Sharpen Your
Greatest Weapon: Your Staff

wning and operating your own dojo can be a dream come true for some. Passing along the knowledge is a tradition as old as the martial arts themselves. But for this process to succeed, would-be teachers must first secure a building, purchase insurance and market themselves.

The next step is just as crucial: Assemble a staff. You might start out working solo, but to grow, you'll need more people. Finding the best instructors is essential, and keeping them happy and motivated will put you on the road to long-term success. The following are my suggestions for maintaining a ship-shape crew:


Send them to school.

The best instructors are the most educated instructors. Send them to seminars. Bring them to hear a motivational speaker. Invite them to join you at the Martial Arts SuperShow in Las Vegas. Encourage them to register online for a certification and offer to cover the cost.

By broadening their skill set, you're allowing your business to grow from the inside out, priming the pump so you eventually can promote from within. Part of what's needed to grow your bottom line is growing your instructors along the way.A fringe benefit is they will appreciate your investment in their future. It's a win/win for everyone!

Shout it from the mountaintop.

Everyone likes being acknowledged for his or her hard work, be sure to give shout-outs to your staff whenever they provide terrific service.

Also, refer to them by name when you're being interviewed by local news crews. Brag about their accomplishments on social media. Call them onstage to be recognized during parent's night festivities. Your praise will let them know how much you appreciate their dedication and commitment to excellence, and your students will realize how lucky they are to be at your school.

Lend them your ear.

Many times when excellent instructors decide to permanently leave a dojo, they'll tell you that they felt like their voice wasn't being heard. That means their suggestions, opinions and needs were falling on deaf ears.

These people are intimately entwined with your business. Their perspective should be listened to and duly noted. Your dojo will benefit from their insights, and it's likely that small changes can be made from their suggestions in a way that will benefit your school. Of course, not every suggestion must be implemented, but simply by taking the time to listen and granting them the respect of your undivided attention, your leadership abilities will rise.

Get thee to a gym.

It takes physical prowess to perform martial arts at a high level. However, many instructors fall out of shape because of busy schedules, outside stress and poor eating habits. Take a proactive approach by setting up a corporate membership at a local gym so all staff members can work out for one low price.

Besides improving their physical appearance, the endorphins that exercise releases will do wonders for everyone's mental health. One way to accomplish this is to offer your students the SLEEK NINJA program. It will help align their exercise, diet and sleep patterns, and the transformations they undergo will inspire your instructors to get in shape, too.

Show them the Golden Path.

How do you give your employees room to grow? Yes, eventually you will retire, and then one of them can advance to your position — but until then? They may believe that the only way to advance is to leave your dojo, and neither side wants that.

Look for ways to expand your dojo by adding incentives, such as title changes. Being Head Instructor or Demo Team Coach adds appeal and merit. Encourage your instructors to become ambassadors of the school, helping increase membership and overall interest. Show them a solid path for career development, and they'll remain your faithful foot soldiers deep into the battle.

How will you perform at the moment of truth?

What's going to happen to you physically and emotionally in a real fight where you could be injured or killed? Will you defend yourself immediately, hesitate during the first few critical seconds of the fight, or will you be so paralyzed with fear that you won't be able to move at all? The answer is - you won't know until you can say, "Been there, done that." However, there is a way to train for that fearful day.

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