the best from the rest in business. As I’ve states so many times over the years, I firmly believe that martial arts is a personality driven business. People usually get involved and stay involved with the training to the level they are motivated by the instructor. Also, martial arts lessons are not a commodity product. Nor are they something one can’t live without, such as electricity coming into a house. So a school’s success depends largely upon the instructor’s ability to inspire students, and keep them interested in the lessons. Charisma is the keystone trait that allows that to happen naturally. By definition, charisma is a unique personal power belonging to those exceptional individuals capable of securing the allegiance of large numbers of people. Some sources define it as the ability to command, inspire and motivate others. But what is it about these people that allows this to occur? In my opinion, it’s not one thing that makes a person charismatic. It’s a whole bunch of things.

For instance, charismatic people generally possess the following talents: 1.  They have superb communication skills. They are able to articulate complex messages clearly and confidently to others. 2.  They have very strong listening skills. This makes others feel comfortable and accepted when in their presence. (We’ll detail this topic in the very next chapter.) 3.  They are persuasive communicators. Using the right blend of words and timing they are able to persuade others to “see it as they see it.” 4.  They have strong beliefs and are often looked upon as visionaries. Others find them interesting and look upon them as a leader. 5.  They have the ability to build rapport with others quickly and easily. Once again, this makes them likeable and helps them to build a following. Knowing this, wouldn’t you agree that charisma is a trait that could help you build a larger base of profoundly dedicated students? 172

Clearly, instructors who possess charisma are better positioned to grow their schools. They just have a certain charm about them that causes people to agree to take lessons more frequently and with less hesitation. Also, charismatic instructors retain students for longer periods of time. That’s because their students aren’t bored by the instruction. They’re motivated, inspired, and excited by it. In short, charisma helps instructors to create and keep students. On the other hand, instructors who lack charisma can cause their schools to suffer. These types typically complain that nothing works for them. They say they can’t get a Leadership Team started, no one shows up for demo team practice, staff members keep leaving, people won’t enroll, nobody supports special events, etc., etc., etc. When they’re done whining, they usually blame it all on their area or the economy. But in reality, they are the cause. Their personality is usually too silly, too serious, too boring, too pushy, or too lackadaisical. Often, they are uninteresting, non-motivating, and long-winded. Instructors like this unintentionally run people off, and end up with one of those infamous “stuck-in-a-rut schools” for years. Lack of charisma is, at least, one of the big causes of this. From a purely business perspective, an instructor’s background in the arts may offer little reward without charisma. I say that because I often chat with successful school owners who are not champions, high-ranking Black Belts, or even what I would consider a really sharp practitioner. Maybe they could be considered average. Maybe. But the one thing they do have going for them is their ability to “sell” a vision of the benefits of martial arts training. They have the knack for getting people to “buy” into what they are offering. In other words, they have charisma. And this one essential quality allows certain instructors to build and maintain a strong following of students regardless of their location, economy, sales and marketing skills, or style of martial arts. Furthermore, many charismatic instructors are able to operate successfully even though they often deviate from conventional martial arts business ideals. For example, some instructors purposely teach grueling classes, yet have hundreds of students that keep coming back for more. Others maintain fairly successful schools even though they do not offer upgrade programs. Some peak-performing studios are run like temples. Others are like martial arts fitness centers. Many use contracts, while others use EFT’s, both, or none. Style, too, is irrelevant when it comes to success. You have high tech, versus low tech. I could go on and on. The point is that regardless of how you run your school, if you’re a charismatic instructor, then you’ll have a much better shot at making it work.


Chapter Forty-Nine

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

50: Develop “Black Belt” Listening Skills and Reap the Rewards of a More Profitable School


ave you ever found yourself “pretend listening” to someone at your school? A student, parent or staff member?

As they rambled on, you were off in your own little world, imagining you were Bruce Lee, repeatedly spin-hook-kicking an army of defenseless, pint-sized, karate guys about the head. G’aw head, admit it. When that someone was finally finished speaking, all you could remember hearing was Bawds don’t hit back. (Okay, Bruce—snap out of it!) As school-age children, we were grilled on developing communication skills such as reading, writing, and speaking. But what about listening? How much time does the average person spend practicing their listening skills? Answer: Almost none. No wonder most people are not very good listeners. Martial arts instructors included. For about the first twenty-five years of my life, I was a poor listener. Then, I realized that when you’re speaking, you’re reciting that which you already know. But when you’re listening, you’re learning. And the mark of a good leader. With all due respect, many instructors I encounter need to improve their listening skills. They ask for advice. Then, instead of truly listening to the advice, they’re either talking over me, or mentally preparing a response. Or they’re pretend listening (yeah, uh-huh, right). So they end up missing important chunks of the conversation. They end up with advice that’s like a hunk of swiss cheese. They can’t fill-in the holes cause they weren’t paying attentions. And so they’ve learned nothing. Ah, yes… learning to listen can be quite challenging, indeed. But the pursuit of self-mastery never ends, and practicing strong listening skills is a key element to focus on if you want to grow your school. Why? Well, consider this: Strong listening skills are vitally important to the processes of enrolling, upgrading or renewing students. Listening is key for knowing what to incorporate into your marketing copy or getting students to change their minds about quitting. It’s critical for prop-


erly handling information calls. It’s integral to effectively selling training equipment, private lessons, introductory courses, after school martial arts lessons, or special events.

“Strong listening skills are vitally important to the processes of enrolling, upgrading or renewing students.” As you’ll read in the chapter about “solution based selling,” asking good questions and then attentively listening for clues that help you close the sale is the essence of selling like a pro. That’s why top Program Directors spend as much as 80% of their time listening, and only 20% speaking. On the other hand, amateurs do more talking than listening. They think that selling is telling, but it’s not. So when it comes to sales, you’ve got to be a “Black Belt” listener. Now, here’s a tip that will help you become a top-level team builder at your school. One of the greatest needs that we humans have is to feel understood. And one of the best ways to make someone feel understood is to take the time to listen to them, empathetically, and without interruption. Try this with your staff members and students, and you’ll be amazed at the results. If you make your people feel understood, you’ll dramatically increase the moral authority you have with them and your school will blossom. Though you’ll always make the final decision as leader, the people around you will feel important and respected because you allowed them to be heard. That translates to happier staff members and students, who are more receptive to your leadership. So when you’re interacting with students, parents, staff, friends, or family - or selling- make a conscious effort to engage in active listening. Try not to be a pretend listener. Don’t shoot ideas down before the other person is finished speaking. Avoid cutting others off in midsentence. Resist the urge to complete others’ sentences because “I can already see where you’re going with this.” Instead, have patience, and truly listen to them. As a martial arts leader, this is an important skill to master.


Chapter Fifty

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

51: You Want “Racehorses” Running Your Martial Arts School!


n this passage, I do not plan to mince words. I’ve drawn my whip, and I plan to jockey home a message that I’m extremely passionate about. I’m referring to a topic that’s crucial to the long-term success or failure of your school.

That topic is employee selection. For starters, let’s compare two types of employees: the “racehorse” and the “plow-horse.” Racehorse employees are lean n’ mean, active, confident, ambitious, and fast. Yes, very fast. Plus, they’re highly competitive and extremely results-oriented. They do not suffer from “analysis paralysis.” Au contraire! They need to run. So they make decisions quickly, and they attack. They were built for speed, and it’s practically impossible to hold them back. They’re powerful. Hence, the racehorse-type employee is well equipped to take your school to the next level and beyond.

“I’ve found that the best schools have the best staff members running them.” Now let’s compare the typical plow-horse type employee. They’re slow, complacent, and unproductive. They lack creativity, ambition, and drive. They take their sweet time on every assignment, and put forth the minimum level of effort. In other words, they coast, and make excuses for their weak results. Look up the word sloth in the dictionary, and you’ll see their picture. The sad truth is that no matter how much you like them, no matter how nice they are, they will do little or nothing to grow your school. On this note, I’ve found that the best schools have the best staff members running them. They employ a team of racehorses. For example, in successful schools the Chief Instructor is almost always dynamic, charismatic, and motivational. He or she teaches classes that leave students euphoric, and wanting more. Their leadership skills are strong, and their martial arts skills are brow raising. They’re innovative and they work tirelessly to ensure high levels of student retention. Likewise, such schools typically employ a world class Program Director that is, in a word, sharp. He or she is pumped, articulate, and organized. Their people skills are a nine or ten, on a scale of ten. They’re autonomous, efficient, productive, and focused. On top of that, they’re


a “master” at sales. Translation: they get results, and they get them consistently. I could go on and describe every employee in a topnotch school, but I think you get the idea. These people are peak performers. They do not work like plow-horses! Just in case you haven’t gathered, my idea of running a business places a heavy emphasis on racehorse type employees. I’m looking for a small group of highly efficient, highly paid individuals who can each do the work of five plow-horses with an even greater degree of competence. I’m not interested in Mr. or Mrs. Go-Nowhere. I’m looking for someone who wants to grow. Someone who wants to win the derby, if you will. Granted, these types of employees are difficult to find and they’re expensive. But they do exist, and they’re worth every penny you pay them. Just be sure to structure their employment arrangements carefully. As I said earlier, racehorses need to run. You don’t want them to gallop off into the sunset, and at the same time you don’t want them to throw a saddle on you. So keep your guard up. Lastly, what do you do if you have a plow-horse or two working at your school? My advice is simple. De-hire them. Let them go graze on somebody else’s payroll. Now don’t get me wrong, putting a plow-horse out to pasture can be a difficult decision in some cases, but it’s nothing personal. Once you’ve done all that you can possibly do to make a racehorse out of them, but can’t, you’ve got a serious decision to make. A decision that’s often considered taboo among “White Belt” owners. You’ve got to decide to carry them forever, or let them go. I suggest you replace them with a racehorse.

“Would you rather have racehorses, or plow-horses, on your payroll?” That having been said, would you rather have racehorses or plow-horses on your payroll? You’re the one who has to cut the checks, so it’s up to you. Me? Give me racehorses!


Chapter Fifty-One

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

52:  Why Your Best Staff Members Might Leave You


n business, your most valuable resource is the human resource. This is especially true at a martial arts school because we operate in such a niche industry.

Staff members can be difficult to find, and top-notch ones even harder. When you do find a truly exceptional employee, it’s important that you make every effort to keep them. They’re like gold. Don’t be short sighted in this area, or you’ll end up losing your best people in the long run. Here are three common mistakes to watch out for with the people who contribute the most to you and your school:

1. Lack of Recognition

Always recognize a job well done. If you do not give your key people the recognition they deserve, it could lead to low morale, a gradual decline in their performance, and eventual resentment. After being in the trenches all day, every day, top producers expect credit to be given where credit is due. They want to be praised, noticed, listened to, and treated with respect. They want to feel appreciated. According to Jeff Frick, President of Fitness and Wellness Insurance, “Good employees will leave if they perceive their talents and strengths aren’t being acknowledged.” Arguably, this single factor is responsible for more good employees quitting jobs than any other reason, including sensitive monetary issues.

2. Lack of Opportunity

Quality of life should also be taken into consideration. If your best staff members no longer feel your school will help them meet their life goals, and you do not sweeten the pot when possible, then they will be much more apt to consider other employment opportunities when and if they come along. Battle of Atlanta founder, Joe Corley comments, “Always try to provide the fairest, most professional, nurturing, and caring environment you can, and truly seek to provide great personal growth and financial opportunities for your key people.” To boost staff retention, some owners think long-term, and create bonus plans that allow their best employees to grow along with the school. Others provide investment opportunities such as a 401K, limited partnerships, or actual ownership positions through franchising and licensing. Increased wages and promotions are also great morale boosters. In general, incentives such as these can keep key employees happy, committed, and locked in. But this can only be possible if you are willing to go the extra mile for your best people.

3. Lack of Compensation

Another common exit factor among top producing staff members is not enough money or benefits to satisfy their needs and wants.


Sometimes this occurs because the school genuinely can’t afford certain employees—they’re over-qualified, or they need too much money to make ends meet. Other times, it’s because of overly frugal owners being penny-wise and dollar-foolish. Former Easy Pay president Rick Bell adds, “My best advice for school owners who want to keep good employees is to SHARE THE WEALTH. If you ignore the market, and pay them far less than they could earn on their own, they will soon figure out the game, and be gone. Remember that the employees who are most valuable to you will also be very, very valuable to themselves.” Now, here’s the kicker... In the martial arts business, there are virtually no barriers to entry. So it’s very easy for an instructor to leave your school, and start a school of his/her own, with or without a Black Belt, and with very little money. You can offset the odds of this ever happening by fairly compensating your top producers, helping them achieve their personal goals, and by establishing a solid relationship. This doesn’t mean you should let employees with an over-inflated selfworth take advantage of you, but at times you many need to consider “sharing the wealth.” Clearly, it takes more than a weekly paycheck to keep the best employees long-term. If you want to prevent your top people from gracefully bowing out, then be careful not to get lazy when it comes to communication, compliments, recognition, support, leadership, compensation, friendship, rewards, patience, advancement, and overall relationship-building. In other words, don’t take your best staff members for granted. As the excerpt below points out, eventually they might lose their enthusiasm, and leave.

Remember Me? I’m the person who sat patiently for years while you refused to recognize my existence. I’m the person who loyally gave you the majority of my waking hours, 50 weeks a year. And in return you took my selfrespect and dignity. The only time you noticed my presence was when it was time to criticize. I’m the person who after 50 weeks of tireless and above-average effort each year— effort I made because I believed in you and the company—got my review four weeks late, and received a raise exactly the same as the worst performer in my

department. Yes, you might say I’m the salt of the earth. A tower of strength. The kind of employee any company would be proud to employ. But do you know what else I am? I am the person who will never come back to work for you. By the way, it does amuse me to see you spending thousands of dollars every year to get me back, when you had me there in the first place. To think that all you had to do was listen to me once in a while, show me a little respect, a little appreciation. But you didn’t. Anyway, I wish you all the luck in the world. (Excerpt from Keeping the Best, by Martin Yates)


Chapter Fifty-Two

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

53: 10 Ways to Appreciate Your Staff and Make Them Happy They’re Working for You


re you an owner, team leader, or business manager of a martial arts school? If so, then it’s important that you constantly remind your staff members how much you value all of their hard work, devotion, loyalty, effort, and accomplishments. Doing so will make them feel great, and motivate them towards peak performance. Here are 10 simple tips to help get you started.

1. Praise in Public

One of the most powerful ways to show a staff member that you appreciate them is to praise their efforts in front of others. This puts them in the spotlight, and encourages them to keep up the good work. I know how special this made me feel when my instructor did this to me during classes or at school related functions. Try it!

2. Give Compliments

What can make a staff member feel more appreciated than a genuine compliment from their respected leader? Okay, maybe two genuine compliments. You can never give enough, as long as you are sincere. When it comes to making staff members feel appreciated, giving regular and genuine compliments go a very long way.

3. Keep Your Word

Dr. Stephen Covey says, “Trust is the highest form of human motivation.” And one of the best ways to gain an employee’s trust is to always be up front and honest with them. Never make false promises or go back on your word. Employees do not appreciate these kinds of things. Many will take it personally, feel very let down, and will resent you for it. Be careful with this.

4. Actively Listen

You can build tremendous rapport with a staff member simply by taking the time to patiently listen to them when they have something to say. Avoid pretend listening. Instead, listen with the intent to understand. They’ll feel truly appreciated, understood and important. That doesn’t mean let them waste your time or take advantage of your good nature. But you’ve got to be there for your people when they need you.

5. Recognize Accomplishments

It’s tremendously gratifying to staff members when their leader recognizes their accomplishments. A congratulatory email, pat on the back, round of applause, award, token of appreciation, or some kind words in front of their coworkers will go a long way towards making them feel appreciated. Not recognizing accomplishments can lead to frustration and disappointment. Remember the phrase, “that which is recognized and rewarded is repeated.”


6. Remember Birthdays

Okay, we’ve all suffered through way too many off-key renditions of “Happy Birthday to You.” But you gotta admit, once you get past the singing, birthday parties can make you feel pretty darn appreciated. That’s why it’s recommended that you not forget to celebrate your staff members’ birthdays. A card and cake is all that’s necessary. A gift pushes it over the top. What you don’t want to do is NOTHING.

7. Make Yourself Available

If you want to make an employee feel completely unappreciated, simply let them know that you are too busy when they try to communicate with you. The message this sends out is, “YOU ARE UNIMPORTANT.” On the other hand, if you want your staff members to feel like they are respected, then make time for them whenever they need your leadership. Just don’t allow them or anyone else to waste or misuse your valuable time.

