Clay Lady part 2

(So if you haven’t read last week’s installment, scroll down a little and start there… otherwise here’s the rest of the story…)

So as we pulled up at Clay Lady’s house for the 2nd time we noticed there was nowhere to park legally in the street. Every possible space next to the curb was taken, and the only place available was on the other side of the road in front of a fire hydrant.

(I know, I know… but we had no alternative)

I looked across the road at her house and noticed the triple garage with the door up. Inside was an absolute mess of odds and ends plus all of her “business” equipment – the kiln, drying racks, plus hundreds of other clay plates ready to be completed.

“What a frickin mess!”, I thought to myself. (What was that about “first impressions” again? They just got confirmed.)

Key Point: Don’t teach in a dump. Where you teach should be clean and tidy, and exlusively for that purpose while you’re there.

We knocked on the door and she stuck her head out yelling at her dog to “get back”, while at the same time muttering, “I’ll meet you in the garage”, and closed the door.


We wandered around to the front of the house, between the cars and up to the front of the garage. I could see literally hundreds of unfinished clay plates with tiny feet and hand prints, dates of birth, and kids names all over the place.

“Now, what did you want?”, she barked as she flung open the garage door.

Key Point: Building rapport with your customers is a HUGE key to them wanting to do business with you. So far on the rapport scale, Clay Lady was at a big fat zero.

“We thought what might be neat is to do put one of each of our hand prints with our daughter’s in the middle”, said Christina.

“No. That’s not going to work. They always break, because the plate will be too big”, Clay Lady said scornfully.

Then silence.

“Ok, so maybe just a foot and a hand print with Olivia’s date of birth”, I said.

“What shape do you want? Square, circle, star, or flower?”

“Circle would be good.”

“What color? Pink, light pink, purple, light purple, blue, light blue, yellow, red, green, light green or orange?”, she asked without showing us what any of those colors looked like.

Key Point: As you explain options to your customers have visual aids to help them make their decision, don’t just ask them a bunch of questions without explanation.

We decided on light purple with a couple of other options as far as the design went.

“Where you from?”, she asked me bluntly as she pointed her crooked finger at me. It reminded me of that scene from McBeth with the 3 witches.

“Originally Australia”, I replied.

“I have a 2nd cousin in New Zealand”, she said.

(Last time I checked Australia and New Zealand were 2 different places, but anyhow…)

“And she looks just like me… The thing was that my mom said to me, ‘Wait until you meet Carol – you won’t believe how similar you are… and I thought, ‘yeah sure’, but you know what when I finally did meet Carol it was the freakiest thing you could imagine… I thought I was standing in front of a mirror… blah, blah, blah…”, waffled the Clay Lady for the next 5 minutes solid.


As my eyes glazed over I couldn’t help but think of 12th grade physics class and how painful it was…

Key Point: Clay Lady violated one of the key points of doing business – talking about herself instead of serving the needs of her customers. She certainly wasn’t tuned in to her customer’s radio station – WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?)

When I woke from my slumber she said, “Ok bring your daughter over here and we’ll make the prints. Oh… and be prepared, she’s going to cry.”

Great, I thought.

I had visions of Olivia’s tiny smoldering feet being pressed onto hot iron and the smell of burning flesh.

I held my daughter and she pressed her left foot into the clay.

Clay Lady seemed disappointed that Olivia didn’t cry.

“Ok. Let’s do her hand now. She’ll definitely cry this time.”

When Olivia didn’t cry the second time, clearly Clay Lady was surprised.

“Ok, you’re all done”, muttered Clay Lady as we paid her.

“What happens now?”, I asked.

“I’ll give you a call in 6-8 weeks and you can come and pick it up. It might be 10 weeks, it might be 3. I really don’t know. It just depends.”

Wow. Did she just say up to 10 weeks?

Key Point: Don’t be vague. Customers want to know exactly what they’re getting and when they’ll be getting it. This was a great example of poor customer service.

No wonder this woman had to *move her business* to her house. With everything we’d experienced so far, I was surprised she actually had any business at all.


The sad thing is that she was totally oblivious to how she *ran her business*. If you or I did these types of things with our karate schools, we’d be closing the doors faster than you could say “yame!”.

Interestingly though, there are loads of martial arts schools out there who constantly violate basic business and customer service principles. Many instructors are very good technically at what they do but have little business experience and mediocre communication skills.

Don’t be one of them, or you might find yourself teaching in your garage, yelling at your dog while trying to conduct class.

Instead, get educated in the basics of structuring your business, marketing, customer service and of course always look for ways to improve your karate teaching skills.

Until next time… beware of the Clay Lady.

– Jason

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