Buying an Existing Martial Arts School or Fitness Business? 8 Tips to Hit the Ground Running

Are you considering buying an existing martial arts School or fitness facility? It’s essential that you cross all your T’s and dot your I’s prior to pulling the trigger.

Here are eight tips for you to consider so you can hit the ground running.

1) Get comfortable regarding the reason that the seller is selling.

Retirement would be a great reason as they would want the school (and their reputation) to have continued future success. Other reasons that the seller may disclose are: family issues, change in profession, focusing their time on another school location or the like.

Rarely, if ever, would a seller tell you that they are selling because they are losing money. Take every reason they give you with a grain of salt and remember that if everything were peaches and cream then they would most likely not be selling. Be very wary of a seller that has only owned the business for a short while.

2) Insist that the seller signs a non-compete agreement, no matter what reason they give for selling the business.

The non-compete prohibits them from owning, working for, or forming any alliance with another gym or Martial Arts school for an agreed-upon time and geographic region.

3) Be sure to perform due diligence on the business location.

It’s been said many times, but cannot be stressed enough, that location is one of the most critical components of success for a business. Get comfortable that there is adequate traffic flow, adequate parking, and access to potential members. Also consider the physical safety of members at your new location, as safety is a top priority.

4) Meet with a reliable commercial real estate agent.

Discuss the future happenings of the business community that may positively or negatively affect your location.

5) Get professional help.

Hire a CPA to review the tax returns of the business for the previous several years. You want to see years of steady, reliable cash flow. If you see losses for reasons other than a high salary for the owner, then you need to honestly ask yourself how you will turn the business around.

Have the CPA work with a commercial real estate broker in putting together the offer price on the business. The first offer should be a lowball offer. It’s easy to increase future offers but very difficult to lower future offers unless you find deficiencies during due diligence. The CPA should also assist you in getting proper licensing and tax identification numbers for both federal and state.

6) Hire an attorney

Have an attorney review any past, present, or pending lawsuits regarding the business and associated property, as well as to prepare all related paperwork regarding the purchase. If you know the seller on a personal basis, then one of these professionals should do the negotiating for you.

7) Be clear on your expectations.

There are several questions that you need to address prior to owning your own facility. How many hours per week will it take to successfully run this business? Is that more or less than the hours you’re currently working and are you (and your family) comfortable with those hours? Do you expect to make a profit in the first year? What will it take in terms of hours worked or losses incurred that would cause you to pull the plug and either close or sell the business? Doing a little self-reflection and honestly answering such questions will assist you in future decisions and help keep your family relations intact.

8) Analyze your personnel skills.

Are you a Martial Artist with a burning desire to own your own school or are you a business manager? They are not one and the same. The quality of the staff at your facility will be critical and dependent upon proper personnel management, delegation, training, and correction. If you do not have these skills then you will need to hire a business manager that does.

10 Ways to Get Involved & Make a Difference During National Bullying Prevention Month

"Stop Bullying" written on chalkboard

One in three students report being bullied each week in schools across America.* And those that are bullied can experience long-lasting, devasting effects including depression, anxiety, loss of interest in activities and other health issues.**

Fortunately, bullying awareness, education, and prevention efforts are increasing. Communities are joining forces to put a stop to bullying.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

We can all show our support and make a positive impact by participating in National Bullying Prevention Month. Here are 10 ways you and your staff can get involved and play an active part this October.

Read through the list, then let us know how you will support bullying prevention by commenting below.

1. Download the 10 Steps to Stop and Prevent Bullying List

The National Education Association (NEA) provides a 10-step list of how to stop and prevent bullying. Go here to download the list. Make copies. Pass it out to staff members, friends, and family.

2. Take the Pledge: Stand Up for Bullied Students

As part of the NEA’s Bully Free: It Starts with Me campaign, you can take a pledge and receive a poster and pin to display your support. Go here to take the pledge.

3. Go Orange on Unity Day

Go orange on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 to send a message of support. Wear an orange shirt, tie, pants, hat. Create an orange banner to hang up at your facility. Show your support by taking pictures and sharing them on the Unity Day Facebook Event Page. Check out PACER’s Unity Day page for more ways to get involved.

