Aiki Biz by Lynn Seiser
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I hope you all have a safe, healthy, and happy New Year.
In the past, I have offered ideas about writing. It is a great way to
perpetuate the Aiki ideals and share the art of peace. I hope to read
many of you in the future.
In the New Year, many people will think about or open a new dojo. Most
new businesses fail within the first year because they do not have a
plan. I thought it might be nice, and hopefully helpful, to share some
basic ideas on planning, usually referred to as a business plan.
In the debate about what is the most effective style of martial art, I
always mention that it is the person and not the style that is
effective. Business is no different. It may be very important to take
a moment and get honest about whether or not you have the
entrepreneurial mentality, character, or spirit. Can you see the long
and short-term goals and motivate yourself internally? Can you manage
your time and resources without losing balance in your life?
As always, wherever the head goes, the body follows. Get educated
about planning and running a small business. The local public library
is a great free source of information. The Internet offers a lot of
free information and advice. Many computer programs are available to
help you write a business plan. Bookstores, new and used, are a great
resource. There are small business associations and local education
facilities that offer classes on opening and running small
businesses. Most suffering and failure, is because of ignorance. We do
not have to stay ignorant. With a little guidance and discipline,
happiness and success are possible and probable. So relax, breath
deeply, and center yourself. This takes patience and discipline. Enter
and blend with this list to get your training going.
Name: One place to start a business plan is to come up with an idea of
what you want to name your dojo. Good business names tend to be
descriptive and identifiable. You may need to file a fictitious
business name, or DBA (doing-business-as).
Mission Statement: Plans are solution oriented and state the big
picture, or what is the general long-term end goal. An example might
be: to spread the physical practice and philosophical principles of
conflict awareness, assessment, prevention, management, and
resolutions through Aikido, and modern nonviolent and noncompetitive
martial art. Long and short-term goals should be stated in the
positive, be measurable, be personally initiated and maintained, and
be mutually beneficial.
Objectives: Objectives are the smaller picture of what specific steps
to necessary to meet the mission goal. These often include aspects
such as; business planning and development; the recruitment,
selection, and training of personnel; the search, selection,
obtaining, and preparing an appropriate site; securing start-up
funding; developing and maintaining an initial and ongoing external
and internal marketing plan; planning and scheduling regular classes
and special seminars; program evaluation and modification; financial
management; material production, sales, and distribution.
Position statement: Know your position in the market place. Who and
what is your competition and how are you different/unique? What/who is
the community market demographics? What is your personal
Site: The old adage holds true; it is location, location, and
location. Then it is about size, lighting, facilities/bathrooms,
facilities/changing rooms, decor, rent/lease/own/share, hours,
renovation/upkeep, and safety.
Organization type: Business take different forms, such as profit or
nonprofit, sole proprietor, partnership, incorporated, or limited
liability corporation/company. Each has their benefits and their
Staffing: As important as what, is who. Select staff wisely. Possible
considerations include rank, affiliation, experience, ethics,
personality, and commitment.
Contracts: There are many contracts and agreements necessary to do
business. They include zoning/permits/licenses, rental/ownership,
student waivers, sales/purchase orders/distributions, services, and
Funding: While it is not all about the money, and people tend to get a
bad reputation for simply trying to make ends meet, your doors do not
stay open to provide wonderful services if you cannot pay the
bills. Consider funding from all available sources including start up
loans, fees/dues, and grants. Perhaps I will write my next column on
grant writing. A good business plan makes grant writing easier.
Budget: How you manage the funding depends on your ability to
accurately, effectively, and efficiently knowing how much money you
have and where it goes. Budget items include rent/lease/mortgage,
utilities, insurance (fire, theft, liability), advertising, upkeep,
staff salaries, and renovations.
Marketing Plan External: Have a plan for how you intend to recruit
students. People tend to look for what is important to them, not how
great you are. Possible considerations include visibility,
availability, affordability, convenience, and desirability. Visibility
may include a web site and domain name, the placing of paid
advertising, press releases, articles, location signage,
demonstrations, referrals, and affiliation. Availability includes
hours of operation, classes schedules, and convenient. Affordability
means the cost to the student for monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, and
annual dues, the association membership fees, testing fees, and
uniform and equipment cost. Desirability means meeting the students
desire for specific benefits, such as self-defense/martial
art/fighting which is motivated by possible negative fear-based
thoughts and emotions applicable in numerous context, self-development
which is motivation towards a positive goal, or exercise, recreation,
Marketing Plan Internal: Once you have students, how do you intend to
keep them for the long term? Considerations include quality
instruction and facility, variety in training, a positive and safe
environment, promotion, and camaraderie.
Programs: What programs do you intend to offer? These may be regularly
scheduled programs, adjuncts programs, and seminars. Regularly
scheduled programs may include children/teens/adults, men/women,
morning/afternoon/evening, and weapons. Adjunct programs may include
classes within the normal curriculum of the local colleges (2 year
community, 4 year, and private), local parks and recreation, and local
clubs (Boys and Girls Club, YMCA and YWCA, etc.). Special seminar
topics may include police, military, teachers, orderlies, social
workers/therapist/counselors, victims, government personnel and
officials, security personnel, bodyguards, and mixed martial arts
Sales: Many schools generate additional funds from the sale of
uniforms, emblems, posters, books, videos/DVDs, and equipment such as
Bo/Jo/Tanto. Make sure you know local regulations and have a resale
Tracking database system: Information is power and organized
information is more powerful. Think about collecting and organizing
information about your organization/board of directors/meeting
minutes/bylaws, members (contract, waiver, records, exit), employees,
financial/bookkeeping/accounting (income, credit, expenditures,
profit/loss, cash flow), bank accounts, taxes (federal and state
employer ID), insurances, permits/licenses, meetings, events,
newsletters, contacts, fundraisers, merchandise, photographs and
documentation, intellectual property (confidentiality, trade mark,
copyright), and legal compliance (environmental, worker safety,
securities, consumer protection, advertising, employment, liability,
corporate, tax, property, drug-free, non sexual harassment).
Long Term Plan for Self-sufficiency and Perpetuation: The ongoing,
even after you are gone, future of your work will depend on training
and promoting students to teachers and opening new dojos. Have a plan
for year 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, and into infinity.
Planning and training have similarities. First, you have to define
what you want. Then you have to find out what you have to do to get
it. Then you have to do it.
Research has shown that by writing down a plan and following it, the
chances of success are greatly increased. I hope these brief thoughts
and considerations have stimulated you to make your dreams into a
reality. Do not forget to invite me to your open house and all the
subsequent anniversary celebrations.
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for
sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
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