To Be Successful, Look Forward!
As I write this column, I reflect on the past year: where we started, where we came from and where we are now. For most of us, the year began second to none. Business was booming, and the future looked bright. Then the world stopped turning. In March, we witnessed the fragility of the world's economy, not to mention life itself, as the pandemic took hold and forced a shutdown the likes of which we have never seen.

Today, we're looking better than we did at the onset of COVID-19 — at least, things are looking that way as I write this column. (Who knows what tomorrow will bring?) However, we are by no means out of the woods. Many schools are still struggling, and business is nowhere close to where it was at the beginning of the year. And then there are the casualties: the schools that closed their doors for a final time.

I don't want this column to be a message of doom and gloom. I've said it before and it's worth repeating: We are a strong industry. We are resilient. We are warriors. We will survive. For me, this is a time not only to reflect on the past but also to look to the future while focusing on the present. So what does that look like?

First, looking to the future means recognizing that the past year was hard — but that we survived. It means having compassion for those whose businesses didn't survive and offering a helping hand when we can. It means setting goals and recognizing that living in the past will not make the future better, although we can learn from the past. It means getting out of the "funk" and restoring the kind of energy that's needed to grow our businesses, help our students and serve the communities in which we operate.

Now, what about living in the present, or as I said, focusing on the present? This is so important because it offers respect to the past while paving the road to the future. This is a critical time of year for the martial arts industry. Regardless of how your back-to-school season was — industry reports range from best-ever to nonexistent — we are now in the holiday season. Your ability to capitalize is guaranteed, but how you can do that will differ depending on the state of the pandemic at the time you're reading this. Be creative. Be bold. Make things happen. And above all, no excuses!

As I would normally do at this time of year, I'm focusing on retail sales. December is almost upon us, and now more than ever, offering a variety of home-training kits is a great idea. You should offer large, medium and small items, from XXL Wavemasters and Versys bags to simple hand targets and gloves. You should offer home-training kits not only for your students but also for family members who don't train. You can be creative and bundle a kicking shield with a family Zoom class for $99. This will appeal to those who are still social distancing, as well as to those who are back in class.

Another potential package is a "school in a box." For example, it could include four or eight puzzle mats and a Wavemaster or a stretch rack. This is a high-dollar idea, so selling just two or three will generate significant profit. Also, keep in mind that sometimes people like to order the appetizer before the main course. Have some fun things such as T-shirts, picture frames and logoed gear.

Finally, no matter how, what and where you are teaching, enrolling new members is still the most important thing you can do every day. You need to market and advertise and get new members in the door and on the screen. Holiday specials are imperative, and as we approach the new year, fitness is key. Focus on the present, and the future will be bright. On behalf of the Martial Arts Industry Association, have a happy and safe holiday season.

Frank Silverman is the executive director of the Martial Arts Industry Association. To contact him, send an email to Find him on Twitter and Facebook at @franksilverman.

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