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Interview with Robby Beard

Posted: August 4th, 2014

Robby, tell us a little bit about your progression from Martial Artist to School Owner.

I opened up USA Karate in 1996.  Prior to that I was a martial artist since the 80’s and trained at a school with an instructor that became my mentor.  I progressed from a student to an instructor position, and ran his school for 5 years prior to opening up my own school.  I was lucky that my instructor was not only a great martial artist, but was also very business savvy so I learned a lot during the time I was running his dojo.  I began attending seminars and worked with different people that were more ahead of the game then I was as far as running a business and marketing a martial arts school, and that also contributed to my confidence level to push me to open my own martial arts school.

When I opened my school I thought I knew everything there was to know because I had been running a school for 5 years.  So when I opened USA Karate, I just sat back and did what I always did in the past.  I quickly learned that getting a brand new school off the ground was an entirely different beast.  For starters, when you start a school from zero, you have absolutely no momentum.  One of the things about having a big established school, one that has 200-300 students is that you can have momentum.  Even currently with my current situation having 6 locations, my main location always outperforms all the rest of them, and we are all doing the same marketing, because the main one has momentum.

Anyway I opened up my school in 1996 and I suffered, and im drowning and nothing is happening.   We built the school up to about a 100 students, but at the time with my rent, utilities and all the other bills that go along with it I was really seeing no profit.  At the time I was training a lot of police officers and they convinced me to become a police officer.  I started that about a year and half after I opened my school , I went to the Police Academy and became a full time police officer.  I was trying to be a full time police officer and running a karate school at the same time, and I was overworked and miserable, and I was  not making money doing either.  I had to make a decision and quit one of the two.  Having been in the martial arts industry for as long as I had been, I was constantly confronted with people telling me “I can t believe you quit the business”, “ I can t believe your school wasn’t successful”.   This was a chapter of my life I was not ready to close yet, so I decided to give it one last shot and fully dedicate myself to the Karate school . So i decided to give it another shot under the guidance of a Consultant.

What was your experience like working with a Coach?

This time I made a decision that ended up being fundamental to my success:  I decided to work with a mentor, a coach / consultant, and to completely follow his instructions.

no matter how stupid it sounded, or different from the way I was used to doing things.  So that’s what I did, got a consultant, got a coach. And off we went.

Within 12 months things were already progressing along ina  positive way  I had quit the police department, bought a new car.  A year later my school grew from a 130 students to 180, eventually to 200, to 250, and grew all the way to 600 members, and that’s when I started to expand and go into multiple locations.

Anyway what I learned is  1) that what marketing worked then no longer works now.  2) You have to have a coach.  Everybody, I dotn care if you are Michael Jordan or tiger woods, the best MMA fighter in the world , everybody has and needs a coach.  So we take this concept of new marketing ideas and new strategies making sure that our team of consultants and coaches and everyone who is involved is moving in the same direction.

Any words of advice to school owners thinking of expandign to multiple locations?

Now when having multiple locations , the key to that after you get your marketing and your sales strategies down, is definitely staff development, learning how to hire the right staff, how to pay your staff, how to motivate your staff. There is so much that goes along with the ability to have a great a staff.  With our industry most people that open martial arts schools most of them that do that, they get their black belt and think “Hey I want to share my knowledge” and then they open up a school and have a hard time switching From martial arts instructor to OWNER.  Once I learned to switch from an instructor to an owner, that’s when I really saw big progress.  What is the job of an OWNER, its to hire staff, is to plan and make sure that the business is moving in the right direction financially and any other goals you set forth. And that’s kind of what happened, we opened up another location, opened up another 2. Really the only reason I open up any locations to this day is to give my staff somewhere to grow. That is the only reason I recommend anyone opening a second location is for staff development. If you don’t have someone that is trained up and ready to run it, do NOT open a second location.  Don’t get into a situation where you have 2-3 schools and now you have to personally run 2-3 locations.

