What’s your phone procedure?

When someone calls you for information, what do you tell them? Do you have a “template” or “script” that you use on the phone?

I noticed that each of my inquiry calls goes for about 7 minutes…

During this time here’s what I do:

# 1. Look at my mobile phone to see if it captured the incoming number or if it says “unknown caller” – this is THE most important step. (See step #9 for further explanation.)

# 2. Ask if they are calling about classes for themselves or their kids.

# 3. I then explain which class would be most suitable and tell them when the next class is.

# 4. At this point I invite the caller to try a free trial class, by saying something like, “I have a class for your 9 year old son tomorrow at 4.00pm . It’s a 45 minute class and it’s just for beginners like him. You’re welcome to come and try it at no charge and see if your son enjoys it. How does 4.00pm suit you?”

If they tell me that this time or day isn’t suitable, I’ll then say something like…”The next available class for him would be on Friday at 3.45pm . How does that suit you?”

If I still get a “we’ve got soccer on Friday at that time”, I’ll try one final time with “How about Monday?”

# 5. At this point if the caller can’t commit to coming down to try a free class then you’re going to have trouble getting them to sign up at all.


Simply because their schedule is too busy or it conflicts with your classes.

Or maybe they are just “flakey” and have difficulty committing. If they can’t hold an appointment for a free class, do you think they will be able to commit on a regular basis?

Either way it’s simply not going to work out. Cut your losses and move on…

NEVER put the student into a class that isn’t for beginners just so you can sign ’em up! It’ll kill your other class and people will see you as a pushover.
If the caller says, “Sure, tomorrow at 4.00pm sounds fine”, I’ll then ask them for a verbal commitment to training. I’ll say “Ok great, let me ‘pencil you in’ for tomorrow at 4.00. What was your name please? And your son’s name?”

Note: ‘Penciling someone in’ does 2 things.

Firstly it confirms to the caller that you’ve taken them seriously and have ‘registered’ them for the class – you’ve reserved a place just for them!

Secondly, they usually feel obligated to attend as they’ve given you a verbal confirmation. At this point I’ll then say, “There’s only a couple of places left in this particular class for new students – if you can’t make it for whatever reason, would you please call me and let me know?”

Again I’ve reinforced gently and professionally that they better be serious about this ‘karate thing’ and get themselves down to the club tomorrow at 4.00pm ! If they don’t, they’ll feel badly that they didn’t attend as there were limited places available – so guess what? 90%+ of callers don’t want to feel bad, so they keep their appointment.

#6. I ask them if they have the address of the club and then give them driving directions.

#7. I ask them how they heard about us. Another important point – take notice of where your leads come from! You want keep tabs on what’s working and what needs attention.

#8. Before I end the call, I thank them for their time and tell them “I’ll see you Wednesday at 4.00pm.”

#9. In step #1 I mentioned that I get the caller’s phone number from my mobile phone caller id. However if it’s an anonymous call, at this point I’ll ask the caller for their phone number “just in case” I need to call them before now and class.
This is critical!
You must capture the name and number of your leads so you can follow up with them! You will increase your student signups and student retention instantly by following up with people.
If they don’t show for whatever reason, you can call them back. Most people who miss an appointment feel badly about it and will reschedule with you if you call them. By calling them it also shows that you care – that you went out of your way to see why they didn’t show.
Of course when you call back, always take the voice of concern, not the voice of accusation!

When I call back I say something like, “Hi Anna, it’s Jason Stanley from the karate school. How are you? I just wanted to check in with you to see if everything is ok? I had your son Daniel booked in for a class yesterday at 4.00pm , but we missed you…”

At this point I SHUT UP!

I wait for them to answer…

Usually they apologise and reschedule.

Now, back to the checklist…

#10. From here I enter their details into an excel spreadsheet with the parent’s name, student’s name, age, phone number, the class they’ll be attending, time and date of the call and how they heard about us. This is a great way to stay focussed and and keep track of your prospects rather than simply scribling their name on a scrap piece of paper somewhere…

Well, there you have it – my phone procedure in a nutsehll.

3 Critical Points To Note!

  • You’ll notice with this simple script I’m leading the call. I’m directing the caller to exactly where I want them to go.

