The brand….

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As someone who’s been successful outside of martial art in the business world, I know too well the pitfalls of a bad reputation. I have seen companies reputation falter for many things…lack of products…lack of skilled employees…lack of coherent vision.

The martial art world is no different.

But, the martial art world brings a different level of reputation. We deal with people on different levels of than a company simply selling products.
Martial art, be it reality, sport, health, survival – addresses the mind, body, and soul. It’s not Target, selling the dog bones I picked up tonight. It’s not the grocery store, where I bought strawberries….martial arts touch people a different way.
We as martial artists spend years and fortunes training, learning, nursing injuries, going everywhere we can to better our understanding of ourselves…and in turn, others. As teachers, we begin to be the one that people spend those hours, their money, their time to learn from.
But, one thing no one ever teaches martial artists – whether they have a school, they run seminars, they have a website is how to protect their brand and their reputation.
Having the pleasure of working in multinational corporations to small businesses, I have learned through the years the importance of branding. Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up, and try to practice…as they are just as important as throwing a punch or circuit training:

1) Your reputation is your brand – they are inseparable. When people see your name, or your symbol or logo – they see your reputation. You have to build accordingly. If you hurt people – that’s your reputation. If you let anything happen in your name – that’s your reputation. If you are high priced and in it for the bucks – that’s your reputation. You decide your reputation – and thus, your brand.

2) There is no brand without hard work – the hours you spend now building your reputation is just like training for the mat or the street – the more you focus now, the less you bleed later – be it in defending yourself from attacks or your pocketbook. You have to stay on it, work hard at it – so that one day you don’t have ti.

3) It takes a long time to build your brand but it takes a short period to lose it. Going from K-Sys to Pramek was a brand and reputation change….standing under the shadows of a giant like Kadochnikov and Russian teachers to standing on our lost a lot of people, and gained a lot of people. We kept it honest, if we screwed up we admitted it, we made things right even when there was no purpose. Why? Because the things we did as K-Sys echoed in Pramek. When you take time off – you have to rebuild it, and it’s best to build on a solid reputation from the past, then develop a new one.

4) Radical change means planning – never make quick, fast, hurried changes in what you do. People like comfort, they dislike change unless change is gradual. Change the name of your school? It takes time – it’s not over night. Change what you teacher – it’s gradual, it’s not automatic. You have to build in your period of familiarization for the people who knows you, lest you lose them because you were so excited about the new things that you forget they might not be.

5) Don’t forget where you came from – simply acknowledging the truth, or acknowledging where you came from will always keep you grounded and give you group to move from – just like fighting. A strong base. People spend years regaining what was lost by not admitting where they got things. Be proud of where you came from, even when it overshadows you – you will eventually over shadow it.

6) 1 person or 100, you have students. Always act like you only have 1 student, even when you have 100. People remember that attention and the personal nature of what you do and will stay with you when times get tough.

7) Complict is different than complacent. You can never allow things to damage you that you are not personally doing – even if you are busy. Even if it means some tough choices. Timing is everything – and when you let negative things linger being done in your name, you give the perception you are complicit even when you are complacent. You have to control what is done on your behalf, even when you aren’t doing it.

8) Plan your work and work your plan.

9) Never be afraid of the jumping on the next wave – even when things are ready. We released an inferior production of Human Equilibrium because it had to be done. We can always reshoot it – we can’t go back when someone else releases something similar and say, ‘We had it first!!!!’

10) Stay on course – set small goals (this many web hits this month, one new student, etc) and achieve them. If you think you will sell 300 videos and have 50 new students this month – you are fooling yourself, or you have deep pockets for advertising – at which point I would suggest you throw me some of those bucks 🙂

11) Hurt yourself now to succeed later – cut dead weight, bad students, bad business partners, bad advertising you paid for now – because it’ll save you time and money months from now.

12) Don’t train for sprints, train for marathons.
These are basic things everyone knows – but sometimes in the hustle and bustle of getting up on time, getting kids to school, preparing meals, walking dogs, teaching class you can forget these things and end up in a worse position than you would have been had you just taken that 5 extra minutes to correct them and stay on course.

I leave you with this…one of my old mentors tells the story of going up in to the cockpit of a plane (pre-9/11) and talking to the pilots on a flight from New York to Hawaii. He asked the pilots about flying, and how they could use the autopilot and still fly when he saw them make adjustments to the autpliot.

They told him, ‘A plane is off course 99% of the time by small amounts due to winds, etc, but it only needs small adjustments to get it back on track – that’s what we are for – the1% to keep it on track. Without that 1%, we would end up middle of nowhere. We simply nudge it back over and over and over again until we reach our destination.’

If you aren’t there for that 1% all the time – following the above suggestions, you’ll end up in the middle of nowhere.

99% off the martial art world fails, schools close, websites fold, because it doesn’t have that 1% mentality.

Be the 1%.

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