Small Business Marketing Solution – Let Brand Guide Your Staff

Your employees should know your Brand–what you stand for. We’ve written on this before, but it is just a vital concept for small business success. As we discussed in an earlier article, following process and procedures is important, staff training is a must, but there comes a time when you must trust you employees “in the field” to do what is right and make a decision on their own that is in accord with what the company brand stands for.It’s at this critical point that their training in proper procedures is most helpful, but sometimes they are faced with questions outside of strict training or procedural guidelines. Here they need to make the right decision–for the customer and the company. It’s at these junctures that a solid working knowledge of what the company stands for can help them make the best choice.And understanding the company brand starts with your Achievers.Your junior staff will follow the example they see the Achievers set. The Achievers must intimately understand what your company’s Brand represents–they need to also recognize that this knowledge can help them make a decision.It sounds basic, but your customers’ impression of what your Brand is–what your company stands for–will be far more influenced by what your staff does during a tough situation than through all your advertising. This is especially true for a small business on a limited marketing budget.When customers and staff agree on what your Brand means, then you can trust that decisions your staff makes will truly be in the best interest of the company. Will those staff decisions be exactly what you would do? No, but they’ll be close enough.Occasionally they will even be better.Remember: Brand (who you are) + Package (your Face to the Customer) + People (customers and employees) = Marketing Success.© 2006 Marketing Hawks

School Security – Reviewing Your Options

University, College and School SecurityFirst, our heart goes out to the family, friends and my niece at Virginia Tech.Consultant vs. SalespersonWhen you have a security related problem, where do you go for answers? Many people turn to a security salesperson. This salesperson may offer a service like security guards or a product like security alarms. To receive total security protection, it is best to speak with a security consultant and not a security salesperson. A consultant can advise you in all areas, where a salesperson can only advise you on products or services their company offers.ConsultantA security consultant is a person trained in many areas from communications to alarms. They can review, advise and provide solutions to many problems. If you have a security problem, you first need to speak with a security expert. After you receive options, then you can seek out a security salesperson that meets your requirements. Never go to a salesperson first. This is where 99% of the public makes a mistake. If you want to buy a car, would you talk with a tire salesperson?A consultant will visit your location, conduct a detailed inspection and create a full report on their findings. Such a report might include things like employee habits, ease of access, landscaping problems, communication weakness, visual needs, and much more.To get the full picture of your security needs and solutions to correct problems, you need an expert in many areas. A security consultant can provide you with options and sources to meet your requirements.Consultants may also review details like placement of camera’s, types and needs for lighting or security film on glass. They can also review things like emails related to threats, student interaction and area warning systems.A consultant will promote their background and your needs in all areas, where a salesperson will only promote their product or service as related to one or two areas.Salespeople are Not ConsultantsSecurity SalespersonA security salesperson is a person which offers a product or service that their company sells. Many times, this is the extent of their job. Some salespeople are just starting in the business and lack the knowledge. Some salespeople have been in the business and have a limited amount of knowledge. Then you may encounter the expert salesperson. This type of salesperson will make you think that their product or service will be the answer to all your problems.Now, we do not want to put down security salespeople, as they do play a major part in the security industry. You as the customer need to understand that a security salesperson may only be able to talk about their product or service. Many states have different requirements for consultants and security salespeople. Ask to see your salesperson’s state security id. If the id says consultant and sales, then they can consult. If it just says sales, then they can just sell.There is no single solution to security at a location. No salesperson should ever advise a customer that their product or service will cure all. Just because you were sold camera’s does not mean a person can not break in a window. Just because you were sold an alarm system does not mean your student’s cars will not be damaged. For good security, you need to look in all directions, not just one or two.There are more security salespeople than are security consultants. Many salespeople try to act like a consultant, but a consultant will not act like a salesperson. A salesperson will sometimes be given a basic level of training, where a consultant may receive years of training in many subjects. A security consultant is many times former military or a former police officer. A security salesperson could have been a golf pro the day before. I have seen all types.Before you risk lives and property, you need to check out your security advisor. Ask your local police department to review the advice given by your security expert. Most of all, understand that good security will require several solutions.Good Luck!P.S.Yes, there is a former golf pro out there selling electronic security system to business sites in our area. So just because they sell it, does not mean they know it. Check them out and forget the business BS they feed you at times.Human ErrorWho is watching? You may have camera’s or guards protecting your site. One of the biggest problems with security is human error. People tend to sleep on the job, play on the job, look the other way or even think an event is not important enough to report. This is wrong and should be corrected.Lives and property are protected by people that make just above a basic wage. Many of these people have limited education and skills. Many of these people do not care about you, your people or your property. Face the facts, these people are there for the paycheck and that’s it.Do you know what a real security expert makes per year? A real security expert makes on the average over $100,000 a year. A real security expert will use their former training to protect you and your property. A security guard makes on the average about $8 per hour or about $8,000 per year. They will use their one day training to protect you and your property.


