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Old 11-08-2005, 01:53 PM   #4
Fred Little
Dojo: NJIT Budokai
Location: State Line NJ/NY
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 632
Re: Succession Planning

You pose a very interesting question, and my immediate response was, "Yes, in fact, I have yet to meet an instructor who was given a dojo who didn't lack an appreciation of the efforts of those who start dojo."

And when I realized how far up the food chain that observation extended, a small chill went up my spine, and I returned to thinking a bit more closely about the situation you are discussing directly.

In a nutshell, the very fact that you can decide "to destroy the dojo that you built" reflects a very particular scenario with a very particular set of dynamics.

If you built it, and you're out of pocket, and you're leaving, it's your business, in both the general and the specific senses of the word.

So the first question I might ask is: "Why not sell it?"

That's one surefire way to make sure that whoever takes over is fully aware of the financial commitment that's involved.

In truth, most dojo aren't very much like businesses at all, and it's not so easy to sell a business that never has and never will make any money, so you're not selling an asset, you're selling a liability.

Selling a liability tends to color relations between the seller and the buyer for a long time thereafter, and not necessarily for the better.

So maybe you don't want to do that. On the other hand, the mats, the tokonoma, the spare bokken....that's just stuff, and people sell and give away stuff all the time. And people who buy stuff with their own money usually value it.

Busting up the dojo? This is the wonderful luxury of running a relatively small-scale sole-proprietor private operation, and arguably an excellent way to make a clean break.

Whether it's good for the students depends quite a bit on what kind of group you've put together in five years -- which is right on the cusp of becoming self-sustaining. But if there are other training venues open to them and there's no going back to the nest, they'll adapt or quit, and if they quit.....well, people quit all the time.

Good for the students is one thing, good for the art is another. And it probably would be good for the art. The seeds scatter and light where they will. If you've taught your students things of value, that will be clear to the training partners they find in your absence, and it will clear to your students in what they find absent in their training partners.

And what they learn from their new teachers will be distinct in their minds from what they learned from you, giving them an appreciation for their individual teachers and a respect for the gifts of those teachers, which is a whole different thing from being a member of an organization who kept on practicing in the same way, in the same place, on the same schedule, day after day, week after week, year after year, out of sheer momentum and lack of imagination.

Which is to say that they may be human, adaptable, willing to change, and alive, and realize that the dojo exists to help us toward those goals, rather than to provide us a safe place to hide from them.

But all that said, if you stay someplace for 10 years instead of five, that's a whole different deal.

Fred Little
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