PACER also offers Unity Day posters to display in your facility. One poster is shipped at no charge. A pack of 10 is $10 shipping. Go here to order your posters.

4. Use PACER’s Activities for Youth

PACER has created a list of young student activities and resources designed to start a conversation and build students’ understanding of how to prevent bullying. Activities include a kids coloring book, a create a poster form and stick puppets with play discussions and scripts. Go here for the complete list.

5. Plan a School Event

PACER has put together a 5-step guide on how to hold a bullying prevention event. Hosting a bullying prevention event is a great way to take the lead and band together with your community to educate and build bullying awareness. Download the Unite Against Bullying – School Event Planning Guide here.

6. Host a Run, Walk, Roll Against Bullying Event in Your Community

Use PACER’s event planning toolkit to host a Run, Walk, Roll Against Bullying event in October or another time during the year. The toolkit is filled with timelines and checklists to help plan and promote the event. The toolkit also includes a sample registration form and press release. Get the toolkit here.

7. Utilize the Kids Website is filled with facts to educate children about bullying and what to do if bullied. The site also includes 12 animated kid videos with quizzes to reinforce learning points.

8. Download PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center Information Flyer

This flyer can be used as a handout at events and activities you host in October and other times throughout the year. Download the flyer here.

9. Visit the Cyberbullying Website Section

It’s just as important to know what children and teens are doing online. This site defines cyberbullying and provides ways to prevent and report cyberbullying. Visit

10. Print These Tips to Give to Parents

The health information website, Be Smart. Be Well., posted the article, Bullying: Habits2Have®. This article will help parents talk to kids and teens about bullying and cyberbullying.

Stay tuned for additional bullying prevention posts coming in October.

Kristen Campbell is a Marketing Specialist with Member Solutions.

*National Education Association

How Will You Take a Stand Against Bullying? Comment Below.

Success in Your Business: Creating a Sense of Belonging & Purpose

I am a big advocate of encouraging others to get creative with their ideas. In fact, about a year ago, I opened Fitness Compound, which offers a variety of fitness classes, programs, and training options including Zumba, cardio, Pilates, spinning, baseball, climbing, and basketball. Since then, I’ve added Mixed Martial Arts for kids, Zumba Tone, and Krav Maga to the mix.

Even though I’m offering services beyond traditional martial arts, I’m still creating the very same sense of community, purpose, and goal-driven environment as all other fitness-related businesses.

It’s critically important for your members (and prospective members) to get a sense of belonging and have a purpose when being a part of your gym or school. People want to be a part of something and feel good about themselves. Therefore, all your enrollment and retention efforts should include ways to fulfill those primary needs.

For instance, don’t shy away from holding free events. Many think that when they hold an event, they should charge a fee. They think their objective should be to make a certain amount of money on ticket sales. This shouldn’t be your main objective at all.

Your main objective when holding most events should be to create a sense of community and commonality to build rapport with your prospects. Hold a fundraiser for a worthy cause or a special springtime or summertime event to fuel business activity and to bring families and friends together. You will, in turn, build a business that people will want to be a part of and a contact list of prospects.

To strengthen retention, keep your members focused on achieving a goal. For instance, we hold a special internal campaign during the summer called 12 weeks of Summer, 36 Workouts. Anyone can sign up for the campaign. If they reach the goal of checking in at the gym for 36 workouts during the summer (three workouts a week), they get a T-shirt that says “I stayed in shape all summer at <Place of Business>.” You wouldn’t believe how this motivates members to stick to their fitness goals and get to the gym.

Remember the integral wishes of each and every human being: the need to belong and the need to feel good. When you keep these two intrinsic human needs in mind, and better yet, fulfill them through your business services, you’re well on your way to optimal success.

How have you created a sense of belonging and member community within your business? Share below.

About the author: Chuck Heacock is the owner of the Fitness Compound, a training facility that provides unparalleled fitness activities including Martial Arts classes, special boot camps, personal training, baseball, basketball, spinning, Zumba, cardio and more. Chuck is also a sought-after fitness industry consultant.

5 Errors to Avoid: Employee Discipline

Two boys practicing karate in front of a children's martial arts class

Greater focus, improved self-control, and increased self-discipline are only a few of the lasting benefits that a practitioner or trainee realizes from their study of any martial art.