Which would you rather have protecting you and your property? Why would you cut cost to protect lives so important to others? Real security will cost. There is an old saying; “You get what you paid for”.ProtectionThe best level of security you can have is to hire off duty police officers to work at or patrol your location. An off duty officer still has full arrest powers and knows how to handle many types of problems. Speak with your local police department for more information.The next option you have is to hire Conservers of the Peace (COP). These are special police officers approved by the court system in your area. The officer has full arrest powers, but is limited to covering a single area. This area can be your site or even a city block.You could use armed security officers. These officers have limited arrest powers. They may be able to arrest if; (a) on your site only, (b) with owners permission, (c) with security company’s permission, (d) approved by the state. This option puts great risk on the property owner for legal damages if things go wrong.Last option is to use an unarmed security officer. This is the worst thing you can do if you are looking for security. An unarmed security officer is acting as a regular person. Many state do not allow them to make an arrest. They are good only for id checks, to open a door or to give someone directions. Many companies will use unarmed security guards because they are cheap. Then the company will complain when they have security related problems. You get what you pay for!Related ProblemsSecurity related problems may include: Lazy people, Sleeping on the job, Looking the other way, Failure to report all events, Tampering with equipment, Stealing from property owners, Giving out secure information, Thinking it’s a joke, Failure to follow SOP, Leaving the site without approval, Unprofessional toward employee’s and guest and much more.GuardsSecurity company’s will enter into a contract with a business or site. The contract may require people to sit at the site and monitor events. The contract does not state how much training a person needs. It does not state how long a person has been in the industry. It does not state how much sleep the person got the night before working. Because many security contracts do not reflect these areas, a security company will put just about anyone on the site.I have seen security guards be interviewed on the spot, be given a reading test, handed a uniform that did not fit and placed on a site to work that night. The security company’s only requirement is to keep the proper number of bodies on a site. They could care less if the person knew anything or not. It’s business and profits to them.If you contract or hire guards, you need to test them. Once a month, you should have someone unknown to them, try to get past the guards and then follow the trail. Did the guard stop the person? Did the guard report the events? Were the proper people notified? Test like this can help imporve your security and force guards to become ready for a real event.Another method you need to use is monitoring. You need to link any camera’s to a private location. This can be your office or the internet. Once every few days, look in on the camera images and then call a guard. Tell them they did a good job checking an id or let them know you were watching and just wanted to say they were doing a good job. This does two things for you. One thing it does is let the guards know you are watching them and the other thing it does is lets them know they are doing things right.Last thing you should do is watch the outside of your building. Many guards think they are out of camera view and will try to do things they should not do. Some will go to their vehicle and sleep, some will meet a friend outside and chat for an hour or so. Other will try to sneak things out or into the building. Watching outside once a week will let you know what is really going on at your location.One company I know had a problem with missing laptops. They advised the guards to check each person with a laptop to see if they had approval to remove it from the building. After a week, the guards relaxed on their duties. The owner then had someone enter the building, pack up all the laptops on one floor and hide them inside the building. When the guards checked the floor, they noticed all the laptops were gone. The owner then advised he was the one whom hid the laptops to prove a point. After that event, there were no more missing laptops. Sometimes you have to scare the guards into doing their job.InstallersYou may be having an alarm or camera system installed. Do you know if the installer is legal? Many company’s fail to check out their installers. They think the security company has done their job and the person is ok. This is the wrong way to think. This is your building, your security or camera system, your protection against crime, why would you not check out everyone.The state and federal agencies check out everyone connected to the installation or service of their security equipment. They look at the company, the salesperson all the way down to the person pulling the wire. You should do the same thing.When it comes to a security equipment installer, many installers must pass a background check conducted by the state. Once a person is approved by the state to install security equipment, the state will issue them a security id. The installer is required to carry the id anytime they are installing.As the property owner, you can check out to see if the installer is legal or not by asking to see their state security id. They are required by law in many states to show the id when requested by the property owner. If they refuse or give you some lame excuse, then call the police. A police officer can check to see if the person is approved by the state to install security equipment.Now, you may say “Why do I need to check their id?”. Some companies will use unlicensed or unregistrated people to install systems when the workload is high. Others will use illegal contractors to cut cost. Giving out secure information or information related to a customer’s security system, to an unapproved person is against the law in many states.This shady person can get your security code, learn placement of devices, learn when you are there and much more. They may return later to clean you out. Always check to see if the installers are legal. Do not trust the security company’s word. I have seen some top security companies use illegal contractors to install security equipment.The ReviewThe first thing you should do is walk off your property about 20 feet. Turn around and look. You need to make notes as to what you see. Are there trees blocking the view from a police car driving by the site? Are there items laying around that can be used as weapon? Is all the lighting working? What else do you see wrong?Doing things like this is called a security check. This should be done once a week. Keep records of any changes made by your staff.You can start with adjusting shrubs and trees. This is one of the biggest problems. People hide behind them, they have done this for 50 years and will continue to do so in years to come. Do not help them out. Never install a high shrub fence near a doorway. Keep all tree branch’s about 10 feet away from the building.Pick up any items laying around. Have all ladders stored away and secured after being used.Wait until dark and check all outside lights. Look for dark areas near the building and any parking areas. If using camera’s, you may want to install IR spotlights.You want to look at the windows and doors. Are there broken windows? Are doors left open? Are people holding doors open for others? Have locks been improved and are they being used? Is there security film on the windows or glass areas?Look at the parking area. How far does one have to walk to get to their vehicle? Do security officers walk people to their car? Do you offer a mobile security patrol unit to tour the outside of the building?Do you need to install barriers to direct vehilce or human traffic in another direction.Hidden CamerasAre there strange people sitting around outside