Every week or so I get an email from someone who is starting a school and wants the low-down on how to do it right.
It’s a pretty tall order to sum it all up in an email, which is why I wrote a book about starting a dojo. However, there are a few things I’d like to share on the topic – kind of a quick and dirty list of tips and suggestions for prospective school owners:
1. Don’t Burn Bridges – Make sure your instructor is aware of everything you’re planning to do, every step of the way. That way, you won’t step on any toes or burn any bridges – I’ve seen guys do that in the past when it could have been avoided through simple communication.
2. Before You Lease – Most of your students will come from a 3 to 5 mile radius of your location. Find a good spot where there are lots of people and little competition, and start a part-time program. That way, you can test the waters before you drop a lot of money getting started. Even if you have to drive a good distance to find a great place, it’ll be worth it. As for how to choose a good location, I go into detail on this in my book – it’s too much information to explain in a simple email.
3. Teaching Additional Programs – A lot of people teach separate programs, because they want to attract different types of students. Offering more than one program or art could broaden the market you are able to attract.
4. Stay Legal – Legal issues are covered in the business manual, but take some time picking through the articles on the site – you’ll find some good information there. The best advice I can give is to speak with an attorney before you open.
5. Starting With Limited Funds – Start part-time, and use that money to fund your full-time location. Roll all your profit back into your business and save enough to cover six months worth of expenses before you open.
6. Invest Time and Energy in Advertising – Pour some good ol’ fashoined sweat equity into getting the word out about your programs. Get some nice looking but inexpensive business cards from VistaPrint, print fliers and spend Saturdays handing them out at a grocery store or mall that’s close by, and build a website to market your school.
7. When to Quit Your Day Job – Don’t quit your day job until your full-time school is paying for itself and your take-home profit has more than replaced your current income.
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