    If they interupt and ask about other stuff, I simply say, “There’s a few other things that I need to explain and show you about how the program works which I can’t do over the phone… so when you come down on Wednesday, please arrive about 10-15 minutes early so we’ll have a chance to meet and I can run through it with you.”

  • I never ask a closed-ended question (one that generates a YES/NO response). Instead of asking “Is Wednesday at 4.00pm a good time?”, I’ll say “How does Wednesday at 4.00pm suit you?”

    This encourages them to talk to you – the more the person talks to you, the more you can show them what a great person you are, how friendly you are, that you care and want to help them!

  • I don’t mention price.

    If they ask, I tell them I have classes starting at $20/4 classes but it really depends on what program they choose, etc. and that I’ll explain it all on Wednesday at 4.00pm.

Now for your homework. =)

Analyze what you say when someone calls you and compare it to my simple script here.

  • Are you making a friendly and professional impression?
  • Are you leading the conversation?
  • Are you giving them the information they want?
  • Are you sellling the benefits of your program?
  • Are you asking open-ended or closed-ended questions?
  • Are you penciling them in?
  • Are you capturing their phone number and name (and children’s names)?
  • Do you confirm the time with them and get a verbal agreement?
  • Do you find out where your caller heard about your school?
  • Do you give them driving directions?

I want to hear from you – please post your comments/questions/responses below by clicking on “comments”.

Have a great week!


– Jason

P.S. I’m going to be away next week from July 4-11 at the Kobe Osaka International World Cup in Moscow, Russia (Check out https://www.worldkarate.net if you’re interested) so my next post won’t be until at least July 12.

Server Crash

Last week my email server crashed. =(

The good news is that it’s up and running again.

The bad news is that the list was wiped.

The good news is that you can resubscribe by visiting the home page.

The bad news is that if you didn’t make it to this page from the newsletter link, you’ll never know this…

The good news is that if you are here now, you know what to do. 😉

I always try to end on a good note.

Which reminds me of a story – do you know the story of the Chinese farmer and his son?

A Chinese farmer lived in a small village with his only son. He was a poor man and had only one horse to plough his fields. One day his horse broke free and escaped.

The village people came to him and said, “You poor man – you must be cursed. You only have one horse and now he’s gone! What will you do?”

The farmer replied, “How do you know this is curse? Perhaps it’s a blessing.”

The villagers looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and left.

Later in the year, the horse returned with 25 of the finest stallions in the land. The villagers once again visited the farmer and exclaimed, “You are so blessed! Now you will be able to plough your land with ease!”

The farmer retorted, “How do you know this is a blessing? What if it’s a curse?” The villagers again looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and left.

Then 2 weeks later when working the fields, the farmer’s son fell from a horse and was trampled.

The villagers heard the news and returned to offer their condolences, “You poor man, you truly must be cursed. Your only son is now confined to a chair and can no longer farm the land with you.”

The farmer responded, “Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise?”

The villagers, for the 3rd time, looked at each other puzzled and left.

Early the next year civil war broke out and all the able bodied men were called to fight. Of course the farmer’s son could not go…

Three months later a messenger came with the sad news that all the young men had been killed in battle. Of course the villagers returned once more…

I guess the lesson for today is this…

Stuff happens.

It’s how you look at it and how you react that determines your success or failure.

There’s never a perfect time to begin anything.

If you’re considering implementing something BIG for your school and you’re waiting for a better time to start – I’ll let you in on a secret…


There isn’t a better time!

You’ll always have something else going on, like your horse running away or returing with 25 others.

It doesn’t matter – stuff happens and will always happen.

It’s up to you.

For your karate school’s success!

– Jason

Are You Bonding?

Today I want to let you in on one of my little secrets for success.

It’s called bonding.

Now I’m sure you’ve heard this word before, but many instructors fail to bond with their students and worse yet, their student’s parents. They’re the ones who pay your bills right?

Here’s a little story to explain…

When I visited a club here in the USA a couple of years ago, I was shocked. I’d met a few of the junior students and said “hi” to their parents, but never was formally introduced by the sensei.

When I had a moment to speak with the sensei alone, I asked him, “What’s Steven’s father’s name?”

He responded with “I don’t know. I don’t remember… I barely remember the kids’ names. Which one is Steven again?”

I was shocked, as my parents always taught me to be courteous, to remember my “pleases” and “thankyous”, and always call people by their name.

