Martial Arts Schools Owners
Client Related Issues
In this section I will discuss student and client related issues.  In the nearly two decades that I have been a martial arts school owner and a 30 years I have been a business owner, I can say I think I have seen almost everything.  Yet, each day presents me with more  obstacles, struggles, pitfalls and new situations that I just stand there and scratch my head in awe and say "I never saw that coming."  I am sure you have your share of annoying, frustrating, sad, and mindbending stories.  So if you would like please send your questions, stories and thoughts my way. Just click here to email me.

I can tell you stories that would make you laugh, cry, and want to literary pull out your hair and yell at the top of your lungs. In all my years, I have had students who stole from me  (equipment), I have student who work for me steal money from me, I have employee's quit or get fired and steal clients, I have had parents threaten me - if I didn't promote their child they were quitting, I have had people even steal my web address using it to direct potential clients to their school, trying to ride on my hard work and market branding. 

Here is a funny story:

It was an early Wednesday morning, the sun was out in the sky, and my mood.... ah heck - lets cut to the chase.  I had a meeting with three mom's of my students during the day.  We sat in my office as I welcomed them.  When I asked them why we were meeting, one of the mom's took the lead by saying "we feel like we are paying for your Corvette."  I laughed looked her in the eyes and said, "Ok, thats funny why are you really here."  There was silence in the room, the three looked at each other, shifting in their seats and then the mom repeated "This is why we are here." 

Of course I was in awe, but I asked what she meant.  She went on to explain that it offended her that I was driving a brand new car and felt that the money she was paying me was going to my car.  I looked at her and laughed.  I answered "of course your money is going to my car, it is going to my house, to food, to savings and to pay the many bills, such as payroll, insurance, heat, air condition etc."  She then replied " we understand that you need to make a living, but such a good one, that is not what teachers do.  We believe you should be driving a clunker."  "A clunker I asked?"  She said "yes, something less attractive."  I then replied " well you know, I would love for my students to see that I am a success, that I work hard, that I achieve goals and that I am a good role model for them.  I don't want them to see me just as a fighter who is barely able to afford, the American Dream."  I then told the parents that if they felt I should be a failure financially so they can feel better about themselves, then they are at the wrong school.  There are many school owners who will oblige.   I then said they had three days to decide or I was kicking them out of my school.  We as martial art teachers are looked at like the public views civil servants.  Servants - while we do serve our community, we are not to be treated like second class citizens, much like they public views teachers and law enforcement.  Teachers, law enforcement, Fire Department are the people who are the protectors.  I feel we fit into that category so we should be highly regarded and paid.  We are changing and saving lives every day.  I later on kicked them out. 

Here is another story:

I once had two college students a boyfriend and girlfriend enter my office and ask if they can speak with me.  I said "Of course."  The girl sat in the chair with the boyfriend behind her with arms on her shoulders.  She handed me a letter and asked that I read it.  I opened it and read it.  The letter basically explained they were college students on a budget and that they saw the car I drove, by the way it was a Ford T-bird super coupe which I paid $19,500.  The letter went on to say that my wife drove an infinity and they drove by my house and they thought it was beautiful. 

At this point I could feel my teach clenching together,  I then continued.  They then asked for me to cut their school training tuition in half, because I seemed to be doing very well and they weren't and that I had it and should share the wealth. 

I finished the letter and looked both of them in the eyes and said "you do realize you have no right to go to my house, to look at my wife's car, to judge my car or to make any assumptions on who or what I am worth/"  They nodded.  "You also don't realize that I have given you more then you could have ever paid for in knowledge.  Due to this letter I am going to share with you another very valuable lesson."  They smiled.  I reached into my file cabinet, rifling through papers and pulled out both of their agreements.  "These are you yearly membership agreements, and you got me on a good day."  They smiled again.  I ripped both of them up, grabbed and envelope and put the agreement in an envelope.  "Here you go."   I handed it to them.  "The meeting is over."  You can go.  The both stood up, leaving the office and turned left toward the training floor.  I yelled out, whoa, wait a minute where you going.  They replied "to train."  I said, "Oh, know you know longer train at my school.  Go find another school with a teacher who doesn't have what I have, and go and stalk him as well.  Get out."  That was that. 

This is two of hundreds that I could share with you.  Check back for more additions to the insanity. 