As a business owner, your challenge is to translate the discipline you impart in your teaching to your employees to ensure the smooth operation of your business. How you impart these lessons to your employees may go far in determining the success of your business.

This article identifies some common communication errors and also provides suggestions on how to improve communications with your employees and impart the same lessons that you are providing to your students.

Error #1: Discipline as Punishment

Discipline pertains to improving employee performance by assisting the employee (at least at first) to learn so they can perform more effectively. One prevalent error is treating discipline as punishment. The threat of additional sanctions will not correct or eliminate unwanted behavior. Instead, it usually has the opposite effect.

Negative sanctions generally succeed only in limited instances where certain factors are present. Thus, just as your students learn discipline, so too should employee discipline be viewed as an opportunity for the employee to learn what needs to be done to bring their behavior up to the standards you demand. Discipline must have teeth, even in a learning sense. But it can’t only be teeth.

Error #2: Discipline as An I vs. You Confrontation

While martial arts may, in some circumstances, involve confrontation, employee discipline should not. Discipline should not be viewed as something done to an employee, but rather as something done with an employee. Effective discipline requires you and your employee work together to solve a problem. The result of this combined effort is an employee who feels respected, who is involved in the process, and who feels more a part of the team. Remember, discipline needs to be a team process.

Error #3: Too Late

While you are certainly not seeking out employee problems, there is a fine line between looking for trouble and being too slow to recognize or to respond to an emerging issue. Delay dealing with a problem and the unwanted behavior will continue or escalate, making it that much harder for you to deal with it in the future. It is critical that you promptly note inappropriate behavior and communicate that fact with the employee as soon as possible. This communication does not have to be lengthy, particularly if the event is minor, but putting it off until tomorrow never resolves the problem.

Error #4: A Non-Progressive Approach

Progressive discipline starts with the least possible use of power and disciplinary action. Over time, it involves stronger actions if the situation continues. Delay disciplinary action, as related in #3 above, and the situation may become so severe that only the harshest sanctions are available. Applying harsh initial discipline will usually not resolve the problem with the employee and may result in a backlash by other employees. Start with the least forceful action as early as possible, unless the offense warrants the severe action.

Error #5: Missing Root Causes

It is your business, and it is understandable that you may want to lay down the law to a problem employee. In some cases, a problem employee may require this kind of approach. However, in many situations, negative or even positive discipline may have little effect on behavior simply because it does not address the root causes of the problem. It leaves the employee on their own to figure out a solution.

There are many reasons that an employee’s behavior may be problematic (some of which may actually be due to the fact that the employee is a problem). Without knowing the root causes underlying a performance problem, it will be difficult to work with an employee to improve their behavior and performance.

I am not advocating one approach over another, nor am I advocating in favor of any particular approach. However, from both a legal and a practical standpoint, it makes no sense to take actions that are doomed to fail. Therefore, when you meet with your employees to discuss or correct behavior issues, remember that in a successful meeting you should:

1) Listen and have empathy with the employee’s situation.
2) Refocus the employee to the original problem, and ask them to come up with a solution.
3) Offer assistance, including setting up another meeting to discuss the employee’s progress.

About the author: Andrew S. Kasmen, Esq. is General Counsel and HR Director for Member Solutions.

Disclaimer: Member Solutions is not an attorney and does not provide legal advice. Further, the information provided in this article is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. It is being offered as a general information service to Member Solutions’ clients. The laws of your jurisdiction may differ. You should consult an attorney for specific advice regarding your particular situation.

8 Keys to Effective Business Partnerships

Partnering is a critical element of nearly all businesses. We partner with employees and investors, in addition to actual business partners or co-owners. Effective partnering is evident in any successful organization that requires multiple human beings to achieve its objectives.

Teams of all types require a few elements of effective partnering to be successful. Marriage and personal relationships require a focus on partnering and attention to these same elements.

The topic has been researched and published extensively in both the academic and popular press. Two titles that I really enjoy and lean on are Lencioni’s “Five Dysfunctions of Team” and Wagner/Muller’s “The Power of 2.” These and other writings focus on several critical elements of successful partnerships.

As you review the following list, reflect on your current business partnerships and employee relationships.