8. Schedule Lunch

Taking a staff member out to lunch every now and again is one of the easiest ways to show them that you appreciate them. Make it a business lunch. What’s another ten bucks? C’mon - spring for the dough! Not only will it make them feel great, but also it’ll make you feel great as well… that is until they say, “I’ll have the lobster!”

9. Create Incentives

Someone once said, “Nothing says thank you louder than a check.” I’ll let you be the judge of that one, but it’s true that monetary rewards, year-end bonuses, performance-based incentives, or occasional gifts are excellent ways to remind staff members that you appreciate them. Often, gestures like these will encourage them to double their efforts for you. Just remember that different incentives resonate with different staff members. It isn’t always money that will make your staff members happy, but it’s a great motivators for those who need or want more of it.

10. Host Gatherings

Inviting staff members to social gatherings is a nice way to let them know you’re thankful for all they do. Fun events that can be used for this purpose include Super Bowl Sunday, New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July, holiday parties, UFC pay per view fights, etc. This is an easy way to build camaraderie, create team spirit, and show appreciation. Staff members who do not have much family, or who are single, especially appreciate it. Of all your school’s resources, its human resources are the most valuable. So never take your employees for granted. Instead, always remind them of how much you appreciate them. Do this, and your employees will work harder, feel better about their jobs, and smile whenever you enter the room.


Chapter Fifty-Three

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

54: Honestly, Some Instructors Should NOT Own Schools — Are You One of Them?


was on my way back from Tampa one day when I happened to drive past a friend’s karate school in Saint Petersburg. Curiously, I noticed a bunch of parents and kids just standing around in the parking lot. I wondered what the heck was going on.

About a half mile down the road, as I peered through three lanes of thick oncoming traffic, I saw something I couldn’t believe. It was the owner of the school on roller blades. He was barebacked, all shiny with sweat, and frantically skating toward his school about forty-five minutes late to open the doors for kid’s class. By the way, this incident took place right after his car had just been repossessed (again), and shortly before his school went out of business. It was no surprise when his next school went out of business too. The Black Belt I’m referring to was a highly-talented traditional martial artist, an excellent teacher, and an outstanding fighter. For quite some time, he was undefeated as a full-contact kickboxer. And he’s been blessed with a fantastic personality. Great guy. However, he’s come to realize that owning a school is not his cup of tea. My dear, old friend is not alone. I frequently come across topnotch Black Belts who consider themselves “White Belt” school owners. A common example is the full-time owner who struggles to support his family, pay his bills, and save for retirement with a school that’s never had an active enrollment of more than forty students. It’s not that guys like this are independently wealthy, and choose to have only forty students, year after year. It’s not like they’re purposely trying to run small, private-like schools that barely break even. The fact is that that’s all they are capable of achieving. What about you? Is owning a school your cup of tea? Are you good at it? Do you enjoy owning a business? Is it a good fit for you? (Actually, since you bought this book, I’d bet that it is!) As I’ve preached throughout this book, there’s a few key areas you must be willing to become good at if you want your martial arts school to be something more than just mediocre. And these are the same things you need to become good at if you plan to continue making your living as a school owner, long-term, without losing your school or having so much difficulty that you just throw-in the towel one day. My advice to you is to become proficient at skills such as selling, managing, marketing, accounting, student service, copywriting, motivating, staff training, time-management, etc. If you are unable or unwilling to put some serious effort into these sorts of school-building activities - CONSISTENTLY - or find others who can contribute to your school’s growth in them, then you’re probably never going to make it big in the martial arts business. 182

It’s just the way it is. Sure, you may earn enough income to get by. You may amass a fairly decent student count. Your school may be profitable. But everything is relative. As long as you’re happy with your results, then it’s fine. It’s your school. But let’s not kid ourselves here. Top martial arts schools that are making the big bucks and teaching hundreds, or sometimes thousands of students are being run by clever martial arts businesspeople, who are constantly working on improving their schools and themselves. That’s why they’re getting the kinds of results they are getting. Do the same, or similar, if you want similar results. Another thing - I’ve noticed that while being weak in basic business skills can cause a school owner to struggle, many other factors can also contribute and you should be aware of what they are. For example, some owners are too immature or too incompetent to handle the many responsibilities of a school. In other cases, they don’t have the right motivation, knowledge, personality, attitude, guts, entrepreneurial zeal, or focus to operate a school. Others, in our industry, have just been hit in the head too many times. Regardless of the circumstances, if you’re a school owner, and you’ve tried everything to get your school going, but can’t, perhaps ownership is not for you. This may be a difficult fact to face, but it’s best if you don’t run from the truth.

If you’re in this category, one suggestion is to think about changing your strategy. You might consider teaching at an already-established, successful school. There’s nothing wrong with being the “number two man” for a change. You’ll get rid of all the headaches that result from owning your own business and dramatically lower your risk. At the same time, you can gradually learn the tricks of the trade from someone who has already figured them out. Who knows? Maybe then you’ll learn what you need to know to make your next school fly if you decide to open another one in the future. The reality is that if you make a better soldier, than a general, then owning your own school may not be the best fit for you. Or, you may consider changing careers entirely. That’s what many instructors do when they just can’t get their school off the ground. Then, you find a really great place where you can train like a beast and not have to worry about the business side of being a martial artist. If you can put your ego aside, you might be much happier with one of these options. The bottom line is that owning a school is definitely not for everyone. Whatever you decide, just make sure you never skate-up on roller blades to unlock the school for kid’s class forty-five minutes late. That’s really bad for business. 183

Chapter Fifty-Four

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

55: You’ve Gotta Love What You Do for a Living...or Find Something Else to Do


ccording to sales guru Tom Hopkins, who I once had the honor of interviewing on behalf of the martial arts community, “Work is anything you’re doing when you’d rather be doing something else.”

I guess that’s why some of the happiest and most successful people I know are those who do not think of what they do for a living as “work.” Instead, they think of it as their passion. Many professional martial artists I associate with are classic examples of this. They fell in love with teaching martial arts long ago, quit their day jobs, and opened up a full time school. They turned their “work” into their play. Now they’re living their dream, and they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else with their time. It’s a wonderful thing when you finally arrive at this place. On that note, I want to share a little story with you. A few years back I attended one of Ernie Reyes Sr.’s big Black Belt promotions. For three days straight, Master Reyes (and his team) pulled together to orchestrate one of the most complex and awe inspiring rank exams I’d ever witnessed. Not to mention the fact that the entire event ran like a fine-tuned machine. IMPRESSIVE! On the final day, the exam ran past midnight, on a football field, where Master Reyes finally called it a wrap and officially awarded some 200 triumphant students with their Black Belts. Everyone, including his devoted staff was exhausted, yet elated at the same time. Heck, I was beat just from watching for several days straight.

Rob Colasanti with longtime friend, Master Ernie Reyes, Sr.


Anyhow, the following morning I walked past Master Reyes’ school just before leaving for the airport. As I rubbed my tired eyes, and looked through his storefront window at around 8 a.m. on that crisp Sunday morning in San Jose, I was amazed to see that Master Reyes was already back in action. He was actually out there on the training floor, racing around, helping students learn aerial maneuvers and other advanced Ernie Reyes-style techniques that ain’t for the unflexible or those afraid of heights. 8 a.m.! I remember looking at my watch and thinking…what’s he doing here? Doesn’t he sleep? I must admit, Master Reyes’ level of dedication and energy totally impressed me and the others I was with. Most instructors would have taken a long vacation after an event like the one he completed a few hours earlier. They definitely wouldn’t have been back at the school training early the next morning—especially on a Sunday. At that point, it was crystal clear to me that Master Reyes was not “working” anymore. I recognized that he had simply become one with what he does for a living. Me? I used to “work” too. I was the neighborhood lawn boy. I borrowed my grandfather’s little, red Craftsman lawn mower, and cut grass in the hot Florida sun to earn money to pay for my first year of tuition at John Graden’s USA Karate. To me, that was “work” because I didn’t enjoy doing it. But now I’m pretty much “retired.” In my case, I’ve come to realize that helping the martial arts industry grow is simply what I do now. It’s not really my “work” so to speak… it’s my passion.

That leads me to the take-home message... When it comes to your occupation, never try to force a square peg into a round hole. If you do not enjoy what you do for a living for whatever reason, then you’ll probably be unhappy for as long as you continue to do it. Life’s too short to let that happen. The key is to do some soul-searching, be honest with yourself, discover what you like doing the most with your time and then focus on that. The money will follow. And, you’ve got to have a good reason to get out of bed in the morning. Right? As a martial arts school owner, I sincerely hope that you love running a martial arts school. I hope that there is nothing else you’d rather be doing with your time, and that you are 110% committed to your profession and changing the lives of your students for the better. If you truly feel this way, your students and everyone around you will sense it. Your passion will shine through and become a magnet that attracts others to you. You will probably be a very fulfilled person, you’ll be eager to begin every new day, you’ll become at least reasonably prosperous, and, like me, you won’t have to “work” anymore.


Chapter Fifty-Five

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible


Rob Colasanti


The Martial Arts Business Bible

56: What it Takes to Wear the Crown in the Martial Arts Business and Beyond


’m sure you’ve heard the old phrase, “It’s good to be King.” But, is it really? Have you ever stopped to think about what it’s like to be “King,” or what you have to do to earn the title? What it entails may actually surprise you.

Basically, you can be a “King” at anything you do. It’s simply another way of saying that you’re considered one of the undisputed leaders in your field. But, let me warn you, it’s not easy to achieve this status. If fact, let’s take a close look at exactly what it takes to wear the crown. First, aspiring to be the best at what you do is a great goal to have. Personally, I’ve always believed that it’s important to set your goals very high. But I also believe that talk is cheap. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you say. It’s what you do, that counts. If you want to be number-one… then you’ve got to prove it. When it comes to being the best, there is no such thing as luck. You’ve got to walk your talk. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. That takes years of hard work and tremendous focus in the following key areas:

1.  You’ve Got to Be Hungry For It

Desire is one of the most important elements you need if you plan to become numero uno. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fighter training for a title, or a school owner trying to establish a reputation for excellence in martial arts instruction. You’ve got to want it worse than your competition does. If you’re not hungrier than the others, there’s no way you’ll ever become a “King” in your field. Instead, you may end up working for one.

2.  You Must Endure the Pain of Sacrifice

No one earns the title of “King” without having made countless sacrifices along the way. That’s just the price you pay for it. But most people simply can’t handle sacrifice. It’s just too tough to constantly do what’s difficult and necessary, rather than what’s fun and easy. That’s why every kingdom has its jesters. I know that sounds cold, but it’s true. If it weren’t, then everyone would be considered royalty. And that is not possible. Sacrifice means starting earlier, working later, and sometimes giving up your weekends. Occasionally it means working while others are having fun. It means managing your time like a world champion body-builder manages his diet. It means taking chances, and being resilient whenever you fail. In today’s society, these are tough skills to develop. Only those individuals who are most serious about becoming “King” will be able to endure this kind of continuous pressure. Indeed, not being willing to make the necessary sacrifices is the main eliminator of those competing for the crown. 188

3.  You Must Never Become Complacent

Realize that in business or competition, there’s always somebody waiting to snatch your crown. The quickest way to lose it is to become complacent. That’s why it’s vital that you always work hard to maintain the skills and work habits that lead you to success in the first place. If you slack, you risk loosing what you’ve built for yourself. Even more, you have to stay leading-edge. Physically, that means maintaining your martial arts skills, producing great Black Belts, and staying in shape. Where your professional skills are concerned, it’s equally as important to grow. Here, you’ve got to be willing to invest in coaching, new information products and continuing education for both you and your staff. This is essential if you want to avoid being reduced to a “pawn” in a new “King’s” court. The moment you become complacent, or take your success for granted, is the moment you’ll be dethroned. Finally, I’d like to point out that devoting your life to becoming the best has both its advantages and disadvantages. Sure, it’s great to have prestige, power, impressive material possessions, no financial worries, and a feeling of true accomplishment. For many, acquiring things such as these represents a dream come true. But, as with all things, there’s a trade off. It can be very lonely at the top. In fact, many a “King” has commented that their palace, at times, has seemed like a prison. Recently, a friend of mine who has made millions says that he had to slow down because his kids were growing up and he was never around. He was always out of town or working. One day he woke up and realized that life was too short to allow that to continue. So you have to find a balance. Also, it can be very stressful having to deal with so much responsibility all the time. Some people are simply not cut-out for that kind of lifestyle. They can’t keep up with the pace or handle the constant pressure. That’s why the level of success you want to achieve is purely a personal decision. There is no right or wrong. So, is it good to be “King,” or not? That’s a question that only you can answer. However, I strongly encourage you to set your goals as high as possible and measure your progress daily. There are many rewards that come with success and you should go after them in the proportions that make you happy. But always remember that regardless of our business accomplishments or material possessions, as martial artists, we’re all “Kings” in our own special way.


Chapter Fifty-Six

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

57: How to Slip the Faulty Paradigm Sucker-Punch


ost highly successful martial arts instructors made their giant leap forward because they eventually got one single thing right They changed their PARADIGMS!

As you know, I’ve already touched upon the importance of developing a “success mindset” here in The Bible. But now I want to home in on one key aspect of it for you…

Let’s Talk Paradigms Paradigms are your mindsets. They are like the software programs that make your brain work the way it does when it comes to making decisions or forming opinions. Your paradigms develop over the course of your lifetime, or throughout your career and they cause you to see the world as you do. They influence your thoughts and help create your results, both good and bad. After nearly three decades of observation, I’ve noticed that in the martial arts, many instructors never really earn the kind of income they want, or teach the amount of students they could, simply because they are seeing the world through paradigms that do not allow them to grow. (I know this might sound crazy to you, but believe me, it’s true.) For example, when an instructor finally begins to view his school as a business, rather than an ordinary karate school, he often takes the first step towards substantial growth. As simple as it may seem, this is a small paradigm shift that can result in a huge difference in happiness, student count, income, etc. In fact, I’ve seen this one change alone create many a martial arts millionaire! Likewise, when an instructor realizes that he doesn’t have to be the one who does every little job around the school, and that he can delegate certain tasks to qualified staff members or companies, then he can finally free-up the time to begin working “on the business,” rather than “in the business.” This paradigm shift, too, often results in a big jump forward for school owners.

Change Your Paradigms, Change Your Life The fact is that you cannot break the chains that are holding you back until you discover precisely what it is that directs, shapes, and regulates your behavior and ultimately, your results. The same applies to your staff members.


So the key is to first understand your paradigms. Then, you must get rid of your negative or limiting paradigms and replace them with positive ones that thrust you toward your goals. How do you do this? Well, let me share with you some sound advice that I learned a long time ago from famed personal development coach Bob Proctor. Bob’s simple, yet powerful exercise teaches you how to identify your paradigms on any given topic and then change them when necessary, so that you can finally begin to change your results. Ready to get started? Then, do this simple, fun exercise with me NOW: First: Get a piece of paper and a pencil. Think about something that’s holding you back, or weighing on your mind right now. It could be a problem, a worry, an unresolved issue, a fear, or a goal, etc. Choose just one thing and write it in the center of the page. It could be getting more students, making more money, increasing retention, finding quality staff members, opening a second location, beginning an MMA program, and so on. Once you’ve written it down, draw a circle around it.

Second: Begin writing down every association you can think of as it pertains to the one word or one sentence in the center of your page. Write these associations, good and bad, on the page around the circled word in the middle. Simply relax and let it flow. But be specific! As I learned from studying Psycho-Cybernetics and other books/courses about the brain, your subconscious mind is best suited to help you solve problems when it has lots and lots of details to work with. By the way, whether we’re talking about business or fighting, never underestimate the importance of learning how to harness the power of your subconscious mind. According to Joe Lewis, “The subconscious is a faculty where several automatic integrations are constantly taking place. This integration process bypasses conscious thought and produces responses, which are for the most part automatic. This is what I refer to in my manual as the implicit level of consciousness.” Yes, understanding the subconscious mind is a little “secret” that often eludes those who just can’t seem to become successful and can’t seem to figure out why. Isn’t that interesting?


Chapter Fifty-Seven

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

Third: Circle each association on the page. Then, connect each to the circled word in the center of the page using a straight line. Fourth: Now, study what you’ve written. Basically, it’s a snapshot of the paradigms you have about the item you placed in the center of the page during step one. You’ll notice that some of your paradigms are positive and helping you move toward your goals. Others will be negative and might just be holding you back.

