Message About Business Practices

Written by Tony Ferrer of Warriors of Grace Karate School

In today's presentation I spoke about some of our business practices, in the hopes that our experiences will be of help to someone else.

In any business it is critical to know your numbers. There has to be some way of determining whether you are operating at a profit, whether you can afford whatever it is that someone is trying to sell you, and most importantly, whether you are meeting the goals you set out to meet when you first opened for business.

We had a mentor walk us through many steps in the process of growing our business.

Defining Our Mission

The first step was to take the time to really think about our vision for Warriors of Grace – what we really wanted to achieve, what we consider a success. We then crafted a mission statement that has impacted almost every decision we make.  That’s not to say that once we went through that process it was over. We reexamine and revise our vision and mission statement pretty regularly – at least once a year.  This is crucial for our own motivation – feeding our passion to continue to do what we do.

By the Numbers

The next step was in tracking numbers. In our business our main number is headcount. Our vital equation is new students minus lost students equals net new. If the intent was to grow (which it was!) we had to keep track of that equation. Additional numbers regarding revenue, expenses, where the leads were coming from are also important.

Change Is Inevitable

One of the tenets of business, is that you have to keep changing, keep growing, keep improving. Otherwise someone else will come up with a better way to do whatever it is you do, and you’ll wind up slowly(or in some cases quickly!) losing business and having to close your doors.

In order to have a rational way of improving our school, the next step was to break down our business into all its parts. In our case, we have classes, instructors, the new student process (the process that every student goes through from first contact until the day they leave – what we also refer to as retention), marketing, the physical dojo, and the financial/admin piece or pieces that every business needs to have in place. Everything we do falls into one or more of these parts.

We know we can’t change all aspects of our business all the time. So we focus on one area at a time. Sure we may end up making a minor improvement to the dojo at the same time we’re training new instructors, but our main focus is on just one part at a time. At least in theory that’s the idea.  First quarter focus on staff development, second quarter focus on improving curriculum, third quarter focus on improving administrative systems, etc.

For over a year now, what actually happened is that we have been trying to tackle EVERYTHING at once: trying to bring on, train, and motivate staff; overhauling our whole administrative AND financial systems; changing our children’s curriculum; implemented regular student contact (2-4-6 calls); increasing focus on marketing; and we’ve even improved the dojo and equipment in the same time period!

Learn From Mistakes

I am here to share from my experience: DON’T do it!

Don’t tackle everything at once! Did we survive? Barely! (And we’re not yet through all the changes and really don’t know yet whether we WILL survive!) The result was major burnout. Constant sickness. Being overwhelmed leads to self-doubt and dwindling confidence.  And the worst moments come when you think you don’t even want to be doing this any more!

Without the grace of God, I do not think we would still be open. What we were first taught by our mentor – taking on one thing at a time to focus on – was wise counsel and I want to strongly encourage you to do the same! Your business won’t suffer from the areas you aren’t getting to YET. But it very well may suffer from the resulting consequences for its leader for taking everything on at once!