All posts by Andrew Green

Transparency in Pricing

I’m not going to lie, we did listen to this advice once upon a time, but to be honest it felt wrong then.

But there is a “standard” practice in the martial arts and other related industries to not tell you the price until you give them something. Whether it is coming in to talk in person, a email address or something.

The logic is reasonable in some sense, or at least it was at one point.

The basic idea is people are often price shoppers, so unless you are the cheapest you have to show them the value of what you do before showing them the price. And unfortunately if you are the cheapest it is impossible to deliver the best product and trying to do so will put you out of business fast. There is no product or service where you can deliver the best option while being the cheapest. The best car is going to cost more to make then the price of a cheap car by far.

In other words if I call around and ask a bunch of places the price of a tv and they all give me prices but nothing else I’ll go with the cheapest. But, some of those tv’s where 13” CRT’s and others 60” LED’s and everything in the middle with good brands and poor brands all mixed in.

But something changed, and that was the internet.

Back when the only information you could find on a school was the yellow page ad without actually going in this practice made a little more sense. Now however you can find videos, blogs, reviews, in depth websites, and more on pretty much any school.

You can find out a lot about any school without speaking to anyone nowadays. The schools themselves lost control over the information that goes out about them. This is a good thing for everyone, it makes us up our game and it put all the places that hooked you into long term contracts with shady sales tactics and collections enforcement out of business.

Our prices are all available publicly, as is pretty much anything else we get asked about. We aren’t the cheapest, we couldn’t do what we do if we tried to be. And we are also trying to put as much public content about our school and what we do out there as well.

It’s not about the person at the top, its about the people at the bottom.

One thing I’ve noticed with a lot of people in my profession is a dislike of teaching beginners. I suppose I get it, it can be a little repetitive teaching the same basic concepts everyday. It doesn’t really challenge your technical knowledge or force you to improve your own technical knowledge in the same way as teaching adult students.

I’ve also noticed a correlation between those people, and the schools that have the top person of the school or the organization plastered everywhere, right down to the school name. The website is all about them, everyone bows to them and addresses them as “sir”, or “master”, and treats them as something special.

The unfortunate thing is that while martial arts schools claim to teach humility, the culture of many schools seems to do the opposite.

Beginners are in many ways the most rewarding to teach. Someone going from 0 to 6 months training makes a huge and noticeable improvement. Someone going from 10 years to 10.5 is a much less noticeable change.

As instructors / coaches our job is to serve our students, not the other way around.

One of the most dangerous things in any activity is when the instructor begins to think the students serve him / her rather then the other way around. Whether is in the martial arts, team sports, academic or anywhere else, as soon as that switch gets backwards it is a open door for disaster.

Our school culture is very intentional, there are elements of “traditional” martial arts that we will never allow in our school. No one here will ever be called master. Instructors will never be on a pedestal, but always expected to speak to everyone, from the 3 year old beginner to the 20 year veteran with respect and to serve their needs, not the other way around.

We believe that one of the most important lessons you can teach a child is that leaders serve others.

Happy New Year!

2018 – Where we are and what’s coming

2017 is over, and it’s been a great year. So let’s start with a little review…

We where given the Top Choice Award for best martial arts school in Winnipeg for 2017, and in a few days we hope to get it again for 2018

Our Birthday Parties exploded… We did more parties in the last 3 months of 2017 then we did in all of 2016. Why? Because we decided to take the birthday party experience to the next level.

Our spring / summer camps ran more weeks then ever!

We changed our kids membership options to “all inclusive” memberships based on feedback from our parents. This meant all equipment, special events and more was included in the monthly fees keeping things nicely balanced for easy budgeting.

Our adult program, which has been a heavy no-gi (uniform) grappling program for years brought in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ranks and uniforms to allow a more in depth program.

Lindsay has moved from coming in to help out with events and camps to full time… oh, and we got engaged

We’ve built some great relationships with local schools, business and even the Children’s Museum

So looking into 2018… what’s coming?

Our adult BJJ program is going to explode. Seriously, every program we’ve focused on from preschoolers to camps to birthday parties we’ve exploded. Adult BJJ is one of the big missing pieces and 2018 will put that program up their with our other offerings.

Our kids program is going to relaunch a leadership program in a completely new and improved format. We’ve had so many graduates of our kids program move on to do amazing things in leadership roles, including becoming some of our top staff members over the years. Coming soon we will be inviting several of our top performers into a new leadership program to teach them our approach to leadership and coaching.