Fifth: Focus on the negative paradigms you identified during this little exercise. Ask yourself questions such as, “What has caused me to feel the way I do about this topic?” Ask yourself, “Why, specifically, do I feel the way I do?” Ask, “Does my negative paradigm even make sense anymore, or does it make me feel silly now that I’ve identified it?” Or, “Is this negative paradigm the reason why I feel like I’ve been stuck in a rut for so long?” An exercise such as this one can be very revealing and might make you feel a tad uncomfortable at times. That’s okay. Lower your guard for a moment. Take a deep breath. And let ‘er rip. Just make sure you’re honest with yourself when “soul searching” for the answers.

Sixth: Finally, you must create positive affirmations that help you reprogram your mind so that you change the negative paradigms into ones that are the opposite. What are affirmations? In a nutshell, affirmations are statements where you assert that what you want to be true…is already true. They are short, powerful positive statements that enable you to be in conscious control of your thoughts. When you firmly declare your affirmations aloud with emotion, think them, or even hear them, they become the thoughts that create your reality. So once you identify the negative paradigms that must go, you use your new, positive affirmations to bring about the changes you want to make.

Out with the Old, in with the New! Now, let me give you a specific example of an affirmation that you can model to change your faulty paradigms and possibly even those of your staff members.


Rob Colasanti

Let’s say that a limiting paradigm you have is that you think it is impossible to enroll students and grow your school to the level you desire. In this case, your affirmation might be:

“I am extremely grateful NOW that I enroll new students on a daily basis from multiple sources. My retention is excellent and my student count keeps growing and growing. I NOW have all the students I want.” See, whenever you make an affirmation such as the above, you begin to change your paradigm. Just be sure to repeat it to yourself as often as you can. And definitely repeat it as fast as you can whenever you feel the old paradigm rearing its ugly head. You must continuously relegate the old way of thinking to the scrap heap where it belongs, while giving the new way of thinking enough time to firmly take root. Some people literally write their affirmations on a 3 x 5 cards and carry them around with them wherever they go. Others keep them on their computer desktop, where they can be reminded of them throughout the day, or access them quickly. This works great for people who sit behind a desk for several hours each day, like some Program Directors and receptionists. The key is to repeat your affirmations over and over again and eventually you’ll notice your thinking and behaviors in those particular areas begin to change for the better. Me? I actually have an affirmation taped to the wall behind my iMac, right now, as I type this information for you. Yes, I practice what I preach. In conclusion, the trick is to determine which paradigms are keeping you (and your staff members) from achieving your goals as a professional martial artist…and then use strong, positive affirmations to replace them with brand new paradigms that help you get everything you want out of life. Do this…and your wildest dreams will come true.


The Martial Arts Business Bible

58: When a Superior Black Belt is an Inferior Teacher the Whole School Suffers


INE UP! QUICKLY, LET’S GO! Ah, I see Mr. Mc Callion is still in the dressing room. Oh, here he comes now. I better start without him so everyone remembers not to be late to one of my classes. Besides, it establishes discipline when I make an example out of the students on a regular basis. COME TO JOONBEE! It takes hard work to become a Black Belt in this school. That’s why most of you probably won’t make it. I hope you can prove me wrong! CHARIO! KYUNGYE! Have a seat on your ankles, shut your eyes, and breathe. Oh yeah, there’s Mr. Mc Callion, still standing at the foot of the deck. I’ve made him squirm long enough, I guess I’ll bow him in now. Mr. Mc Callion, it’s so nice of you to join us this evening. You’re late! Get out here, and have a seat. Okay, what am I gonna teach tonight? While I’m figuring it out, let me smack the heavy bag with a full-power spinning crescent kick. WHACK!!! Ah ha, little Amy-Lynn the blue belt just looked. Okay, what am I gonna teach tonight? While I’m figuring it out, let me smack the heavy bag with a full-power spinning crescent kick. WHACK!!! Ah ha, little Amy-Lynn the blue belt just looked. Open your eyes, and get on your first two knuckles for push-ups! Make the first ten bounceknuckles. You’ll stop on my command. Readyyy, GO! Geez, Mrs. Jones still can’t do proper push-ups. Come on Mrs. Jones, you call those push-ups? They look more like butt-dips to me. You DID say you wanted to learn self-defense, didn’t you? Quit doing push-ups like a girl, and bend those arms. It’s only been a minute, and the whole class has their arms locked, and their butts in the air… ha, listen to ‘em groan. Someday, they’ll thank me for this. COME ON, PEOPLE. DIG DEEP! And stay on those first two knuckles, the concrete will make ‘em tough. HALF WAY THERE! I think they have an exam coming up, maybe I should make them do kata tonight. Okay, everybody up! I’ve seen enough slop. Turn around and straighten up your uniforms. To show respect, you never face me when you do that. I know … we’ll spar tonight! I need a good workout anyway. Okay, gang…GEAR UP! You’ve got ten minutes to get your gear on, warm yourselves up, and be ready to spar. Let’s go! (Clap, clap.) Tonight I’m gonna make them sit along the wall and watch while I spar them one at a time. This is the exact same way my instructors taught me. Oh, here comes Dr. Phares the plastic surgeon.

(Dr. Phares) Mr. C., I have a sore muscle in my leg. Do I still have to spar? Definitely! You still have one good leg and two good arms left. Get your gear on, Doc. Let’s go.

(Dr. Phares) Yes, sir.


Where was I? Oh, yeah…I’m gonna start with the biggest guy first, and towards the end of the round I’ll knock the wind out of him. That always impresses everyone. Hey, hey, excuse me ma’am! No water, please. I don’t want you cramping up on me while we’re sparring. You can wait until after class for a drink… ---------------------------------------Now that you’ve had a taste of my teaching style, how would you like to learn martial arts from me? Would you enroll your children in my school? Would you want me to teach your wife self-defense? Would you like me to work for you? If you didn’t answer “no” to all of these questions, then I suggest you put this book down immediately, and contact your local shrink! The fact is that being a talented martial artist doesn’t make you a good teacher. However, a quality continuing education program, or martial arts business mentor can. Sometime you don’t know what you don’t know. Got me? How to properly teach ADHD kids, reducing liability in the classroom, proper hydration and nutrition, how to motivate others, leadership skill development, and a variety of other critical topics were not part of my Black Belt exam—unfortunately. I’ll bet they weren’t part of yours, either. I, for one, desperately needed a continuing education program to help fill in the gaps, and I didn’t even realize it. Had I had such a program when I was teaching, I honestly believe that my classes would not have been as unprofessional, egotistical, and unsafe as they were. So don’t fall into the same trap as me. Don’t be a superior Black Belt and an inferior teacher. Educate yourself!


Chapter Fifty-Eight

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

59: Hold Yourself to the Highest Standard and Position Yourself as a Community Leader


eadership flows from the top down. That’s why I always try my best to set the standard of excellence in all that I do and I encourage you to do the same.

To me, this translates to many things. A few examples would be keeping in shape, staying positive, demonstrating the highest levels of integrity, working hard, constantly learning, never quitting, being kind to others, developing myself in every imaginable way, and so forth. It means being a model for what you believe in, rather than someone who just talks about it. Get the idea? In summary, I always make a strong effort to hold myself to the highest standard. I feel that this is my responsibility as a leader in the martial arts industry. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that making a constant effort to be my best is no easy chore. Frankly, it’s very hard. Even knowing this, I still want to encourage you to do the same. Never settle for second best, let yourself go, or compromise your values. As a martial arts instructor, you are in a unique position. Kids think you’re a super hero. Adults place you up on a pedestal. Your students look to you for leadership, guidance, and support. For these reasons and many others, I suggest you make every effort to set THE standard for excellence in your world, just as I make every effort to do in mine. This brings me to the topic of self-discipline, a key component when it comes to holding yourself to the highest standard. So what is self-discipline, anyway? I’ve been taught that self-discipline is having the strength to do what has to be done, when it has to be done, whether I like it or not. Naturally, this is easy to talk about, and hard to actually do. But if you want to achieve your greatest potential, you’ll have to employ this philosophy a whole lot more often than the average Joe does. Furthermore, you want to train your staff members to do the same. One of your goals should be to help your staff become more self-disciplined so they can achieve their maximum potential in life. As a leader, always try to pull more out of your people, and incrementally raise the bar when you feel they’re ready. Enhancing self-discipline is a great place to start. On this note, I suggest you ask everyone in your next staff meeting to jot down his or her definition of self-discipline. Let them share their definitions aloud and then give them the one you want them to commit to memory.


Now here are three key points. Your staff will be much more self-disciplined when you:

(1) clearly teach them what self-discipline is and means.

(2) constantly help them develop their self-discipline in a positive manner.

(3) prove to them that YOU are actually self-disciplined by leading through example.

Do this, and you’ll see tremendous results, both personally and professionally, in your team. According to my old friend Charlie Foxman of Midwest Martial Arts, “To me, holding myself to the highest standard means truly living the martial arts way and walking the walk. How can you preach it, if you don’t do it?” I agree with Mr. Foxman. You’ve got to practice what you preach. If you want your staff to work smarter and harder, then YOU work smarter and harder. If you want your students to train more often, then YOU train more often. If you want your students and staff members to eat healthier, then YOU eat healthier first.

“Never lower your standards for others who try to drag you down to their level.” Your responsibility as a leader is to lead by example and inspire others to raise their standards to your level in virtually every way. Likewise, never lower your standards for others who try to drag you down to their level. This includes everything from losing your temper with a difficult parent, to doing something that’s flat-out dishonest. As a small business owner and a person with power, you will be tempted every now and again. Do not give in. Always stay in control and keep your integrity high. Finally, please realize that your school will only be as good as you. Over time, your school will actually become a mirror image of you. That’s why it’s so critical that you maintain a reputable image, continue to grow, be a strong leader within your community and let your performance take you to the top. Always hold yourself to the highest standard.


Chapter Fifty-Nine

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

60: Kick the Excuses — Success is a Matter of Choice!


ver the years, I’ve had the opportunity to consult with thousands of martial arts professionals. Some were teaching out of their garages, and others had built empires.

The point is that I’ve worked with instructors on both ends of the spectrum and everyone in between. During this time, I honestly believe I’ve heard every excuse for lack of success that exists in the martial arts business. However, the following three stick out in my mind as the all-time best of the worst.

1.  The “I’m Too Busy to be Successful” Excuse

The least creative excuse for lack of success I frequently hear is the, “I’m too busy” excuse. That’s right…they’re too busy to be successful. Too busy to apply a new marketing strategy, attend a business seminar, watch a DVD of an expert sharing his precious knowledge, read this book, study information online, or network. Ironically, I’ve found that the majority of school owners who make this excuse are typically the ones who are struggling the most. Often, all the information they need to make a complete turn-around is right under their noses. In some cases, they’ve already bought and paid for it. But they just “can’t find the time to even look at it” much less apply it. All of that valuable information will do them little good stacked up on the floor in their offices. Indeed, owners who make this excuse are usually busy all right. Unfortunately, they’re not busy teaching intros, enrolling students, marketing, or collecting tuition. They’re almost always “busy” working on low return activities. The fact is that we all have the same amount of hours in a day. The difference is that some of us have learned how to use those hours for maximum return while others simply waste them. Some of the busiest doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and school owners that I know find the time to accomplish all they need to do every single day. That’s because they make time, rather than excuses.

2. The “I Can’t Afford to be Successful” Excuse Recently, I heard Anthony Robbins tell an interesting story.

A guy says to him, “Tony, I’d love to come to your seminar tonight. The problem is that I just can’t afford it.” Instead of giving the guy a free ticket, Tony replied, “That’s too bad sir, because if you can’t afford it then you’re obviously one of the people who needs to attend my seminar the most. You should beg, borrow or steal to get the money to get in.” How’s that for a wake-up call?


The point is that, if you genuinely want something bad enough, don’t waste time conjuring up excuses as to why you don’t have it. Instead, find a way to get it. Becoming successful is not an accident. It takes a lot of hard work, especially in the area of constantly increasing the knowledge you have as it pertains to furthering your progress in your chosen profession. But people who don’t realize the importance of learning are great at finding excuses for not being able to educate themselves. The easiest excuse for people like this to make is the “I can’t afford to educate myself” excuse. The truth is that you can’t afford NOT to educate yourself. There is no better investment than an investment made in knowledge. Once you have it, the knowledge can help you become more successful for the remainder of your life. You’d be surprised at how powerful this concept is. One single piece of information that’s learned and applied is sometimes all it takes to make your money back a thousand-fold.

3.  The “My Traditional System is Preventing Me from Being Successful” Excuse Another common alibi for lack of success is “tradition.”

Here, an owner metaphorically locks himself in a cage, and then expects others to feel sorry for him as he stares out from behind the bars, at the rest of the world, with jealousy and sorrow in his eyes. In my experience, tradition is frequently used as another lame excuse for laziness and business related under-performance in our field. I mean I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a down-on-his-luck school owner whimper something like, “I’m in a traditional system so my marketing has to lack flair.” Or, “That’s a great idea Rob, but I run a traditional school so I just can’t use it. Nope. Can’t do it.” The list of self-inflicted wounds and excuses goes on and on. The fact is that there are plenty of traditional schools out there that are highly successful. They have a ton of students and they’re making lots of money teaching quality martial arts. I can tell you that they didn’t become successful on accident or by making excuses. They worked hard for what they have. So realize that success is a matter of choice and there’s no such thing as luck. You create your own luck through hard work and personal growth. Period. As I wrote in my first book, How to Be a Black Belt, “Excuses have been created by the Gods of Mediocrity to enhance procrastination and inhibit progress.” It’s important to realize that excuses will rule any aspect of your life for as long as you allow them to. Don’t let that happen to you. Instead, be strong, be a true Black Belt, and kick the dang excuses.


Chapter Sixty

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

61: Explode Your School’s Growth Through the Guidance of a Quality Mentor


f you’re goal is to grow your school, or become the best that you can be, in virtually any area, then I highly recommend that you find at least one good mentor who can help you.

A mentor is someone who serves as your trusted adviser, counselor or teacher. He or she should understand you and your goals, help you track your progress frequently, hold you accountable and regularly critique your performance in a particular area. Your mentor should be firm, but fair, and challenge you to reach new levels of performance and accomplishment. He or she should offer the encouragement, support and guidance necessary to help you achieve your goals. I can tell you from experience that mentors can make a huge difference in one’s personal and professional growth. Me? I’ve been benefiting from various mentors since I was a young teenager. In fact, I’ve consistently had several different mentors at all times. For example, I’ve maintained at least one mentor for business, martial arts, spiritual growth, public speaking, etc. Realize that no one mentor is an expert in everything, so the key is to find different mentors, for different areas of your life. Today, my main mentor is Matt Furey. As it’s been said before, “Nobody makes it without a mentor.” Just begin discussing mentorship with successful people and you’ll quickly discover that most of them have mentors. Plus, they’ve mentored others. For example, many people say that I’m one of their mentors. (I’m humbled by this honor.) By the same token, John Corcoran is one of my mentors in martial arts journalism. One of Mr. Corcoran’s mentors is my longtime friend Joe Lewis. One of Mr. Lewis’ mentors is Walter Anderson (CEO of Parade Magazine). See how it works? It just keeps going. When it comes to finding mentors, make sure you choose them wisely. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to follow the financial advice of a guy who’s broke, even if he’s a good friend. You want to seek mentors who have already been where you want to go. They should have a proven track record. In addition, a good mentor should be a good listener, have patience, enjoy “giving back,” be a good role model and possess stronger skills than you in the areas you’re seeking to improve. Now, let’s get down to brass tacks. How can having a mentor benefit you, a martial arts school owner? I asked my good friend Paul Garcia this question. He responded by saying, “I’ve been all about having mentors since the beginning of my career. I started by modeling Greg Silva and Steve LaVallee, in the early 90’s. It worked great and led me to owning one of the largest schools in New England. Why should you reinvent what someone else has already done? Success leaves tracks. Find what successful people do. If you follow their lead, then you should achieve the same or similar results.”


I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Garcia; no wonder he has approximately 500 active students. Let me add, however, that mentors come with different fee structures.

Matt Furey and Rob Colasanti in Matt’s “Home Plate Club” seats at Tropicana Field in St. Pete, FL. Matt Furey is one of the best mentors that anyone could ever have. For information about his MasterMind groups or coaching programs, please visit

For starters, some will do it for free. They may see you as a well-intentioned, gracious person with much untapped potential. They know they can make a difference in your life and they’re happy to “give back,” by advising

you when they can. Their reward is to see you succeed. On the flip side, others will charge you big bucks. But if you find the right mentor, your investment will be worth every penny. Finally, it can be lonely running a school. Maybe not for you, but I know for a fact that it is for many of our martial arts brothers and sisters. The reason is because they are not connected to a business coach, association or larger organization. They do not network. Sometimes, they are “orphan black belts,” or their geographic location may be a factor. If you’re an instructor that fits any of these categories, then I’m confident that you could really benefit from having a mentor in your life. The bottom line is that countless others, in your shoes, have already leveraged the concept of being mentored. I encourage you to do the same. It’s one of the quickest ways to grow your school, your income and yourself. Please visit if you would be interested in having me as your mentor.