watching your building? Are there people using video cameras?Have you conducted a RF video sweep for hidden cameras. Visitor’s and students can install hidden video cameras inside your school and learn when you enter an area. Some students install or even wear hidden cameras to record illegal images of women undressing. Do the sweep, you may be surprised at what you find.A simple wireless video receiver is connected to a small handheld monitor. Walk to an area and tune the receiver from one end to the other, very slowly. Watch the monitor to see if you get a picture. If you get a picture, then use the image to id the location. Do not remove the camera. Wait to see who goes to check the camera. That should be the person whom installed it. Once you id the installer, then you can contact the police.Monitor internet traffic at your school. Many people know about the internet, but there are only a few of us whom remember the newsgroups on the back of the internet. Some students will post threats and other information on these newsgroups. Have your computer expert install a keyword monitoring system. This will alret you when special keywords are used on your computers.Threats by CellphoneStudents have turned to making threats by cellphones. This can be a threat toward another student or to the school. Place signs up that restrict cellphone use while on school property or during main school hours. Talk with students about getting threats by cellphone, let them know you are there to help.There are so many areas outside of a building, that relate to security. Speak with a security consultant for advice.EquipmentThe list of equipment that can be used is very long. On the outside you can install IR Beams to alert you of people walking near a building or use hidden microphone’s to hear someone walking across the grass. You can use motion activated camera’s to see movement or install thermo sensors to pick up a person’s body heat.


You can look at the option of driveway sensors, air pressure sensors, contact sensors under door mats, grounding sensors on handrails and even use sensors that detect body odor.For the inside, you have camera’s, door contacts, card readers, bio sensors, pressure mats, glass breaks, microphone’s, heat sensors, changing air pressure sensors, motion sensors, IR beams, microwave sensors, RF sensors and many more.Think FirstA security consultant can review your site and provide you with options. We have listed just a few things that may improve security at your school. Each location is different and should be reviewed on it’s own merit. Once you have the list of corrections that are needed, you can then contact a security salesperson in that field.Other areas to consider are computer security, area horns, paging systems, panic button keychains for insturctors, RF taging system for instructors and students location while on the property, cellphone 211 notification system, emergency locking system for inside doors, able to lock classroom doors, security doors or safe rooms, classroom emergency phone system, microphone’s in classroom ceiling, outside emergency video patch for police.You may also want to use an RF remote command control center. This is a wireless unit worn on the arm or held in your hand. You can open doors, view camera’s, lock out card readers, lock doors and more, all from up to 1/4 mile away from the site. It is a system used in some jails to take back control of a command center if taken over by inmates.Always look into and report any person or students that you consider a threat to others. Set up your own security team. Update your SOP to meet today’s students and technology. Spend the money for a consultant. They may save you money in the end. No site, not even a jail is 100% secure. You can only do your best and that is all anyone will ever ask of you. Do not go the cheap route, it may cost someone their life.Read more at http://www.securitytoday.netAbout MeI just wanted to share some of my knowledge with everyone and hope you have learned something. I write a weekly magazine at http://www.securitytoday.net for anyone interested in learning more.Over 15 years in the sales, design, install and service of electronic systems. Background in secure communications, electronic security systems, cctv, matv, card access, fiber optics, Bio systems, fire, professional audio/ video, gate controls, wireless devices, RF uplink/downlink and more.Most recent major position was to repair security systems for 40 locations to include a bridge and 2 tunnels damaged by the attacks of 9/11 in NY/NJ. I was picked out of over 10,000 people for the contract due to high skill level in many areas. This contract was funded by an emergency act of Congress. I then worked to design a new electronic security system to withstand future attacks.I provided supporting design for a $10 million electronic security proposal for British Airways property at JFK airport.I was requested to sit in on the first phase for the restructure of nationwide airport electronic security, under a new TSA contract with Lockheed Martin in Virginia, USA.I have been a major installer on high security jails in Virginia.I have built a broadcast station for the US President at a military post and linked it back to the White House.I installed a broadcast TV station for the US Coast Guard in NC, USA.I was former communications coordinator for World Cup Soccer ’94 in Florida and before that I was a Secure Communications Expert with the US Army, teaching and repairing major communication systems.I have several awards from the US Pentagon and the military for new inventions.I am willing to work under contract with your site to review your need of electronic system improvements.I am CEO of Young Media Group, LLC and produce several publications and video’s related to the electronic security industry and music industry.Visit www.securitytoday.net or www.youngmediagroup.net [http://www.youngmediagroup.net]

3 Benefits to Using Cloud Yoga Business Software for Your Yoga Studio

A Fictional Tale of Two Yoga Teachers:Wendy and John are each starting a yoga studio. They have their space, a website, and recently opened for business.They also chose to administer as much of their business as possible on computers (who doesn’t these days). They each have a laptop so they can be mobile, or so they think. They also have a desktop in their studio.Students are coming to their classes and they’re delighted by this. Yet, they both desire more students. Their business is in a growth stage.When not teaching classes and chatting with students, they’re on their computers taking care of the financial aspects, marketing, curriculum / class planning, and overall administration of their business.When they started, they weren’t sure the direction their business would take so they held off buying any specific business management software. Instead they used Word and Excel to take care of their software needs. So far their software set up is working okay, but they see the writing on the wall how something more sophisticated could save them time.Wendy and John go online to start looking at yoga business software options. They’re pleased that there’s a lot of options. Of course options mean making a decision.Wendy decides to go with a cloud computing software platform while John opts for an installation software option.Wendy’s option requires that she pay a monthly cost to use her software. John likes the fact he only pays one time for the software.Wendy logs into her software account through the Internet and sets up your software for your business. It takes a few days to get familiar with it, but within a week she has her software working for her with a class schedule set up and she’s put her student contact information into the database. She also set up her autoresponder email account and integrated it with your student contacts.John installed his software on both his laptop and desktop computer. He opted for no server and instead figured out how to network the two computers together so when a change is made in one computer it’s reflected in the other computer. He spent about a day getting his software installed and networked.