From a business perspective, remembering students and parents names is critical. More people will deal with you (and be a valued student for much longer) when you “go the extra step”, by doing the little things that others don’t – like remembering their names and using them in conversation.

This is a key to student retention.

This is one way to build a remarkable reputation. A remarkable reputation in the true meaning that people will “remark” to their friends, colleagues and family about YOU.

Now if you have 30, 50, 100 or more students, you might think that remembering all your students’ names is difficult. I don’t believe it is, but it does take practice.

And of course you must be sincere.

I make it a habit every week to remember at least one more parent’s name – even the ones who I don’t see very often. I make it my business to know my students and their families. I like to know what the parents do for a living, where they live and about their personal lives.

I also speak with the younger brothers and sisters before class, ask them their names and start the bonding process with them.

As a result I’ve had plenty of younger brothers and sisters join my program and a heap of parents tell me things like, “When Daniel is older, he’ll be in your program too!”

And as a result of this bonding I’ve had parents help me in other ways too – like having the transmission of my ’65 Mustang completely rebuilt for $150 (usually upward of $1,200), having furniture donated to the club, and much more. One parent even took 3 weeks off work to help me construct my new dojo!

I never asked for any of this stuff either – but I gladly accept it when it comes around.

I do it because I like people and I’m genuinely interested. The byproduct is that my club is growing quickly and I’ve developed a great network of friends and terrific karate students.

How much bonding are you doing?

– Jason

How Do You Hook Them?

What’s your procedure when you have a new parent walk into your school wanting to put their kids in your class?

For most instructors they simply say “Here’s some information”, as they pass a dull, colorless and boring flyer to the prospective parent. Or they might simply say “We have class on Wednesday at 5.30pm.”

I see this all the time when visiting other instructor’s studios and now I know why they haven’t got as many students as they would like.

The person who walks into your club is INTERESTED! That’s why they are there. They WANT to sign up…. Or at least try a class!

These people are HOT leads and you need to do everything in your power to get them into your class, because as you know, once they try a class they more than likely will become students.

But by leaving it to chance… by giving them “information” and hoping they will return is a waste of your advertising dollars and energy.

The most critical step is to get their information!

I’ll say that again – the most critical step is to get your prospect’s information.

That way you can contact them again… and again…slowly building rapport and luring them to all the benefits of your karate school.

Here’s an easy way to do it.

First you need to have a “class registration” form handy with all the other promotional info that you give out. This form should ask for parent’s names, student’s names, address, phone etc.

Second, instead of just saying “Here’s some info, fill out this form so I can contact you again”, you need to ADD VALUE to your process. I probably wouldn’t fill out a class enrolment form for the next day with all my personal information if this was the approach and neither would you or your prospective students…

But if you do a quick “2 minute class” with your prospective student’s parents right there in reception it can make the world of difference.

For example, I grab a pair of focus mitts and TELL nicely (not ask) the prospective child to stand in front of me. You don’t want to give them any opportunity to say “NO” – that’s why you “tell nicely” instead of ask.

I then ask them, “Do you want to have some fun?”

It’s a bit of a rhetorical question of course – what sane kid doesn’t want to have fun? But it’s a good way to start the bonding process with your kids. And it causes them to answer you. In this case we don’t “tell them to have fun” – they confirm it with “yes!”.

Next I hold up the mitts and get them to hit them a few times and once we’re done (about 30-60 seconds later) I congratulate them with “Awesome job! Gimme 5!”

This again builds rapport, makes the kids feel great and the parents see first hand how you work with children.

I then ask the child “Did you have fun?”

Of course they say “Yes!”

Quite often they’ll then turn to their parent and say “Mom, I wanna do karate!”, at which point I kindly direct (not ask) the parent to fill out a class enrolment form and at the same time I book them in for a free class the next Wednesday.

If they don’t ask their parents about doing karate, I’ll then speak with the parent directly and say “Wow! They did a really great job. I think they’ll do well in the program. I’ve got a free class on Wednesday at 4.00pm that’s just for beginners just like your son. It’s a lot of fun.”

I then turn to the child and ask “Would you like to do a real karate class on Wednesday?”

Again, I’ve directed the conversation to the child, who in turn asks their parent. What parent will say “no” to a child that is so happy and feeling great after the 2 minute class?

