This is a compiled timeline based upon a variety of schools, all with slightly or significantly different timelines. Based upon the information from those schools, here is a pretty solid chronology of events relating to preparation and planning for your martial arts school.
180 Days Out
Begin to Develop Your Business Plan
Use the Search Engine on The Martial Arts Teachers’ Association to find information and examples of good business plans. Work on this every day all the way through opening and refer to it often afterwards. This is your map.
Choose a School Name
A good name is short and easy to remember and understand. Resist using your style in the name. Instead, consider using your name, city, or region and maybe one word that describes your focus.
Examples of good names:
World Champion Jeff Smith Karate
Palm Harbor Kickboxing
John Graden’s USA Karate
Family Martial Arts
Martial Arts Fitness Center
Kickboxing for Fun and Fitness
Florida Karate Academy
Secure The Domain Name For Your School
If you can’t get the domain name to match your school, try to get one that can promote it. For instance, if you have a kung fu school, but can’t get a domain to match your school name, another great choice would be www.DiscoverKungFu.com or www.TakeKungFu.com. Visit HYPERLINK “http://www.godaddy.com/”GoDaddy.com to see what domains are available and also HYPERLINK “http://www.MartialArtsWebsites.com/”MartialArtsWebsites.com for great domain names.
Forget About the Yellow Pages
You get a free listing in the yellow pages and that is all that you need. Spend your resources on a great website instead.
170 Days Out
Choose an Accountant and Attorney/Solicitor
Be sure to ask around. All accountants and attorney/solicitors are not equal. Make sure they specialize in small business owners.
Choose Your Business Structure – Sole Proprietor, Partnership, S or C Corp, or LLC. Helping you decide is the first task of your account and attorney/solicitor. Be sure the articles of incorporation include a hold harmless for you and an indemnity clause that will reimburse you for any expenses you incur that arise out of any action against the company.
File for Tax IDs
Have your attorney/solicitor file for your Federal Employment Tax ID as part of your business structure plan, and have your accountant apply for your State, Province, VAT Tax ID, and any others required in your state. Note, you may only have to pay taxes such as VAT on merchandise sold over a certain level. Check with your accountant to make sure you are not paying taxes you don’t have to.
Apply for an American Express Credit Card, Blue Card and/or a High Reward Visa
Use these strictly as business-only cards that are to be paid off each month.
Open General Bank Account
Use this to pay rent, phone, and utility deposits, and clear your credit card statement in full each month.
Obtain a Merchant Account to Take Credit Cards
You don’t want someone to walk in during construction that wants to enroll and not be able to take his or her credit card. You can sell intros, merchandise, and programs in person and online at a discount long before the doors open. Get your merchant account right away.
Open a PayPal.com account to take online orders.
PayPal is more of a convenience than a need. You will find some people who spend easier and faster with a PayPal account than a credit card or check. There is something about the quickness of a click that works in our favor.
160 Days Out
Complete Your Business Plan
Use the Examples in the Planning Section of MATA
The missing elements of business structure, name, location, etc., can be finalized now, along with the impact they may have on the Plan.
Create a Marketing Plan
Your marketing over the next year will emphasize Low Risk Marketing, as opposed to High Risk Marketing. What’s the difference? Low Risk costs little or nothing. You risk your time, not your money. Let the competition write checks for High Risk Marketing. You’ll write a media release instead.
Begin to Develop Your Curriculum and Belt Ranks
This can change up to the end, but it’s helpful to have this important element of your success worked on way in advance of opening.
Hire a Logo Artist
For about $350 you can have a professional logo developed for your school by our artists. This is an important step, so don’t play artist and do it yourself.
150 Days Out (At the latest)
Start Location Shopping
Use the Location Evaluator in this section to help you pick a good location.
120 Days Out
Prepare Emergency Financing
We suggest you never go into debt to fund a start-up, but it’s a good idea to make sure your credit is clean and make requests for increases in your credit line just in case.
Shop for a Good Sign Maker
You don’t have a place to put it yet, but have the creation process rolling along, so all you have to do is determine the dimensions and mounting. Get various quotes based upon the restrictions placed on the sign by your lease or local regulations.
90 Days Out
Sign Lease (Make sure your attorney/solicitor reviews every step of this process)
Review the section on Lease Negotiations. You will need at least 90 days to have the school built out to your specs, so this is the latest in the process you want this done. Hold off on setting any kind of opening date until this step is complete.
Begin Build-Out as Soon as You Can.
Review Lease Negotiations for build-out negotiation strategies and school layout examples.
Order Telephone and Utilities
You may need to forward the phone to your home or cell phone until you open, but get that number established. Try to make it easy to remember, such as 341-1000.
