Two months ago we moved location and took over a dance studio, so a lot of the work was already done since the building has the same basic purpose – a training floor and reception area.
Basically there is a dividing wall between the tatami and the waiting room, front desk and bathroom. However, the reception area while functional in the short term, requires some work to make it more comfortable, spacious and inviting for students and families.
So in order to figure out a list of improvements I had to walk in my student’s and family’s shoes to see what they see and to experience what they experience.
Now some instructors say, “To heck with the reception and seating! Maximize the training space. Parents and students waiting for class can wait outside, or in their car…”
I say, “That’s a stupid idea!”
Here’s why: When you build a place where people want to go they’ll keep coming back. Build a place that caters only to your needs and it’ll be perfect for you to train by yourself. =)
So that’s why I had to walk a little in my student’s shoes… to understand what they want.
Don’t underestimate how poweful this can be! Providing an area for your families allows you to connect with them. It allows you to get to know them and build relationships. And relationships are HUGELY important in building a successful dojo.
You don’t want to have the “gym” mindset – a front desk, and no seating. The only people you’ll ever get to briefly “know” are those paying their bills and walking onto the floor.
But if you have a place that provides seating for friends and family… guess what? Pretty soon you have people WATCHING your classes… which creates interest. Ever heard the term “word of mouth” marketing? I’m sure you have and this is a PERFECT way to get people talking.
So anyway, back to the list of improvements. I took a seat in reception and realized that the windows in the dividing wall are too high to see the floor unless you’re sitting with your nose pressed against the glass. So this is one improvement we’ve got to make – we need to resize the windows for better viewing.
Secondly I noticed that during the change over time between classes reception becomes very crowded with up to 30 people squeezing by each other… kinda like a rock concert without the alcohol. So this is another area we need to address.
Thirdly I noticed that in the 2 months we’ve been there I haven’t “decorated” the waiting area. There are no pictures on the stark white walls and it sort of feels like a hospital – minus the sick people of course.
So last weekend some friends and I got to work. We demolished a wall to create more space. We also worked hard to prime, paint and decorate reception.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. Last night so many people remarked with expressions like, “This is great! Now I can see”, and “Nice job. Now it’s got a warmer feeling to it”. Already it’s creating “word of mouth”.
|Stage 1 of 4. Wall demolished to create
one large room with seating for 16.
What improvements were done on last weekend were just stage 1 of 4 that I’ve got planned. And I can only help but think if people were that excited about the small improvement we did, they’re going to love what’s coming next.
What improvements can you make to your school? What improvements can you suggest to your sensei? And if you’re training in a community gym, how can you provide seating and start creating an atmosphere?