[Webinar] Has Your School Leveled Off And Now You Feel Stuck?


Presentation Slides

Video Transcription

This is a picture of the Moab, Utah. I took some of my top clients to Moab last year actually it was the year before. And one of the days we did biking. The whole idea is to get up real early in the morning and put the bikes on top of this van and we drove way up into the mountains, it was way above the valley of Moab and we got out and had breakfast and they gave us our bikes, fitted the bikes and then we started practicing a little downhill it was really neat because when cycling downhill you get a little momentum. And they would, “Tell us don’t use your front brake because you could flip over the top. Make sure if you’re coming on to rock you kind of lift up the front wheel so you get some momentum and you go over the rock with ease.” It was really pretty neat. It was really pretty easy to get started, and after about 15-20 minutes of teaching what to do we started downhill. And all of a sudden the hill started getting a little steeper but the obstacles weren’t really that hard we had a few small rocks there was some loose sand that you had to be careful going through. Make sure you didn’t put on your brakes there where you skid out.

They were kind of holding our hand, some. They were kind of telling us what to do and coaching us on the way. Then all of a sudden it started getting steeper and steeper but the momentum really kept going. As we started going down everyone started going over these obstacles. It was really neat how everyone started building up their confidence. Hey I got this, I really got this! One of the sad things, my wife was there and she started getting more than a little confident. One of the riders Damon Tong (?) came to this hill and went down the hill really fast and there was a ravine at the bottom and he lifted the front wheel and he jumped over the ravine. And my wife said, “Do you think I can do that?” … “I don’t know!” And she said, “I think I can I have all this confidence!”

So, she went down the hill sort of like this picture but was much steeper and then she came to the bottom of the hill. Of course, she didn’t lift her front tire high as she should and if you saw this picture and the back wheel went over the top of the guy’s head. Well that’s what happened to Jeanie. So she crashed and burned. Some of the people made it over and started gliding up the other side and it was pretty neat. I kind of tell this story because it reminds me of a lot of school owner. You first get started and you start rolling students in. I’m growing so fast you know. I had 10 students last month and I’ve got 30 this month. I’ve tripled my active student count. I mean I’m flying. So it gives you a lot of confidence. You start moving, so you’re going and going and then all of a sudden you start hitting some obstacles.

Because all of a sudden it could be 9 months into a year into it and a couple of people start giving you a little hard time. You start getting your first parent complaints. Some people don’t pass graduation, couple of people got hurt, moved. All of a sudden attrition starts gaining a little much. And you’re no longer the new school on the block. So maybe your marking isn’t quite as effective as it was before. So, this is kind of the same thing with this biking where we’re going downhill, we got momentum then all sudden we start going up the next hill and it gets a little tougher. We really can’t change gears. We don’t know how to push those pedals harder. Then all of a sudden, we get stopped and once it stops we put our feet down and we get stuck. Something happens with school owners, and today I want to kind of share some ideas on why that happens and I don’t really believe that the reason it happens is because you didn’t send out enough post cards, you didn’t have enough mall boost. I think there is a lot more in there than that. And so I kind of want to go over some of those ideas today. Now I would kind of like to share these pictures because I like the one that says, “Everything you ever wanted is one step outside your comfort zone.” And I talk a lot about the comfort zone and I don’t really think people know the wall around their comfort zone. So we start talking about something …well your martial arts school has leveled off or got stuck because you hit your comfort zone, and all of a sudden you say, “Tom, I’m a martial artist I’m brave I can do all this stuff.” But then again something did stop you, so I really don’t think you see your comfort zone and if you want something. In other words, if you want more students, you want a better trained staff you want to get into the school system. You want to make more money off of your school you want to set up a retirement fund. If you want these things and you don’t have them now chances are all these things fall outside your comfort zone. Now what’s your comfort zone?

