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Kovar Systems
Business Tips Point to Ponder

Dealing with Martial Arts School Business Competition

By Bryan Nay

“Your competition is out to get you!” Regardless of the industry, there will always be people trying to run a similar business to yours. The kung fu school across town, the krav maga school a few blocks away, the local YMCA karate program – “the other guys” are everywhere. We often call these people our competition. With this perspective, it can be easy to take an “us against them” perspective and get lost focusing on what they’re doing or comparing them against yourself. After all, every student that they enroll is one less for you, right? Wrong!

In my experience, running your school and business is very rarely a zero sum game. To illustrate the point, here’s a question from Dave Kovar that I love to ask school owners: “If your school had never opened, how many of your students would have still started their training in the martial arts somewhere else?” In other words, how many of your students were dead set on finding a martial arts program, and yours just happened to be the one they found first or had the lowest price? With some time to reflect, most school owners say just 10-15% of their students at most. Typically, our students train with us because we helped to introduce them to martial arts and see the benefits. We created a point of connection (met them at a booth event, hosted a clinic, answered the phone well, etc.), shared the benefits of training, and fostered a relationship that convinced them our school would be a good fit to accomplish their unique goals. There’s an important piece here to understand: “We create our market.”

There’s a powerful and unique reason more than 85% of your students train at your school… it’s YOU. Your school provides what they are looking for. Not the school across town or around the corner. They chose you. Martial Arts training is not a simple commodity that can easily be substituted. Nor is there a fixed population of interested martial arts prospects just waiting for the first school to snatch them up. You create your own market by teaching great classes, doing ethical business, and being a place that people in your community feel welcomed and want to be at. With this in mind, we can get away from the idea that we are competing for the same students. Instead, I prefer to operate with the mindset that we are working together with martial arts schools everywhere to spread the joys and benefits of long-term martial arts training.

You’ve likely heard Dave Kovar use the phrase “the rising tide lifts all boats.” This means that we’re all in it together, and the best thing for our business is to have other martial arts centers doing the most amazing job they can. Rather than hoping that school across town does poorly, I want them to be successful! I want them to reach as many families as possible, because there’s a good chance their students have friends near me and I want the message to be “Training in martial arts is GREAT! It’s changed my life!” In this way, we don’t worry about competing for a bigger slice of the same pie, together we make a bigger pie!

By contrast, the worst thing for my school are BAD or unprofessional martial arts schools, because when someone has a bad experience they’re not going to say “School X is really bad, don’t go there,” they’re going to say “Don’t do martial arts! I tried it once and had a HORRIBLE TIME!” Suddenly that pie starts to get smaller. And that Krav Maga school around the corner? I hope they’re good too, because my school may not be the right fit for everyone, so if their program can meet some needs that I can’t, I’d like to know where to send them so they get the training that will help them the best. We can’t be all things to all people, so focus on what you do best and do it GREAT!

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by Bryan Nay