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Kovar Systems
Business Tips Point to Ponder

Resisting School Owner Burnout

By Dave Kovar
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the mid 90’s. My good friend had just opened up this gorgeous martial arts school and invited me down for a visit. Upon entering, I was blown away. It was fully matted, long before the average school even had mats. It had great equipment, a gorgeous lobby, and a state of the art pro shop. It was one of the nicest schools I had ever seen.
What happens when you combine a state of the art facility with a knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and charismatic instructor? Success, and lots of it. Over the next decade my friend thrived. When it came to business, he could do no wrong. Classes were always packed, the energy was great, and the paycheck solid.
Over the years, our lives moved in different directions and we sort of lost contact. I would see him from time to time at conventions where we would exchange pleasantries, but we never seemed to have time for a deep conversation. Each time I saw him, his light was a little less bright and his smile seemed a little more forced.
A couple of years ago, I was doing a seminar in his area and I had the chance to go to his school to say "hello." It was the same location and the same guy, but it wasn’t the same experience. What was once a state of the art facility was now a worn down, battered, and smelly dojo. His youthful enthusiasm had been replaced with cynicism based on years of challenges. His hunger had been replaced by lethargy and compromise. To put it bluntly, he was suffering and so was his business. He was just plain burned out.
I’m certainly not insinuating that he did anything wrong. Life has a way of humbling everyone. It was not the first time I’ve seen someone be slowly broken down by their school. It could happen to anyone. But nevertheless, it still broke my heart. Here was this capable, competent, amazing person who had become a shell of the person he once was.
Although I’m still extremely enthusiastic about my career, I myself have had my moments of near burnout to be sure. And after seeing my friend, I have doubled my efforts to avoid burnout by trying to do the following four things on a regular basis as a martial arts school owner. Perhaps these things might be valuable to you as well.
1. Create a vision of what you want your school to be and then visit that vision often. I once read that “burnout” only happens when you lose sight of your vision. There certainly can be other things that come into play that could cause burnout, but losing sight of your vision is certainly near the top of the list. Having a clear vision of what you want your school to be helps you to keep your purpose strong. When your purpose is strong, it is easier to sustain your motivation.
2. Constantly be training your team. My friend in the story above had a philosophy that if you wanted something done right, you had to do it yourself. Because he was a hard-working guy, he was able to push himself and do virtually everything on his own, year in and year out, for over a decade before it caught up to him. He never really relied on anyone else, and when he did, it was in a crisis situation so he never had ample time to train his team correctly to help. Because of this, his staff never lived up to his expectations and therefore wouldn’t last long.
3. Maintain a love for the arts. It has been my observation that the people I see in our profession that have maintained a high level of success overtime have been people that have kept their love for martial arts strong. People on the outside think that if you teach martial arts you get to train all the time. We know that’s not the case. As a matter of fact, it can be extremely hard to get your own personal training in unless you make time for it. I believe that this is one of the X factors for a successful martial arts school and should not be neglected.
4. Savor the moment. In a Japanese tea ceremony, there is a phrase. “Ichi-go Ichi-e." Roughly translated, it means “one encounter, one chance.” It means that this moment with these people will never happen again the same way, so we should savor it. I translate this to mean that every day I should consciously try to savor each class I teach, each staff meeting I participate in, and each student I converse with. Because when I do this I maintain a higher level of present focus which allows me to be at my best and maximize the situation.

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by Dave Kovar