Chapter Sixty-One

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

62: Teaching Martial Arts and Earning a Great Income Gives You the Best of Both Worlds


n my life, I’ve had a number of mentors from whom I’ve learned a great deal. One of these was my immunology professor, Dr. My Lynn Dao.

Among other things, Dr. Dao ran the immunology lab at the University of South Florida (USF). After earning an “A” in her immunology class, she suggested that I apply for a fellowship grant to work as a researcher in her lab. The grant was being sponsored by the American Cancer Society, and even though I thought winning it was a long shot, I applied anyhow. After a few weeks had passed, Dr. Dao informed me that I had been accepted. YES! A premedical student, at the time, I was so excited that I could hardly contain myself! This was big! So right away Dr. Dao gave me a white lab coat, my very own key to the lab, and assigned me a project. The purpose of our research was to gain new insights into tissue regeneration by observing the effects of calorie restriction on the partially hepatectomized rat. It was the first time I had actually worked with DNA and RNA and it was a blast. Anyhow, during my fellowship, I spent a lot of time working with Dr. Dao, and learned many valuable lessons from her. One of the most important things she taught me was that you’ve got to love your job. And when you truly enjoy your work, your work becomes your play. I discovered that Dr. Dao lead her life this way, and she also enjoyed the many rewards, including financial security, which went along with being a successful and highly respected educator at the university level. She seemed to have tremendous balance in her life, while earning a great living, and I admired her greatly for that. I always thought - when I grow up, I want to do the same. And I did...through my work in the martial arts industry. As martial arts professionals, the vast majority of us love our work as much as Dr. Dao loves hers. How could we not? We work great hours, show-up in a gi, and practice martial arts all day long while students bow to us, and call us sir or ma’am. And we change our students’ lives, one kick and one punch at a time. We’re pretty fortunate, if you ask me. However, while many instructors are passionate about what they do, they end up earning a salary that is well beneath their expectations, talents and contributions. Unlike Dr. Dao, this causes them to become severely unbalanced. During the past fifteen years, I’ve had in-depth conversations regarding the martial arts business with thousands of school owners. In my discussions, I’ve noticed a pattern that keeps repeating itself. What I’ve found is that there’s a lack of fundamental business knowledge that plagues many of the professionals in our field. Things like staff development, money management, selling,


negotiation, copywriting, time management, web marketing and effective communication skills to name a few are indeed common areas of weakness. And this affects their personal and professional growth something fierce. The reason this is the case is clear. You see, when an ordinary Black Belts opens his own school, he instantly becomes the owners of a business. However, Black Belts aren’t required to attend a special “University of Martial Arts” that teaches them how to operate a studio before they open it. So they don’t know what they don’t know. And far too few instructors have the privilege of studying under qualified martial arts business mentors before they hosted their grand openings. Unless they have an inherent knack for it, many Black Belts simply have no idea how to operate a school at even a mediocre level. In fact, many owners are the first to admit that they’re “flyin’ blind.” So they wing it, and try to do the best they can with what they have to work with. In many cases, this results in a small school, with a meager income, and very little growth over time. I hate to say it, but I’ve seen way too many extremely talented instructors and great fighters alike end up in financial despair. Some have no retirement money, bad credit, and a flat student count for years. They love what they do for a living, but they have little or nothing to show for it. The majority of their troubles are not because they are poor martial artists. Nor is it because their hearts aren’t in their work. It’s because they don’t know how to run a business properly.

So if basic business skills and school operations are your limiting steps, then I sincerely encourage you to get all the help you can until you become a “Black Belt” in those areas. Continue to invest in educational materials, MasterMind groups, business events and seminars (in and out of the industry), because they will get you up to speed. This will allow you to establish a balance between the enjoyment you have for your work, and the level of financial stability you create for yourself and your family. As martial arts professionals, we’re already lucky enough to do what we enjoy doing most. Just as Dr. Dao taught me, this is critical if you want to be happy in life. Now, wouldn’t it be great if you could match that enjoyment with an income that’s worthy of the service you provide to others? Wouldn’t that be AWESOME! Go for it. You CAN have the best of both worlds.


Chapter Sixty-Two

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

63: Develop the Mindset for Success or Risk Being Choked-Out in the Game of Business


’ve noticed that most successful school owners have something special in common. It’s not their style, location, IQ or square footage. It’s definitely not how many trophies they’ve won, or the amount of stripes on their belt.

It’s their mindset! If you want to be successful, you first have to believe that you can be successful. Success begins “upstairs.” And as simple as it sounds, that’s how it works. There’s no doubt that adjusting your mind is the critical first step in unlocking your true potential as a school owner (or martial artist.)

“When you change your mindset, you change your actions. When you change your actions, you change your future.” See, when you change your mindset, you change your actions. When you change your actions you change your future. So this area of “right thinking” is absolutely critical and I highly recommend you make it part of your continuing education immediately. In the meantime, here now are five powerful tips that will help you fine-tune your mindset and unlock your true potential as a school owner.

Be a Positive Thinker

If you want to be a successful and happy person, you have to be a positive thinker. Always do your best to eliminate negative thoughts from your mind and find the good in every situation. Negative thinking will only hold you back from reaching your goals and being a healthy, happy, productive person. On this note, look at most of the highly successful instructors in our industry and you will quickly notice that they are positive thinkers who are generally in a good mood. They have an attitude of gratitude. The evidence is all around you. See the pattern? Another thing - go to the banner to order The New Psycho-Cybernetics, by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. This is one of the most important books I’ve ever read that teaches you how to use the power of your mind and your thoughts to get virtually anything you want out of life. It’s a must read. Plus, it will give you tons of material to pass along to your students during their journey to black belt and beyond.


Constantly Feed Your Brain

Your school will only grow to the level that you do. That’s why you should always be learning as much as you can from highly successful people, in and out of the martial arts field. The more you learn, the more you earn and the better leader you will become.

Have Confidence in Yourself

Enter every situation with a victory mindset and the intent to succeed. You must erase any self-doubt, fear and uncertainty from your psyche. Focus not on what you’re afraid of, but on where you want to go. As we’ve already discussed, you’ll end up creating your own selffulfilling prophecies; the kind that lead to success. If you do not believe in yourself, then your students and staff won’t either and you’ll never build the school of your dreams.

Surround Yourself with Winners

If you want to feel and think negatively, then hang around negative people. They’ll be sure to grab you by the ankles and pull you right back down to their level every chance they get. On the other hand, success breeds success. The more you associate with winners the more you’ll start to think and act like one. For this reason, I recommend you apply to become a member of my MasterMind group. Few things will motivate you more, or get you in the success-mindset faster. The instructors I accept into my group are accepted because they’re serious about growth, committed to success and are willing to help other group members grow throughout the course. When you become part of a group like this, you begin to benefit from the “MasterMind effect” that Napoleon Hill described so well in Think and Grow Rich. Soon, the rising tide raises all the boats.

Think Big, Not Small

Someone once said that if you aim your arrow at a star, you might hit the moon. But if you aim your arrow at the moon, you might only hit an eagle. It’s true. That’s why highly successful school owners think big. They set their goals high and fish for whales…not guppies. On the other hand, I’ve found that struggling school owners typically think small. They’re happy to just get by. So usually, that’s all they end up with…mediocre results, and only enough to just get by. You want and deserve better than that for yourself and your family, don’t you? Now I typically do not speak in absolutes. But in this case I will. Unless you develop the right mindset, you will never become highly successful in the martial arts business, or any business, for that matter. The bottom line is that you cannot think like a loser and expect to be a winner. Simply put, having the right mindset is a prerequisite for success! 205

Chapter Sixty-Three

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

64: Is it Time to Stop Making Your Landlord Rich?


uring the recent past, I’ve noticed that many school owners have stopped paying rent. Instead, they’re buying their own buildings. Based upon my research, there are three main reasons why you may want to explore doing the same.

These reasons include:

1. Wealth Building

This is the main benefit. At only $3,000 per month, you’ll pay out over a million dollars in rent over the next 30 years. Why not invest that million dollars in a piece of property that you’ll someday own? If you do, your property is almost certain to appreciate tremendously by the end of the term. Also, we’re in a recession at the moment and property values have fallen substantially. This presents a great buying opportunity if you can do it. According to my friend Dr. Harold Lauber, “I have 8,000 square feet and over one acre of land, which I purchased for $300,000. I pay a mortgage of $2,700 per month. We’ve had the property for 12 years, and I have been offered over a million dollars for it.” Likewise, Dale Cook of Apollo’s Karate tells me, “I own an 8,000 square foot facility, in prime retail space, in Tulsa, OK. I own this $600,000 property free and clear. Ahhh, what a feeling! Had I been renting, I’d still have monthly payments and zero equity.” These gentlemen are not alone. Many other martial arts professionals have stopped paying rent, too. Now they’re making themselves wealthy, instead of their landlords. Clearly, buying your own space could become your retirement income someday.

2. Income Generation

Some instructors I network with are buying their own building and then renting a portion of it out to tenants. This enables them to generate additional income that helps to pay down the mortgage over time. Kristen Alexander of Alexander’s Martial Arts has applied this strategy. Mrs. Alexander comments, “We just built a strip mall for our third location. It’s a 10,000 sq.ft. facility—5,250 for my dojo, 5,250 rental space. The costs weren’t much greater than if we built just our school and this way we generate rental income for ourselves! This is the right decision because I am in business for the long haul and it will continue to provide for my family even after I am just a memory!”

3. Tax Savings

When you buy your own building, there can be a variety of tax savings and incentives depending upon the owner’s personal situation. The details surrounding this are way too complex and personalized to address here. However, according to my CPA (and my uncle), William Colasanti, “The pros typically outweigh the cons, as long as the overall arrangement


is structured properly.” When and if the time comes, my suggestion is that you seek some really good advice in this area so you do it right. As you can see, there are some very good reasons to own your own school if such an endeavor fits your goals and personal situation. It did for my good friend Brad Jones. Not too long ago, he purchased a building in Canada and transformed it into a gorgeous 8,000 sq.ft. temple-like dojo, which I recently visited. Brad’s dojo used to be a movie theatre. In fact, he saw the movie Billy Jack there many years ago. Now he owns the place! Despite the stresses that went along with a massive renovation, Brad has doubled his square footage, while keeping his mortgage payment nearly equal to his prior rent payment. Plus, his commercial mortgage payment is locked in and won’t increase as rent typically does. Soon, Brad will own the building and you can bet it will appreciate considerably by then. When asked to comment on this subject, former Easy Pay President Rick Bell cautions, “When you buy your building you are then in the real estate business. You want to look at it from 9th degree black belt and leading real estate an investment standpoint. If you have investment coach, Hanshi Terry Bryan, discusses to shut your school down for some how to get rich in real estate with Rob Colasanti. reason, you’ll still own the building.” Rick raises a valid concern. You want to be able to service the note as fast as possible if things suddenly fall apart. The key is to make a sound property investment, because you may not be running a school out of your building in the future. On a final note, I’ve had the opportunity to associate with a number of very wealthy people. These heavyweights all had one thing in common. They all owned lots of property. To that end, I encourage you to explore this avenue. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best ways you can build wealth in the martial arts business.


Chapter Sixty-Four

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

65: What to Do if You’re a “Jack of All Trades”... but Only a “Master” of One


here’s a scenario that I’ve encountered way too many times throughout the years.

A school owner calls or emails me. Immediately, he informs me that his school is barely breaking even, his marketing isn’t working and new enrollments are at an all time low. He’s extremely frustrated, down on his luck and says that he needs help right away, before it’s too late. Unless something changes FAST, he’ll have to close down. After much contemplation, I have concluded how a school owner can arrive at this place of shear panic and desperation. The reason is because he is a “Black Belt” trying to run a “business,” without any business knowledge. All these years, he’s been studying martial arts, not business. So, overwhelmed, the Black Belt struggles to survive with a great side kick and a near perfect set of katas. But when it comes to running a school properly and profitably, such an arsenal does little good. A force of one, he attempts to tackle the many tasks, besides teaching, that are critical for operating a successful commercial school. But these tasks are way outside of his area of expertise, and are usually executed with “blue belt” level competence at best. Even so, ego stands in the way as he continues to fly-blind and wing it. Most of the time, he does not know…what he does not know. This is the common mistake that causes many schools to remain stagnant for years. In fact, it has been my experience that a school will continue to suffer for as long as the Black Belt who is running the show remains a “Jack of All Trades,” when he’s really only a master of one. Consider this. Does being a Black Belt qualify an individual to create effective marketing strategies? Does it give someone the ability to create ad campaigns or design websites that actually lead to the sale of memberships? Does it turn one into an accountant or a financial planner? How about a specialist in team building, sales, search engine optimization, creating retention strategies, staff development or negotiation? Across the board the answer is NO! The fact is that being a solid Black Belt alone is not nearly enough to make a school successful. That’s just one important ingredient in the overall recipe for success. Unfortunately, many owners don’t realize this. They’re so used to being regarded as an expert in their art, that they get confused, and begin to think that they’re an expert at everything. This single incorrect notion is why many school owners either go out of business, or just never get their school off the ground in the first place.


I’ve spoken with tons of professional martial artists who had been teaching for more than a decade, yet only maintained about 50-80 students. An active count such as that barely provides enough revenue to keep the lights on, especially if they’re undercharging for their tuition, which most do. Usually, they’re grossing four to eight thousand dollars a month working full time hours. Not good. Yet, others pack their schools with 200-300 students in less than a year. In fact, some instructors these days are grossing nearly a half million a year with just 200-250 students. How? It’s mainly because they’ve discovered how to couple great martial arts instruction with effective operational strategies and systems. Plus, they do not undercharge. They have a very high average student value (gross revenues/ active students) and offer highly profitable upgrade programs.

“The key is to recognize your areas of weakness and then constantly work on improving them.” It’s important to realize that there are two sides to running a school. There is a teaching side and a business side. Typically, Black Belts are strong teachers and weak businessmen. Not always, but often. Yet, most owners attempt to tackle the business side of the school, even though they have very little or no experience with actual school operations. This usually leads to massive frustration, burnout and a lot of wasted time, money and effort. The key is to recognize your areas of weakness and then constantly work on improving them. You do this by increasing your knowledge in those areas over time and/or by delegating those areas to organizations or people who specialize in doing them. So, rather than trying to be a “Jack of All Trades” when you’re really only a master of one, get the help you need to become a “black belt” in other areas that count. Finding the right martial arts business coach is a great place to start. Who knows? You might just be surprised at how fast your school begins to grow.


Chapter Sixty-Five

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

66: Your Beliefs Will Shape Your Future as a School Owner and Leader of Many


ould you like to create your own destiny, take control of your future, and increase the quality of your life? Would you like to build the martial arts school of your dreams?

If so, you’ve got to start believing in yourself today. You’ve got to think like a winner, and eliminate any thoughts or actions that might hold you back. You’ve got to imagine you already are where you want to be, and that nothing could make you fail. You’ve got to create your own POSITIVE self-fulfilling prophecies. Robert Merton conceptualized the notion of the self-fulfilling prophecy in 1957. It occurs when “a false definition of the situation evokes a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true.” Translation—as a school owner, when you set an expectation, even if it isn’t accurate, your actions tend to be consistent with that expectation. Often, the result is that the expectation comes true. For example, if you constantly tell yourself that you can’t grow your school for any reasons you may conjure up, then your school will probably NOT grow. “Argue for your weaknesses, and they’re yours,” says world-renowned psychologist Dr. Stephen Covey. However, the reverse of this also holds true, and it’s just as powerful. Make yourself believe that you are going to succeed at whatever you whatever you want to accomplish...and you will greatly increase your chances for success. Your subconscious mind will automatically do its part to make it happen. It even works while you’re asleep. So program it properly. You must program it for success! Ultimately, we become what we think about most, regularly tell ourselves and truly believe. In other words, our thoughts become our realities. That’s why it is so critically important to concentrate on your strengths, opportunities, and potentials rather than your weaknesses, failures, and limitations. Unfortunately, some school owners tend to focus on the negative way too much. They do not realize that optimism and positive self-talk will have a direct bearing on their performance and subsequently the growth of their school. Instead, they are pessimistic, fearful, negative. They convince themselves that they can't succeed, and as a result they typically don’t. As a consultant, here are some common examples of this that I’ve encountered way too many times during the past 15 years of working with school owners:

Me: If you create a Black Belt Club, it will help you enhance your retention.