Like Wendy, he takes a few days inputting his student contact information and formatting his class schedule in the scheduling software. His email software is separate, but he’s managed to integrate it using an APP with his installation-based yoga business software.Fast forward 2 years. Both their yoga businesses are doing better than ever. Each of them hire 2 teachers to teach designated classes and a receptionist. This growth required more computers for their staff. Wendy, simply upgrades here software to add another user. Her staff simply logs into the software through the Internet.John buys another license and then goes through the installation process. Now he must network another computer. He’s read that using a server is a good idea, but has no idea how to set up a server. Given his business is growing, he decides to hire a networking consultant. After buying a dedicated server and paying networking consultant fees, John spent $1,500. His software also upgraded 6 months ago and so he paid $300 in upgrade fees.As their businesses grew, both Wendy and John started selling some retail items in their studio and on their website. They also discovered how effective email marketing is to student retention and growing their business. Wendy’s online software platform offered e-commerce, credit card processing, and integrated e-mail marketing software. She was able to set up her stores and beef up her e-mail marketing quickly.John leased credit card processing hardware, bought a license for e-commerce software and continues to use his original e-mail marketing software that’s integrated with his student contact database.At this point Wendy’s entire yoga business software is centralized and accessible over the Internet. John uses several software services that are installed and networked among his computers. As John’s business grows, his computing needs become more complex and he now has his networking consultant on speed-dial.He now budgets annually for computer consultant fees – something he never anticipated. He of course has heard about cloud software and is now interested in making the switch, but is reluctant given the amount he’s invested in his desktop installation software. He’s going to wait and see.Wendy pays a monthly fee for her service, but is pleased with how easy it is to add new users and grow her business with hardly an interruption in doing her core activities – which is teaching yoga and marketing her business. In fact, Wendy is considering opening another yoga studio knowing aside from finding and designing space, here business is easily duplicated at another location.John would love to expand to another location, but is concerned about the expense of expanding and managing his business so that all his business information integrates seamlessly between his multiple locations. He puts expansion on hold.About Cloud Computing SoftwareWhat is Cloud Computing Software?It’s software that’s hosted by the software company. When you sign up, you get an account and all your software is handled on the cloud – that is hosted and powered by the company’s servers – not your servers. You simply access it online.The biggest reason business owners are reluctant to use cloud computing is the ongoing cost. Most cloud computing software platforms charge monthly to use the service. This ongoing cost is understandably a concern, especially for new businesses. The last thing you want is to be committed to ongoing costs if at all possible avoided.However, when you look at the long-term of your business, and your software in particular, there’s ease-of-use and expansion to consider. With installation software you must always consider the upgrade costs and potential for paying consultants to maintain and grow your network. These unforeseen costs can be hefty in the long run.
3 Key Benefits to Using Cloud Software for Your Yoga Business Software


1. Access it AnywhereBecause it’s accessible over the Internet, you can access your entire software set up wherever you have an Internet connection (which is pretty much everywhere these days).2. Integrates it with your WebsitesA quality cloud software service for yoga studios makes it easy to update it simultaneously with your websites. For example, when you make changes to your class schedule, those changes are immediately reflected on your website where you post your class schedule. There’s no need to go into your website(s) and manually make the changes (assuming you remember to do this).Also, if you have e-commerce on your website selling gift certificates, yoga class packages, and perhaps gear and apparel, when you make pricing changes (or any changes) in your software, it’s immediately reflected in your website(s).3. No installation and networking costsThis is a biggie. Many business owners when starting out with buying software tend to undermine this. With cloud computing you don’t have to worry about installation and networking your software. As you can see from the above Tale of 2 Yoga Teachers, John’s software costs escalated beyond what he anticipated because of unforeseen consultant costs. This is common with specialized business installation software. Networking software among computers is not an easy task and usually requires an expert to do it well.Will your yoga business fail by not using cloud computing yoga business software? No, but it could make administration and growth more difficult.

How to Choose a Martial Arts School – 10 Steps Guaranteed to Save You Time and Money

What are the most important things to look for when comparing martial arts schools?
What are the tell tale signs of a quality school that you can spot immediately?
What are the best questions to ask, and how do you know if they can really deliver?