More public content. Social media is something we want to start pushing even more content too. We are very proud of what we do, and while we probably have put out more content through our Facebook, instagram and blog then most schools, we want to really blow it up. So make sure you keep your eyes open, we have some really cool stuff coming down the pipe.

We have a name to live up too, and the entire martial arts world has been flipped on it’s head in the past few years. In 1994 Royce Gracie choked out Dan Severn in a triangle choke from guard (bottom) and no one knew what had happened. Now “Triangle Choke” returns 159,000 results on youtube including instructional content from 100’s of instructors. 20 years ago most instructors viewed our knowledge as secret and privileged, advanced stuff taught behind closed doors only. Those days are over… not just in the martial arts but in everything.

Now, thanks to the internet knowledge is free, its everywhere. You can learn anything for free at any time. Our roles have changed, we are not sources of information anymore, but sources of curation and coaching. Martial arts instructors can no longer hide behind mysticism and lack of knowledge of their students, we have to be better.

Not just in our classes, but everywhere. 20 years ago the biggest yellow page ad won in a community. Instructors controlled all the information that came out about them and what they did. Now google and Facebook reviews can tell a story that can’t be controlled.

Join us in 2018, we are going to keep stepping up our game and shaking up the martial arts world.

And keep an eye our youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/innovativemartialartswinnipeg We have some cool stuff about to go down there

Top 6 New Years Resolutions You Should Make

1 – Be mindful of your environment. This is a simple thing, but one that can have a very powerful effect. But what we take in determines a large part of what we will put out. If you spend most of your time with people that are unhealthy, chances are you will be too. If you spend all day listening to negative news stories, chances are you will have a negative outlook on the world.

One of the most powerful ways you can change your life is by changing the information you take in. This includes people, news sources, podcasts, the sort of movies & shows you watch… everything.

Our mindset determines a huge part of our successes and failures in life, and a healthy mindset requires positive inputs.

2 – Love the journey, not the side-effects. Lots of people want to look a certain way, or make a certain amount of money, or have certain things… but that can never make you happy, those are side effects of the lifestyle that gets you there. If you want to look like you are in shape, you have to live a healthy lifestyle. If you want to make lots of money you have to work hard and smart and continue to educate yourself constantly.

People that start a diet & exercise plan with a goal of looking a certain way are destined to fail. The aesthetics are a side effect of a lifestyle, if you don’t love the lifestyle it won’t last. You might get that motivational boast as long as you are seeing results, but eventually those results plateau.

The fitness industry has become a steady stream of before and after pics, progress pics, and fad looks that are unhealthy and unrealistic. There is nothing wrong with getting a lifestyle you enjoy and a level of fitness you are happy as it gives you the energy and ability to have the quality of life you want and then living it that way without worrying about your next Instagram progress pic. At the end of the day being able to run around and play in the yard with your grand kids in 30-40 years is more important then having super defined abs.

3 – Learn a skill, or pick up a neglected one. As we get older it is easy to stop learning what we don’t need to. Part of what keeps us feeling young is learning though, and it is never too late to learn something new or take existing knowledge and expand on it.

So pick up that instrument that has been untouched in years, spend some time learning new cooking techniques on youtube or in a class, go get that black belt you stopped at green belt on the way too, whatever suits your interests, do something that makes you learn.

4 – Do something that makes you uncomfortable. Comfort is the enemy of progress in just about anything. As we get comfortable in where we are we stop going outside of that. Find something that makes you uncomfortable and do it until it’s no longer uncomfortable to do.

Whether it is as simple as door-to-door canvassing for a cause, speaking to a room, haggling a price, posting a video or picture of yourself, starting a new class or talking to someone that you’ve always wanted to talk too. Do something that makes you uncomfortable, you’ll probably surprise yourself by getting good at it.

5 – Make memories, not purchases. Listening to people talk is part of the holidays, one thing that I think stands out in how most people talk is that when they tell a story about something in their past or from their childhood the “things” of the story don’t matter all that much. It’s what happened and what everyone did and who was there that do.

I know all of my memories of Christmases are about the people and the places, never the things I got as gifts. Take the time off to make some memories that will last a life time. Doing the same things you do all year but for longer periods over the holidays will be quickly forgotten. Playing the latest shooting game that will be obsolete in 6 months will be forgotten quickly. A fingerling… that looked so much cooler in the video will be forgotten in no time. Building a giant back yard snow fort painted with spray bottles & food colouring for a afternoon… that will be remembered for a lifetime.

6 – Do something amazing, for someone you have no reason to do so for, without any internal expectation of something in return. Better yet, do this a lot of times. The more good you put out the more will find its way back too you. But anytime you do good with the mindset of getting it back right away it will fail in the long term, even if it works in the short.

