The Black Belt Business Podcast

It Pays (Everyone) To Be Systems-Dependent

Feb 09, 2024

One of the biggest shifts you can make as a martial arts academy owner comes down to building your academy on an unshakable foundation. This means something which can withstand the test of time, life, and all the changes both bring.

Let’s say you’ve built up a great team of reliable coaches and staff who care about their roles and stand behind your core values. What next? You may have made something good, but you haven’t made it sustainable yet. 

If your goals include growing your revenue or expanding beyond your current staff, location, or business model, you need to address the challenge of how to take something successful and duplicate it. Easton has achieved this long-term (and still rolling) goal by implementing a systems-dependent model of operation. 

What is systems-dependent?

At the core, anything systems-dependent relies heavily on established processes, procedures and automation rather than relying on people. It emphasizes creating efficient, effective systems that function reliably and consistently, minimizing the impact of individual variability or dependence on specific individuals.

If you have one amazing coach who teaches a killer kids class, you no longer have to schedule your entire childrens’ curriculum around them if you can create a way to replicate their method. 

This can start out as simple as creating an instructional video with them breaking down the basics of their process, from building rapport with kids to navigating their attention span.

While video can never replace the in-person experience, it can give you a systematic and consistent, every-single-time set of inputs for every single person. That way, if you notice something missing at a foundational level, you can tweak your inputs until you get the desired output. 

Systemizing Academy Process and Having a North Star


At first your kids coach could teach other coaches in person, or mentor his assistant coaches directly, but as the school grows his influence needs to have a wider reach and help form the foundation for how your kids program operates.

When you switch from relying on people for everything and learn how to implement systems, you’re setting your operation up for more consistent success and creating space for people within your organization to provide value in other ways. It may feel scary to approach something in a completely different way, but think of it as an expansion rather than a constriction. 

When you make learning more accessible, you create the opportunity for more people to connect with the greatest aspects of your martial arts academy – its knowledge. You also ensure a consistent product even as your staff grows and you may not be able to oversee everyone’s training and classes. Ultimately, your goal revolves around education, and to maximize your success means to maximize your reach.

We’re not saying to lose the human element. We’re saying to work smarter, not harder.

You can’t allow yourselves to become dependent on the people in your organization. If your lead kids coach has to move out of state, you don’t want to lose the ability to train new coaches to perform at the same level, or even better, than the original coach. You have to be prepared, and this means creating a way to funnel knowledge and distribute it among as many channels as possible and make this system impenetrable to disruptions.

What are some ways you can implement more systems in your academy?

Start small. Get everyone on one communication app. This keeps work and life separate and you can send out mass-communication to your employees without texting everyone personally or getting lost in their E-mail’s spam folder. Easton uses a walkie-talkie app called Voxer!

Build SOPs. Documents or videos that contain all of your core processes and lay them out like a kitchen recipe for anyone to pick up and recreate will ensure that processes like training coaches, structuring classes, following up with leads, and keeping the academy clean. As your academy grows, being able to duplicate the same process again and again is essential to smoothly scaling operations. 

Train consistently. Do your best to remove any sort of inconsistency from the way you train your employees, from orientation instructors to the front desk. If you want to hold everyone to the same expectations, make sure you set them very clearly upfront, and help everyone get there. 

Crush your admin. Implementing systems is critical on the administrative side of running an academy, like finding business management software that simplifies all the small, daily tasks. Creating a SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) around any common responsibilities will ensure that your employees are referencing the same key steps. Filming an instructional video and making it a requirement for everyone to watch it can take this step to the next level!

Decentralize command. An approach like decentralized command builds inherent systems of operation that pass trust down the chain and distribute ownership and responsibility. When you start trusting others to perform in accordance with your standards of excellence, you move the operation’s success from being dependent on one individual, or group of individuals, it becomes an independent, self-sufficient machine. However, the only way to make decentralized command work is to make sure that everyone is on the same page with standards and expectations. 

[Building An Elevated Team + Forging Battle-Tested Martial Arts]

Whether you start with just one, or all of the examples we provided, the more you set certain systems in place, the more that structure will add freedom to your life.

When you can conserve energy and reach more people effectively at the same time, you begin to create a foundation of sustainability that will continue to reinforce itself and let the people do what they do best – teach, assist, make students and potential members feel comfortable.

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