It’s not easy to run a successful business—even if you’re passionate about the product or service you’re offering, it may take years to turn a profit.
Now, you’re probably here because you want your martial arts school to flourish.
If so, attracting customers, earning a steady income, and getting your name out there are things that are constantly on your mind.
Here’s the good news: If you have the right foundation, you’ll be halfway to your goal of having a successful martial arts school!
How to Run a Successful Martial Arts Business
1. Have a Well-Thought-Out Business Plan
Whether you’re in the martial arts industry or in a different field altogether, a good business owner should always start with a comprehensive business plan.
Besides being the backbone of your finances, marketing, and operations, your business strategy also dictates if your martial arts school will make it long-term.
Thus, it’s very important to take your time with this plan—go through all of its parts thoroughly to make sure you don’t miss a thing!
Before anything else, you must set your goals so that you’re extremely focused moving forward.
If you need a guide, go for SMART ones—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely goals.
These criteria help you determine what’s crucial for your business so that you don’t lose direction at any point in your journey.
Specific goals are well-defined, including what exactly you want to accomplish, the stakeholders involved, when and where you want to achieve it, and why you’re taking on the task.
Measurable goals involve qualitative and quantitative data to track progress.
For a martial arts studio, the criteria could be the number of students enrolled in a year or the type of feedback received from customers.
Achievable and Realistic goals are ones that are ambitious but still attainable.
Be practical and consider all the factors involved (financial resources, your capabilities, level of commitment, business environment, etc.) when chasing success.
Timely goals set deadlines to help push you forward. When there’s a time constraint involved, you’re usually more motivated to achieve them quicker.
Now that you’ve decided on your focus, it’s vital to do your research. Understand your market and the current business environment, as these will determine your next steps.
How big is your target demographic? What are people looking for in a martial arts school? How are classes typically structured for effective learning?
It’s also helpful to know the income levels in your area, so you know how much students can pay on average for your services.
Naturally, your studio will perform better when it’s not next to four other martial arts schools in the city, but don’t be discouraged if that’s the case.
The key is to set yourself apart from the competition.
Analyze what makes you better from the rest. Is it your facilities, your equipment, or your instructors? Maybe your service is more personalized, and you give more attention to each student.
Whatever your situation is, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings so that you can continuously improve and rise above other schools.
Another big part of any business plan is having an effective marketing strategy.
Even if your studio is the best in the country, no one would know it without the right advertisements and marketing techniques.
Don’t be afraid to spend on website development, search engine optimization, PR, online ads, and other promotional materials, because these help attract new students.
However, use your marketing dollars wisely as well.
Always quantify the performance of your marketing programs by tracking relevant metrics and key performance indicators such as conversion rates.
Location and Operations
Without a proper plan, you could quickly get overwhelmed in day-to-day operations.
Before opening your dojo, survey the location thoroughly and figure out how to build a strong community following in that area.
Make your school visible and easy to access, so people won’t have a hard time finding it.
You should also be very detailed with your operations plan.
Besides preparing all the necessary documents, licenses, and materials, you should also draw up organized processes for both employees and customers.
When you have a more streamlined system for payment, booking, scheduling, and other procedures, your business will run a lot more smoothly.
To stay in business, you need to have a solid financial plan.
Set reasonable but profitable rates based on your goals, and employ different pricing methods to entice more long-term students.
Although you can use the pricing of other martial arts schools as a guide, remember that each business is different.
Ultimately, it should be based on your own analysis of marketing and operations costs, brand positioning, and financial goals, among others.
2. Prioritize Quality Service
Now that the business strategy is taken care of, it’s time to focus on the service itself: Martial arts classes.
Because you’re teaching both a sport and an art, it’s absolutely essential to hire the right instructors to do the job.
A good instructor won’t just have the proper training and credentials, but he’ll also possess the right attitude and leadership skills.
As someone who’ll be showing people (including children) how to express themselves through karate and martial art, he needs to have a flexible approach for effective results.
The best instructors will also teach from the heart—passion translates into action, and customers will always appreciate those who clearly love what they’re doing. So, invest in the right people!
Type of Classes/Programs
Depending on the size of your martial arts studio, you may be offering various types of classes such as judo and karate at different levels.
Based on your prior research and current feedback from your students, develop programs that best suit your target demographic.
For example, if it’s mostly children, you’ll want a lot of after-school options, summer program packages, and beginner classes, among others.
Meanwhile, intermediate students may require advanced, one-on-one training.
Another integral part of quality service is having a clean, spacious, and well-equipped studio.
While there may be many martial arts schools out there, if your school looks better, safer, and more welcoming, students will be more likely to patronize it over others.
Always consider your maximum capacity as well, so that students have adequate space for training.
3. Utilize Technology and Software to Your Advantage
Nowadays, there are a lot of tools online that can help you with marketing, management, operations, and finance.
While you may be able to stay on top of things in the beginning, this can be harder to do as your business grows.
In fact, it’s best to have an organized system in place from the very start so that you won’t have a difficult time adapting next time.
Something I should mention is that this software usually doesn’t come cheap, but I think it’s worth investing your money in.
Businesses can quickly fail when their finances (among others) aren’t in order, so this technology is very useful at keeping track of these.
Research for the best one that will fit your business model, and ask for advice from friends or experts in the field who can help you make a more informed decision.
4. Provide Good Customer Service
Anyone running a business knows that good customer service is vital.
Since you aim to attract (and keep) students, you should always cater to their needs and keep them happy.
After all, who’d want to spend their hard-earned money on a school with unapproachable instructors and staff?
With that said, you should know your limits as well. There are times when you should stand up for yourself and for the values that your martial arts school upholds.
5. Keep on Learning and Improving
Even when your business is finally running smoothly and achieving success, remember that there’s always something new to learn.
Whether it’s a unique marketing strategy or a new management technique, you’ll constantly find a way to improve your school and provide better service to your students.
So, don’t get caught up in the little day-to-day details; sometimes, you’ll need to realign with your goals and view the bigger picture.
This way, you’ll keep innovating and maybe even succeeding beyond what you originally dreamed of.
6. Don’t Lose Your Drive, Motivation, and Passion
Just like any martial artist determined to perform even better than the day before, you can’t lose your drive in business.
When the going gets tough, you’ll need to remember why you started in the first place. This will help you keep that passion burning in spite of all the struggles and problems that may come your way.
While growing your martial arts business is certainly no easy feat, it’s definitely possible. All you have to do is put these tips and tricks into action, and you’ll be a lot closer to your goal!
Colin spent the last 3 years writing for and with gym owners—from small martial arts schools in the Midwest to big fitness gyms in California. He has also worked with many small businesses over the past 10 years. He’s passionate about fitness, BJJ, reading, and dedicating every spare second to writing for fun. He wants to help business owners tackle the logistics of running a business so they can focus more on their passions too.