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4 Paths to Profits…Without Adding a Single Student!

May 3, 2021

You can’t have a successful school without students – in fact, you can’t have a school at all! Needless to say, a strong and consistent effort to attract a new student is crucial to your school’s growth and survival. After all, you really only have two things to sell:

  1. Time and space on your floor
  2. Programs and products

Attracting hordes of new and eager students? We’ll admit, it’s easier said than done.

New students are often difficult to come by and costly to acquire, both in terms of dollars spent and time invested. Turn to Google with this age-old issue and you’ll find millions of articles, seminars, and consultants confronting the subject. But one key to profitability is often overlooked (and sometimes even frowned upon): maximizing your student value. 

What do we mean by student value, you may ask? Look at it this way – let’s say you charge $120 per month for a class, but don’t charge for any other services rendered, don’t offer other programs, and don’t do any product sales. Therefore, your student value is $120 per month, or $1,440 per year. 

Now let’s take it a step further. If you have, on average, 100 students throughout the year, your annual gross income is: $1,440 student value x 100 students = $144,000. But after rent, insurance, taxes, payroll, marketing, and supplies, are you left with a fair and reasonable income as a business owner? In many cases, the answer is no.

Before we dive into the how, let’s talk about the why. It’s time to address a mental block that hinders many school owners.

As martial artists, maintaining integrity and honor comes above all else – as it should. But who said a martial arts school owner must financially struggle in order to be honorable? Let’s face it, without profits, you won’t be around to teach. If not due to bankruptcy, because of burnout. Running a school that’s just treading water financially, or worse, losing money, is the number one cause of burnout among school owners. 

You must, and can, both maintain integrity and increase your student value with a simple shift in mindset. If you are providing true value to your students, you are entitled to make a fair profit.

Enough with the small talk. Let’s find some solutions:


1.) Evaluate Your Pricing

First and foremost, don’t shortchange yourself. You’ve invested years of your time, blood, sweat, and tears into perfecting your art. By teaching martial arts, you are providing a professional service. Charge accordingly! Ultimately, you should be presenting the integrity of your school through your price model. (However, you must also keep in mind that pricing varies from state to state.)

Not sure what ballpark you should be in?  Do some research and compare what other martial arts studios in your area are charging. Are they significantly lower or higher than your prices? Take a look at what people are paying for similar services and activities in your area. How much does the dance studio down the street charge? How about the gymnastics center across town? What does someone in your city charge for piano or guitar lessons?

Next, ask yourself, “When was the last time I raised my rates? Am I still charging today what I charged 10 years ago?” Your costs of doing business have increased. Your rates must go up from time to time, otherwise you are going backwards.

Before you read ahead, we have a word of caution. In order to charge a professional price, you must be sure you are running every aspect of your school in a professional manner. Is your space clean and organized? Is your business well equipped? Are you providing a high-quality experience for your students? If so, there is no shame or loss of honor in charging what you are worth! Trying to provide professional services for discount prices simply isn’t sustainable over the long haul.


2.) Understand Lifetime Student Value

There’s an obvious advantage to getting students in your gym when they are young. If you can keep a student from the age of 5 until their late teens, they are providing you with a “lifetime student value.”

However, this is where we must address another, sometimes fatal, mindset. Capturing the interests of a budding 5-year-old martial artist is great, but that also means you may need to add an after-school program.

Before panicking, give us a chance to elaborate. While some mistakenly refer to after-school programs as “babysitting” or “day care,” that does not have to be the case. After-school programs are what you make of them! After all, would you rather have a student training 2 days a week or 5 days a week?


3.) Explore Upgrade Programs

Once you’ve gotten a young student hooked on martial arts, your work is far from finished. How do you keep them excited, engaged, and coming back year after year? The answer: offering upgrade programs! Every school should offer at least one upgrade program, preferably more if it’s practical for you and your school.

But remember – you should never water down your core classes as a means to add an upgrade program. Your core classes should offer all the training necessary to achieve a black belt. But if time and resources allow, consider adding a Black Belt Club, a special weapons curriculum, a Krav Maga program, or a demo team.


4.) Don’t Shy Away From Retail Sales

Retail sales can generate a significant amount of added income for your school. Mark Hammond, the National Sales Manager at Century Martial Arts Supply, recommends cross-selling and up-selling. He notes, “It’s important to recognize that once your customer has made the decision to purchase, additional purchase decisions are much easier to make.” He goes on to make another important point, “Whether you are cross-selling or up-selling, you must demonstrate an increased value for the student or parent. Keep the number of items small and relevant. After all, you’re not out to financially exploit them, but to enhance their training experience.” 

If you think your students wouldn’t buy anything extra from you, think again. Mom or dad may want to purchase two student uniforms instead of just one, so they aren’t always doing laundry. And your fitness and kickboxing client will of course need gloves and hand wraps, but may also benefit from owning a water bottle, towel, and mesh gear bag.

Now we know what you’re likely thinking – “I can’t offer retail items because I don’t have an area dedicated to showcase those products.”

Don’t let that stop you! While having a showroom is certainly an advantage, it’s definitely not a must. A great alternative is planning special events around your products. Here’s an example: offer a seminar that teaches students and parents training drills they can do at home utilizing a hand target. Then, sell your hand targets as a part of the event. Or, make the event free with the purchase of a target!

If you do have the luxury of a retail display space, showcase the essential items first – uniforms, sparring and protective gear, bag gloves, etc. Then, sprinkle in some non-essential but “cool” items. Think T-shirts, hoodies, sling packs, and bracelets. If you want to catch your students’ attention when they walk into your building, occasionally rotate the non-essential merchandise in order to keep your display fresh and interesting.


There you have it. Four ways to increase profits – and you didn’t add a single student! As essential as students are to maintaining a thriving school, don’t forget to value quality over quantity. If you put these tips into practice, you’ll soon create a business that won’t have to rely solely on your student base in order to keep your doors open.