If they don’t ask their parent, or just simply nod their head, I’ll say to them “Why don’t you ask your Mom if you can come along on Wednesday to try a real karate class?”

Again, the question comes from the child to the parent – not from you.

Then at this point we fill out the paper work and book them in for class as mentioned above.

Now the beauty of this system is that you have a written commitment from the parent and an excited child.

If the parent doesn’t bring the child back on Wednesday, the child will be nagging and asking when they are going to go to karate. Then when you follow up the next day by phone, the parent more than likely will apologize for missing class and reschedule a time to come in.

I think you’ll agree this little approach is far more powerful than simply saying “here’s some information” or “try a class”. It’s been a huge success for my club and can be for yours too!

To your karate school’s success!

– Jason

Dealing With Hijackers

You know… I’m sure, that one of the most frustrating things as a teacher is trying to keep your class under control.

It only takes one little hijacker and before you know it you’re teaching at a circus, not a karate dojo.

I’m sure you know the feeling all too well – when your class is going great and then it happens. Litte Mister Attitude answers every question you ask with the complete OPPOSITE of what he knows to be the right answer, just to push your buttons…

Then other kids start to giggle and all hell breaks loose.

Since I’ve been using the Early Learning System, this happens 10 times less often than it used to, as kids really don’t WANT to mess around – they tend to take charge of their progress and are more focused. It usually only happens now when I have NEW kids attending class for the first time.

Anyway, if you do have a kid act up in class, you gotta “nip it in the bud” so to speak. Right there and then. If you let the first kid get away with ANYTHING, they’ll push you for more and then the whole class joins in until 1 of 2 things happen.

1) You completely lose it and yell like there’s no tomorrow. THE SHOCK FACTOR usually gets kids’ attention for the rest of the class, but the negatives associated with it far outweigh the immediate results you get.

In other words, bringing in FEAR and ANGER only generate more FEAR and ANGER in your class. They might behave out of fear, but this does little for the growth of your kids – and absolutely kills the growth of your club!

If your kids’ parents see you behave like that, you’re slitting your own throat. After all, you’re supposed to be the SENSEI – in their eyes a master of the martial arts. A person with patience, self control and a calm demeanor, right?

Why would a prospective parent join a club based on FEAR and ANGER? Do you think you’ll get many referrals operating from that perspective? If you do, guess what? The types of people you’ll attract will be the same way, and you’ll have an entire class of little demons to work with.

Been there, done that, not going back.

2) You persevere and be patient… again and again and again. You might tell them “One more time and I’ll….” – but if you never follow through on your promise, kids will call your bluff.


The result – loss of credibility and lack of control.

Do you ever get those parents call you and say “I’d like to put my kid in your class because he has disciplinary problems and I think martial arts will help.”?

Well, guess what?

The problems lie at home with parents often using one of the above 2 options to get kids to behave. No wonder they’re messing around in class, right?

Well, don’t despair – here’s my disciplinary procedure….

It’s taken me years to refine and stick to, and the funny thing is that it’s actually really simple. =)

It works great and goes hand in hand with the Early Learning System. As the ELS is about maintaining a positive approach, empowering your students to take charge of their own progress and rewarding them often for achieving their goals, the following acts as the STICK in the “carrot and the stick” equation (as we’ve already got the drive for continual improvement and achievement in place).

Are you ready?


First some definitions…

Dealing With Negative Behavior

Minor infringements include things like:

– talking when sensei is talking
– continuing an exercise after “yame”
– messing around with other kids
– disobedience
– bad attitude

Major infringements include things like:

– striking another student with intent to hurt
– physically or verbally abusing the sensei
– disrespecting the dojo

Use the following guide to deal with bad behavior for minor infringements. For major infringements – jump directly to #4 or #5.

1st infringement – warning (depending on the severity).
2nd infringement – timeout (set the number of minutes equal to the age of the child).
3rd infringement – demotion to white belt.
4th infringement – expulsion from class.
Repeated infringements – expulsion from club.

Now when I put this system in place all of a sudden there was CONSISTENCY! Kids new exactly what was next if they didn’t behave. There wasn’t any confusion.

I’ve tried negative physical punishment and a whole bunch of other stuff, but the above system works far better.

It’s hard and takes a lot of practice on your part, but when you make this commitment to your teaching system, you’ll find that your kids will transform from demons to angels.