There is a famous quote that says you can get anything you want in life, if you help enough people get what they want.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of our favourite holidays at Innovative Martial Arts. We decorate, we throw a big zombie night party and the kids all love talking about zombies, witches and werewolves.

Halloween is not just about the candies though, it’s actually a holiday that fits very nicely with one of our core values, teaching kids confidence.

Letting kids be a part of creating scary things, being the scary thing themselves and getting out in the neighbourhood interacting with people is a great event for building confidence. Taking the scary imagery and creating it takes it from being scary to being fun. Going up to a door and yelling “Trick-or-Treat” is met with a reward for being confident enough to walk past the ghost and the coffin and yell at a strangers house.

The scary looking clown with a blood stained outfit is far less scary when they watched their friend put the costume on.

I’ve seen a lot of nervous and anxious kids that where able to put on a scary costume and then have a blast running around “scaring” everyone else.

If you have a child that is scared, don’t try to shelter them from the holiday, teach them their is nothing to be afraid of. If they don’t want to yell “trick-or-treat” at the door or ring the bell that’s ok, tell them when they are ready to do so they can start getting candy. Small steps are ok, but by the end of the night they might be yelling as loud as they can :)

If the time is right even flip things on them, make them hold your hand and tell you it’s only decorations to go up to a particularly scary house because you are too scared :D

Kids and Business

Business is one of those things that is a really relevant and useful skill, but is so often neglected in childhood education.

Kids can greatly benefit from learning basic business skills, and operating micro-businesses.

Learning the value of money, and how it is made are valuable life lessons that will help a lot in the future.

A simple thing like a freezie or Lemonade stand might be the first things to come to mind when it comes to kids and businesses, but there are other options.  That said, let’s look at what skills are necessary for that sort of business.

Inventory, they need to purchase it and prepare it.  Understanding that they can take some amount of money, add value and create more money is a important thing that teaches self-worth.

It also requires a understanding of value.  In order to produce income they have to make sure their costs are lower then their price.

Inventory also costs money, which they may or may not have.  If not then it is a loan that might get them there.  Now a loan should have interest attached to it, as in the real world that’s how it works.  The other thing a loan does is teach long term thinking.  If they borrow $10 for supplies, generate $25, pay back $11 (10 + 10% interest) they have 14 left.  If they reinvest they will make more next time… if they spend it they are stuck paying interest again next time.

Or get creative, buy in at $10 for a equity stake where you get a piece of the profits, however they can buy that stake back later if they want.  Again, delaying spending the money “now” in order to generate more in the future

In addition to basic money skills comes customer service & sales.  Again, hugely valuable skills when they are old enough to enter the workplace and to be able to understand how the service industry works.  Kids are blasted with ads constantly, what happens when they start thinking about those ads, how they work and trying to create their own sign?  I’d encourage them to not just look at their own ads, but to start paying attention to the ads they see and what those ads are attempting to influence.

Does it need to be a food / beverage stand?  Of course not, kids have all sorts of options available to them depending on their age.  Other standard kids jobs like babysitting, yard care, shovelling, dog walking, window washing, car washing, etc. are all options.

But kids are also creative, maybe they can come up with something new?  If they are obsessed with spinners maybe they can make them and sell them?  Maybe they can sell old toys or flip garage sale finds on kijiji? Maybe they can create something entirely unique to them and do something with that?

The next thing to look at is persistency, consistency and adapting.  A one day stand might do a little money.  But if they commit to every Saturday from 11-1 or any other consistent schedule they might start finding repeat customers and referrals.  If they shovel a driveway once that’s good, but if they commit to every snowfall they can get regular customers.  Things build momentum in any business or really any job.  And if things really aren’t working… why? and what ideas do they have to fix it?

Academic education is only part of the picture when it comes to building the skills that a kid will need to crush it as an adult.  If they have a interest in money and business it is never to young to start learning.

btw – if you feel odd taking interest, royalties or renting out your rake and lawnmower to your own child keep in mind the reason, the goal is to teach about money and those sorts of things are important in how money actually works.  Feel free to put it away and give it too them later, or buy them something with it.

Skills Kids Will Need to Succeed in the Modern World

20 years ago math teachers where still telling kids they won’t always have a calculator on them…

Now I don’t even need to pull the phone out of my pocket to get Siri to solve basic math questions.  Not only that I also have in my pocket pretty much every piece of information I could ever want.

Information is no longer as valuable, because we all have access to it at all times.