Turning Bad Apples

into Good one's

Have you ever had a client that has pushed all the right buttons? One who has done everything in his or her power to get you to explode and say, "You, get out of here - or I'll__________!!!"
Don't hide how you feel; learn how to turn the feelings into a productive situation and turn your and their frowns upside down.
Too many times when we are faced with clients that are either angry or dissatisfied with our services or performance we either run from the situations or sweep them under the carpet, hoping that they will never surface again. In both cases, this is not the correct response. Months ago, I wrote an article called "Opening a Can of Worms." The old article has a direct correlation to managing anger, but most of
all, to taking that anger and turning it into true potential.

At times you may say to yourself that it is okay to get rid of a troublesome client. I do subscribe to the philosophy that you need to get rid of the bad apples, but sometimes we can help change those bad apples and save them. You see, when clients have good experiences with a company, they tend to tell three other people about them. Positive word-of-mouth is great for business. However, clients (or ex-clients) who are displeased with a situation tell, on average, 11 people about it. So you can see that it's often of benefit to turn a displeased client into a pleased one.Naturally, no one wants to walk into bad situation, but I have found in
the years that I have dealt with clients that it is easier to attack a difficult situation immediately than to let it fester and become bigger than it originally was. Always consider the value of your client, your reputation, and your company. I would say it is worth your while to face that angry customer and get the situation resolved as quickly as possible.

Here are nine steps to help you turn that frown upside down.

1. Take care of the situation immediately . Nothing is worse than letting a person's displeasure fester and allowing him or her to get even angrier. A quick phone call just to say you know about the situation and you intend to handle it may be enough to cool the flames. Then set an appointment to talk in person. I have realized after years of taking both approaches, immediately addressing problems and working with the students' or clients' best interest in mind always ends up as a win-win situation.

2. Be sure to show your concern and be genuine . Pretending to be concerned is a very easy way to make your clients angrier. You must take the time to walk the path of empathy and deal with the situation from your clients' point of view. At that point, make yourself perfectly clear on how you feel or how you would like to handle the situation. Now, don't get me wrong, you can't always bow down to a client, but
letting the client know that you are on the same team usually helps you to work things out more smoothly.

3. Don't rush your clients . Be patient and let them vent. Sometimes it just requires listening. It is not all about you and getting the solutions. Sometimes a client just needs to be heard. Never interrupt or shut them down. In many cases, it is best to just listen. If clients are angry they will eventually wind down. In some cases, they'll realize
that they blew the situation out of proportion and they'll feel foolish. Then they're likely to accept nearly any solution you offer.

4. Keep calm . Often, in times of anger, people say and do things they don't mean to say or do. Learn to let those things go. Once, while training with Shihan Steven Seagal, he told me you must take things into your mind, but not into your heart. Don't let people rent space in your heart. Another great quote is "While you are holding a grudge, the person you are holding a grudge on is out dancing."

5. Ask the correct questions . Your goal in a situation like this should be to get to the bottom of the situation. I learned a long time ago, there is a bit of truth in every story. So even though you may not agree, you should ask yourself "What can I learn from the client?" Your aim must be to discover the specific things that you can do to correct
the problem. Try to get precise information about the difficulties the problem caused, rather than a general venting of grievances.

6. Get clients to give you ideas on solutions . Once you have everything out in the open, then you can work together on solutions to get rid of the problem. Hopefully, at this point the clients are willing to work with you. If not, then you should schedule another appointment for a time when they are calmer and ready to cooperate to
make the situation better.

7. Agree together on a solution . Once you have identified the challenge and you have talked about solutions, you are now ready to set some in stone. Agree on a course of action that both of you can live with, and then stick to it.

8. Set up a time frame . Once you've agreed on a solution, set a schedule and a realistic time frame that you both can happily work within. This will give you both time to work at the situation and fix it. The biggest mistake you can make is to agree to something that can't be accomplished, just to smooth things over. Honesty is the best policy. Sometimes, even if you can't work out a solution, clients will be happy
because you have been totally honest with them.

9. Live up to your promises . Make sure that your commitments have top priority to you and that they don't get forgotten. The troublesome situation may not have been that big of a deal to you, but if it upset a client that much it meant a lot to him or her. Validate the client's feelings by being totally professional. Often, this will create a level
of customer loyalty that you could never have imagined.

Turning "bad apples" into "good apples" can be done if you address and solve your clients' problems in a professional manner. It will help you in the future because clients will recognize that you are approachable and that if anything ever happens again, rather than getting angry they can come right to you and talk to you. Once you've fixed clients' problems, you'll have earned other opportunities to serve their needs in
the future...and the needs of those who'll be told about how well you handled them. And when you've successfully satisfied a difficult client can often be the perfect time to promote alternate programs and to up sell. I like to look at every situation as a way to grow, both financially and spiritually. Learn from your problem situations and you
will grow and prosper.