Order Business Cards and Stationary
Order as soon as you know your address, phone, web site, and e-mail. You will want to have cards ready and use letterhead in your communications to show you are professional.
Order and Mount Your Sign
As soon as you sign the lease, get your sign up with banners and window art that keeps people up-to-date on the progress of the school and directs them to your web site and phone to get info and enroll for pre-opening discounts.
Obtain Your Permits, plus Occupational, Merchant License or Equivalent
Depending on your build-out, you may be responsible for getting the building permits, etc., for the construction. Make sure you meet all the requirements for access, etc.
Also, be sure to get whatever licensing your community requires to operate a business.
60 Days Out
Write Your Sound Bites – Memorize It Cold!
Develop one 30-second sound bite that answers the question, “What do you do?” What is the most powerful, compelling answer you can come up with for that question? Compare, “I teach martial arts” to “I help adults who want to improve their lives by learning to take care of themselves, create great focus, and get in the best shape ever.” Or, “I help parents who want to see their children become more confident, focused, and fit.”
Join Chamber of Commerce (and maybe a charity organization)
This is a free way to get the word out among the community leaders that you are going to open a martial arts center. Business cards are a must here.
Get Professional Liability Insurance for Your School
45 Days Out
Finalize Belt Requirements
Since you may be the only instructor, don’t require everything you teach. As you plan your exam programs, make sure it is realistic and manageable. You can always modify it later.
Create The First Class Schedule
Since you may be the only instructor, resist the common mistake of scheduling too many classes at first. Focus on two or three classes per night for beginners and a martial arts fitness class on Saturday morning. This will keep you from burning out early and leave you with time to market each day.
Create a Media List
All local editors, TV, and radio producers go on this list. You will want to list their:
Department/angle (Sports, Human Interest, Business)
Create a Demo/Speech Target List
Like the Media List, research all the potential organizations that might be interested in your presenting a speech on martial arts, teaching a self-defense workshop, or doing a full blown demo.
You will want to list their:
Department/angle (Sports, Human Interest, Business)
30 Days Out
Order Logo Items
Patches, T-shirts, sweatshirts, etc. Take time to create. Don’t over-order, but do make sure you will have enough that you can give some away as premiums when you open.
Start Researching Office Equipment
What computer, desk, copier, phone system, etc., would be best for you? How can you get them as inexpensively as possible? Check the local classifieds and research on Ebay.com to find the lowest prices possible.
Review Your Marketing Plan
Rule One: Get one qualified lead per day. Every single day must be spent on filling your classes. Put on your uniform, and visit the stores in your strip mall. Find ways to co-op market. Become a marketing machine. Research the Low Risk Marketing Department at www.MartialArtsTeachers.com.
Rule Two: Write down your scripts for the phone call, walk in, school tour, intro, and enrollment. Then practice them as you drive or in front of a video camera.
Rule Three: Write down and memorize how to describe the benefits of training at your school.
Rule Four: Create copy and paste email responses to inquiries.
Make sure you are spending time each day “Attracting new students.” That means writing emails, meeting people, “shaking hands and kissing babies.”
Don’t let yourself get so distracted by the demands of building the school that you neglect building your student body.
Get Credit Card with Generous Reward Program for Equipment, and Open Retail Bank Account
Use one credit card for all merchandise purchases. Pay it off each month in full. Let the rewards grow. Deposit all receipts for equipment into your Retail Account. When the credit card bill comes in, pay it in full from this account. Your credit score will increase, as will your frequent flyer miles. Best of all, this account should grow each month.
20 Days Out
Write First Media Release
This will be an announcement of your school, what you offer, when you will open, and how to contact you.
Write Sales Presentation Materials
Create your tuition sheets, program descriptions, Black Belt Club info, school brochures, and copy for your window (find a good window artist who works in temporary paint to rework your window every month or so).
Create a List of Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Maintenance Processes
This list is for everything NOT related to marketing and retention. This is cleaning, admin, filing, organizing, supply ordering, etc. There are Monday–Friday action lists in the MATA download area.
Establish a Wholesale Account with an Equipment Distributor
Student uniforms are top of the list along with training equipment. This is a great way to expand your retail sales into a significant profit center.
10 Days Out
Mail First Media Release
7 Days Out
Call Media to Follow Up on Releases.
Call Prospects and Start Scheduling Appointments for Intros
Each Day, Make Yourself Visible in Uniform to Your School’s Neighborhood
1-3 Days Out
Practice and Role-Play
Do as many role-plays as you can. With a friend or spouse, role-play the phone call, the intro, the school tour, the enrollment conference. Practice your sound bite over and over again.
You are more prepared than 95% of any other school owner on opening day. You’ll do great.