– Jason

P.S. Please post your comments here! I want to hear YOUR stories and methods too.

What Are The Points For?

In my last post you might have picked up that I award my 4-7 year olds “points” for doing well in an activity, winning a game or just behaving well. When I tell people about the “points”, they ask “What are the points for?”

Well it’s not like a credit card membership program where they can be redeemed for prizes… And it’s not like they can actually do anything else with the points… They’re just “points”.

They have no value other than the value the kids give them. So for a class of 4-7 year olds, man, points are cool! You should see their faces when they get awarded points! They love it.

Points are awarded for effort or great results.

But here’s the thing…

If you decide to use my proprietary point system =) then you gotta do it in the right way.

You have to award a HUGE number of points for the kids to get excited. You can just say, “Great job David – here’s one point.”

It’s got to be something to blow their minds, but at the same time a number that they can comprehend. I found that 5,000 points is a good number, 10,000 if you have an activity and it’s the “final” round, or if you really want to get them excited go bigger.

Points are a great motivator for bad behavior too. If you have a kid who is goofing off in class, simply take 5,000 points away from them. Within about 5 seconds their behavior usually improves 10 fold.

Now here are some things you need to know about points.

Warning #1 – The larger the number, the more excited the kids get.

Warning #2 – Points are a double edged sword. Kids who don’t get points can get upset.

Warning #3 – Points don’t usually work for older kids or adults. =)

Use points in your next class and see how it well it works. Be enthusiastic when you give your points and you’ll see the energy in the room rise instantly.

– Jason

Blood Noses, Wobbly Teeth and Wet Pants

You know last night was one of the most challenging Pee Wee classes (ages 4-7) that I’ve taught in a while.

Here’s why…

First, I usually have an assistant or two to help out. Junior students make great assistants. They learn, you learn and the class learns. It’s a win-win-win.

Anyhow last night I had 14 yellow to blue belts in one of my Little Ninja classes – yes all aged between 5-7… and for the first time in a LONG time, no assistants.


Within the first 5 minutes of class I had:

one boy with a blood nose thanks to an accidental head butt
another two kids run into each other because they were not looking where they were going – the result – a bloody and wobbly tooth
2 kids arrive late of which one went on to wet his pants within the next 10 minutes

Two years ago, this would have freaked me out – I’m not sure that I would have coped all that well… I probably would have just curled up in the fetal position and cried…

For a few minutes it was a tornado of activity, but thanks to some experience, calm behavior and the class actually DOING WHAT I ASK THEM the rest of us got through it unscathed.

Now as I had to attend to the most pressing problem first (the blood nose) I had to leave the floor…

I know what you’re thinking – 13 kids left unattended for a couple of minutes equals a disaster. The room would be in worse shape than when I left right?


Thanks to the Early Learning System, my kids tend to behave a lot better than before I was using it. When I came back, sure they were talking quietly, but they hadn’t moved from their positions. I was proud of them and congratulated them for behaving so well.

I later had to leave the floor again to help with the child who wet his pants – oh man, where were my assistants?? – this time I employed a very useful game.

I said, “Ok, we’re going to play a game right now, it’s called ‘Quiet as a Mouse’. Remember you have to be as quiet as you can and the winner will get 5,000 points when I come back.”

Within 2 seconds my entire class sat down cross legged or in seiza and not a peep was heard. This allowed me to attend to the other problem, and when I returned, points were awarded.

Try this method for yourself whenever you have to leave class unattended for a minute – it works like a charm. =)

To your success!

– Jason

From Sobbing Uncontrollably to Running onto the Floor within 60 Seconds

4 year old Jack walked in the door with his chin on his chest, eyes down and bottom lip quivering.

I greeted him with a big “Hi Jack!!!”, in the usual way. “Gimme five!”

Jack slunk past me without making eye contact and sat down. I followed him to his seat and asked him “What’s the matter?”

He looked down and shook his head and a tear trickled down his cheek.

I asked him, “Do you feel ok? Did someone make you feel bad?”

He shook his head and mumbled something.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Karate is boring.” he sobbed and then more tears flowed from his eyes.

“Don’t you want to do class today and have fun?”

A shake of the head was all I received as a reply.

I then asked, “What’s your favorite thing in the whole world?”