1) Commitment to a Common Mission – Successful organizations rally around a common, clearly articulated goal and vision. Team members must understand, believe and live it. This must be more than just lip service. When people say they are committed, but then take actions or make comments privately that conflict or undermine the mission, it is incredibly damaging.

2) Unselfishness – The power of cooperation is well known to all of us. Two plus two can certainly equal well more than four when true cooperation exists. Of course, the opposite is even more truthful. One self-interested member of a partnership or team will poison the group and generate lingering animosity that will pervade the team and limit success, at best.

3) Complimentary Capabilities – A football team’s offense could not function with two centers trying to hike the ball and also would not work without blocking, running, receiving and quarterback play. A partnership is no different. Do not go into business with someone that has your same capabilities and weaknesses. Partners must seriously consider the individual skills, talents, and limitations of each and then deploy each partner in a disciplined way that ensures all contribute their capabilities to the team. Trying to create a role or accept sub par performance from a partner because you want them as a partner will lead to failure.

4) Ongoing Communication – Open, honest and frequent communication is an absolute requirement for success. Without it, team members can end up in silos, mired in the details of their function, rather than staying focused on contributing to the broader objectives.

5) Acceptance of Differences – Put a few humans together, and you will likely find something in each of them that can annoy another on some level. People have different quirks and habits that need to be accepted and forgiven as long as they do not deter the team from its mission. Effective partners accept human quirks and differences for the better of the organization.

6) Forgiveness – We all make mistakes. If we don’t we are not trying hard enough. We enjoy skiing in my family, and I often say to my kids: “If you are not falling, you are not trying hard enough.” We must forgive our partners and ourselves and create an organizational culture that encourages risk-taking and new ideas by openly forgiving when they don’t work out.

7) Fairness – When people are treated fairly, they remain motivated and will often achieve beyond expectations. The opposite will result in demotivation, animosity, and lack of commitment. The compelling need to ensure that one’s own personal situation is fair will be present in discussions, decisions, and serve a significant distraction to the individual, thereby severely limiting the potential of the partnership.

8) Trust – Business partnerships require trust that is built upon mutual respect, honesty, and demonstrated integrity. Without this, all is lost.

I have been very fortunate and am incredibly thankful to have great partners at Member Solutions. Together, we have enjoyed strong business growth and been fortunate to also develop deep family friendships. We have grown professionally, personally, and financially by working hard to remain focused on these critical partnership success drivers. It is not always easy, and we often have to remind ourselves to be disciplined and work hard on these core principles and the values that are behind them.

All the work and time is well worth it and offers rewards beyond business success.

About the author: Steve Pinado is CEO of Member Solutions, a leading provider of solutions to martial arts businesses. Before finding a home at Member Solutions, Steve held executive roles at several Fortune 500 companies after earning his MBA at Dartmouth. He can be reached at or by phone at 888.277.4409.

How to Overcome Obstacles to Achieve Your Goals

Whether you’re striving to reach a high-growth target or achieve any meaningful objective for your Martial Arts school or Fitness business, you’re bound to be faced with obstacles along the way that will put your success at risk. The attitude you have and the actions you take during these critical moments will ultimately determine your success or failure.

The good news is that if you have a goal — or even one that is provided to you — many experts believe you are already half way to achieving success. You will certainly never achieve the goals you never set, so at a minimum, you are ahead of the game if you have established your goals.

Before we tackle how to overcome obstacles, there’s one more critical item to address in addition to setting a goal: that is giving you a deadline for when you want to achieve it. Without a timeframe, you are allowing yourself unlimited and acceptable delays to hinder achieving the success you want as soon as possible. Once you have a meaningful and measurable goal and a date to achieve it, I can assure you that Mr. Murphy will see to it that you have your fair share of obstacles to overcome!!

Attitude is the single most important component to overcoming obstacles because your attitude shapes your actions. I find it helpful to focus on the reason the obstacle exists in the first place: you’re trying to achieve a meaningful, worthwhile goal. Controlling your attitude is not easy to do, especially when the pressure is on. “When I changed my attitude, I changed the way I thought about my business. Doing this not only transformed my company but it changed my life,” says Mike Parrella, Member Solutions Advisory Team Member, and CEO of and Full Contact Online Marketing.

