Client Spotlight: Rich Grogan

Focused on a multi-faceted approach to karate, Grogan’s Academy of Martial Arts aims to instill a strong sense of discipline, respect and confidence in its students. With the aim of helping create well-rounded students through their many programs, Master Rich Grogan - the owner, president and a senior instructor at Grogan’s Academy - has a passion for both martial arts and character building. Using his background in sports, education and kinesiology, Master Grogan’s unique approach has created a strong following.

We were lucky enough to speak to Master Grogan about the academy, his start in martial arts and as a business, as well as how he uses ChampionsWay:

1) How did you first get into martial arts? What made you turn a love of martial arts into a career?

I first started Martial Arts in 1981 at the age of 11, at a church summer camp. I always loved Martial Arts movies, especially Bruce Lee & Chuck Norris. My love for the Martial Arts was instant and it fed my passion for hard work = reward (not necessarily from a belt stand point but a combative stand point). Training was extremely tough and challenging. Classes were very small and the training locations were less than desirable, to the point my mom wasn't sure if she wanted me to continue. I trained in & out of this style and many other styles until I was forced to make a decision between my first loves (ice hockey, football and baseball), or my new love: Martial Arts.

Most of the time I was the only student in class. We essentially trained anywhere & everywhere. As poor as the training conditions were with my first instructor, these (at times) were even worse. We rarely had more than 5 students in a class and there was no real focus on ever growing the studio. I adamantly tried to help my instructor grow his studio but it was merely a hobby for him, as he had no desire in turning it into a business. He just wanted to train and wanted to train someone who really wanted the knowledge. This is who he was and this is what he truly cared about.

In February of 1997, against my parents' advice and with no real business knowledge, I quit my sales job and started my first business: "Grogan's Martial Arts & Fitness". The home office was simply that and I worked at a variety of health clubs, gyms, and colleges teaching Martial Arts, aerobics, self-defense, exercise & fitness classes. Each month, we barely scrapped by, as my wife just graduated nursing school and was basically the sole income. My wonderful wife was very supportive then and still is, to this day.
I decided to go back to college to get my degree in kinesiology education and my teaching degree.

I continued to work at gyms & health clubs, while teaching during the day and trying to save up to open my own studio. We finally did, in May of 2005. Grogan's Martial & Fitness was reborn but I found that just because I taught great classes didn't mean I knew anything about actually owning a studio and running a business. Determined not to stay down, we started a new business in 2008 with a new name and new attitude: "Grogan's Academy of Martial Arts." This time, we were going to do it right. We moved to a new, better location, with a lower rent and better visibility. People started finding us and our class sizes began to grow but I still didn't have a good business model in place.

We were collecting monthly payment manually by check, our tracking system was pen and paper, before it went into Microsoft Excel. Even though class sizes were growing, we had no structures in place to sustain the business side and another collapse was a great possibility. In March of 2009, I made the call that made all the difference and has truly changed my life: I called ChampionsWay. We went from grossing $500 - $800 a month, to grossing over $15,000 a month, in just 5 years.

2) What drives Grogan's Academy of Martial Arts? What makes kids and adults want to attend the schools? What sets it apart from the rest?

We truly have a family atmosphere, as my entire family is a part of the studio. It creates a warm, fun atmosphere that people want to be a part of. My wife, Desi, and my 3 kids all help out. My 14-year-old (Austin) is an assistant instructor, my 11-year-old (Madelyn) is a junior leader, and my 6-year-old (Emmitt) is a Tiny Tiger helper. We give everything we've got, each & every class, finding a balance between fun, education, practical self-defense & life skills. We want the kids to love coming to class, even though they are working hard, and we want parents to love coming to class for the life skills & character development. Every instructor knows each & every student's name, regardless of how long they've been at the studio. This is just another example of the high quality of personal interaction.

"A child's favorite word is their own name, especially in a praising manner from someone they respect."

I combine my 30+ years of Martial Arts, sports, fitness, exercise, and teaching experience into every phase of lesson planning and training our instructors. Every class contains the highest possible quality of technical value & instruction. By having a background in not only the Martial Arts but also in competitive sports - along with being a personal trainer and having a degree in kinesiology and education - there is a great deal of balance in everything we teach.

3) How would you explain the key to your success as a school? What has been the most important factor in growing Grogan's Academy into what it is today?

We have always stayed true to our values, which originally caused things to move a little slower than we had hoped. We didn't sacrifice our core beliefs & values for success but, once we were able to connect with great people in the industry that showed us how to have both, we were well on our way. I've had some incredible progress, since the first day I started with ChampionsWay, in March of 2009. My two biggest reasons for calling ChampionsWay were to set up a better tracking system for students and an automated billing system: I got far more than that. With great help from support, we learned the ins and outs of the system and were well on our way.

The biggest momentum swing occurred when I attended my first ChampionsWay event in 2011. WOW, it was absolutely unbelievable to meet and share ideas with such wonderful like-minded people. I had kind of felt like I was on an island by myself. I didn't know anyone who thought like I did, took chances like I did and truly believed that I could start a Martial Arts business and make a good living at it. Meeting Master Farid Dordar and Vahid Shababi, along with a large number of other wonderfully talented people, seriously reinstated my belief that I could make this dream a reality. By utilizing all the wonderful features of PerfectMind and attending all the free ChampionsWay webinars, I really started to grasp the business side that always eluded me - seeing the possibilities of what it really could be.

Speaking of growth & development, we now have 2 fulltime instructors and 2 assistant instructors teaching the majority of classes, along with a front desk associate working 2-3 days a week. This is a HUGE step for us, considering I was always a one man band, doing absolutely everything in the business: phone calls, emails, sign-ups, contracts, talking to parents, cleaning the studio, teaching every single class (every single night), handling pro-shop sales, etc. Now we have people in place to not only help with this but to handle almost all of it. The business is starting to run like a business and a huge part of this is due in part to PerfectMind. Without all the features of PerfectMind, I'm not sure this would be possible today.

4) Where would you like to see Grogan's Academy in 5 years?

We are currently at 170 active students. My goal for this year is to have 225 - 250 active students. Our current location is 3600 sq feet, with an additional 3000 sq feet of unused space, in the back of the building. My goal is to buy the building this year and utilize the additional area to put in another training floor, an aerobic floor and a juice bar. I plan to buy the 2 lots next door and turn those into a parking lot. I would like our active student count to reach 500 - 600 students within the next 5 years, while still maintaining all our core values that we have held on to. My biggest goal for the next 5 years and beyond is to spend more quality time with my family and be financially able to enjoy a successful life. For the first time since I initial started the business back in 1997, I truly feel like this is a great possibility and a reality.

5) What brought you to choose Championsway? What features do you use the most and what do you like best about the platform?

I received a recommendation from someone I knew in Martial Arts who was using ChampionsWay. When I called, I really liked the salesperson: it just felt right. It's really difficult for me to differentiate between which features I like and use the most, because they all flow together nicely and create a great platform for our business. I do like the fact that we have a great deal of flexibility to cater the platform to our unique style and our belt system, testing cycle, etc. The fully integrated website, lead forms, customizable automated emails, members pages, and other aspects of the all-in-one platform work together as another awesome feature. I would be hard-pressed to forget the great customer service, the PerfectMind help groups, the awesome webinars, and the fact that I truly feel connected to a family. ChampionsWay makes me feel good to be a part of this company.

6) How has ChampionsWay helped Grogan's Academy grow, over the past few years?

They have given me the tools, resources and connections to make it happen. I always had the drive, determination, persistence and will power but I didn't have a road map or any type of business knowledge to help me find my way. Now that I have these things in place, look out.