“It’s just business.” How often have you heard this phrase? Myself, I have heard it a few times and funny enough, in each situation, I was being screwed – not on a business level mind you, but on a personal one. So why? I ask you, have we coined the term, “It’s just business.”? Is this your weak way of telling someone, “I don’t like you enough to be loyal to your business”, or “I don’t have the integrity to run my business as a ‘human being’ so I will hide behind the insensitivity of ‘McDonaldization’ and blame it on business”?? In any industry, these are gutless words. In a martial arts industry, they are the antithesis of what you should be offering “as a business” to our public.
I’ve never thrown a punch off the middle school playground, nor have I ever kicked anybody except by accident under the Thanksgiving dinner table, but there is one thing about your business that I do know: honor, integrity, and discipline. In the past seven years that I have owned and operated Pro MA Marketing I have been shocked, appalled, disturbed and saddened by the behavior that I have witnessed by “professionals” who claim to uphold these tenets that they are supposed to be teaching to our youth. I wonder if your students’ parents were able to witness your “just business” transactions, if they would want their children to worship you… I know I wouldn’t. So… am I talking to you? I don’t know, am I? Have you forgotten what honor truly means? Have you forgotten the pride of feeling that you have integrity, above all else? Have you forgotten that having these two qualities, honor and integrity, require discipline of your behavior in every aspect of your life? including how you conduct your business? I haven’t. I certainly have had opportunity to do so… opportunities to exchange a more successful business, and more money coming in monthly, for less self-value as I trade these things for my honor, for my integrity… but I have chosen not to and will continue to do so. For those of you who have forgotten, let’s look at the real meaning of each of these terms. I’m going to start with discipline because it is truly required for you to have any hope of obtaining, and keeping, the other two.
Arguably, one could find any number of definitions for a word, but one definition of discipline is: “Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement.” (Farlex, 2009). So martial arts gurus know all about physical training, certainly more than myself, but what upon mental training? Business training? Moral training? Have you neglected these disciplines? If so, this will be recognized by others, especially those who find these values to be more important than, yes, even business. Sure, you’ll find those in your industry who don’t care to uphold the values and tenets that they profess to teach to others, and these others will embrace your behavior and even try to mold you and teach you to be “like them”. It will require discipline to be true to yourself, to find another way to achieve your dreams and desires without “selling out”. Remember, these individuals who will try to tell you it is “just business” and want you to exchange your honor and integrity for the “all mighty dollar”, are trying to do this for one reason: to legitimize their behavior in others eyes and in their own. It must be difficult to sleep at night when you are fully aware that you have hurt someone very deeply, on a personal level, just for the sake of profit… It becomes a little easier each time someone else tells them that this behavior is Ok by continuing to do business with them even after they recognize this behavior, and even mimicking this behavior as they fall victim to believing that “it’s just business”.
One day, perhaps, this world will be ruled by computers and all business will be conducted directly between our computers as 0’s and 1’s flying through cyberspace… but until that day, blood flows through my veins, water leaks from my eyes, and I, like you, am human with emotions and feelings, and want exactly what you want: to be able to earn a living with what I love to do. It is my belief that we can all achieve this through hard work and discipline, EVEN if we remember that, you and I, are MORE, than “just business”.
The word itself is noble; Its meaning? Good name, reputation; principled uprightness of character; a code of dignity, integrity, and pride. (Farlex, 2009). So tell me… would you consider stepping on others to grow your empire a principle that could be considered “upright in character”? or even taking advantage of a smaller company when you need them but then not being loyal to them even when they have been loyal to you? Some might say that either of those things might be acceptable as a business decision in order to support growing your own business, but those “some” are those looking for a way to sleep peacefully at night.
There are those in this industry, they know who they are and so do you, who have not strayed from the honor, integrity and respect for others that they once learned in their youth, and they now run their business with that same honor, integrity and respect for others. They are not necessarily running more than one school, this is not the sign of success for them… Even if they only have one school, that one school is packed full of students who worship their mentor, young students who idolize their mentor and older students who seek to learn from an individual who has earned their respect and trust. These individuals run this school, and keep these students, effortlessly because they have lived a life of discipline, keeping their ideals of honor and loyalty, even if their business transactions and this every day behavior is recognized by their students and their peers: there has been no other alternative than for growth.
In stark contrast, you see others who open multiple schools but struggle to keep them open, or running profitably, because they cannot keep the student base that they bring in. Bringing them in is easy – great marketing materials from Pro MA Marketing, your winning smile and promises of good things – getting them to sign is not the problem – Getting them to stay is the problem. Little by little, the adult students realize this person does not deserve their respect and has little to teach them outside of a fighting stance, while the parents realize that they don’t want this person teaching their children about morals. One by one they figure it out, and one by one they leave while the owner/instructor stands their scratching their head thinking, “But I did everything they told me to do… I marketed, I had buddy parties, I taught a great curriculum”… but the one thing they couldn’t teach was the one thing about martial arts that has made it attractive to adults and parents alike: honor, character, morality.
Let’s face it, we all have that little burst of pride watching TV and movie heroes who fight for what’s right, who stand by their honor regardless of the consequences. Martial arts embodies these traits for most of society, and not by coincidence. You are the last group of people that I need to give a history lesson to on the martial arts.. but we all know that the tenets of discipline, honor, integrity, and more, run very deep through the veins of martial arts. You would do well to remember that.