Most people get in a situation where they say “hey I have one school , im making $5000 a month.  If I open another school, ill make $10,000!”. That is just NOT how it works.  Somebody will get sick, you are sick, something happens, the quality is not there… it just does not work.  There are other factors like where are you opening in conjunction with your present location.  Most people think “im going to cover the city” and they open a location on the North, West, South side of the city and they think “I have the city covered” thinking that’s the way to do it.  Well its really part of your marketing plan and how its setup.  Each location “feeds” the other location and depending on where you are but you want your locations to be no more then 5-10 miles away from your other locations and demographics.  If your locations are spread out and you need to take one ad out, then it means you need to take an ad city wide which can get really expensive, and you really would need to have school all over the city.  Using my method, an ad will overlap into your second school area so you can cover two areas for the price of one if you do it right.

How do you advertise your schools?

-At any point I have an average of 10 different promotions going on.  Your marketing has to be a 360 operation. You have your ad cards, your VIP contests, your doorhangers, your flyers.  You need to have 10 things going on!  Lead boxes, referrals.  The methods you use are something youll discuss with your consultant but its important you have a heavy print marketing campaign in place.

And is that how you found Printing Dojo ?

It’s interesting, that is exacty how I got  involved with Printing Dojo.  Nowadays seems like there is a printing company on every corner, but back then there were very few places to get printing for martial arts, and in order to be able to get the materials you had to be a part of that association.  So unless you were a member of a particular association, you had no access to the materials, which to be perfectly honest were always of very inferior quality.  I was in need to order a marketing piece I had seen on a website and was told I could not get it due to the fact that it was reserved to that associations members.  I had two options:  give up on the marketing piece altogether, or find a graphic designer with enough skills to produce the design.  Then I’d have to find somewhere to print it , I called my local Kinkos and the price of design and printing just seemed like maybe the whole thing was not worth the hassle.  After all, I had a martial arts school to run, I couldn’t spend my week researching graphic designers.

The timing really rather incredible, but I received within 24 hours of this a postcard in the mail advertising pricing that was literally half of the printed piece I was told I could not buy.  And the graphic design quality of this card, well compared to the marketing materials I had been using, looked like it came from the future.  Within minutes of getting receiving the card, I was on the phone calling this company to find out if they could create this promo piece for me.  I explained that I needed a flyer for a martial arts company, and started chatting with guy that answered the phone.  He told me his name was Indro, and I learned that he had been in the design and printing business since the mid 90’s, but the part that really seemed unreal was that he told me he was creating a website for printing products specifically targeted at martial arts schools. Turns out I was not the only martial arts school looking for work he produced, and he was developing a website to be able to direct his martial arts clients to directly.

Within a few months, we had tweaked his concepts to reflect my marketing strategies, I invited him to come exhibit at the Maia Supershow and we developed Printing Dojo to truly be the FIRST of ITS KIND Martial arts specific printing company.  But to me the cool part of this story is that Printing Dojo came out of a necessity , not just an idea for a business.  Indro was trying to streamline his design production realizing that martial artists are not marketing guys and needed direction for their promotional materials, and me, well I needed flyers, lots of them!

Nowadays, we are seeing a couple of other printers popping up seeing the potential to make money on an ever growing industry, and it seems we have “inspired” a few companies with Printing Dojo to slap some designs online with very (very!) similar design concepts and ordering forms.  But what to this day sets us apart, is that our products are TESTED in our own schools at USA Karate.  By the time a promotional item hits our website, we have already used it for a few months in our own school and the reason we can brag about the product’s value, is because we know first hand.

So the products on Printing Dojo and the website system are exactly what you use to promote it USA Karate?

I am a school owner, and the fact I use these products is because I KNOW they work.  The reason we do websites with Website Dojo, is not because we are bored of Printing;  Its because my website is a huge source of leads and students for me! And before we ever marketed any websites, we already had a tested product that we knew was revolutionary.  This is what I think really sets us apart.

So to recap, in order to fully make your school grow, you need to do lots of careful planning, and make sure that all aspects of your marketing are in place.  You probably want to avoid designing your own materials, or learning how to design websites, and spend more time on the mat, in your Dojo doing what needs to be done to run your school.  Your school MUST project an image of successs, so its very important that all your marketing materials and online presence are of superior quality.

If you have any questions on any of the topics discussed, or if you are ready to take your own school to the next level, drop me an email to

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