Owner: Black Belt Club is a good idea, but I just know it won’t work in my school.

Me: If you begin a Leadership Team, you’ll start to develop staff members and bench strength.


Owner: Tried it already. No one wanted to be on my Leadership Team.

Me: If you host various special events, you’ll increase your revenues. Do one per month. Owner: Special events never work for me. My students don’t support them. Me: You’re undercharging. Have you ever considered raising your tuition?

Owner: Uh-uh. Higher prices won’t work in my area. The people around here are too cheap. Me: Have you ever considered working with a martial arts business coach, since you’re having difficulty breaking past 50 students?

Owner: I would, but I just don’t have the time. The school keeps me too busy. I’m swamped! Me: You can have 250 students some day if you really put your mind to it.

Owner: NO WAY! Not me. That’s impossible. My instructor never had more than 120 and no other school in this area has more than 200. Ain’t gonna happen. Ah, yes…argue for your weaknesses, and they will be yours. Owners like the ones in these examples are difficult to consult with indeed. They operate with a victim’s mentality, and their schools are almost always less successful than they could be if they’d only improve their thinking. They convince themselves that nothing works for them. Then they gradually create the evidence to support their claims, which proves to the world that they were right all along. But, worst of all, they blame others for their problems, when the real culprit is the man in the mirror. They create self-fulfilling prophecies of the worst kind. On the other hand, I work with so many highly successful school owners who do exactly the opposite. They focus their mental and physical energies on positive thoughts and actions. They think big, not small. They have a great attitude and lots of self-confidence. They make goals instead of excuses and constantly measure their progress towards those goals. They’re proactive, not reactive. They engage in positive self-talk. They have abundance mentalities. They’re highly motivated, future-focused, success-minded, and optimistic. This kind of overall thinking and behavior creates positive self-fulfilling prophecies and lots of “luck,” as evidenced by their noteworthy accomplishments and good fortune. So the take-home message is that you have the power to influence your own positive future. How? First, set positive expectations for yourself and your school. Second, you’ve got to truly believe you can accomplish these things so your daily actions, work ethic and decisions begin to support what you’re trying to achieve. Third, you must believe in yourself, engage in positive selftalk and get your subconscious mind working for you, not against you. Then, as if by magic, your expectations will begin to come true. Try it...starting today!


Chapter Sixty-Six

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

67:  No Guts, No Glory


ccording to fellow martial artist Brian Tracy, who I also had the honor of interviewing for The Colasanti Interviews V1, “Your heart should be in your throat at least once a day.”

But what does the supreme guru of all that makes sense mean by this? Well, he’s simply implying that in order to get ahead in this world, you’ve got to be willing to take risks. Ask nearly anyone who’s successful in any area, and they’ll tell you that Mr. Tracy’s mantra is right on the money. In order to climb the ladder of success, you must have the courage to venture into the unknown. That means being willing to take certain chances in life. This is mandatory if you plan to grow personally, professionally, or financially. However, taking risks can be very difficult for some people. If this describes you, don’t feel bad. Feeling comfortable with risk is something that you have to condition yourself to over time. That’s because risk taking often requires that you step out of your comfort zone, go against something you may have previously been taught, or do what your instincts tell you NOT to do. Getting yourself to accept behavioral changes such as these, is not naturally easy. It’s a mentality that must be developed. Psychologically, when we’re afraid of something, it’s usually because we don’t fully understand it. For many people, risk falls into this category. Those who don’t understand it, are typically scared of it. So they avoid taking risks, and are overly conservative throughout their lives. Consequently, this causes them to grow at a snail’s pace. On the other hand, those who understand risk, often use it to their advantage. This places them on the fast track to success, in many areas of life. But in order to maximize your return on risk, knowledge of the following three elements is key:

1. Risk Tolerance

When acclimatizing yourself to risk taking, the first step is to know just how much risk you’re willing to absorb. The best way to figure this out is to ask yourself “How much am I willing to lose?” Once you determine that, then you’ve established your risk tolerance. But be honest with yourself when it comes to this. A risk can go either way, regardless of how great the odds may appear. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a debilitating situation if something were to go wrong. As the age old rule states: “Never gamble with something that you can’t afford to lose.”

2. The Risk-Reward Ratio

Understanding the risk-reward ratio can really bring to light the importance of taking risks. This rule states, the greater the level of risk, the greater the level of reward.” But, keep in mind that the opposite of this also holds true. There’s a direct relationship between the level of risk and likelihood of loss. That’s why it’s so important that you learn to analyze risk factors, and take calculated risks that are based upon facts. 212

3. Calculated Risk

Since risks and rewards are generally in direct proportion to one another, learning how to use risk to your advantage is critical. The key is to take risks that are calculated, not impulsive. A calculated risk is one that results from lots of deliberation and careful thought. Here, all aspects of the risk taking decision are weighed out in advance. This method helps you make educated decisions, thereby reducing your chances for failure.

“In order to climb the ladder of success, you must have the courage to venture into the unknown.” As a martial arts business consultant, I speak with many owners who are afraid to take any school related risks at all. That’s ironic since these are the same individuals who spar, walk into the MMA cage without batting an eyelash, break boards, and wield razor sharp weapons like they’re buttering bread. “Oh, you wanna whack an apple out of my mouth with your Nunchaku? Sure, no problem.” Yet, when it comes to other types of risks, the same bunch is notoriously bashful. Common examples of “risks” for martial arts professionals include changing curriculums, opening a second or third school, breaking away from certain traditions or people, leaving style associations, switching billing companies, trying new marketing strategies, and investing in their buildings. Though many school owners passionately complain about how uptight (and sometimes unhappy) they are because of issues such as these, they tend to procrastinate when it comes to doing something about them. That’s unfortunate because most of these so-called risks, once taken, end up working out for the best. Just remember that if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. And what you’re getting might not be exactly what you want. In conclusion, risk taking can be very positive when it’s handled responsibly. That means analyzing the facts, making logical decisions, getting feedback from your MasterMind group and being willing to take certain chances. By the way, doing this will definitely put your heart in your throat. But that’s okay. As martial artists, we can relate…no guts, no glory! 213

Chapter Sixty-Seven

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

68:  Don’t “Dim Mok” Yourself


hroughout the centuries, there has always been a certain mystique surrounding the martial arts—Chi power, the killer-blow theory, the dance of death. At some point, I think we were all fascinated by mysteries such as these.

To me, one of the most interesting of all such tales is the dim mok. Legend has it that certain Chinese kung-fu experts possessed the ability to kill an opponent days, weeks, or even months after delivering this fatal technique. Known also as the “delayed death touch,” the grave aftereffects of the dim mok would silently come calling long after the fight was over. The end result…death! While there is no proof that the dim mok actually exists in the world of fighting, it definitely exists in other areas of our lives. Analogously, “the delayed death touch” strikes most often when it comes to poor decision-making skills. In other words, the decisions we make today usually effect us days, weeks, months, or even years later. So to ensure a successful future, we must start making quality decisions now. Having good decision-making skills is especially important if you own or operate a martial arts school. Realize that if you fall into this category, then you are a manager. And, as a manager you will spend a lot of your time making decisions. Therefore, having excellent decisionmaking skills is vital to your success. Here are three very simple tips that will help you improve your ability to make great executive decisions every time. Indeed, these are the best ways to block a dim mok.

1.  Think it Through

The first step in becoming an excellent decision-maker is to gather as much information about your decisions as possible. Research is key. In order to make sensible decisions you must first have factual information to work with. Know the potential pros and cons your decision may create so you can establish a risk tolerance. Also, remember to always “think” before you “do” and avoid rushing into important decisions. This is a strategy that will help reduce your chances of being hit with a dim mok later on when the results of your decision come to fruition.

2. Learn to Fight Procrastination

When it comes to decision-making, a common area of weakness among school owners is procrastination. That’s because having to make certain decisions can be stressful, painful, and even emotionally challenging at times. So the tendency is to delay big decisions for as long as possible. Often, this results in a self-inflicted dim mok. As Anthony Robbins said during my interview with him, “Human beings inherently seek pleasure and avoid pain.” But to be the most effective decision-maker possible, you have to condition yourself to do the opposite. Blitz forward and attack difficult decisions, immediately.


Don’t put them off. The longer you wait, the more you increase your chances for incurring a missed opportunity, or creating a crisis.

3.  Don’t Be Too Autocratic

In the martial arts field, many owners are too autocratic when it comes to making decisions. In my opinion, this is because they are used to being in control all of the time. Mix this with a high-flying ego, and a belt that outranks everyone else’s, and you end up with an autocratic decision-maker. When you’re too autocratic you risk missing the big-picture. You develop tunnel vision, or a very narrow-minded viewpoint of the situation. That’s why studies indicate that the best managers are democratic decision-makers. They seek the opinions of their staff, other martial arts professionals, and the individuals that will be most effected by the decision at hand. They listen carefully to the feedback they get, and then make an educated decision using a consensus approach. As a school owner, there are many other dim mok decisions that you want to watch out for.

“The quality of your decisions determines the quality of your life.” They include using tradition as an excuse to avoid innovation, lack of continuing education, allowing yourself to be taken advantage by a pseudo-master, not implementing modern marketing strategies, refusing to update an archaic curriculum, and not keeping good statistics. Another bigee is unwillingness to embrace modern ideas such as stripe exams, available technologies that make your life easier, Black Belt Club and other upgrade programs, and raising your tuition structure to today’s National averages. The effects of bad decisions such as these are not immediate. But often, you end up paying the price later. It’s true that the quality of your decisions will determine the quality of your life. In fact, the cumulative effect of all your previous decisions has caused you to end up where you are today. So whether you’re happy with your current situation or not, realize that it’s no accident that you are where you are. For that reason, decisions can be considered the building blocks of life. So stack your blocks high. But in the meantime, be careful not to dim mok yourself!


Chapter Sixty-Eight

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

69:  Be a Finisher!


’ve learned that there are no free rides to the island of success. This is especially true in the martial arts business. Success as a school owner requires much hard work, focus, raw determination, staying power and a wide variety of skills sets.

Many instructors do not realize this prior to “putting some skin in the game” and opening a school. Some instructors are clearly not mentally, physically or spiritually conditioned to go the distance as a business owner. I suppose this is one reason as to why our industry is comprised of what I often refer to as “starters” and “finishers.” To begin with, what’s a “starter?”

“A ‘starter’ is an instructor who constantly begins new projects before ever completing their current ones.” To me, a “starter” is an instructor who constantly begins new projects before ever completing their current ones. Half way into an endeavor, they give up and move on to something new, which to them, always looks like a better opportunity than the last. With passion in their voice you’ll hear the “starters” rave about how they’re on the verge of beginning something really big this time, or making the necessary changes for growing their school. But they never do. They’re all talk and no action. That’s their pattern and that’s a big reason as to why they generally do not grow. In the other corner, we have the “finishers.” I consider a “finisher” someone who cherry picks meaningful, worthwhile goals, measures progress daily and then focuses on those goals like a laser until they are someday achieved. “Finishers” go the extra distance, deliver that critical last ten percent, and see projects through to completion. They have “black belt” follow-through skills and they implement, implement, implement. [Note: Implementation and how fast you do it, is so vitally important, if you plan to be successful in virtually any kind of entrepreneurial business. Remember, money is attracted to speed.]


In my mind, a “finisher” is like a mountain climber who has set out to conquer a towering peak. Before they ever slam their spike into the first steep rock overhead, they’ve mentally and physically prepared themselves for the slow, steady, arduous climb to the top. Deep down inside, they know that the journey won’t be an easy one. Yet, they have no intention of stopping until they’re finally standing on top, looking down at the ground below. Only then will they move on to the next mountain and start the process over again. That’s a “finisher!” Too often, I speak with “starter” type instructors who begin to implement important things such as upgrade systems, preschool classes, staff training programs, or various alternate profit centers such as summer camps. Yeah, they try the new thing for a short period of time and appear to be really excited about it. But the moment they experience the smallest challenge, or sense that the task before them will actually involve effort, they throw in the towel and add the project to their ever-growing heap of half-baked pies. Instructors such as these are “starters,” and I encourage you to do the opposite of what they do. Another thing; as a professional martial artist, one of the smartest investments you can make is to align with a quality martial arts business mentor or association. However, for some odd reason, I’ve found that the “finishers” always seem to experience a great deal of success with these resources, while the “starters” claim that they do not work at all. Now sometimes the “starters” draw that conclusion before they look at the materials or attend the meetings, so I guess they must be clairvoyant or something. Isn’t that interesting? Anyhow...the fact is that business coaching or information products and services do not work by themselves. You have to make them work for you by taking massive action and often trying different approaches before they click with your specific situation. Frankly speaking, consistent, quality results rarely ever occur any other way. The moral of the story is that if you want to grow your school, you can’t continuously give up on everything you start. You can’t be an easy quitter, or expect to succeed by having a “this wasn’t as easy as I thought, so I’ll put it off ‘til later” mentality. Even more, you can’t expect to avoid investing in learning or education for yourself and your staff and still expect to grow. School owners who take this approach usually do not go very far. In summary, I’ve learned that it’s the “finishers” in our community who eventually develop the school of their dreams, help the largest amounts of students and experience the most personal prosperity. So my advice to you is simple. Be a “finisher!”


Chapter Sixty-Nine

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

70: Master the Art of Continuing Education and Earn Your “Black Belt” in Business


or approximately fourteen years, I spoke to school operators of every style, all over the world, day in and day out. In the process, I learned that there are clear-cut reasons why some schools flourish and other schools flop.

Let me tell you...success or failure in the martial arts business is NO accident. What I’ve found is that certain instructors struggle because they have no continuing education program in place for themselves or their staffs. They don’t take personal development seriously at all. Or, frankly, they’re too cheap to invest in the very things that will help them make a whole lot more money and help a whole lot more students. I’ve never understood this mentality. Others, who have spent good money on all kinds of products and services that will help them grow their schools, don’t use them. They’re members of information websites that they never visit. They’ve got a shelf full of books that they’ve never read. Or, they have a stack of unopened boxes on the floor in their office from a menagerie of martial arts information providers. Only when they eventually take the time to multiply each box by a hundred or two hundred bucks and do the math in their head do they suddenly WAKE UP and frantically cancel their memberships. The bottom line is that they are not growing themselves, and this causes their schools not to grow, either. Look at it this way. Most martial artists wouldn’t climb into the ring for a bout against a formidable opponent unless they trained really hard for it first, right? Yet, when it comes to business this same principle usually gets thrown right out the window. For example, instructors try to teach Leadership Team members how to be effective leaders when they themselves have never studied leadership. I’ve spoken with countless Program Directors whose job it was to sell memberships everyday, yet they never had a day of sales training in their lives. Or, they thought they could sell because they used to work in the stereo department of Best Buy when they were a teenager. The same scenario often applies to marketing, teaching preschoolers, working with ADHD children, managing a staff, and every facet of operating a small business. How much can you, as a school owner, really expect to accomplish with no prior experience or study in any of the areas that will determine your success as a school owner? Your best shot at making your schoolwork is when you’re a true black belt in martial arts and a true “black belt” in business - combined. Get the idea? So regardless of what level your school is at now, its continued growth will be proportionate to your willingness to further your own education in the key areas of your business. If you do not attend seminars, study selling, understand marketing, tweak your curriculum to boost retention, develop your leadership skills, network, or align with quality mentors, then you will invariably have a much harder time achieving your goals. 218

Here now are two extremely simple ideas that will help you increase the professional skills of yourself and your staff members, immediately:

Create a Personal Development Library

It’s hard for me to put into words how important it is for you to create a personal development library for you and your staff. It’s a must. Simply begin by investing in educational resources such as books, manuals, DVDs, magazines, audio CDs, etc. After you review an item enough times, and fully understand the content, teach it to your staff in your weekly meetings. Then, add that item to your library. Over the course of time, you’ll build a vast archive of extremely valuable knowledge, which can then be used for maintenance education and ongoing staff training. It will become one of your most cherished possessions. Even more, the materials you add to your library are tax deductible.