Well the elephant there is tied up to a stake with a piece of rope. And quite a few of you may have already heard this story. Well when they first start training and elephant the elephant is small they take this big chain and they put it around its leg and they tie it to an iron post and the elephant can’t get away. And now all of a sudden, pretty soon, they take the elephant and he is getting bigger and they take the chain and again the iron post and he can’t get away. Sooner or later that elephant just doesn’t believe he can get away.


Even though he is full grown and he’s so powerful you can actually take a small rope tie it around it’s leg attached to a peg he will stop pulling because he just doesn’t believe he can. So a lot of things in the comfort zone have to do with personal beliefs. Now these personal beliefs may have happened when you were young they may have happened when you ran your school. I talked to some people who go, “I came from the old school and we were really tough we had 30 students and we didn’t give away black belts.” That’s kind of the way you came through and that’s your belief system. My experience is a little different, when I started martial arts I was with the Tracy’s organization and the school I joined had over 300 students. I thought that is what it was supposed to be. That was one of the determining factors of me getting into martial arts. I was training at school and I knew the instructor. He wasn’t that much older than me. This is the second school I started going at and then I started going out to Tracy’s this was in ’69. I was 18 years old the instructor was probably 20 or 29 years old and I see him with 300 students and he is driving a new car and because I am like you a regular student I’m taking 300 and multiplying it by his student greatness and said, “WOW, this guy is making a lot of money.” I said, “I love martial arts this is probably a career I want.” So I’m just kind of pointing out that my belief system of what martial art school was formed when I was 18. Yours might have been formed too but your experience might have been slightly different. So whatever your comfort zone is whatever your belief system is with the elephant…

Go to the 3rd picture if things are going to change you have to change. And so there’s got to be a change ahead. Now just a quick story about me just so you know why I had changed and tell you a little but about that process. I had become an instructor in ’69. I opened my school actually 3 months before I graduated from the University of Connecticut and this picture to the far right of that empty room that kind of looked like my school. I was on the second floor of a building and I would be there in the middle of the evening. My school kind of looked like this when it first started. In fact, I used to sit by the window and I could hear the crickets outside then all of a sudden I’d hear a car pull up and I would get on the floor and do 10 push-ups and a couple of jumping jacks so I looked like I was actually doing something and breathing. People I thought of as prospects. In 1975 I was still working on my schools I was doing pretty-good. I actually had about 250 students through 1979 but in ‘75 I took a little bit of a lull.

When I opened my school in 1973 Bruce Lee was alive. Everyone was watching his movies everyone was getting totally excited and coming to martial arts school. Martial Arts was really about teaching adults back then. And then just as fast as Bruce Lee movies came out, he died. All of a sudden the interest actually went down. So, in 1975 (look at that other picture of the plow). That is what I was actually doing to keep my school open. I had my school, was down a little but I had a truck so I put a plow on it and when it snowed I wasn’t teaching class that day. So plowing snow would give me something to do and I needed the money I had a family on the way. And I had to pay a house and so I really didn’t know how to expand my school so I did what a lot of instructors do, you know I had a second job. Then all of a sudden I started to change a little and by 1985 I had some really good black belts. I had a team. We had five locations. In 1987 I had grown to 400 students. Now a lot of this was self-education. I used to listen to a lot of tapes. This was right around the Tony Robbin’s time when he first came on the scene. It was probably when I was plowing snow and watching TV late at night. I would see one of his infomercials and buy his tapes.

So I did a lot of self-education and I got up to 400 students. And I started seeing some other people around the country and they were doing better than me. And I went to a school in Upper State New York that was doing better than me. I just wanted to see what was different. Now probably my ego got in the way quite a bit. I came back and I was under ESA at the time with Nick Ocanus. And Nick said, “What did you learn when you were up there?” I go, “I don’t know, not much.” He goes, “How was the class?” I go, “The classes were good,” and this is where my ego starts stepping in. I go, “Well, I think but I think my stances are a little better. His stances are too low, my stances are better,” and I started going on like that. He goes, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, what was different?” I go, “Well the staff was really trained,” I go. And he goes, “What else?” I go, “Well the leadership of the top people was really different.” And he goes, “So it is you?” That was my big wake up call.