This has had a huge effect on the way we conduct ourselves and how the businesses operates and what skills are valued in employees.

As a simple example, if you where going to make a big purchase 15 or more years ago you’d get most of your information from the salesperson.  That person is motivated to make the sale more then anything in a lot of cases and where really the one holding all the cards.  Nowadays you can pull up reviews, compare features, price compare and more on any product before even speaking with a person… or just order online and cut out sales people completely.

If you had a medical issue you relied solely on your doctor for information.  Now you can read studies, treatment options, get in touch with other people with the same issue, see lab results, etc.  All completely independently.

If you need to do some work around the home you can google the problem and pull up countless DIY videos and posts on plumbing, electrical, repair, construction, etc.

Information is available to everyone as easy as a 5 second search on a device we carry with us pretty much 24/7.

Education is needing changes to adapt to the changing world, but changes in education happen slower then changes in the real world when it comes to tech.  So the rest of the community needs to help out and make sure kids are ready for the new and changing demands that will help make them successful in life.

So what are the skills that are becoming more and more important?

Knowing the answer is less important, we all have the answers in our pocket.  What is important is knowing the right question.  Being able to identify problems and find the right questions to produce the answers. Creativity and problem finding lead to problem solving.  Whether it is on a sales floor, in a board room or inventing a new product the person that can ask the right questions is the one that will come up with the best solution.

Creativity.  It’s now been 10 years since Ken Robinsons talk entitled “Do Schools Kill Creativity” went viral and got a lot of people thinking about education in the modern world.  Creativity in a age of easy access to information, automation and rapidly changing landscapes the ability to change, adapt and find new solutions is more important then ever.  Massive businesses like Blockbuster Video can disappear in the blink of an eye as new technology and behaviours take over.

Sales… Now when I say sales I don’t mean just selling people a product or service for money.  Sales happens everywhere.  More so then ever now.  A doctor must sell you on the best treatment options, while competing against 5 other options you found online.  A boardroom is full of sales presentations on which direction a company should turn.  Experts are no longer experts just because they have the information, we all have the information, they need to be able to ask the right questions to get us to buy their solution.

Adaptability.  Chances are, no matter what you do, it’s changed in some significant ways as a position over the past 20 years.  Entire career choices have disappeared, new ones have appeared and virtually every mid to high level position has undergone massive changes in the way business is done.

Media. Something interesting has happened, I heard a stat the other day that said about 40% of adults now have some sort of side business.  Whether it is selling on etsy, online ventures, offering consulting services, involvement in a MLM or starting a full business.  The playing field has levelled out substantially for “the little guy” and starting a small or even side business has never been easier.  The reason is everyone now has the ability to be their own media company.  If your content and message is good, you can have a successful channel on any number of mainstream platforms.  Youtube is now bigger then the big networks, and you can get on free with the camera on your phone.

What’s interesting is that as technology becomes more and more involved in our day to day lives it is a lot of the “soft skills” that seem to be becoming more and more important.  Even in very academic disciplines… an accountant that has a strong camera presence or the ability to write simple and relevant blog posts will dominate in the market over perhaps a slightly more skilled accountant that lacks the ability to capture an audience and build a network and personal brand.

 

 

Let’s Talk Discipline…

The word Discipline comes from the latin word “Disciplina” meaning teaching or instruction.  In modern culture it is often used as a synonym for punishment though, and that is far less of a useful skill.

This draws a line between to meanings of the word.  Internal discipline and externally imposed discipline.

An example of externally imposed discipline would be military boot camp.  Discipline in that context is doing what you are told, when you are told and not asking questions.

This is different from internal discipline which can’t be learnt through having someone direct your actions and behaviours and using punishment to ensure compliance.

Internal discipline is learning to teach yourself, controlling your own behaviour and making the most of your own abilities.  It is a skill that is gained through freedom and making your own choices.

External discipline is, in my opinion, far more superficial.  Using punishment and strict direction can certainly give a strong impression of discipline, but in our current culture is that enough to set a person up for success?

Much of todays educational practices where designed with factory workers in mind during the industrial revolution.  In that context external discipline was desired to keep people doing repetitive work grinding through the week.

In the martial arts much of the current practices have roots in military training.  Japanese arts where used to prepare boys for service, most of the eastern styles where brought to the west by military personal.

If you want external discipline for your child, and kids in straight lines punching and kicking in sync… we aren’t where you should go.  That’s not what we do or value.

Our flavour of martial arts by its very nature requires thinking and creativity under pressure.  It requires adaptability and staying calm under pressure.