Professional Skills Training Sessions

My instructor used to have me and the other staff members from both of our schools train our professional skills every Friday. I recommend you do the same. If you like, you can host these training sessions away from your school to change the scenery and give them a fresh look and feel. For example, you might take turns gathering at different staff members’ houses. Of course the current week’s host would provide refreshments like coffee, juice, fruits, etc. The ideas is for your team to review any important material they may have forgotten, study an educational DVD or CD from outside the industry, review your latest martial arts business information materials, practice role-playing, or for your staff members to train other staff members on something they learned that will make a big difference in the school or the personal development of the other staff members Afterwards, everyone can compare notes, and discuss how the information can best be applied to your school to achieve everyone’s collective goals. This kind of regular training will help your staff to keep their professional skills razor sharp and stay focused on constant and never ending improvement. That’s exactly what you want! Furthermore, my suggestion to you and your staff is to try to learn something new every single day. Make that one of your priorities as growth-oriented people who truly desire to go places in life. In fact, I recommend you start out every morning reading, watching, or listening to something that will help you increase your skills in any of your Key Result Areas (KRAs). Some experts claim that if you do this, you’ll double your income in six months. Sound good? It’s never too late to master the art of continuing education.


Chapter Seventy

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

71: Don’t Let Criticism Weaken Your Grip When Climbing the Ladder of Success


ecently, I was communicating with a man who is considered one of the most successful and notorious CEOs in corporate American history. He’s a man who has run numerous multi-billion dollar corporations, and in the process earned hundreds of millions of dollars for himself. In our most recent phone conversation, this no-nonsense corporate titan made a statement that really hit home. He said, “Rob, criticism is the price of success!” Without a doubt, I have found these words to be chillingly accurate.

“Criticism is the price of success.” It’s been said that as one’s success increases so does the size of the bull’s-eye on their chest. When you’re the underdog, scores of people come out of the woodwork to cheer you on. They slap you on the back, and chant “Go get ‘em” or “You can do it!” They say, “We’re behind you all the way.” However, the minute you become successful, the cheers die down, and the criticism begins. As the lead dog, you can almost always count on catching plenty of thorns, as Karate Legend Joe Lewis once pointed out to me. After years of consulting with school owners, I can tell you that a particular aspect of criticism frequently occurs in the martial arts business. Here’s a common example: One day, “Joe Karate” finally decides to get serious about running his school. Over time, “Joe” evolves from karate-jock to martial arts professional. He transforms his school from a “dungeon” to a modern martial arts academy. Today, instead of having 100 students, “Joe” has 400 students. He’s earning an impressive income, living in a nice neighborhood, driving a nice car, and he’s somewhat high profile in his community. Life is good for “Joe.” However, not everyone is happy for his accomplishments. In fact, some of his karate buddies and competitors are so jealous of his success that they no longer associate with him. If “Joe” hosts a fundraiser or tournament, none of the local guys attend. Instead of supporting “Joe,” they criticize him, and say things like, “Joe sold out,” or “Joe’s school is the McDonald’s of karate.” Because of his success, “Joe” has become persona non gratta, and one of the most criticized instructors in town.


The interesting thing in martial arts is that the instructors around you who are not experiencing financial success commonly attack those who are successful. They say things to the effect of “His school is just a ‘belt-factory’’ or, “Yeah, but they don’t teach ‘real’ martial arts.” This perspective continues, and is even believed by those who purvey it, in the face of evidence to the contrary. The fact is that some instructors simply prefer to criticize their more successful counterparts, rather than get out of bed earlier, work harder, learn more, or innovate so they can achieve a similar level of success. Actually, doing this makes them feel important. So criticizing helps them compensate for their own lack of accomplishment. Where your own students are concerned, they may criticize you from a different standpoint. As you grow, they begin to pay closer attention to everything you do. They focus more on the things you say, what you wear, what you drive, how much money you’re suddenly earning and with whom you associate. You become a frequent topic of discussion. They put you under the microscope, and ultimately come to expect higher standards from everything you do. Of course, this often leads to criticism.

“Martial arts instructors who are not experiencing financial success commonly attack those who are successful.” But that’s simply par for the course. Can you name any high profile leader or successful person who hasn’t been criticized? That having been said, my advice to you on criticism is simple. As long as you know in your heart that you’re doing the right thing, let that criticism roll off your back like water rolls off the back of a duck. Never let it get you down, or break your spirit. Remember that your criticizers want to see you fail. That way, you’ll be more like them. I suggest you think of criticism as rocket fuel for your career. Learn from it, and use it to launch yourself even higher. Do not let it catch you off guard. Instead, expect it. It’s the price of success.


Chapter Seventy-One

Rob Colasanti

Business How to Build The the Martial MartialArts Arts SchoolBible of Your Dreams

72:  What I’ve Learned…from Zig!


hen you attend quality seminars and educational events in and out of the martial arts industry, you are making one of the most important investments in your personal and professional growth.

A little while back, I was a guest at Zig Ziglar’s Born to Win seminar in Dallas, Texas. It was a true honor to attend as a representative of the martial arts community. The sum of my experience: Zig’s event was life changing! For starters, seeing the legendary Zig Ziglar “do his thing” at age 79 was like seeing Elvis take the stage; like watching Michael Jordan score some hoops; like watching Joe Lewis work the bag. It’s clear to me now why so many consider him to be the best motivational speaker in the world. Zig will fire you up…big time! Now Zig’s event did not focus on making money. Instead, it focused on how to become a better person. This event was about developing all of the important personal qualities and opportunities in life that money can’t buy, such as happiness, health, true friendships, peaceof-mind, spirituality, hope, great family relationships and more. In fact, I’d like to share with you just three of the many “golden nuggets” I took home from this incredible experience:

1. Your Problems May Not Be as Bad as You Think

One of Zig’s presenters was John Foppe (see photo, right). John was born without arms. During his one-hour seminar he described in vivid detail what it was like to be a five-year-old boy, laying on the floor in a puddle of sweat, tears and snot, as he struggled to put on his pants for the first time without his mother’s help. He explained that though he had no arms and was born with seven other birth defects, he was still able to travel the world, drive a car, become a painter, meet the Pope, write books and share the stage with presenters of Zig Ziglar’s caliber. John left much of the audience in tears with his amazing story. So as you go through the struggles of building the school of your dreams, always remember that you can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, if you resolve to never quit. And, realize that you’re problems could probably be a whole lot worse. Just look at John Foppe.

2. Helping Others is the Key

Zig’s most famous quote is, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” Sometimes, I think he created this quote for martial arts instructors. It really is the essence of why we’re typically held in such high esteem by our students and within our communities. The same applies to Zig. He symbolizes servant leader-


ship in all ways, ranging from how he treats his beloved wife of 59 years to how he views our purpose for being on Earth. The bottom line is the more you give…the more you get.

3. Avoid Stinkin’ Thinkin’

After spending some quiet time with Zig during lunches and other occasions, I’ve determined that he is, without question, the most positive person I have ever met. Even when sharing thoughts about the untimely passing of his daughter, Zig had a remarkably positive way of viewing the situation. Repeatedly witnessing Zig’s extraordinarily positive attitude, in person, was the single most valuable experience I took home. What a tremendous role model he is for everyone. Especially, us martial arts professionals who constantly influence so many others. All successful, well-balanced people have one quality in common: They never stop learning; they never stop growing. If you’re not already in this club of winners, then it’s time that you join. As Zig would say, “I’ll see you…at the top!”

Born without arms, John Foppe has had to break down and re-think every aspect of day-to-day life. He learned that the inability to do something didn’t rest on the lack of resources or vision. Instead, it has more to do with one’s subconscious perception to meeting a challenge head on. He’s pictured here signing autographs for inspired fans.


Chapter Seventy-Two

Rob RobColasanti Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

73: 10 of My Multi-Millionaire Interviewees Share Their Success Secrets with You


ver the years, I’ve had the honor of interviewing many extremely accomplished individuals. People who already are…where you may want to go in one way or another.

My interviews have been known to be in-depth, information packed, loaded with value and perfect for staff training. They delve into critical areas that are essential to the growth of all martial arts professionals. Now, I’d like to share with you some very valuable words of wisdom, spoken by ten of my recent guests. Ponder these excerpts for a while:

Jay Abraham

“I believe, Rob, that in business, there are three types of people. People who make things happen, people who watch things happen, or people to whom things seem to always happen. The first thing is you have to decide which of those three groups you’re in and there’s no shame in being in any of them as long as you don’t blame anybody else for where your business or your life or your financial or your family plight is.”

Tom Hopkins

“People don’t say yes to the membership. They say yes to the physical benefits, the emotional benefits that they’re going to get once they come in and take advantage of the martial arts training and become a member. Benefits are the key and it’s not what it is, it’s what it will do for them.”

Jackie Chan

“Leadership is about helping people. When you start helping people, then you learn so many new things. Slowly, the people around you, they respect you. Then you slowly become a leader.”

Billy Blanks

“If you plant a seed you’ll get a seed. As an instructor, to me, you have to be a farmer. You have to know how to put out the seed and then in the harvest time you reap the benefits from it. And I always say reaping the benefits of a good student is you training the student to be a better person in life…and through that I’m going to go out and tell somebody else…and the next thing you know your studio is just flourishing.”

Matt Furey

“Watch a cheetah in the wild. He doesn’t run around all day. He doesn’t sprint several times per day. Instead, he meditates. But when it’s hunting time, there’s no one faster in the world. I like that idea. When it’s time for me to put out a new product, I want to be like a cheetah. I want to get it done fast so that I can devote more time to meditation, exercise and family.”


Chapter Seventy-Three

Rob Colasanti

Zig Ziglar ( Pictured Above with Rob Colasanti)

“In the martial arts, when you’re attempting to close the sale, you must really believe that the major beneficiary will be the student and then yourself. You pull for him to buy because the student will receive much more benefit than you will. If it’s not for his benefit, then your body language will give it away.”

Jean Claude Van Damme “First of all, who are you? Once you know that, then you can ask yourself what you want to do in life. What will make you the most happy man or woman on earth? Find that answer and, when you do, you will feel it. Then you create what you want to be – and feel deeply and strongly about it twenty-four hours a day!”

Brian Tracy

“The most successful people in the martial arts are good sales people. Our business is entrepreneurial. It requires that we find people, that we talk to them, that we convince them that it’s a good idea to train and then we close the sale. Many people who aren’t very good at selling avoid it, or they do it poorly or feel clumsy about it.”

Tony Robbins

“My guess is that in the martial arts business, instructors think, “I could increase the number of students, but then I would lose my level of quality.” That’s a lie. I used to have the same lie in my own business, because I had my own form of martial arts. Mine was psychological and emotional arts.”

Evander Holyfield

“The most important thing in life is love itself, because everything works off of love. I became the man that I am because I learned what love was.”


The Martial Arts Business Bible


Rob Colasanti


The Martial Arts Business Bible

74: Let’s Prevent Millions More from Quitting


t’s clear that, as an industry, our retention numbers are much too low. Loosely compiled research indicates that a majority of U.S. schools typically begin and end the year with approximately the same number of students, a 50% retention rate.

It saddens me sometimes when I think about the millions of students who have dropped out of classes during the years. There is no doubt that many of these students quit because of factors beyond their schools’ control. Some amount of attrition is par-for-the-course in any membership-driven organization. No one can disagree. However, that many of the students who quit do so because their schools do not place a great enough emphasis on retention-building practices. Our industry has made astounding progress in the area of professionalism during the past two decades. There has never been a better time in the history of the martial arts to own, operate or teach at a martial arts school. Although we’ve come a very long way in a very short time, we still have a very long way to go. I suggest that as we continue to evolve our industry, we collectively attack the area of retention with laser-like focus. Collectively, we must increase our retention percentages and develop effective strategies to “lock the back door.” Increasing retention and graduating more students across the nation to black belt will require an industry-wide paradigm shift. For some, this shift will be mental. Many instructors, myself included, come from schools that promoted extremely low percentages of students to black belt. The training was structured around a survival-of-the-fittest mentality. Our instructors suffered, so we were made to suffer also. Now, many of us follow the same pattern with our students. This mentality has been passed from generation to generation during a number the decades, resulting in what I call a multi-generational malfunction. The cycle will continue until it is eventually broken and changed for the better. For others, this paradigm shift will be philosophical. In other words, instructors will have to determine “What is a black belt?” Since our industry enforces no universal standards for earning a black belt, each school determines its own standard. What’s interesting is that some schools have higher “standards” than those found at institutions, such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton or even NASA. This can be highly problematic for retention. For some, the shift must also be tactical. The fact is that many schools are too focused on constantly enrolling more new students and not focused enough on keeping the students they have. This is a key point. Retention CAN be improved, and it generally is improved when schools employ a wide variety of retention building procedures and then follow them on a daily basis. 228

For most, the shift towards higher retention will begin with quality, niche-specific education, such as the kind already being offered in our industry today. The reality is that many instructors simply don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to keeping students. This is why investing in your education is so vitally important. When you choose the right continuing education program, you’ll immediately gain access to all the resources you could possibly need to slow your attrition rate and begin building the martial arts school of your dreams.

“To improve our industry’s retention, we instructors must collectively improve ourselves, first.” To increase our industry’s collective retention and ultimately graduate more students to the rank of black belt and beyond, we must collectively improve ourselves first. We must improve our professionalism, our curriculums, our teaching practices, the systems within our schools, our mentalities, our staff training and educational commitments, our student service, etc. Furthermore, I suggest that we stop basing the prestige of earning black belts on the failings of countless others, i.e., one made it and one thousand failed, so a black belt must be prestigious. This is a mentality that is no longer necessary in a 21st century martial arts school. Rather, as teachers, we should accept responsibility for the success or failure of our students. If our students succeed or fail, then we, as teachers, succeed or fail, too. Just to be clear, we should never give a black belt to a student who doesn’t deserve one or just because he paid his tuition. That would destroy the image of black belt. Instead, I’m suggesting that we become more proficient in all aspects of being professional martial artists, so that we increase our retention, graduate more students to black belt and do so without ever being considered a “McDojo.” A transformation of this magnitude will require quality education, willingness to embrace healthy change and, as mentioned above, an industry-wide paradigm shift. Remember the quote, “Until there is a death of the old self, there cannot be a birth of the new self.” So we must drop the baggage of the past that is still holding some of us back if we want to prevent millions more from quitting. It’s time we make a conscious effort to increase our retention, keep the students we have for life and move our industry forward, together. 229

Chapter Seventy-Four

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

75: 10, Simple, Time-Tested Tips to Improve Your Student Retention


ometimes it saddens me when I think about the millions of students who have dropped out of martial arts classes during the past few decades. As an industry, we really do need to place a strong emphasis on retention and not just enrolling more new students. I’m a firm believer that you can improve your school’s retention, if you’re willing to be a little creative and make the necessary effort to do so. My goal here is to help you improve your school’s retention with the following ten tips.

1. Create a Balanced Curriculum

Many students drop out during the first few months of their training simply because they are overwhelmed. They are given too much material, too fast and that scares them off. On the flip side, many advanced students drop out because they become bored. They’re not being taught anything new, so they lose interest and leave. You must avoid this “bottom heavy, top light” curriculum syndrome at all costs. Upgrade programs can go a long way towards fixing problems in this area.

2. Constantly Resell the Benefits

Remind your students often of the benefits they’re receiving by taking martial arts classes at your school, so these benefits are always fresh in their mind. Take time during each class you teach to review the value of martial arts training. Your retention rate will always be affected by how well you sell and constantly resell the benefits of your classes.

3. Consistently Teach Awesome Classes

You want to exceed your students’ expectations during each class you teach. If your students truly enjoy training at your school and they feel as though their monthly tuition investment is insignificant, as compared to the value they are receiving, then you will definitely retain them longer.

4. Paint a Crystal-Clear Picture of the Future

Your goal is to help your students see themselves as future Black Belts and get them to imagine all the life-changing benefits they’ll experience when they achieve that goal. Once a student begins to realize and desire the future he imagines, he is less apt to quit his training.

5. Build Quality Relationships with Your Students

Always let your students know how much you appreciate them. Mail handwritten “Good Job” cards to your students, be interested in their lives outside of your school, remember their birthdays, call them as soon as they begin to miss classes and praise them on a regular basis. When students feel like they’re part of the school’s family, they’ll be much less likely to end that relationship because of the occasional obstacle, set-back, speed bump or challenge that pops up.


6. Develop Your Own Leadership Skills

The better leadership skills and charisma that you and your instructors consistently demonstrate the longer your students will want to follow you, the longer they’ll stay devoted to your cause and the higher your retention will be. Strong leadership is one of the keys to success in any membership-driven organization.

7. Conduct Surveys Regularly

I recommend you survey your students no less than twice a year. This is very simple to do. While your students are in class, doing their stretches, have a Leadership Team member distribute a survey and a pen to each student. Then, have him collect the completed (and anonymous) surveys five minutes later. Also, use exit surveys, whenever a student quits (handwritten, web based or over the phone). Exit surveys can be painful at times, but they can also be very revealing. They’ll help you determine why your students are really dropping out.