I go, “Yeah, it’s me. I may be good at certain things that I like to do like punching, blocking, kicking…my Kempo techniques. But I wasn’t really at the top of my level on certain other things.” So one I can think of right of the top was leadership. So, I set a goal in 1987 to have the largest school in the United States, and I start thinking that these guys that are doing it, “They’re men, I’m a guy but there is something different. So actually I got a few mentors at that time and one was Anita Fishler she was a child psychologist. She really taught me a lot about my programs and what I had to do to teach on the floor. I had a friend Sean Nilchin and he became my mentor he was the top salesmen from Pitney Bowes the mailing machines, and one time we were sitting and he pulled out his paycheck from January and it was $60,000.00. That’s a lot of money. He says, “Well this is how I do what I do,” and by learning what he did I learned how to do the upgrade systems.

Then I had a coach called Marc Gillensen, and Marc did a lot with promoting towns and businesses and he really got me to think about the big picture and to think more outrageously. So, some big changes were made. So, I had a wake-up call and the wake- up call I found it all starts with me and probably it all starts with you, and so I went to a seminar and I did this with that guy. I do this seminar. I still teach these seminar meetings. We have like town meetings with our Chamber of Commerce. I’ve done this presentation and I start by telling people that I want you to list the qualities of the most successful person you know. It doesn’t really matter I just want to know those qualities, and I made a list here because these are the kind of qualities I get from a lot of people. One, they say well this person was really successful he has integrity, and I just put down people that I thought were a level 10 with integrity. Now, if you know who Paul Garcia is he has got America’s Best Defense, Massachusetts. I don’t think there’s an instructor that does sales with more integrity than Paul Garcia. He makes sure that he really doesn’t do sales. He provides such a good experience and that’s why he has 650 students that want to join his school.

Perseverance is my partner Bill Storm. I call him Mister Solution. If there’s a way around something, he will find it. He’ll keep persevering with a problem until he finds the answer. He’s not easily distracted. I know that is something we teach in Martial Arts but as a business person sometimes we don’t have the same perseverance as we do when we are just a Martial Artist. Understanding Numbers, in your business you really have to understand numbers, and the most successful people I know they know exactly what is going on in their business. You have to have good people skills, instructor skills. I put Roland Osborne down here. Successful people have a positive attitude, they are organized. They know what they are going to do on a daily basis. In fact, they probably know the night before what they are going to do the following day. They’re charismatic; people want to be around them. “Wow, this guy is so exciting. I really like the school but I really like this person, his charisma.” Same thing I talk to people that are motivational speakers and they have that charisma. You want to go listen to them; you want to be around them.

They’re good planners, they’re outgoing in other words they’re not introverts. They are outgoing people. They have leadership skills, and leadership skills is not pushing people around it’s having people who just want to follow you. I put this one down here because these are all skills. Most successful people are good looking, and I know some people are probably laughing at this, right now. But they are, if they’re not naturally good looking they do what they can to make sure they’re good looking. They dress well, they have good presentation skills. I had a program director one time that had bad teeth and one of the things they said was, “People could be looking at that…let’s work on that.” So, you know we worked on his teeth. I was watching a Paul Garcia video a couple of weeks ago and he said, “I can remember when I got braces.” So you could see that he was concerned about his looks. Successful people set and achieve goals; they’re punctual, if the meeting is at 10:00. They are there before 10:00. You know everyone has rules about time but successful people are also optimistic, they’re looking for the best in situations. They have a strong work ethic. There’s one thing that I pride myself in when I was trying to get the biggest school in the country. I kind of said to myself, “I’m not going to take a day off until I have the biggest school in the country because, I know they’re not open Saturday afternoons, they’re not open on Sunday, and I can sign up 3 students…I just pulled ahead of them, because they’re taking time off and I’m working.”


