John & Angie Gabriele
Q. Who is the biggest martial art influence in your life?
A. In the beginning, it was Bruce Lee. He got me interested in the martial arts. I wanted to be like him. He influenced me to make my first pair of Nunchaku, and off I went daydreaming and practicing. But while he helped get me started, he couldn’t have helped me build what I have now. For that, it’s not just one person who stands out, it’s many: all the martial artists who got bitten by that “entrepreneurial spirit” as Michael Gerber puts it, and persevered and succeeded. To be totally honest, it’s the people that I see year after year at the EFC convention that inspire me to get better and better, not just as a martial artist, but as a “professional” martial artist.
Q. What is your thinking regarding loyalty?
A. Loyalty is everything, whether it is to your spouse, family, parents, businesses, friends, staff as well as to yourself. And we cannot forget loyalty to others who have influenced and helped us in the past. What happens a lot today is people forget about what others have done for them in order to make them who they are today.
Q. Please could you elaborate on five management activities that lead to better retention?
A. 1. “Good Job” notes, which are anchored to praise in class.
2. Parent Nights Out events for children.
3. Adult Night Out events for adults.
4. Instructor training classes, which stresses class time management, teaching techniques, curriculum review, drill building techniques, etc., so classes rock!
5. Student goal review meetings or mat-chats!
Q. What are your thoughts on the new emphasis on practical martial arts?
A. I am a firm believer that just about everything works, whether it’s traditional martial arts, or a newer type of practical self-defense system, as long as the instructors believe in it. No matter what, a school should have a solid foundation in character development for adults as well as children.
Q. What are the greatest challenges martial arts school owners face?
A. For me it’s staff training and management.
Q. How do you motivate and influence your students?
A. We do this through monthly TIP testing and three-month belt testing. Showcasing higher-rank classes helps. I also work hard to ensure my staff and I are incredible role models.
Q. By what means do you follow up with new members during the first hundred days?
A. We implemented a new system this year. We of course have our MIA/DNS for our current members, but we added an additional attendance card box with all new students, our white belts, behind the front counter. New members, prior to their first belt test, need to check in at the front desk and ask for their attendance card to bring it with them into class. In this box the attendance cards are filed by the day of the month. When a student comes in we ask them when will they be in for their next class, and we then circle that date on the card. At the end of each class, we look to see who did not attend and we give them a call. This gives us a chance to always politely greet each new member by name. We get the opportunity to ask if they have any questions, and to make sure we call them immediately upon a missed class. We are also sending videos of information that they need to know about within days and weeks after they enroll.
Q. What programs do you internally offer to new students?
A. For children, we offer a complementary student evaluation, then a two-week paid trial, after which we enroll them for 12 months. For adults we offer a complementary class, then enroll them for a month-to-month or a 12-month program.
Q. What is your process for renewing students and to what programs?
A. The renewal process is always going on. We continuously attempt to get as many A students as possible. We keep a closer eye on the students who are 2-3 months from their program expiration, and we have their renewal contract ready, and we just present it to them as: “Here’s your renewal. We need a signature here.”
A. If it were not for Educational Funding Company, I would not be where I am today, in terms of my personal life, my financial situation and most of all, in terms of the success of my schools. EFC’s billing work is absolutely fantastic. My wife is in charge of our bookkeeping and loves the fact that she works closely with only one person, Raj, who does an incredible job—following up with our members and my wife. I like the leadership and the rock solid business concepts that EFC promotes for their clients. I really enjoy bringing my staff to the yearly Summit. It gives us a charge as well as confirms that we are in the right place.