What part of a contract can you negotiate?These are just some of the important questions you need to know how to answer before shopping around for a martial arts school.A commitment to martial arts is an investment in time and money, so knowing exactly what to look for in a school, and knowing what questions to ask, will give you the clarity and confidence to make a smart choice.A bad choice in a martial arts school can be an expensive lesson, so use this guide to educate yourself.There is a huge variety of martial arts schools out there. Facilities range from expensive health-club-like facilities to open space warehouses. Martial arts schools aren’t regulated to insure quality of instruction or business practice. There is no official governing body and no universal grading standard in martial arts. Almost anyone can open a school and appear to be an expert.What do you look for beyond price, amenities and convenient schedules? While most people first consider price and the facility, there are more important factors that you need to consider first!These 10 steps show you how to make the best decision in choosing a martial arts school:Objective
Instructors
Class Dynamic
Student Results
Curriculum
Style
Facility
Service
Price/Fees
Instinct1. OBJECTIVE:Before you start looking into martial arts schools, determine your true goals for martial arts practice. To get the most out of your training, clearly identify your real goals and the specific benefits you want to have.Ultimately, you just want to feel good about yourself and feel super confident, right?However, this is usually not enough of a specific emotional motivator for consistent practice.The majority of people who start martial arts rarely make it past a few months of consistent practice. It’s not just a lack of motivation. Not having clear goals is usually why people don’t follow through in practice.To determine what you really want from training, start by narrowing down what you wish to focus on.The focus of your practice can be broken down into several areas. There’s no right or wrong – it comes down to personal preference.For starters, you can number these in order of importance.Physical Fitness as the main goal, with martial arts aptitude as a secondary benefit.
Purely Combative Focus, with fitness and personal growth as added benefits
Creative and Artistic Expression, aesthetics, beauty and WOW Factor
Competitive Focus, sports aspects such as one on one competition
Mental and Emotional Growth, catalyst for self-discovery and spiritual growth, cultural and philosophical interestsAsk yourself clarifying “Why” questions, so you can identify what you’re really going for.This is the first step in filtering the selection of schools to choose from. Once you’ve identified your goals for martial arts practice and understand why they are your goals, you’re ready to search for a school.2. INSTRUCTORS:An instructor plays the key role in how you will achieve your goals.Finding a good instructor is more important than choosing a style, and is probably the biggest factor in your decision to join a school. It’s nice to have impressive amenities and expensive equipment, but ultimately a martial arts school is only as good as it’s instructors.Being a black belt doesn’t qualify someone to teach!A competent instructor is knowledgeable, experienced, and has the ability to effectively pass on his craft.
A good instructor possesses leadership and communication skills.
A great instructor will also display sincere empathy, showing a genuine interest in helping you achieve your goals, bringing out your individual strengths.Look for other attributes that increase an instructor’s ability to add value to your training:Proven competitive track record, such as World Champion Titles
A degree in an area such as psychology, sports medicine, kinesiology or related fields
Military, law enforcement, or security experience
Involvement in a credible martial arts organization
Extensive knowledge of a culture or philosophy that you’re interested inAlthough an instructor’s experience and background provides some credibility, don’t be overly impressed with awards and certificates.Their mindset and level of experience will be apparent through subtleties in character and by their actions.Quality instructors are sincerely interested in helping You and won’t feel the need to boast about their own credentials or prove themselves. Instead of boosting their own egos, high-level instructors are very attentive on coaching you to achieve your goals.You can often measure an instructor more accurately by their students’ results and satisfaction than by credentials alone. The students themselves may be the greatest indication of the quality of instruction.Just like a good business is constantly researching and developing, high-level instructors research and develop methodologies in order to continually improve. A lifetime training in martial arts isn’t enough to reach human potential!A high level instructor portrays noble characteristics of a role model and leader.Confident instructors welcome feedback and respond to your questions with patience and insight. They are usually very humble, and rarely speak negatively about any other school or style.Also, find out if the school’s head instructor is actively teaching. Some schools have classes primarily taught by an assistant or senior students, while the head instructor only makes an occasional appearance.While assistant instructors may be totally capable of teaching, watch out for schools that “sell” you on the instructor but have someone else teaching.3. CLASS DYNAMIC:Make sure you know how to evaluate a school in two parts, the content and the context.The context of a martial arts school is made up of the training methods and environment. What kind of setting is the school providing?A supportive learning environment is crucial to maximize the assimilation and retention of material. The context of training can be more important than the content, (or material), intended to be learned.Look for context such as:The collective mood or energy of the instructors and students
The class dynamic – structure and flow
How the amenities and equipment are used
The training methodologies
How the ranking system is structured
The quality of serviceOne of the best ways to evaluate a school is to watch or participate in a class.You can watch videos, visit a website and read all about the credentials and features of a school. However, you can only get a true feel by “test driving” the actual group classes. Many schools offer free consultations or introductory private lessons.If a school allows you to watch, or better yet, participate in a class without obligation it speaks highly of their confidence and transparency.


The class dynamic is the best demonstration of the instructor’s martial arts aptitude and ability to teach. It reveals how the students interact with each other and the instructor. It’s also the perfect opportunity to see how their curriculum is implemented into training.Consider the size of the classes and how that may effect your training. The make up and flow of the classes will either help your learning experience or hurt it.Look for the following:Is there a significant age difference among students that may restrict your practice?