I had a student at my school that became a fighter. His name was Larry Kelly. Larry Kelly lost a fight one time to a puncher and he was a really good kicker, and all of a sudden he said, “I’m going to do a thousand kicks a day until I get to be a real good kicker,” and that’s what he did. He had a strong work ethic. He knew what he had to do to be the best. Now the reason I put these down as your looking at this list, and you’re probably saying some of these things are skills and some of them are attitudes like a positive attitude. Well yeah, Dereck Frader has a positive attitude and he ran my Mike Chet’s school and he is really positive, and well that’s an attitude …oh, maybe I can’t really have that what he has. And Diego Perez is really charismatic. Well that’s kind of an attitude in her personal belief. Leadership skills I know I can learn that, but what I am really trying to stress here is all of these things are skill sets. And skill sets are something you can improve on. So if you’re really interested okay. I want to make changes. I want to have a bigger school. I want to get out of my comfort zone. I want to change my core beliefs. Start looking at these qualities, rate yourself. If your integrity is a level 10, great; perseverance, if things have stopped you before or maybe you stopped too early maybe something you need to work on is perseverance.

Now these can be listening to tapes, hanging around positive people. It’s finding a good mentor; it’s going and picking up some good books. It’s listening to books on tape. You’re finding people have these qualities make sure you hang around those people. Maybe you have some friends that, I hate to say it, but they’re deadbeats and they’re holding you back. Maybe it’s time to make some new friends. Ah, the thing is if you stay the way you are and you’re still getting the same results. So if we start looking at these as positive qualities. Well, those are changes that you have to make, and the changes have to become internal before you have the belief system to make changes in your business.

Now the reason I have a what-to-do list again it’s all about change but we have to have a to-do list and when we do this to-do list some of these things you probably say , “Yeah, I can I can do that.” Other things you can probably say, “Well, maybe I can’t do that.” Well, that’s all about breaking out of your comfort zone. So something’s you have to do. You know that you really have to market your school. And I put a couple things on. People say that advertising is not supposed to be done in Martial Arts. You know people are going to your website and people are going do this. When you start thinking about your website… I just wanna kind of tell about something else. Start thinking about the yellow pages… Back in the days of the yellow pages people went to yellow pages when they were ready to buy. “Hey, my kid needs Martial Arts; let’s find a school near me. I hear Martial Arts is great for kids. I want my kid to have some of these qualities. Let me look in the yellow pages and see who teaches that.”

Well, the whole idea is that we had to advertise to get the word out that Martial Arts is great for kids, and then when they find out that it was great for kids then they go to the yellow pages. Well, it’s the same thing now; you have to advertise your school and the benefits. You have to get people interested so now they go to your website. And there are certain things about perseverance; like how do I go to the apartments and do door hangers and flyers? I can’t get into apartments. I can’t get in the gated communities you know the place I live has a lot of gated communities. Ah, the cool thing is that most gated communities have some type of resource to educate the people who live in the communities. So they have a news-letter they have events you have to find out about these events and news-letters and get around that. Create your USP…what’s your unique selling position? You got to be ready to be different. When I first opened my school in Coral Springs I found that most of my competition was Taekwondo. I’m not saying anything bad about Taekwondo. But everyone wore white uniforms everyone did certain types of forms. I didn’t want to be one of the norm…when I went to Coral Springs. I had to have a USP. We wore red uniforms; we wore black uniforms. We did musical forms but you have to be ready to be different. “Why do you have to be ready?”

Well I was a Kempo guy I’m going down to Florida with other Kempo guys, and all of a sudden my kids are doing musical form. “Oh, that’s not Kempo.” What are the other instructors going to think about me? Well I had to believe I was doing the best thing for my students and best for my business. If a couple instructors got a little upset because all of a sudden my guys are wearing red or their doing musical form... I had to be ready for that. Was I willing to have people saying negative things about me and still have the perseverance to go forward? So you have to create a USP but you have to be ready to be different. You have to master the systems, top people did.


