We were given no warning, no time to prepare, yet there was still a school to run.
When I found out my dad’s eye needed to be operated on and that he’d be out for eight weeks, I knew I would a big part of making sure his recovery was successful. I learned more and saw more about the human eye than I ever wanted to. I think my eyes would automatically water every time someone brought up his eye or when I would hear the words “detached retina”. They still do even as I’m writing this!
But it made no difference whether or not I wanted to see it or hear about it, it was happening and it was the reality I was so fortunate enough to get to deal with.
And who am I to complain? I didn’t have my eye operated on, retina re-attached, gas bubble inserted and have to hold my head down 22 hours a day for a week so things would heal correctly. So I’ll stop complaining about my watery eyes.
There was also another reality that needed to be addressed… and that was the Taekwon-Do school.
Since I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia two and a half years ago, I hadn’t been teaching most of the classes and managing the school “hands on.” But with the extreme circumstances before us, I had to do something and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it all myself. I’m just not physically able to and on top of that, I really didn’t have any idea what I was walking in to.
It was testing week so I knew I had a few days to line up instructors for the upcoming classes that my father would not be able to teach (which was about half of them!) and I had a chance to sit in on all the testings so I could get a feel for the overall condition of the school as well as the financial health of the school. We do our testing throughout the week, beginners on Monday, intermediates on Tuesday, advanced on Wednesday and we had a Black Belt testing Thursday night.
There was nothing wrong with how everyone did at testing, but I had a gnawing feeling that there was something we could do to make them better. I had been following Melody Shuman and her latest developments in curriculum design and by Thursday that week, we had the foundation for a whole new curriculum! Still all ITF Taekwon-Do, but how we were going to teach was going to be dramatically different.
Then there’s the money.
I knew the school wasn’t experiencing wild success since I left, but everything seemed as though it wasn’t doing too bad.
So, as with any school I’ve worked with, I took a look at the financials. The school had recently been chugging along, breaking even, and even making an extra buck or two once in a while over the past year. Now some of you might say that’s not too bad – and when you look at the martial arts industry as a whole, you’d be right.
However, I have no interest in doing “not that bad.”
So I’ve got the situation I’ve got, I can’t do everything I would have done in the past to bring success to the school because I physically can’t, and the school’s main asset just went down!
Time to get to work.
Right away I put together a list, prioritizing what needed to be done. There were many, many things that, in the normal course of business operations, needed to get done. However in this case, if it didn’t make it to the top of my list, then too bad.
The list looked like this:
- Find instructors to cover classes
- Find assistant instructors to assist with classes
- Change Curriculum
- Communicate with Parents
- Set up instructor training to implement new curriculum
- Get a hold of the financials
- Cut all under performing or unnecessary expenses
- Streamline Sales and Upgrade process
- Make sure all student records are up to date
Today I’m just going to share about 1 and 2 because there was something extraordinary that came to the surface when I took this on.
You already know that we teach a lot of great things physically and mentally, but there’s a limit to what your students can and will achieve while training with you. We like to think that we can take them to limitless heights in their personal development, but that just isn’t the case.
We can and do make a difference, but consider that in every school there is lid on the personal development and leadership that can be developed there… and that lid is YOU.
Don’t take this personally. This isn’t something we do intentionally and I am certainly not accusing anyone of anything. But I want to bring this to your attention because I know I did it, my father did it and every instructor I’ve ever known has done it. It happens in all sports and organizations.
We talk about training others in order to replace ourselves all the time at our school. We’re looking for who’s going to step up, for who has the ability to compete internationally, for who could be an instructor or even possibly run a school.
But the entire time we’re doing that, we’re there, doing everything. Not really giving those below us EVERY opportunity to fulfill what’s possible for them.
Specifically in our case, my father has produced numerous world champions, instructors and leaders in our community including doctors, attorneys, federal law enforcement officials and leading engineers and researchers… all of whom will tell you, without hesitation, that their Taekwon-Do training had an enormous influence on their lives and on the success they’ve achieved. I know that many of you have similar success stories of students that you have trained over the years as well.
I’m just inviting you to consider that even with all that you and your students have accomplished, there’s a limit.
It’s our job as instructors to keep identifying those areas where we are that limit for our students and practice getting out of the way.
My father had no choice but to get out of the way. But what happened next was amazing.
When we got the black belts together to fill them in on the situation and let them know we were looking for those of them that wanted to step up and start teaching, everyone wanted to contribute. Not just because my father needed eye surgery and there was an emergency, but because they wanted to be more a part of the school. If I had asked them the same question in January I would have gotten the same response.
Now, instead of having 3 instructors that teach the bulk of the classes we have 5 regular instructors and at least one assistant instructor in every class. We now have a team! They train together, they help each other out, they take care of one another and they support each other. Now I know if I fell off the map tomorrow, the school would carry one without a hitch. If two of our instructors fell off the map tomorrow, we’d still be able to carry on without a hitch. And all that happened was people were given the opportunity to step up.
You may have a great team already in your school, but take a look at where else you are in the way of providing opportunities for growth with you students.
In business language, this is what it means to be a business owner. Where you own something that provides an extraordinary service, that makes a profit and that doesn’t require you being there 24/7.
My father now knows he has a Taekwon-Do school that he can be away from for 8 weeks and still be there when he gets back. Maybe next year he should take an 8 week vacation instead of having surgery!
Next week I’ll be sharing with you our curriculum change, including what we were doing, what we’re now doing and why we changed it. So far we’re 7 weeks into the new curriculum and both the parents and students have noticed a big difference and they LOVE it!
About the Author:
Mr. Karstadt is the founder of 1 TKD Consulting and owns the longest running ITF Taekwon-Do school in Arizona, Karstadt Taekwon-Do in Phoenix, AZ with his father Master David Karstadt. He has been training since 1984, earned his Black Belt at the age of 8 and is currently an internationally renown intstructor teaching the culture, discipline, leadership and business skills of Taekwon-Do in classes and seminars to Instructors around the world. He has been a member of eight U.S. Taekwon-Do Teams and has traveled to 14 different countries competing in Taekwon-Do. He has won numerous medals at the World Championships and in international competition, most notably winning the 2004 World Championships in South Korea with two gold medals and the Men’s Team All Around Trophy. Mr. Karstadt currently resides in uptown Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and three children. Mr. Karstadt can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org