8. Use a Stripe System and Test More Often

Most schools use a stripe or tip system because it allows students to experience continuous progress towards a meaningful goal and to learn their curriculum in organized bite-sized chunks. I highly recommend it, if you’re one of the few instructors who are not yet using one. Also, remember the phrase EXAMS = RETENTION = RENEWALS! The more often you test, the better your retention will be, especially among black belts

9. Implement Upgrade Programs

If your students see that they can participate in more exciting programs and learn more interesting material in the future, which will be of even greater value to them, then they are less likely to drop out now. Instructors tell me all the time that upgrade programs are fantastic retention builders.

10. Give Legendary Student Service

I’ve found that the schools with the best retention rates consistently provide student service that would easily score a ten on a scale of ten. Always make sure that yours does, too. This will absolutely increase your retention, especially because customer service, in general, is typically so poorly provided in the world outside your school. We discussed this a few pages back. If you focus on retention-building practices such as the ten listed above, then more students will remain in your classes for longer periods of time. That’s critical, because students can be challenging and expensive to acquire, but very easy to lose. Isn’t it time you plug the holes in the bottom of your bucket?


Chapter Seventy-Five

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

76:  Always Over-Deliver on Student Service


hen you chose martial arts as your profession, you chose to work in the service industry.

That means that you are a servant leader to your students. It’s not the other way around. And since you live and die by the quality of the service you provide, that service had better be legendary My rule of thumb is to always give students more than they expect. You want to over-deliver. But before you can do this, you have to believe in your heart that your students really do deserve the very best service that you can possibly give. We’re not in 1971 anymore so 100% is the minimum your students deserve. Actually 100% is what you provide if you only want to survive. If you really want to rocket past your competition and build the martial arts school of your dreams, then you need to give your students 110% service in everything you do. Again, overdeliver. Let’s face it, most businesses do not follow this policy. Indifferent, underpaid, detached, robotic, employees often make us feel like they’re doing us a favor for allowing us to spend our money at their establishment. Indeed, they’ve got it backwards. Recently, a waiter spilled a drink on a friend of mine, and expected him to pay for half of it. Yeah, that’s great service. The kind that can put a For Rent sign in the front window. And next time some kid wearing a barbell in his tongue doesn’t say thank you after I pay him, I’m gonna smack him over the head with this book. The list of bad service examples I could give is endless, but no need to beat a dead horse and I’m sure you have a list of your own examples going through your head right now anyway. But mediocre service seems to be the norm anymore. As a society, we’ve gotten numb to it. That’s why it shouldn’t be difficult for your martial arts school to stand out amongst the crowd. If you really want to blow your students away, just give them better service than they are used to getting everywhere else. Your students will rave about you, and your retention will be solid. Sadly though, the quality of the service in many martial arts schools is just as bad as the service everywhere else. It’s one of the reasons why the majority of schools stay small. In fact, many schools need a complete student service overhaul spanning from how they answer their phone to what they teach in their curriculum.


“You must give outstanding student service if you expect to achieve high levels of success in the martial arts business.” These service-oriented weak spots commonly include—general follow-up skills, professional billing procedures, leadership skills of the instructors, punctuality, school cleanliness, overinflated egos, the quality and quantity of staff members, program variety, convenient scheduling and group presentation skills. Any of these flaws, especially in combination, can prevent a school from reaching its true potential. Hmmmmm, isn’t it interesting that the average school only teaches about 80 students? I’ve found that most schools suffering from poor student service do so because of the leadership at the top. It’s the owners who often hold their schools back the most. For example, certain instructors fight to maintain the non-student-service-oriented, old school ways they came up with. Other instructors don’t know what good student service is, due to their limited background in business. And others simply don’t care to improve upon their student service because their school exists to serve them, more so than their students. So they could care less. The bottom line is that you must give outstanding student service if you expect to achieve high levels of success in the martial arts business. You’ve got to be willing to bend over backwards for your students and treat them like gold. And you must teach your staff members, assistant instructors and leadership team members to do the same. This requires constant reminding, a shared vision within the school and quite of bit of practice. You want to create a culture that strongly values student service and one that begins at the top. Look at it this way. Your students pay your salary, your rent, and your instructors’ salaries. Try going a month without them. You’d have no more school. That being the case, wouldn’t you say it’s important to over-deliver on student service?


Chapter Seventy-Six

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

77: Kick Your Retention Up a Notch by Getting Regular Feedback from Your Students


s martial arts professionals, it’s important to realize that we’re in a service business. We work with other humans, and that requires high levels of customer service in order to be successful. When you get right down to it, this means giving students 110% service… 100% of the time. But, in order to achieve this, you must first know exactly how your students and parents perceive your current level of student service. Therefore, it’s important to determine what good student service means to them. Indeed, the best way to accomplish this is to create a system for acquiring feedback on a regular basis. To help you get started, here are five suggestions that you implement immediately as part of your feedback system:

1. Office Chats

Office chats are spontaneous meetings with students that occur during normal business hours, and they last for just a few minutes each. These little talks are excellent for motivating “C” students, following-up on matters, prepping a student for an upgrade, mentioning a special event the school will be having, or just making general conversation. Since office chats present such a terrific opportunity for giving and receiving feedback, I recommend that each staff member at your school conduct at least two per day. Keep ‘em short and sweet.

2. The Golden Suggestion Box

The golden suggestion box is a subtle and on-going way to acquire feedback from both students and parents. Here’s how it works: Simply get a cardboard box, cut a rectangular slot in the top, and gift-wrap it with some shiny gold paper. Then, put the box in a convenient or discreet part of the school. Mention to your students that the box is gold because “their comments and suggestions are worth their weight in gold to you.” Whenever someone feels the need to tell you what’s on their mind, they can anonymously drop their comments in the box. Now they should be made aware that they can always speak to you face to face, but some people will not feel comfortable doing so. Therefore, this method may work better for you.

3. Tele-Feedback

Tele-feedback occurs over the phone, and can be extremely valuable when it comes to improving customer service. In fact, some of the best tele-feedback you can get is by conducting verbal exit surveys. Here, your mission is to find out exactly why students have stopped their training. Keep track of all comments, look for patterns, and make your adjustments accordingly. This is extremely important!


Another excellent way to get tele-feedback is by making “New Student” calls. Have your Program Director do them daily. In fact, he or she should be making at least three calls to new students within their first two months of training. They’re great for “just checking in”, detecting potential challenges, or asking for referrals. By now you’ve probably heard of these calls. The question is…is your Program Director doing them? Are you doing them if you have no Program Director?

4. Written Surveys

One of the quickest ways to find out how your students feel about your school is to administer written surveys. Also, since written surveys are anonymous, they are particularly effective in finding out what students and parents really think about the overall quality of your school. Verbal feedback sometimes gets sugar-coated because students are often intimidated by their instructors. Too, they may hold back to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. But since written surveys are anonymous, students and parents have the opportunity to really speak their mind. As painful as it may be, that’s exactly what you want. I recommend distributing written surveys at least twice a year.

5. Feedback Forums

It’s also beneficial to host a forum once or twice a year, to gain additional feedback from your adult students and the parents of your junior students. In the forum, you would simply discuss important topics relevant to the betterment of the school. The key is to be prepared, and make sure that everyone leaves feeling like their opinion matters. Make it clear that your school is a democracy, and that you’re counting on their feedback to make the school a better place for everyone involved. Now, just to be clear, you will make the final decisions where YOUR school is concerned. You DO NOT want the inmates running the asylum, as they say. However, you do want to make everyone feel as though their input is recognized and appreciated. That’s key. By creating a system for acquiring feedback, top-level schools across the nation have successfully opened the communication lines between students and staff. This has enabled them to dramatically improve the quality of their customer service, build relationships and ultimately boost retention. Many of these schools currently use some combination of the five methods for obtaining feedback mentioned above. So we already know that they work. Best of all these strategies are easy for you to implement, and will cost practically nothing to do. Who knows? You may even have some shiny gold wrapping paper left over from the last holiday season. Have fun with it!


Chapter Seventy-Seven

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

78: Do Your Students Realize How Much You Care?


ou’ve heard the old saying, “Little things mean a lot.” Well, that saying holds especially true when trying to retain students in a martial arts school.

If you appreciate your students, you’ve got to let them know it. Otherwise, they may feel like they’re just one of the herd. When this happens, it becomes easy for them to stray away from your school, and get involved in other activities. Instead, I recommend that you make every student in your school feel special as often as possible. When students feel like they’re important, and believe that you have a genuine interest in them, they become emotionally attached to your program. They begin to look upon you as a special friend rather than just a paid martial arts instructor. Building a relationship like this with your students takes effort, but it will have a positive impact on your retention. Guaranteed! One way that you can show students how much you care is by mailing them a variety of cards. The cards must be hand-written, and specifically tailored to the recipient! Do not use cards that have a machine-stamped message inside. They are terribly impersonal, and lack substance. Also, it is important to place an actual stamp on the envelope, and hand-write the address information. Running the envelopes through a postage meter, or using computergenerated labels, takes away any sense of personalization, and will give your card a junk-mail appearance. Here are five types of cards that your can begin mailing to make your students feel more appreciated:

1. Praise Cards

It’s a good idea to get your entire staff in the habit of mailing out at least two “praise” or “good job” cards, per day, to your students. The message written on the inside should praise your students for something they’ve done. It could be for outstanding attendance, assisting in class, great attitude, academic excellence, improvements to their technical skills or rank requirements, etc. When a student does something commendable, don’t keep it a secret. Drop them a note in the mail, or highlight them in front of the class. That will show them that what they’ve done hasn’t gone unnoticed. Also, it will encourage them to keep up the good work.

2. Welcome-Aboard Cards

Every new student who joins your school should have a welcome-aboard card mailed to them within 48 hours after their enrollment. Sending these cards is a critical step in the enrollment process. Again, the cards should be hand-written, and personalized by your Program Director, or whoever enrolls new students into your school.


Also, these cards can help mitigate buyer’s remorse. In other words, they can help remove any doubt a new student or parent might have about their decision to join your school. So, if you really want to help your new students validate their enrollment decision, make sure you send them a welcome-aboard card…pronto.

3. Attendance Cards

Sending out “We Miss You” or “Class Just Isn’t the Same Without You” cards is super important. Of course, calling students on the phone to find out where they’ve been is the best approach. But, mailing them a card with a hand-written message is an excellent back up. When students receive your card, they’ll realize that you actually noticed that they haven’t been in class. This shows them you’re concerned, and makes them feel important. The worst think you want them to think is that you’re indifferent to them taking classes. So, whether you create your own cards, or buy them directly, make sure that the Chief Instructor at your school sends these attendance cards out regularly.

4. Birthday Cards

You may also consider mailing out birthday cards to your students. They should already be getting cards from family members and close friends around this time. Sending them a birthday card, too, will cause your students associate their “karate school family” with the other people in their lives who care about them the most. By investing in an inexpensive software (or by using the functions of the one you already have at your disposal), you can easily keep track of each student’s date of birth. This will enable you to quickly generate a list of birthdays every month. Then, you can invest in a variety of inexpensive birthday cards and mail them out at the beginning of each new month. This is a nice gesture that will really make your students feel special. They won’t believe that you remembered!

5. Appointment Cards

Here’s another great idea. Anytime you book an appointment for a prospective student to visit your school, send them a “We’re Looking Forward to Meeting You!” postcard with a short hand-written note. This is so simple, and easy to do. You’ll be amazed at how much it will decrease your percentage of no-shows, and enlighten your appointments as to how professional your school is, before they ever even walk through your front door. So there’s a few very simple ideas for you. The key is show your students how much you care. Not just because it will increase your retention. But, because you really do care. Right? 237

Chapter Seventy-Eight

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

79: Keep Your Quality Standards High...Just Don’t Run Your Students Off


ecently, while on an airplane, the passenger sitting next to me noticed me thumbing through a martial arts magazine. He was a big fan of the martial arts, but had never trained. To satisfy my own curiosity, I asked why?

My co-passenger explained that a friend of his was a so-called “Black Belt.” He had seen his friend practice, and was convinced that the guy couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag. He went on to detail how his friend practically had his Black Belt handed to him on a silver platter because of his rich dad’s money and influence in the community. The guy also mentioned that some of the young children in his own family were Black Belts. According to him, these kids were still in grade school, and didn’t even take their martial arts training seriously. So he felt that there simply wasn’t anything special about being a Black Belt. His perception was that it was a waste of time and money. In some ways, I can understand why my fellow traveler felt the way he did. It seems as though anybody can earn a Black Belt in certain schools these days. The standards for achieving rank seem to be diminishing. Not too long ago, this was made clear to me after visiting several tournaments and studios. Many of the adults and kids running around with Black Belts, in my opinion, simply had no business wearing one. These “Black Belts” couldn’t hit a proper balance, they didn’t blade their feet, their fighting skills were poor, and you could easily see that their skills have never been tested under fire. An ordinary punk off the street would probably eat ‘em alive in a selfdefense situation. Sometimes I look at students like this and wonder, “Is this a Black Belt?” The answer to that question is not for any one person to decide. There are too many variables involved. However, my instincts tell me that the way some instructors are preparing students for Black Belt could use quite a bit of improvement. This is especially obvious when it comes to children’s instruction. Many of today’s instructors have reduced their standards for proper technique and skill, and overemphasized character development. I’m huge on the benefits of character development and its place in a children’s martial arts program. But I believe it’s very important that we also stay focused on the development of actual martial arts skills, such as proper form, effective sparring, and competency in selfdefense. In my opinion, a child or adult who can’t display proficiency (for their age) in these fundamental areas should not be awarded a Black Belt. We need to keep our standards high and not make it too easy for students to earn their Black Belts. Otherwise, we’re sending a message that says, “Earning a Black Belt is a waste of time and money.” Relatively speaking, the quality standards in many martial arts schools were much higher two or three decades ago than they are today. In fact, these standards were usually too high


and often unrealistic. So the percentage of students who earned a Black Belt was a fraction of what it is today. But the students who actually went on to become Black Belts were usually highly competent technicians, very tough and extremely serious about their training (and slightly dysfunctional, too, at times). Even when I began my training in the mid-eighties, making Black Belt was very difficult, and highly prestigious. All aspects of the training were very serious. Those of us who eventually made Black Belt were the ones who were too stubborn to quit.

“Earning the rank of black belt came with a heavy price, but it really meant something.” We didn’t mind getting our ribs crunched, or our eyes blackened. We were the ones who never missed a class and then enjoyed beating each other’s brains out on Sunday mornings when no classes were being taught at the school. We put up with the negative reinforcement, the belittling comments, and the frequent injuries. After many years, this regimen transformed us into dangerous fighters and exceptionally talented martial artists. Earning the rank of Black Belt came with a heavy price, but it really meant something. I’m lucky to have seen both ends of the spectrum when it comes to Black Belt training. What I’ve learned is that neither the “new school,” nor the “old school” way of creating Black Belts is perfect. They both have their flaws. I mean it’s not good AT ALL to have such low standards that we just give away Black Belts to anyone and everyone who pays tuition at our schools. This just waters down the arts, and destroys the image of Black Belt, as my co-passenger on the plane perceived. On the other hand, we can’t be so tough with our students that only one-percent of them make it to Black Belt and everyone else drops out. It’s difficult to pay the rent when all you have is 40 or 50 cold-blooded killers training at your school. The solution, I believe, is to find a happy medium. This means creating an effective curriculum, providing quality instruction, putting many quality control measures in place and keeping your standards high. It’s the best service you can provide to your students, and it’s the only way we’ll keep from destroying the image of Black Belt.