Confidence and self-discipline can only come from believing in yourself and your own ability to make choices and take action.  Those things require freedom and with too much external discipline freedom to make choices disappears and confidence and self-discipline are never learned.

Now I am not saying external discipline should be completely removed.  It definitely needs to be there at times, but the bigger lesson is choice.  A child should learn that they can’t run around screaming and making a mess in the store, but the lesson should be in empathy not fear of punishment.

Nor does punishment need to go entirely, missing out on something for being disruptive is a lesson as well.  But the lesson can be you missed out because your choices caused other people to miss out when you where being disruptive.

So for us “discipline” is not about command and control alone.  It is a teaching empathy, thinking under pressure and other behaviours that lead a person to be successful in life.

 

 

The biggest change in the martial arts in the last 15 years…


I suspect a lot of people will think it’s the growth of the UFC and MMA.  Or maybe the re-emergence of grappling based systems, but that’s really not it.

The biggest change in the martial arts is the same change that has happened in almost everything… the internet.

What the internet has done has given accountability to businesses and taken power from the instructors and given it to the students / clients.

If we teach you a technique poorly you’ll find out, there are countless videos online showing every possible technique from every possible perspective and variation.  Instructors are no longer the guardians of hard to find knowledge.  It’s all gone public, our role has shifted to curators, organizers and coaches.

If we treat our customers poorly they won’t just tell 5 close friends… they will tell 500 or even 5000 online.  Students have access to a lot more information from a lot more sources then they ever did in the past.  15 years ago the only real information you where likely to find about any business would be stuff coming from that business.

The internet has really helped the martial arts, and every other sort of business by forcing everyone to up their game.  Businesses are no longer the ones holding all the cards and everything spreads faster and farther.

We are not the right school for everyone, no one is.  Which is another thing business can’t get away with anymore.  If you aren’t the right fit for our school we don’t want you here, it does neither of us any good.  The great thing about the martial arts is the huge variety in both what gets done and how it gets taught.  We’d rather recommend a place that is a good fit then have you here and unhappy.  Signing up people on long term memberships that are not a good fit in a time of information spreading fast hurts businesses more then the gain from keeping them on a contract.

That’s the biggest change to the martial arts as I see it.  Now the power has switched from instructors and owners and a buyer beware environment to clients and students having a lot more information from a lot more sources and business not being able to hold all the cards.

our goal is to get ahead of the curve, be the best we can at what we do and offer the best service and value we can.  We are quite happy with the way the world has changed and taken the “buyer beware” aspect of doing business doen

Innovating Membership Fees

Times have changed, and we are changing with them.

15 years ago if you wanted to start martial arts you pulled out the yellow pages or found a print ad in a local paper and called for information.  Now, by the time people call us they have generally been through our website, know our schedule, know our fees, seen videos of us, read reviews from others about us and have most of that information already.

15 years ago standard practice in the martial arts and other businesses with similar models was to not talk about price at all until you came in and tried it… this doesn’t work so well with the current state of information.

Worse was the practice of disguising fees.  There would be a monthly fee… and once you agreed to that you get told about the mandatory equipment package, and after that the required testing fees every 2-3 months.

There where a lot of reasons schools started these practices.  It lets you get a commitment on a lower price before adding in all the extra costs.  Sort of like buying a car… you agree on a price then you get all sorts of extra fees, or a cell phone contract that ends up with all sorts of extra monthly and activation fees.

Another reason was 3rd party billing companies where very common, and they operate on a percentage of fees collected.  So any extra fees didn’t lose that percentage.  It also made family discounts different as those fees did not get a discounted rate.

We’ve never done testing fees, it might make our monthly rate a little higher then if we did, but overall costs and monthly budgetting are more important in our eyes.

But we’ve taken it one step farther now, and developed a all-inclusive fee structure!

This makes monthly budgetting super simple.  All equipment is provided to you, as yours as you need it.  If it wears out or is outgrown, we replace it.  No hidden fees. No surprise costs.  Your monthly fee is your monthly fee.  If you have 3 kids in our program and they all hit growth spurts at the same time your monthly cost doesn’t spike that month to replace everything.

We also have no term contracts.  You don’t have to commit to a year or any set length.  We operate on simple ongoing memberships with a straight 30-days notice to cancel at any time.  Simple, easy and no surprises :)

The biggest complaints we hear from parents about kids activities of all sorts are long commitments and extra fees.  Whether they are outfits and event fees in dance, testing & equipment in martial arts or all the extra costs of sports like hockey.  We’ve done away with all of them, everything.  What you see is what you pay, every month.

Check out our website for full details :)