Another helpful tip to help shape attitude is to be aware of the vocabulary you use and what words mean to you personally. Obstacles are often referred to as “problems,” which for many people has a more negative connotation. Some people like to refer to obstacles as “challenges” which creates a mindset that it can be overcome using wit. If you feel that “problems” are solvable, go with that. Ask yourself what vocabulary puts you in the best mindset.

The worst attitude you can have is one fueled by fear as this can lead to inaction. We naturally fear the consequences of our actions; and when obstacles arise, no action can have even greater ramifications to your success. If no action is a viable solution, then recognize that “no action” is an actionable decision.

As I’ve stressed, you”ll find that taking the right actions to overcome obstacles will be far easier with the right attitude, and this includes where you focus your attention. Focus on the goal, not the obstacle. If your goal is to grow your Martial Arts school by 50 students by the end of 2012, focus and plan on that end goal. Be prepared for obstacles but don’t let them derail you.

The specific actions you take are largely dependent on the challenge facing you, but here is what I find helpful when obstacles arise:

  1. Identify the obstacle and verbalize why it is in your way. Sometimes this exercise identifies non-priority obstacles that can be put aside because they have little or no impact on achieving your goal by your deadline.
  2. Your mind likes questions, so ask yourself if there is a way to avoid the obstacle. Can you circumvent it by taking a different course of action but still stay on the path towards your goal.
  3. If not, ask yourself what are other options available to you to overcome the obstacle and write them down. This exercise replicates self-brainstorming. One idea can lead to another, which just might be your solution.
  4. Get help! Others can sometimes see solutions not so obvious to us.
  5. If you are still stuck, you may need to focus on an alternative route towards your goal. Let’s cycle back to attitude. Did you fail or did you learn a way that didn’t work and now you are smarter? Keep trying.

Joe Galea is the President of Member Solutions. Galea, one of Member Solutions’ founders, has been counseling Martial Arts school owners for over 20 years, and spends part of every day speaking with clients and industry leaders.

The Dos and Don’ts of Business Ethics

Merriam-Webster defines ethics as “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad with moral duty and obligation.” In laymen’s terms, ethics are about doing the right thing when you know nobody is watching.

Ethics need to be high on the list of desirable traits demonstrated by your staff.

While all the staff employed at your business should demonstrate ethical behavior, it is most critical for your front-desk and finance personnel. These employees must be trustworthy and held accountable to the high standards that you set for them.

Your front-desk and finance employees have access to your business management software—which contains your members’ names, social security numbers, addresses, signatures, and credit card numbers. In making an unethical choice, they could cause significant damage to a member’s financial situation that also damages your reputation and business.

An ethics-based workplace all starts with you. As an owner or manager, your staff looks up to you as the mentor. Your behavior is what will be repeated by all. But it’s not just your personal conduct that’s important. You need to instill an ethical environment in your workplace. Here are suggested dos and don’ts.

Meeting with Fitness Team Good business ethics

The Dos of Business Ethics:

  • Have staff meetings on a regular basis. Talk about desirable behavior and give examples of unethical behavior. Allow the staff to discuss hypothetical situations in which they must make an ethical choice.
  • Have an open-door policy and seriously consider all comments and complaints from the staff.
  • Mentor your staff on accepting responsibility and not deflecting blame.
  • Make sure there are adequate checks and balances within your finance department.
  • Have clearly defined roles and responsibilities for all staff members.
  • Treat your staff in the same ethical way that you expect them to treat your members.
  • Trust your member’s personal information with Member Solutions. We have been certified as a Level One Service Provider under the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Level One is the highest ranking and carries the most stringent requirements. We set high ethical standards for our employees.
Donts of Business Ethics - Boss Talking to Staff

The Don’ts of Business Ethics:

  • Put undue pressure on the staff. They may bend under the pressure and turn toward unethical behavior to get the results you are demanding.
  • Have a culture of fear or silence.
  • Allow anyone to “pass the buck” or deflect blame for things that are within his or her responsibility.

Displaying ethical behavior will bring your business to new levels. Your staff will be proud to work in such an environment and such pride will be reflected on your members. The respect that your staff has for each other and for the members will be contagious and you will see careers and lives flourish.