Chapter Seventy-Nine

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

80: Don’t Be a WIMP When it Comes to Disciplining Your Students


iscipline is critical to the development of quality martial artists. As an industry, we must be careful of the waning discipline that, unfortunately, is found in some schools today. The reality is that students don’t benefit from instructors who “wimp out” when it comes to proper disciplinary practices. There must be a balance, however, where discipline is concerned, and we shouldn’t confuse discipline with toughness. I can still recall how tough my instructor was with students, especially kids. Sometimes, the entire class would be reprimanded with excruciating physical activities. Using a timer, he would “torture” the group until they finally began moaning in agony. On occasion, a parent would run out the front door in tears. My instructor’s actions transcended discipline. He was simply too tough! Obviously, verbal or physical abuse of students is totally unacceptable. As instructors, we must be firm, but fair, with our students. I appreciate student creeds, whoa-yeses, high-fives, fun and games, happy stickers and plenty of applause in class. These things are all great, and there’s definitely a place for them in many schools. We are not babysitters, however, so these tactics must be secondary to more important things, such as teaching self-defense, confidence, fitness, self-discipline, proper technique, respect and a positive attitude. I strongly believe that, as an instructor, you do not have to rely on whoa-yes type tactics to attract and retain students. Instead, you have to be a good leader who is not afraid to instill discipline. In addition, you have to make sure that you’re giving students true value for their tuition dollars; being a positive role model for your students; making your students feel great about themselves through the benefits of their training; exciting them by painting a picture of their futures, as black belts; and helping them achieve real results. These are examples of the kinds of things that attract and retain students, not happy birthday postcards. Let me be frank and tell you that I have never encountered a topnotch martial arts professional, of any style, who didn’t have a strong disciplinarian for an instructor. In fact, I don’t believe that a “discipline-wimp” instructor can create a high-caliber martial arts athlete, or a martial artist who possess the skills of a true black belt. Without discipline, the transformation process falls apart. We simply can’t produce quality martial artists in a “loosey-goosey” classroom that lacks discipline. Besides, it’s been my experience that students want discipline in their lives. It’s severely lacking in our society today, and people need the discipline of martial arts instruction to keep them on the “straight and narrow.” During a recent interview I conducted with my good friend Joe Lewis, I asked him what it meant to have “heart.” Mr. Lewis replied, “Heart is your commitment to execute with eagerness and your willingness to remain engaged. This is created and maintained by the energy of your inner passion. Those with heart are consistent, always on time, always the hardest worker, and always increasing their effort to go beyond what’s expected, pushing the intensity of every drill. They’re always self-motivated. They never quit when hit and make up with attitude


what they lack in aptitude.” In my opinion, no instructor can teach a student to have “heart,” if they do not instill discipline in that student first. As an industry, much of our focus is presently on the growth and profitability of our schools. There’s nothing wrong with these things. In fact, I’m one of the leaders of this movement; but we must move in this direction without becoming “discipline-wimps” and create a balance between business goals and the proper amount of classroom discipline. In other words, we shouldn’t “go along, to get along.” We should never “let the inmates run the asylum,” or put up with sloppiness to increase the school’s bottom line. We should never subordinate discipline to conflict avoidance, etc. Doing so would be a terrible injustice to our students. Today, I’m very grateful for all the teachers I had in academic school and in the martial arts, who were strong disciplinarians. They helped me to become better than the average-Ned. They helped me tap into my true potential and reveal my inner greatness, though, at the time, I was not so appreciative. Don’t you want to have the same impact on your students? If so, then don’t be a wimp when it comes to discipline.

Rob Colasanti discusses the importance of maintaining discipline in the classroom with the legendary Joe Lewis. (Photo by Joanne Allen)


Chapter Eighty

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

81:  The Perils of Dating Students


ne of the most difficult issues a school owner can face is what to do when one of his instructors begins dating a student at the school. This is a very touchy situation that must be handled with extreme care. After all, both students and employees are involved, so the stakes are high. First, let’s take a serious look at the liabilities this situation can create, and then I’ll offer some suggestions that can prevent it from ever happening in the first place. Clearly, school owners are subject to many potential liabilities when a staff member becomes personally involved with a student. But the owner is at his greatest risk when the couple starts to experience personal difficulties in their relationship. It is at this time that the school may notice some of the side effects of the quarrel. In the midst of a dispute, the student may stop coming to class in order to avoid seeing their significant other. Conversely, an instructor is likely to become distracted if their “other half” shows up for class while the quarrel is still in progress. This could make it very difficult for an instructor to concentrate on teaching. That, in turn, could have a negative effect on the entire student body. If the couple’s argument is serious enough, the student will probably stay away from the school, indefinitely. Here, the owner suffers the loss of all tuition and other potential revenues the now ex-student would have generated. As you know, this could add up to thousands of dollars. But the school could also lose a student’s friends and family members, too, if a nasty break-up should occur. Depending on the circumstances, other students who are close friends or relatives will usually side with the ex-student, not the instructor. Soon, gossip starts, and everybody involved loses their focus for training amidst all of the social politics. Even more, the owner risks losing his instructor if he decides to intervene. In fact, owners usually do end-up getting involved since they have a vested interest in the matter. But the emotional instructor may have a different view, resulting in a conflict of interest between employee and employer. This can easily cause the instructor to quit or get fired, depending on the situation. Ultimately, the school risks developing a bad reputation if a student-instructor relationship goes sour. This is especially likely to happen in smaller cities and towns, where word travels quickly. Nobody wants their wives or kids to train in a school where an instructor is known for “hitting-on” the students. That’s not to mention what could happen if the ex-student was a minor. I’ll leave that one up to your local newspaper to explain. Indeed, there are a number of potential liabilities involved with student-instructor relationships. Now let’s discuss what you can do to minimize your risks if you don’t approve of this going on at your school.


1.  Make a Decision

You must begin by taking a clear stand on this issue. Do you consider students at your school to be forbidden fruit, or not? Also, make sure that you set a good example yourself.

2.  Create a Policy

Once you’ve decided how you feel about your instructors dating your students, document it. Be specific as to your instructors’ limitations and the penalties they’ll face for breaching the policy.

3.  Call a Meeting

When hiring new instructors or evaluating current ones, explain to them exactly how you feel about this issue. Do not beat around the bush. It’s critical that you make yourself clear to avoid any future misunderstandings.

4.  Present the Agreement

Request that your employees read and sign the agreement. This will ensure that they understand your position on this matter and agree to abide by the rules. If your school uses an employee handbook, then simply include this in there, along with all other school related policies. It’s customary for employees to agree to the terms with their signature.

5.  Review Your Policy

This can be done in quarterly and annual review meetings with your staff. Simply reiterate your policy on dating students and then move on to the next topic. But make sure they are reminded of this rule on a regular basis. In conclusion, there is much supporting evidence suggesting that student-instructor relationships can be risky for school owners. However, there is also a flip side to this issue. Many instructors have settled down with, and are now happily married to someone who used to be one of their students. That includes both male and female instructors alike. Let’s face it. Professional martial arts instructors spend so much time at the school, it’s no wonder they may end up meeting someone there. It’s challenging to work around this. So should student-instructor dating be prohibited, or not? That’s for you to decide. In the end, I guess it just boils down to another one of those difficult to make executive decisions.


Chapter Eighty-One

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

82:  “The Roots Under the Tree”


few yeas ago, I was strolling through an outdoor mall after conducting a business seminar. I was stunned when I saw a small child walk towards me wearing a T-shirt with F.C.U.K. boldly written across his chest.

MY EYES SUDDENLY WIDENED IN AMAZEMENT! What stunned me even more was that his father was walking behind him wearing a larger version of the same F.C.U.K. brand T-shirt, and mom was pushing a baby stroller with an F.C.U.K. hat on her head. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. I had to shake my head! My brief encounter with the “F.C.U.K. Family” reminded me just how much society needs the positive, traditional aspects of martial arts training. If these folks were martial arts students, I bet they would have been much more conscious of their image. As a young martial arts student, I was quite conscious of my image and the school I represented. Why? Cause that’s how I was taught. In the old days, my instructor would have put me on my knuckles, in the parking lot, if he caught me dressed like that in public! My instructor taught me respect, courtesy, and discipline. My training gave me self-worth, esteem, confidence, and leadership skills. For these reasons and others, I would have instantly subordinated that shirt to my values as a martial artist. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, tradition is critically important to me—kata, bowing, the gi, respect, courtesy, discipline, humility, spirit, integrity, void, etc. These elements make us martial artists. Furthermore, tradition is what separates martial arts instructors from P.E. teachers. It’s the traditional qualities of our training that make our students so much more than ordinary fitness kickboxers, jocks, or street fighters. In fact, I believe that the amazing results that quality martial arts schools across our nation consistently generate among students is largely due to the core traditional values and philosophies that echo through our classes. That’s why I passionately encourage you NOT to lose sight of tradition as time forges forward and you begin to make more and more money as a school owner. As new generations of instructors emerge, we must be careful not to become a faded Xerox, of a Xerox, of a Xerox, where tradition is concerned. Tradition helps us to change our students’ lives for the better and positively impact our society. Let’s never forget that. However, there is a caveat. Tradition by itself can hinder growth. It can result in small student counts and financial distress. In some cases, instructors have even misused and misunderstood tradition to the point that it put their schools out of business. 244

Over the years, I’ve consulted with thousands of school owners, and I can tell you from experience that I’ve seen many instructors struggle because they are too traditional, and therefore, are opposed to any kind of change. So they end-up holding themselves back. Even worse, the “traditional” way they run their schools often causes their students to quit.

“The secret to success is to blend tradition with innovation.” That’s a deadly combination for a business owner. However, the secret to success, in my opinion, is to blend tradition with innovation. Tradition without innovation, or innovation without tradition, can leave an instructor incomplete. You need to have a balance between the two. On this note, I recently had an in-depth conversation about tradition with Master Joon P. Choi. He is brilliant when it comes to this particular subject matter. In our discussion, Master Choi pointed out that he is a very traditional martial artist, and he runs his school using traditional philosophies. Tradition is his foundation. But he is also an innovator. He has brought modern teaching methodologies into his school, new programs and many additional profit centers. He is forward thinking and a sharp businessman. In fact, he is a martial arts millionaire and living proof that tradition with innovation is a winning combination. I’m proud to say that over the years I have helped pave the way for many traditional martial artists to modernize their teachings in a manner that does not compromise the integrity of their arts. I have helped countless instructors systemize their schools, improve all facets of their operations and dramatically improve the quality of their lives. Going forward, I will continue to do this for school owners by helping them blend tradition with innovation. As Master Choi said, “Tradition is like the roots under the tree.” My mission is to help school owners nourish these roots, but to also make sure that the flowers on the tree have precisely what they need to blossom.


Chapter Eighty-Two

Rob Colasanti

The Martial Arts Business Bible

Afterword by Joe Lewis “The Greatest Fighter in the History of Karate”


he definition of greatness changes from one era to the next. The comprehensive, cutting-edge, and complete method this book offers as a guide to your success in the martial arts business is the commandant of all sources to usher in this new era currently surfacing in our field. If you want to be prepared for the new challenges confronting today’s martial artists in this new era, the book you’re holding in front of you is a testament to the fact that you are on the right track---you’ve already located the front door to that pathway. Each of us is as different as the many various styles of martial arts; some of us are old school and others are just beginning a new business journey. A fear that many Joe Lewis, Former World Heavyweight Karate Champion have is that if one chooses to run (Photo by Joanne Allen) a commercially successful school, the trade-off means that the quality of skills demonstrated by the students or the level of excellence exhibited by the black belt instructors will suffer. That is a myth that is perpetuated by only a handful of self-appointed business leaders in our field who have the attitude that making the dollar trumps all other values. These imposters and their propaganda agendas have a long history of eventually selfdestructing or evaporating from the annals of our industry. Martial arts expertise and the sound development of one’s self-concept as a person is founded on principles that subscribe to the highest virtues of dignity, integrity, and an appreciation for the welfare of others. These personal values need to be complimented as well as represented on the same standard level as those recommended and prescribed by Rob Colasanti in this book. This attitude that is reflective of a genuine concern for other’s continued success is part of what has separated Mr. Colasanti from the others. One cannot see something in others that he cannot first see within himself.


Rob Colasanti

Many martial artists acknowledge that they could do better and feel that they deserve that this should be so. Some feel they just missed the boat bound for success; they long for the recognition and appreciation that has seemingly eluded them. Some of us feel that we have lost our motivation---a classic myth I hear year after year. What martial artists are never told is that why we initially entered our first day of training is different (sometimes very different) from the reason we now stay in this field. Your motives change, your interests change, and your goals must also change. We search to regain or to recapture that initial motivation we once had---but, it’s gone, consigned to the past. People have asked me over the years, “What is the most important thing a martial artist should work on, speed, power, condition, technique, strategies, or etc.?” My answer has always been the same---balance. What good is a fighter’s speed if he lacks accuracy? What advantage will his superior power be for him if he runs out of gas before the end of round one? What necessity is served maintaining a hard, tough midsection if you have a glass jaw? I like to associate a quote of mine that always reminds me of my friend and world karate champion, Chuck Norris:

“What personal value is served by being a champion in the ring if you’re not also a champion in life?” It is true, that if your school doesn’t make money, you will not be able to afford a place for your students to train and to develop into quality black belts. Before you can train anyone, your school must survive---they must first have a place to train. Survival is the one value, which makes possible all other values. Unless your doors remain open, taking pride in maintaining any good students or producing great black belts will have NO meaning. Once again, allow me to emphasize this fundamental theme---balance. Sound business principles compliment quality students and vice versa. A good car manufacturer wants to make a profit, but he knows he must make good cars first. A baseball team’s owner knows he needs to fill the stadium in order to make money, but he knows he must first build good players to produce a winning team. This is the “balance” I am referring to, not balancing the checkbook. In life or in business there is a difference between the probability of what will happen and the certainty of what will happen. If a member of a fight audience can predict with high probability who’s going to win, then it should stand to reason that someone who has sparred both fighters could predict with certainty the final outcome. Sometimes a school owner teeters back and forth between trying to decide whether to base an important decision on a sense


The Martial Arts Business Bible

of visceral acumen or the point of reference prescribed by the successful models outlined in this book.

“Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.” -Harry Truman

Hopefully, you will learn to avoid the distorted framework of those out-dated business systems, and to be able to trust what’s most important---doing what you want instead of always basing your decisions on trying to please others. One’s need to be able to fully trust in their confidence to make such sound judgments is what ultimately led to the research in the writing of this book. The structure Rob Colasanti used in this book as a model for your success is based on ways to observe and to measure your progress. My decades of experience working with the best business minds in both the fitness and martial arts industries has taught me that many of them still advocate and follow business models that are based on a perspective from a distorted framework. Their predictions and promises are inconsistent with observable results. On the other hand, Rob is the sparring partner who has been on both sides of this equation---how to build quality students and instructors while at the same time being a key part of a highly, successful school operation based out of Florida. He does not have to deal with untested probabilities; this book will provide you with that sense of certainty that you deserve.

The Real Beginning of Influence I remember sitting with Rob Colasanti in his office at NAPMA during his tenure as the President of the company when a call from one of their clients came through. For some reason, Rob personally took the call instead of referring it to one of the service representatives working in the front office. The caller was a lady who was having a problem implementing a new sales strategy to help jump start higher grosses in the school she owned. Rob was concerned for her welfare and took his time, patiently helping her to understand his sound advice. I could see why Rob was meant for a higher calling other than just being the President of that company. As in this book, he not only walks you through the most definitive process on how to become successful in the martial arts business, he also inspires you to help others. Wow! What a gift to be able to influence so many others. I also have an association of Black Belts; many of them run their own schools. We have a teaching manual containing a wealth of knowledge from my years of ring experience and from my global travels constantly searching to uncover old school secrets. When someone pur-


Rob Colasanti

chases an autographed copy of our Joe Lewis Fighting Systems Manual, I always ask them to first scan through the entire text, and to discover the most important chapter that they found to be of greatest importance for them personally. If they appreciate what I have to offer, I ask them to let me know so that I can continue working with them. The Martial Arts Business Bible is more than just the definitive works on the subjects covered in this book; it is an inspirational masterpiece with principles that carry over into other contexts of one’s life. My closing thoughts as to how someone may choose to best show their appreciation or to validate what they have read and gained from this book is twofold. First, success means you must remain totally committed; and second, exercise an old school tradition, simply three words---spread the word.

Former World Heavyweight Karate Champion Father of American Kickboxing


The Martial Arts Business Bible

At the Top of Rob’s Recommended Reading List... Expect to Win – Hate to Lose

by Matt Furey

Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got

by Jay Abraham

Unlimited Power

by Tony Robbins

The New Psycho-Cybernetics

by Dr. Maxwell Maltz

Rich Dad Poor Dad

by Robert Kiyosaki

The Unbeatable Man

by Matt Furey

Influence Science and Practice

by Robert B. Cialdini

Something Else to Smile About

by Zig Ziglar


Rob Colasanti

No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs

by Dan Kennedy

The E-Myth

by Michael E. Gerber

Think & Grow Rich

by Napoleon Hill

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

by Stephen R. Covey

How to Master the Art of Selling

by Tom Hopkins

Combat Conditioning

by Matt Furey

The Millionaire Next Door

by Stanley & Danko

Maximum Achievement

by Brian Tracy

As a Man Thinketh

by James Allen


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The Martial Arts Business Bible  

Rob Colasanti's martial arts business book.

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