Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Business in BJJ: Teachers, Competitors and Economic Success

Still mulling over this teacher/competitor/starting a school deal.

After reading more posts on people looking to train, compete, win a whole bushel of medals and then start their own schools, it seems that there is a common line of thought that the skills needed to start and run a school come along with more training and education in jiu jitsu. I very much believe that starting a school puts an instructor back at the white belt level in new areas of practice (contract negotiation, hiring/firing, customer service, law, recruiting, marketing, all that good stuff).

So...I decided to play around with the BCG growth-share matrix and put a bit of a twist on it. It really could apply to language teachers, music instructors, dance, cupcakery...any area where the general public is paying for instruction and has full choice in instructor (as opposed to say, a school/university).

I borrowed a couple of terms from Georgette. who explains them beautifully...

"Hobbyists are the ones who are interested in jits for personal fulfillment, physical fitness, and the enjoyment of the sport but are content to come to class, train, and go home-- maybe 2-3 times a week, no seminars, no privates, no obsession. 

Drivers are the ones who go above and beyond-- they take seminars, privates, travel to train, travel to compete. They watch instructionals and youtube and are always trying to add more to their game. They bring in occasional new techniques and force their teammates to step up their games in response. 

You can be a driver at any belt level. Neither hobbyists nor drivers are "better" than each other."

The original version was and is used to analyze corporate departments and product lines. I think though, it is also useful in looking at an instructor who's starting a new school, or honestly even already in business and is looking to to improve/draw more business. I don't believe anyone is stuck in any particular box and that you can grow out of one or get lazy and fall into another.

Some factors that have a large impact on maintaining a successful school that aren't taken into account in the diagram...
  • Business skill and application...VITAL at any level.  Business skills can make a Dog or sink a Star in a heartbeat.  I think the application of business skills is the big difference between a Roy Dean and a John Danaher...I'd put them both under the Sage/Cashcow category, but Roy Dean has a much stronger application of his business skills, and therefore, a bigger name, though I would consider them both successful in their chosen areas. 
  • Personality...big deal in making a good first impression. Jerks might have a harder time keeping students (though I think that's more true on the right side of the graph)
  • Price...depending on the income of an area, competitors' pricing and economic factors, this can turn everything on its head.


Anonymous said...

I just left an academy I trained at for years. Originally it had several blackbelts, but due to a personality conflict over several years, finally one moved and started his own school in another town. Another blackbelt left after a while and started his own school nearby. The remaining instructor is not strong as a teacher, has no people skills to speak of, is rude to prospective students, current students, and other instructors alike, and has no business sense whatsoever. The gym's numbers have been dropping precipitously and I doubt it will be in business in a year.

You've hit the nail on the head in much of your analysis. I think an absolute essential for someone starting an academy is emotional maturity. That will encompass essential attributes like willingness to accept constructive criticism and act on it, sensitivity, compassion, self-discipline, and respect. You wouldn't think you'd need to tell people this!!! But sadly I know at least one BJJ instructor who could learn a lot from your post. Too bad they'd never read it, and if they did, they wouldn't learn a thing from it.

Asia Morela said...

Business skill... yep, definitely. It can be frustrating when you want to stay loyal to a good teacher/person, but their school isn't growing because of their inability to make it more successful on a simple financial level. I could see this not being a problem if several teachers agreed to work together and share their qualities, but then there's sometimes ego involved... (My school, My way)

Anonymous said...

Great article and hit the nail on the head! I go to a primarily Kickboxing school in Austin and the instructor came from a crazy academy similar to the first post. He's got great instruction and a personable personality. I think he's a great example of being in between the top two category's. Great article I shall pass along!

slideyfoot said...

" Roy Dean has a much stronger application of his business skills"

As you know I have a lot of respect for Roy Dean's output, but I'm not sure the comparison between John Danaher and Roy Dean is fair, given that one works at a school while the other owns and heads his own academy.

You could even argue that Danaher's business skills are stronger, in that he has far more prestigious clients (most notably GSP) due to the manner in which he has cultivated his reputation.

slideyfoot said...

Then again, you did say application of business skills, which I guess is a little different. :)

Megan said...

Exactly why I used that qualification:)

Actually, I might argue that you make a case for Danaher's instructional abilities being stronger...though his affiliation probably opened him up to more opportunities to interract with big named fighters. As far as I know Roy Harris doesn't have as big an MMA affiliation as Renzo.

The stories above of good teachers falling off because of poor business skills is what makes me sad.