He shook his head… “Nothing”.

His mother then said, “He likes X-men.”

“Which X-men do you like Jack?” I asked.

At that moment Jack underwent a “state change”. He shifted his focus from crying and feeling bad to enjoyment. I immediately saw the difference in his face. He lifted his chin and started to imagine…

“I like the guy with the claws!”

“You mean Wolverine?”


“Can you show me how Wolverine does his punches with his claws?”

Jack jumped up and started punching the air and making noises.

“Wow – that’s cool. Give me five Wolverine!”

Jack gave me a high five.

His mood had literally changed from negative to positive within 60 seconds. From sobbing to running towards the tatami for class.

The process I just described is a very powerful method for changing the mood of others, and subsequently their results. (You can do this for yourself too.)

World famous success coach, Anthony Robbins uses this method to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of people – and you can use it to for your students and yourself.

In plain and simple form, here are the basic steps.

1) When a student is feeling low, refocus their attention to something they absolutely love. It must be something they are passionate about, or you won’t get the results.

2) Ask them questions about whatever it is that makes them happy. Ask them to imagine that they are living that experience, or being that person. You’ll see the difference immediately in their posture and emotions.

3) Link this to their current situation. This creates a new “neuro-association” and changes their thoughts permanently. For example, I asked Jack to show me how Wolverine does his karate punches. This created a new neuro-association with karate – one of fun and enjoyment, instead of “karate is boring”.

Try it out and let me know what happens…

To your success!

– Jason

Building a Dojo

I was torn…

I desperately wanted a great place to train but the drive was killing me – up to 90 minutes each way in traffic – not my idea of fun.

And my dream seemed so far away – to create my own club was going to be a big challenge, a heap of work and then of course I’d have to make it work as a business.

I wasn’t sure if I was up to it…

The other option was to quit karate altogether – but after 15 years I just couldn’t do that!

I HAD to start teaching and growing my own school but I faced 3 huge problems:

1) I had no students

2) I had no place to teach or train

3) I’d just moved to a new country and had no credit!

This was going to be a tough one!

When I moved to the USA from Australia, I decided right then and there that I would make it on my own – no matter how tough things got financially I wasn’t going to do the 9-to-5 thing any longer.

I’d already been in a high-paying I.T. job and really liked the cash, but despised the 60-70 hour work week and virtually no weekends. I came to the opinion that “real jobs” were over-rated. And I decided that I wasn’t going to work for anyone else ever again.

I was going to build a karate school from the ground up and do what I loved doing, but do it for a living – karate!

That was almost 3 years ago.

It took me about 18 months but I got there – with a lot of help and support from my wife, family and friends.

In September 2004 I opened my first full time dojo – now I work 3-4 hours per day doing what I love. The pay isn’t as good (yet) as my high-paying I.T. job of 3 years ago, but I have no commute, 10 times less stress, get to sleep in if I want to and spend most of my days having fun!

Now I’m not telling you this to get under your skin – if you’re a full time instructor, you’ll be familiar with the lifestyle – however, if you love karate and hate your full time job it’s something for you to think about. Perhaps you too could begin your own school?

Getting started and taking it to the point where you can jump from a part time class to a full time club without committing financial suicide is a difficult task – something that I’ve spent the last 2 years figuring out, which I promise to tell you about later…

For now I want to pick up the story 18 months after I started teaching here in the United States. Specifically I want to show you how we transformed an auto-customizer’s sludge pit into a full time karate dojo – I’m sure you’ll get plenty of great ideas and my hope is that you’ll feel inspired to take the leap of faith yourself (when your time is right) because the rewards of having your own club are fantastic.

Here’s a picture of the club when I first took on the lease. Notice the lovely skull and bones spray paint and the state of disarray the place was in.

the sludge pit

A friend and student of mine, John, is the manager of a group of light industrial businesses – including the space I took over. Yes – you heard right – it’s in a light industrial part of town – not the ideal place for a karate club but it is working out just fine.

The benefits of the area that I’m in is that the rent is 50% of what it is in the retail parts of town, so moving from the community center where rent was even less, to a place that was asking 3-4 times the rent (a retail shop front) would have been impossible. I would have had to put the monthly training fees up 3-4 times to cover the expenses. How many students do you think I would have retained?

