Over the last 35 years, John and Lynne Lynn grew the largest Shukokai Karate Association in Wales and were the 3rd largest Shukokai Karate Association in the UK. Drawing upon their experience of running a school in America, they talk about the benefits of using scripts and processes in your martial arts school to help better the customer experience and convert more leads to signups!
Tell me about yourself and your main school in Rhyl?
I have been training in Shukokai Karate for over 42 years. I originally discovered my passion for teaching and watching students progress through martial arts many years ago, when I was asked to take over a small school in Rhyl. After a short time running this school, we out-grew the location and as business was good, I decided to open up as a one of the first full time locations in the UK. Like many people over the years, I was told that a full time school wouldn’t work, however we grew to be one of the largest and most successful schools in the whole of Wales. Eventually we out-grew our dojo again so, moved to our current location – a 3500sq state of the art dojo – where we have been for the last 10 years.
In the beginning how did you build up your school and what do you think has been the key to its success?
I believe the key to our success is enthusiasm, hard work, dedication, commitment, having a great team and rock solid systems!
We work very hard continually training our staff and believe that the first point of contact with a prospect is the most important thing when building up and maintaining any school; no matter if that is a phone call or someone who walks in without an appointment. As such all our staff are fully trained, so regardless of who the first point of contact is with, we deliver a consistently positive experience to each and every prospect.
It’s great to see such a successful business come from a husband and wife team, how do you work together to keep your school running smoothly?
Well it’s perfect really, I love to teach and Lynne is a born organiser! In the beginning it took a while for us to get into a rhythm, but we eventually found what worked well for us and stick to that religiously. Our rule is, Lynne is the boss off the mat and I am the boss on the mat! This way we find that we both know who should be doing what and it prevents any arguments or mistakes helping the club to run smoother!
Rumour has it, you used run a martial arts school in America. What lessons can school owners in the UK learn from our American counterparts
We used to live in America, and even ran a martial arts school out there for a while, however when we came back to the UK, we noticed a big difference in the way schools were run between these two countries. American schools were run as serious businesses and had a more professional persona, however in the UK some schools were run only part time and often run as a hobby.
Another big difference is how the American schools are run. Many schools there run on systems, which if done well can deliver consistently high standards as expected by students and parents. These systems mean that people always get the best experience of their school… and hopefully encourages them to bring their friends with them too!
From seeing how successful these can be when implemented properly, I believe systems, scripts and processes are invaluable! Did you know that Walt Disney World is run almost entirely on scripts and systems, yet when you meet staff there you still feel like the most important person they have met that day!
That’s what we aim to implement in our club – every person who walks in is, and deserves to feel special!
Who have been the biggest influences on your journey through Martial Arts?
I would have to say Bruce Lee! The enthusiasm and excitement developed by Bruce Lee and his films combined with my own experience in martial arts that helped me develop a non-quitting attitude that has helped me get to where I am today.
Other influences on my martial arts journey came from Kimura (8th Dan) who was my instructor and his instructor Tani (9th Dan). When Kimura and Tani passed away, I trained in Germany for a while with Shihan Mitsuya (8th Dan) and his instructors who were also very influential on my journey.
Soki Hayashi (Grand Master-10th Dan) – Previous head of the Japan Karate Council also had an important influence on me and from my time in the USA, Master Steve Lavalle, Debbie Thompson and Cathy Faust (a World Kick Boxing Champion who also runs a very successful school in New York) had a significant impact on me too.
I’m really grateful for all the people who have helped me though my career to achieve the success we now enjoy.
As successful Master Franchisors, can you identify some traits of a successful franchisee?
Yes, the must have traits I look for in franchisee are attitude, reliability and intelligence.
For me, attitude is the most important one. Skill can be taught but a bad attitude can’t be altered.
Reliability is important too as not only do I have to be able to rely and trust you to look after the franchise and the brand, but equally as important your students and parents need to be able to rely upon you too.
Finally, it’s essential to have the intelligence to continue learning, growing and listening. It’s too easy to assume that after a few years you’ve learnt it all. I’ve been teaching for over 40 tears and I’m still learning!
Do you have any advice for Martial Arts Instructors looking to become franchisees?
It’s hard work, but unbelievably rewarding! It’s an amazing career, but you must have complete commitment to your school, your students and your dreams.
Tell me about business Merit Badges International
We started our merit badge business 35 years ago as an in-house scheme to encourage our students. It was really successful so we developed more badges until we had 10 basics (blocks kicks, punches etc) for our students to work towards collecting. After seeing the successful impact these badges were having and speaking with other instructors, we expanded our range further to cover other disciplines in a variety of styles.
As the business has continued to grow we have expanded our range even further and now offer almost 100 different merit badges, 48 life skill strips and even iron on stars, as well as expanding our offering to include reward stickers and retention postcards!
It’s great that you use merit badges to encourage your existing students, but what other kind of marketing activities do you do to keep growing and maintaining your school?
We approach marketing from 2 directions, internal and external marketing.
Our internal marketing is based upon the use of our merit badges and is aimed to keep students attending lessons, achieving their goals and just generally excited about coming to class.
Our external marketing is purely focussed on bringing new students into the club. We have a large list of marketing activities we can do and each month we pick 15 different acquisition activities to do, and then always try to outperform by completing another 5 on top of that! Although this sounds like a lot of work one of the things I learnt from my time out in the states is “don’t do one thing that bring in 20 students, do 20 things that bring in 1 student each”. Any additional students you acquire from these activities are a bonus!
Why did you decide to join NEST?
After our time in the USA, we returned to the UK and spoke with Master Martin Ducker, who recommended that we talk to Gerard from NEST about our school. NEST offered us a warm welcome and the help and support we needed. Since then NEST has become like a family member to us. We enjoy getting to get to know the other martial artists and networking in the friendly family atmosphere they create at their fantastic workshops and reunions. We are very proud to be members of such a respected and prestigious organisation and would like to thank NEST for their help and support over the years.
What do you like most about using their services?
NEST’s friendliness, helpfulness and knowledgeable staff are great. They are reliable and the constant renovation of their online systems helps us to stay ahead of the competition. We feel that NEST is at the forefront of technology in the martial arts industry and operate with total professionalism, but enjoy that they still maintain a traditional family feeling.
Threes of me:
Three things you are proud of:
- My wife – for being patient and putting up with me
- My students and team of instructors (especially Mark Sciberras, his wife Olivia and our Tracey Walker)
- My Chuck Norris (special edition) commemorative black belt
Three favourite TV programmes:
- Top Gear
- Black list
- Anything sci-fi
Three favourite ice cream flavours:
Roundel: NEST Clients get a 25% discount on all Merit Badge orders. Use Code ‘NEST1’ at the checkout.
(Interview from April 2016 )