Is there a significant difference in the students’ experiences or physical abilities?
How formal or informal are the classes? And, how does that effect your practice?
How much supportive individual attention do the students receive?
Is there anything about the facility that’ll hinder your practice? such as cleanliness, stale air, too cold or hot, distracting noises, etc.Many beginners prefer large classes. It can be easier to follow along with the examples of many other students. There’s also less intimidation as the collective group dynamic can conceal individual insecurities and lessons the pressure to keep up.On the flip side, there is a key benefit to smaller classes that’s important to consider. There is more opportunity to receive personal attention from instructors that can greatly accelerate your learning curve.Again, instructors are the backbone of a martial arts school. The instructor consciously, or unconsciously, dictates the energy of the entire class.Here are some other things to look for:Does the instructor facilitate class with control and safety? (Notice if the students are enjoying themselves or seem uncomfortable and hesitant).
Is the instructor passionate and actively teaching or seemingly going through the motions and mechanically calling out commands?
Do the students seem inspired?A martial arts school provides the setting of a controlled environment where you’ll train to overcome future or potential challenges. In order to maximize results, good schools teach in a context that anticipates and matches the actual environment of those future and potential challenges.The classes must simulate the intended environment and must provide the necessary emotional stress in order to engrain instinctual trained responses.For example:If you’re seeking a combative style for self-defense, look for schools that safely facilitate reality based, high-stress scenario exercises.
If you’re training to fight in a ring or cage, look for a school that teaches you how to maneuver in the confines of a ring/cage under the same guidelines of the competition.
If you’re goal is to perform in tournaments, look for a school that can facilitate your training in a loud, distracting environment with large mirrors and an audience.
If your goal is to have fun getting in shape, look for classes that use good training equipment, have high energy, exciting exercises and a social atmospherePay attention to the flow of the class and notice how much of the class time is instructional. Some schools implement a lot of conditioning drills while others teach with a lot of verbal explanations. Notice if they have a lot of unnecessary “filler time”.It’s also a good idea to inquire about the school’s ranking system. Most traditional schools use some modification of a belt system, but what’s required to earn each belt can vary drastically from school to school.Is there a clear standard for aptitude and execution of techniques at each level? Or are the requirements based on time and the amount of classes taken?Many schools test for promotions after a set number of classes. This gives the perception of building capable intermediate and advanced students, which can be an important aspect of a school’s perceived value. Not to mention, belt promotions are a crucial source of income for some schools.Remember that there’s no official governing body in martial arts, so belt levels may not be valid outside of that school or organization.4. STUDENT RESULTS:The students provide tremendous insight as to the quality of instruction. You can often tell more about a school by the students’ results than anything else.The students are the products of the school’s training system and methodologies. If the advanced students don’t model your martial arts goals go find another school!When observing the students, pay attention to the ratio of beginner to advanced students. It’s a good sign if there are a lot of intermediate and advanced students. That means the school is able to retain their students, and usually equates to student satisfaction.Just as you probably don’t want to eat at a restaurant that’s always empty, be cautious of a school with a few students. What’s considered a small student base? Depending on the size of the facility and how long they’ve been in business, classes that have less than 10 students is a pretty strong sign that there’s something lacking in the school.Consider the characteristics and personalities of the students as well. It’s important that you are comfortable with your classmates cause you may be spending a lot of time with them.Are they the types of people you’d like to be around and train with?
Would you feel comfortable and safe training with them?
Are the students supportive of one another or are they highly competitive and trying to outdo each other?The student dynamic may also reveal how the instructor instills leadership and other life skills that you may wish to develop. Watch how the advanced students handle both challenges and successes.Take the initiative to speak to some of the students. Getting insight from existing students can make all the difference in your decision to join.5. CURRICULUM:Remember that a martial arts school can be evaluated in two parts, content and context. The curriculum and style of a school make up the content.Whether they call themselves a martial arts school, studio, academy, gym, or dojo, they are still businesses. They will promote themselves in creative ways to gain an edge over the competition. You can expect them to entice you with price incentives, boast their credentials, amenities and equipment, or make claims to get you results in the shortest amount of time possible.Don’t allow marketing tactics to distract you from determining if the school can actually support your training goals.Whatever a school claims to provide in your martial arts training, their students, classes and curriculum will give you a good indication of the school’s quality and true emphasis.The martial arts curriculum, (content), is made up of the techniques and material you will be learning at a school.The focus of your training must be supported by the curriculum and training methods.There are key points to look for in determining the quality of a curriculum. Begin by identifying the school’s emphasis. Take into consideration that when there is more focus on one aspect of martial arts, other areas are compromised to some degree.Forms and jump spinning kicks in the curriculum? You’ve most likely found a school with an artistic or traditional focus that may participate in tournaments. If this is what you’re after, the curriculum should consist of aesthetic techniques that have dynamic kicks and beautiful forms with and without weapons.