Important point – While everyone wants the grand scale school in the nice part of town, unless you’re cashed up or suddenly enroll 200 students in one week, you have to start where you’re at; start off with what you can afford. It’s the law of growth!

That’s what I did.

I managed to find a landlord who only wanted a 12 month lease. Plus the rent was so inexpensive, comparatively speaking. It was a jump of only a couple hundred dollars from what I was paying at the community center…so it was a no brainer!

I was then faced with the challenge of moving my students from their karate home to a new place. I also had to put the monthly fees up 50%! Guess how many of my 70 students I lost in the move?

Three – all from the same family. I retained 67 out of 70. That’s a 95.7% retention.

Now the trick to not losing or upsetting everyone was to include them in the decision making process. I surveyed all of my students and parents and offered them all the benefits of a full time club.

I told them that I had an opportunity to give them better service, more classes, a reduced cost per class (even though fees were going up 50%), and a safer training environment in a purpose built studio – the ‘catch’ was that they had to tell me right then and there if they would support the move, as there was no way I was going to sign a lease without their support.

I made it THEIR decision – not mine.

Thanks to all my loyal students and their families, I signed the lease the next day and 3 days after that I was given the key!

The only problem was a big one – the mess…

reception - would you feel welcome here?


Yes – there was a lot of work to be done. The previous tenant skipped town and the landlord had 6 people wanting the building – so I had no choice but to volunteer to clean up the mess and move in immediately even though I wasn’t ready to move for another 3 weeks as I was contractually bound by the City.

the tatami - nice, eh?

My buddy John helped out big time. For the next 3 1/2 weeks we worked day and night (except when I was teaching karate), doing demolition, construction, painting, electrical work, etc. Some days we had the help of my wife Christina and her side of the family, plus a couple of other students and friends.

My buddy John and me - He's the crazy looking guy on the left

It was a huge job.

First came the demolition…that was the fun part! We knocked down 3 walls in about 30 minutes! Oh man what a mess, but certainly better looking than the graffiti. Here’s a picture of another student and friend of mine, Mike, lending a hand.

Nothing like tearing down walls with your bare hands (and feet!)

Once most of the major demolition was done and all the trash taken out we started painting. It took 6 coats of thick white paint to cover the skulls and flames.

Here’s a picture of John doing his best to look busy. =)

As appealing as the graphics were... they just weren't the right vibe for the dojo

And yes I even got a little dirty too – not just taking photos all day long.

yours truly

The picture below shows half of the painting done, but still no ceiling in 50% of the building. If you’ve ever put up a false ceiling with just a bunch of hooks and wires (without the professional tools) you’ll know how difficult it can be. It took forever – partly because we had to take down all the auto parts the last tenant had stashed up there – but mostly because I had little idea about what I was doing!

looking better

Now you’ll notice that the picture below shows the front roller door – yes roller door. I had to come up with a way to make it feel like a dojo and not like a factory. There was no way I was going to have parents sitting in a factory watching their kids – that’d be the end of my school.

The answer was easy – well in theory it was easy. We built a wall on the inside of the door and put in an 8×4 Plexiglas window.

now what?

Now, when the club is open for business we roll up the door and people outside can see in. From outside you really can’t see that it’s a factory building. It looks like a shop front with a large sliding window and a waiting room on the inside.

Below is a picture of what now is the waiting room. It’s 8.5 feet wide and has space for about 8 chairs. As you can see we built another wall on the right with space for another 8×4 Plexiglas window so parents and people wanting to watch the class can see without disturbing the class in progress. The front of the building is to the left, while the tatami is on the right.


Here it is after the paint… looks small I know – and it is – but it comfortably sits 8 adults, a shoe rack and a coffee machine. In the room where I took the photo, I have another 8 chairs, table and water cooler – there is plenty of room for spectators.

reception taking place

The picture below is taken standing at the front door looking in. The waiting room above is to the left of the area pictured below.

This next picture is looking from the waiting room/reception through the window space to the tatami – after we’d put in the false ceiling.

Important! When dealing with layers of fibreglass insulation, make sure that you were protective eyewear, long sleeves and a dust mask – fibreglass isn’t a nice thing to inhale, get in your eyes or on your skin. It itches like you wouldn’t believe and is difficult to wash off.

making progress

almost there

The picture above is looking back the other way towards the reception on the left, waiting room on the right, and the one below shows what it looked like before the mats went in.

the mats are coming...

