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Are Your Martial Arts Assistant Instructors Employees?

Determining whether your studio is ready to hire on additional help can be influenced by two factors —

  • The number of students you feel comfortable handling with your current resources.
  • Your financial goals.

Let’s consider some of the problems facing a lone instructor…

Who answers the phone while you’re teaching a class?

The phone poses the biggest distraction for a lone instructor.   However, there are ways to handle that particular problem.  

Do you use an answering machine to handle the calls?   Absolutely not.

When folks are calling for information about signing up for martial arts lessons, they want a real person on the other end ready to answer their questions.   If they don’t get one, they may end up calling another martial arts school.

Should a visitor in the lobby answer the phone for you?   Never.

You’ll always want the person answering the phone to sound professional.   We all know the first thought that crosses our minds when we call a place of business and the person that answers says “Yeah?”   Not good.

Should you hire a receptionist?

Not necessarily.   In this day of modern technology, a cellular phone is probably the best option for handling calls during a class and when you’re away from the studio.   You can have your office phone set up to forward your calls to you wherever you are.

If you choose not to have a cellular phone, your second best option is to step away from your class and handle the call quickly, preferably in less than a minute.  

This may require you having to ask the caller to call back when your class ends. Or, you may need to have a pen and paper next to the phone in order to scribble down a name and number so that you can call the person back after class.

Taking Care Of The Paperwork

Again, modern technology serves us well.   A computer is a staple in most studios, and the record keeping for a martial arts studio is relatively minimal.   Generally, a good database will assist you in tracking student attendance and payment, creating lesson plans, and such.

However, you might consider employing a professional billing company to handle your accounts receivables.   They have the necessary equipment, as well as a well-trained staff able to make collections more efficiently as well as save you valuable time that you could put to better use.

In addition, you may also think about hiring a bookkeeper to handle your accounts payable and manage your taxes.

By outsourcing these two functions, you can save a great deal of money by not having to hire an employee.

If your goal is to increase your profitability, then you’ll want to put off hiring employees until your studio income is high enough to accommodate the expense of an employee.

When you hire an employee, there’s a lot more to consider than just their salary.   For instance, there are employee taxes, social security, vacation and other benefits that can really take a bite out of your overall profits.   Not to mention, additional equipment and a place for them to perform their duties.

How many students can a lone instructor handle before he needs reinforcement?

It’s not so much how many students, as how your classes are arranged.   This is the point where you’ll need to decide between how much work that you personally want to do versus the profit that you desire to achieve.

Experts suggest that about 150 students per instructor is a good rule of thumb.   The key to handling student load is in scheduling smart and creating a good leadership team program. (Use the search function to find articles on each)

The ideal formula for maximizing your school’s profits it to conduct business with a low overhead and a lot of classes.   Here’s a suggestion for easily accommodating as many as 150 students.  

First, space your classes out correctly.   You can do that by having your students attend class no more than twice a week. Teaching three classes per day, five days a week, and limit your classes to no more than 20 students.   There you have it… 150 students attending class twice a week. Of course, that’s nice in theory, but you can get very close to that by assigning specific class times to students and getting your leadership team going.

Once you’ve exceeded 150 students, you might consider hiring an additional staff member.   However, in order to maximize the benefits of this additional staff member they should not only be able to teach lessons, they should also be able to assist you in the marketing and sales functions of your studio.

Keep in mind that in order for you to teach a staff member how to answer the phone and enroll intros, you have to be able to do it yourself.

In order to get the most bang for your buck, this additional staff member should be able to complete all of the other tasks that you can do without a great deal of supervision.

Basically, you should be able to function well and bring in a considerable profit if you plan on one full-time instructor per 150 students.

Handling Intro lessons

Intro lessons are, of course, valuable in convincing customers to try out the martial arts.   However, they can be time-consuming.  

Therefore, you might consider eliminating the traditional two or three 30-minute class samplers and incorporating your intro into your enrollment process.   For instance, you can offer a prospective student a 20-minute introduction to the martial arts followed by a five minutes sales presentation. Schedule the second intro only if the student doesn’t enroll after the first.

Create an enrollment program that is fun and easy, and consider holding class intros just one day a week – a Saturday, for example.   You’ll find that you’re able to devote your energy and enthusiasm to gaining new students.

In the interest of providing the best service to your students and bringing in a nice profit on your studio, you need to maximize your resources.   Which means not hiring a new employee until cash flow has increased enough to justify the expense.

How much should a studio bring in?

Staff expenses, including your salary, should not exceed 35% of the total school gross each month. Each new hire cuts into that amount.

A good rule of thumb for a well-run studio is that it nets between 40- to 60-percent of the gross annual income.   That is hard to do with paid employees. Of course, that ratio may be affected by where your studio is located.

For instance, a studio in Oklahoma is likely to net more than one in Washington DC due to the lower overhead.