Are the techniques based on kickboxing and wrestling? A lot of sparring and no weapons in the curriculum? This is probably a school that focuses on one-on-one sport competition. Schools that build towards competition usually emphasize physical conditioning to reach peak performance.Although physical fitness may not be the primary goal in many styles, fitness is generally a by-product of training. You get in shape by default in martial arts practice.The majority of schools have a curriculum designed to provide a general overall perspective on fitness, sport competition and self-defense. For most people who are just beginning martial arts, a school’s curriculum and interpretation of martial concepts should be comprehensive enough to support you through many years of practice. If this is the case, start to look into other components of the school like their class dynamic.For those who have martial arts experience, or seeking a specific area of focus, determine if the school’s curriculum actually supports the emphasis you’re looking for.It’s not uncommon for a school’s true emphasis to be different from how they market themselves. Take note of the techniques in their curriculum and their applications.For example, let’s say your primary reason for martial arts training is purely for self-defense on the streets. You visit a school that claims to be proficient in teaching self-defense. Yet, they teach fixed stances and forms and only implement weapons training in advanced levels.This is a big red flag! This doesn’t mean it’s not a good school. It only reveals that their true emphasis is not truly combative.70% of assaults on the street involve some sort of weapon and over 90% of attacks go to the ground. Any school that claims to teach true self-defense while neglecting weapons training and ground fighting is just plain negligent.You should seek elsewhere if this is your focus. Modern combative styles will implement training in weapons and ground fighting right from the beginning.Training methods also implement high stress scenario drills with multiple attackers. You won’t find fancy acrobatics in the curriculum.Remember the old adage, “A jack of all trades is master of none.” Be cautious of a school that claims to deliver health and fitness AND teach you culture and philosophy AND turn you into a professional fighter AND prepare you for the streets AND promise personal or spiritual growth.6. STYLE:Martial arts can be compared to a huge tree with many branches or styles. All “styles” are based on the mechanics of the human body. Every style has strengths and weaknesses as they each focus on different aspects of the arts.The true measure of a martial art lies in the practitioner, not the style.Having a general understanding of the different types of styles and their focus will help you in achieving your goals. In martial arts there are hard styles and soft styles.Hard Styles focus on striking techniques where the body is used as a weapon for attacking and defending – force against force. Much of the training is external, based on physical conditioning for strength and agility.
Soft Styles focus on redirection and physical manipulation through leverage and positioning – using an opponent’s force against him. There is often more focus on internal training, training of the mind as well as developing the body’s sensitivity to energy.
Blended Styles incorporate concepts from both hard and soft styles in a complimentary method, flowing and transitioning from hard to soft and vice versa.Depending on the area of focus, each style differs in philosophy and training methods. Applications obviously differ as well.Among styles the emphasis of training will primarily focus on one of the following areas:Artistic Expression – Schools with an artistic focus emphasize creative physical expression – the “art” aspect of “martial arts”. Artistic styles implement forms or choreographed techniques in training. They typically have more aesthetic beauty, as movements are fluid and graceful like a gymnast or dancer.Tradition – Traditional styles are rooted with Eastern culture and philosophy. Traditional schools implement both external and internal training for the development of the mind-body-spirit relationship. With this emphasis, martial arts practice serves as lessons for life skills. Practice may also encompass elements of spiritualism.Competition – Competitive styles generally focus on the sports aspect of martial arts. Competitions can range by category including weight class, level of experience, geographic region and specific style. The emphasis is on winning recognition such as rankings, awards, and trophies that is based on a fixed set of rules.Combat – Combative styles focus on street defense or military application, including law enforcement. It’s the “martial” part of “martial arts”. The emphasis is on practical application over aesthetic form or physical conditioning. Training includes weapons and reality based scenario exercises.Fitness – Schools that focus on fitness use martial arts as a catalyst for holistic health. Classes usually consist of fun, energetic physical exercises based on martial arts techniques. Classes will typically implement a broad and general combination of styles and areas of focus.There are also Modern Styles, which are evolved blended styles that are the result of further researched and developed methodologies. Their focus can be artistic, competitive, combative, or emphasize physical fitness.While it may be a good idea to blend styles, it can be counter productive to combine your area of focus. Be clear on which area you wish to predominantly focus on.Again, there’s no right or wrong style. It’s a matter of personal goals and preference.7. FACILITY:The first thing to consider is the school’s location in relation to your home or workplace.Creating a new habit can be challenging, so convenience plays a big role in supporting consistency. You may be commuting several times a week for training, so make sure the facility is close enough so it doesn’t become an excuse for you not to go.Martial arts schools come in many forms. They can be part of a franchise, belong to an organization, or be a one man show run by a single instructor. They may resemble a fitness gym, yoga studio, gymnasium or warehouse.Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and don’t judge a martial arts school by it’s facility.Although you can’t measure the quality of a school by the facility alone, it does reveal a lot about the owners mindset, aptitude, emphasis of the style and curriculum, as well as the school’s level of professionalism.The degree of cleanliness may reflect the standard of service. You can get a good idea of the school’s style and emphasis by the school’s design.A school should have the amenities and equipment that support the context of it’s curriculum, such as a cage or ring for MMA or kickboxing, proper mats for Jiu Jitsu, etc.Consider what the school puts money into and determine if it actually adds value to your training.Also notice the subtle details of the facility that may effect on your training. Does the air stink? Does the lighting or colors of the facility effect your energy and mood? How’s the parking? Is it noisy?Remember, expensive equipment, and other luxuries equals higher tuition fees. Be aware of the costs of extra rooms and large offices that don’t directly add value to your training.With a good instructor and some basic equipment you can practice anywhere!8.SERVICE:Some schools have great sales and marketing techniques to get you to join. But, it’s the quality of ongoing customer service that really counts.