Here’s another rare shot of me doing something other than taking photos.

new floor... cool

It took me a few hours to lay the mats. I had to cut around the bathroom and cut all the mats to fit along one entire side of the tatami.

more mats

The tatami isn’t huge – it’s about 22 feet wide (6.7 metres) by 41 feet (12.5 metres) in length. That’s around 900 square feet in floor space. Plenty big enough to fit in 12 – 15 kids or about 8-10 adults.

almost done

We even had to tile and paint the bathroom. The paint is my favorite color – FREE! It was donated…thank goodness for donations – even if it means pink paint.

gotta love the pink bathroom (hey, it was free paint!)

When I ordered the mats I got a great deal – wholesale price. Here’s a great tip for you – be sure to open an account directly with an importer, not a martial arts supplier or you’ll pay through the nose. I was expecting to pay about $20 USD per mat, but picked them up for about 1/2 that price! What a bargain. I also saved $300 in delivery by actually picking them up myself rather than having them delivered.

all mats down... time for final clean up!

No club is complete without the kanji!

kanji reads "kara te do"

Below – the first picture of the transformed auto-customizer’s sludge pit… just 3.5 weeks from beginning to end.

all done!

My dog Buckley – after a hard day’s work – notice the new carpet. =)

he's a good boy

And finally it happened – opening night. The students loved it! Here’s some of my PeeWee class losing their minds over the new mats and mirrors.

opening night

Here’s a picture of a few PeeWees beating on some of my Junior assistants.

Notice the mirrors on the wall – donated by one of the families. Their house was being demolished and the mirrors were going to be thrown away! As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I love freebies! (Like I said above, get your students, their families and friends involved. Get them excited about it all. Make it “their” club and you’ll make it a success!)

pee wees in action


Well there you have it.

It cost almost $2,000 not including labor, and 3.5 weeks of solid work to transform the club. Yes, I know a lot of money – that’s if YOU have to pay for it. Notice I said it cost $2,000 – not it cost ME $2,000! During the 3 weeks that we were building we held a fundraiser and the kids raised over $1,200!

How did I get my kids to work so hard to raise money?

Easy. I offered an incentive. I had to think of something that would get the kids to work hard, had great value for them but wasn’t going to cost us an arm and a leg in the process. After thinking long and hard, my wife came up with the perfect idea.

The 2 children who raised the most money won a day with Sensei at Chuckie Cheese’s (a kid’s Pizza & Video Game Parlor) with 150 tokens each!

Had we had more time, perhaps we could have raised more cash but it just shows you that with a little creative thinking and a lot of hard work, a dream can truly become a reality!

With the shift from a part time premises to a full time club we eliminated loads of problems associated with teaching out of a public hall, such as…

  • Someone else setting the hours for when I had to teach – now I teach when I want.
  • Having our premises randomly closed for renovations, public works or rentals – now we don’t get shuffled around any longer.
  • Younger brothers and sisters running across the floor during class – now we have a sound proof wall and reception where younger siblings can play without disrupting the class.
  • Limited in what I could teach because of the concrete gym floor – now we can fully perform takedowns, throws and ground fighting without fear of injury.
  • Slow development of students without mirrors – now students can visually assess their technique and make changes themselves, improving their skills more quickly and allowing me to teach rather than constantly correct.
  • plus a whole lot more…

Anyhow, that’s that. Thanks for sticking with me this far. I hope you enjoyed the transformation as much as we did building it. I also hope that if you’ve been teetering on the edge, this pushes you towards making your own club. It is completely worth the effort, even if it seems a little overwhelming when you’re not sure where to begin.

Remember that I started with nothing less than 2 years ago – now I have 90 active students (and growing) with a plan to double that base within the next 12 months.

If I can do it so can you.

Here are the key points in summary.

  • Get parents and students involved in the decision making
  • Ask & accept for any donations monetary or material – paint, mirrors, labor, etc – you’ll be surprised at how many will be willing to help.
  • Do a fundrasier to cover the start up costs. We were able to keep 30% of our fundraiser sales – if you need a good fundraiser contact me.
  • Don’t be afraid to start up in some place that’s less than your dream location – remember take it in baby steps.

To your success!


Jason Stanley