Now I had to leave Connecticut to go find a school that was doing what I wanted to do. And I learned about (again) myself it was a wake-up call for me, and I also had to see it in action. If you don’t really see it…it’s like I give you all the pieces for a zig-saw puzzle and go, “Hey put this together.” Well, you can probably eventually can put it together but the best thing is to go see it. So you really want to find a top school someone who’s doing something that you are doing. They’re at the next level and go see it, because hearing about and assuming what they’re doing is a lot of times totally different. You have to invest in your business for marketing, retention and education. I know we like to make money and we like to spend money on personal things, but if we want to get our business to the next level you do have to invest into your business. Maybe, it’s investing is going to see another school. Maybe it’s investing in your marketing. You may say, “I’ve got a great ad,” but there could be a company out there that is professional in marketing or copy writing, and all of a sudden they can create a much better letter. Well you may want to invest in something like that.

Next, think and act outside the comfort zone of the majority, you have to be outrageous. I’m just going to give you a couple of things that I felt that I did outrageously. Ah we had a demo team. Almost every school has a demo team, but I hired a public relations firm to promote our demo team. And we did the half time for the Miami Heat twice. We were extras at the super bowl show when it was in Miami. We did things that were outrageous. Uh, we did the summer camp but we didn’t do the summer camp it in the school. We actually had everyone go on a cruise-ship for a week and they did the Martial Arts. And this was back in the 90’s when there was a TV show called WMAC Masters. We hired the cast of the WMAC Masters to be instructors on the cruise-ship. So that is not your typical summer camp. So, again you want to think outrageous.

Find your mentor; be a student not a multitasker. When we started this Webinar I saw a lot of people coming on. Well I guess they are getting excited. And I said there are some people that are going to be sitting at their desk listening to this Webinar they’re going have a pad and pen and they’re going to be taking notes. And they’re going get a lot out of this I know they will. I said, there are some people that are probably going get on this and on their cell phone they’re playing it in their car and they will be driving in traffic and they’re thinking about traffic and they will kind of be listening to me. Well they’re a multitasker. Probably one of the most proud people that I’m the proudest of seeing his progress is Paul Garcia. Paul Garcia was a fighter he worked for … ah, not worked for but he was a fighter on the John Paul Mitchel team; middle weight fighter in the 90’s, a champion. He started working for me as an instructor. Then when I opened United Professionals he became a consultant for United Professionals. He worked all the way up to Vice President of United Professionals, but he was a student. Him and I used to fight a lot, and he would be listening to tapes, in other words, he would have his Zig Ziggler tapes and this was back when they had cassette tapes. We’d be sitting on the plane and I could see him with a pen and pencil next to me and he’s got his tape and his earphones on and he is listening to it and I’d hear, click, click, rewind, click, click…play forward. He writes something down he rewinds it again and it again. And all of a sudden I see the book he has and it’s all highlighted and it’s got notes in it. He was a student not a multitasker. He wasn’t listening to an educational tape while he was getting ready to work out for a fight. When he decided to be a student he was a student just as hard as he trained, so if you’re stuck you want to find a mentor…someone who has been there, you want to become a student and you want to read, listen to tapes and educate yourself, but you don’t want to do it part-time. You really want to put your mind to your training through your education, again, learners are earners. If you want to earn more you have to learn more and you have to become a student not a multitasker.

Next thing, I talk to clients a lot of times and I say, do you lose a lot of students? “Nah man, not me everyone who has ever signed up they always keep training.” “Oh that’s great. How are your statistics?” “Now do you get a lot of calls? “Yeah, the thing about it everyone who calls they come down and they love my school and they all signed up.” Wow, that’s perfect. But that’s probably not always the truth.


