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Home > Columns > > February, 2007 - Aiki Biz
by Lynn Seiser

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.

Aiki-Business Plan

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 identity/position?

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 limitations.

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 consultants.

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, and enjoyment.

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, beginners/intermediate/advance, weekdays/weekends, 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 cross training.

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 license/permit.

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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