Choosing a school that’s skilled in customer service will potentially save you from a lot of unnecessary headache. Poor customer service can ruin your martial arts experience at any level.Make sure that there are open lines of communication and that staff members are readily accessible to answer questions to your satisfaction.You may be with a school for many months or even years. Choose a school that cares enough to build a relationship with you.Know how to distinguish sales techniques from service.As mentioned, some schools are great at getting you in the door with attractive features and promotions. The question is, once you have signed up are you just another enrollment?A good comparison is the large franchised fitness gyms. Their amenities, equipment and low monthly fees are hard to pass up. However, once you join there’s virtually no service whatsoever. There are too many people who have gym memberships and don’t use them. They already have your financial commitment – a contract. Rest assured their service will pick up when it’s time for renewal. But is that service or just another sales technique?The level of transparency is the greatest measure of a school’s integrity. It’s a reflection of their standards of service.Does the school fully disclose all the costs involved in your training? Some schools have additional fees, like mandatory programs or association fees, that they don’t mention until you reach a certain point in your training.
When you have questions, do you get a clear answer right away or do you get an evasive response? The response you get is a good sign of what kind of service you can expect.
Many schools require you to sign a contract in order to take classes. Some schools offer a trial period where you can pay for a number of classes before you agree to a contract. A contract is simply a written agreement between you and the school, and it can always be negotiated. They should be willing to explain the details of the contract to your full understanding and agree to make any changes you feel are important, as long as it’s mutually beneficial.9. Price and Fees:How important is price to you? For many people, it’s the only real limiting factor.Since most people don’t know how to compare value to price, martial arts schools generally don’t advertise their prices – unless they’re promotional.Be honest. Before you read this guide, what’s one of the first thing you wanted to know about a martial arts school?Fees are usually priced by:Term period – specified time period with flexibility of the amount of classes taken, usually monthly or yearly
Number of classes – specified amount of classes taken
Combination of term and number of classes – usually a monthly fee based on the number of classes taken per week
Specific Programs – packaged programs such as Black Belt Clubs, Instructor Programs, Certification Programs, Seminars, etc.Tuition can range anywhere from $50 per month to $500 per month, depending on the school. Nowadays, the average tuition is about $150 per month for 2-3 classes per week.Tuition isn’t the only cost to consider. You will eventually be investing in training equipment, to some extent. Keep in mind that some styles require more equipment.While price is important, a common mistake is to compare price without comparing value.Consider the previous steps and the benefits before you focus on price. This way you can place some sort of dollar value on each component of a school and then shop around.Think of the convenience of schedule and location, the suitability of teaching style, class dynamic and level of instruction in relation to your personality and goals – can you put a price on that?With the knowledge you gained by reading this guide, you can make an educated choice in “how to invest” in your training instead of “being sold” a membership.Most schools require annual contracts. The contract should clearly explain the details of your membership. Generally, schools don’t offer any refunds on tuition.In most cases, a school will agree to make reasonable changes to the contract if you ask them.If you’re committed to your practice and have found a school following this guide, signing a contract is usually not an issue. However, knowing potential costs and understanding school policies will help you negotiate any changes, if necessary. What you’re really after is “peace of mind”, isn’t it?A contract should be mutually beneficial, so you want to insure that the contract also benefits you. This can mean discounted rates, as an example. A contract is also an incentive for you to get your money’s worth by coming to class regularly.Ask about:Price incentives for paying in full
Discounts for family members
Training equipment – and if they have to be purchased directly from the school
Belt testing fees
Any federation or association member fees
Cost for programs such as Black Belt Clubs and any other mandatory programs
Membership freezes in case of travel, injury, or maternity
Policy for relocation or moving
Fees for early cancellationIt’s also a good idea to ask whether the billing is managed directly by the school or if they use a billing company. Many schools use a billing company to help manage your tuition payments.If the school out-sources their billing, you will be dealing with the billing company for the payment of your tuition fees. The billing company will generally only contact you if you are late on your payment. If you ever have to deal with the billing company you can expect the type of service you get from a collection agency. They can also make negative reports on your credit.A high-quality school has the confidence to earn your business without requiring a contract. But they are rare. These schools are clear about their role. They focus on their core responsibility of providing quality instruction and guidance in your martial arts practice. Schools of this caliber don’t need to use creative sales and marketing techniques. Their business is built by their reputation, word-of-mouth.10. INSTINCT:Pay attention to your intuition when visiting a school. While going through the 10 steps outlined in this guide, you’ll instinctively know when you’ve found the right school.How long the school has been in business? Are they stable?
Are you confident in the instructor?
Do you like the instructor’s teaching style and personality?
Are the students friendly?
Did you have fun? Did you feel inspired?Ultimately, we make decisions based on our emotions and we justify them with logic. Your decision should be instant and definite. If you find yourself thinking too much or having to convince yourself, something is out of whack. Go back to step 1 or keep looking.