That’s what we like to believe. So it’s really important to learn the truth about your business. Really learn about your numbers. And I know one of the things I really want to make sure is that people don’t quit. And I was talking to an instructor the other day and I go “How is your retention rate?” He said, “Ah pretty good.” He goes, “Like 7% quit.” I go, “I just want you to think about this. Everyone who quit your school took they’re last class from you. Do you think you might have done something different in the last class if you knew they were that close to the edge?” “Yeah, of course I would have….” Well that’s how every class has to be. We also have to find out why your students are leaving. So we do an exiting-letter. And if I do an exiting-letter I pay the people to do the letter. So if I send a letter asking for them to tell about their experience at the school I make sure I pay them for their time. So, I include 5 or 10 dollars in that letter because I want the information.

I want a question box in my school. A question box is not a suggestion box. A suggestion box is more when people are telling you how to run your business. But people who have certain questions, like why do we have to do this? Why is it setup this way? Why do we have to do testing that way? I want to know what is going on in my students’ minds so I can answer questions because I know a lot people aren’t going to bring them up to me. In round tables this is something we do on a consistent basis getting a portion of our school together. Ah they’re in a room I usually have a business consultant do this because I don’t want the students telling me what they think I want to hear. I want them telling the truth so we’ll hire someone to do a roundtable, and they’re asking students to bring questions, parents to bring different questions. We serve them some food and some drink and he records this.

We don’t defend anything again we are just gathering information, and this way I know exactly what’s going on in my students’ minds. They’ll tell me why other people quit. They’ll tell me whether the testing was too hard or too easy or if the price is fair. It’s really important to really learn the truth of what’s going on in your school, and this is a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote but I think it is really, really important. I would love to start wrapping things up with this, “Do the thing, and you’ll have the power.” If you want to grow more students and you really learn about marketing, you really have to get out there, do the booths, doing your ads and doing your direct mail and doing your calls and your referrals. You’ve got to do the thing and you’ll have the power. You know if you want to have better retention learning about what makes students enjoy the class. Why do they want to keep coming back to class? Why they’re supporting your school? You know you have to learn that thing. “Do the thing and you’ll have the power.”

Last thing then we’ll open this up to questions. I don’t want any questions coming in that this is fair or not fair. I’m just going to point this out. Chuck Liddell will be here. Some of these people you see on TV. Chuck Liddell’s a great fighter. I just looked up today his net worth and he is worth 14 million dollars, and then we have Joe Rogan the announcer for the UFC and he’s worth 22 million dollars. And then we have Dana White who turned around the UFC from losing money to now the fastest growing sport and he’s worth 300 million. So I just want to kind of show you these pictures and you can kind of relate to how this relates to your school. I see Chuck Liddell I know I have a lot of guests come into my school and I pay them for seminars because I know why they come in the seminars it’s going to create some interest and people are going to want to come to my school.

I’m not trying to reduce Chuck Liddell like that but as far as the UFC he was a big draw, a lot of people came to them and that’s what he was paid for. Now Joe Rogan he’s the announcer I think this guy’s got a tough job because I went to UFC in Phoenix and they would start booing one of the fights and Joe has got to get out there and kind of go in front of the crowd of booing people and make sure that everything is all right. He kind of explains what happened, and he’s worth a little more than Chuck Liddell to the UFC because of his position with the UFC. Then, Dana White now he’s kind of like the brains behind, “Okay we’re going to do this event.” These are the demographics; this is the pricing this is how we have to negotiate with Pay Per View. A little more going on there and of course his net worth is quite a bit. So when we start thinking about your school are you the fighter? Are you the kind of the manager just putting out fires? Are you the creator developing this huge business? And you’re probably going to fit in somewhere there and so that kind of goes with the wake-up call of finding the qualities of someone who’s really doing something and deciding which qualities you have to improve on and that’s your to-do list and wake-up call.


Q & A begins here.