Avoiding boom and bust - Setting your SDC restock level

Have you considered setting your SDC restock level?

Distance from a problem often means that you are not aware of all the issues, so you don’t understand why something is difficult to do. Distance also sometimes brings clarity. It’s precisely because one’s vision is not clouded by the minutiae of a million different things, and the emotional connection to a problem that one can sometimes see through the haze of background noise to what is really important. I understand that the day-to-day business of management is demanding, but I also think that many managers make it far harder than they need to.

Over the years I have known perhaps 20 managers, and been close to half a dozen. I’ve seen great managers, I’ve seen bad managers, and I’ve seen managers who should be great but somehow miss the mark, and fall short of achieving what was well within them.

Being a GKR manager is not an ordinary job – it’s completely extraordinary, and so are the rewards. There  is only a small number of people on this planet who can make a really excellent living running a karate business, especially in the current economic climate. There are millions of great martial artists, but only a minute number of people have the fortune to encounter an organisation such as GKR, that has a great system in place for bringing in students, and turning martial enthusiasm into a practical business.

The average adult is, well, exactly that – average! They make an average effort, in their average jobs, and get an average income. You didn’t sign up to make an average income did you? You didn’t become a manager to get an average wage did you? So why would you think that an average effort would suffice?

Over the years, I’ve seen managers who have a 9-5 mentality. They may work from 10am till 11pm, but they still think like an 8 hour a day employee. They leave their phones turned off until midday, they begrudge working long hours, and they feel hard done by by the demands of the job. All of that is fine if you are nothing more than an employee. But like any OWNER of a business, you will not achieve maximum success by being sparing with the effort you put into your business. You literally need to live, sleep and breath your business; at least for the first few years whilst it develops the momentum to sustain itself. It makes me laugh when I see managers who have one SDC and have been on 300 students for a year, who canvass for new SDCs once every few weeks, rarely go out canvassing for members, and who seem to spend all their time planning lessons, managing their senseis and avoiding contact with their zone director.

GKR has four elements that are the absolute life blood of the business: SDCs, senseis, students, and new members. However, all four are not equal. Without SDCs, your business will never grow or even maintain. It doesn’t matter how great your senseis are, classes will inevitably dwindle over time. With few senseis, you can spread yourself thin, and get them to double up on classes, and hold a relatively high number of students, for a while at least.

It’s a difficult truth that gaining new SDCs is certainly the most important part of the business, for without those, the other three elements are meaningless. A manager once said to  me, “I get sick and tired of all the lies that the SDCs keep telling.” He was trying to express how demotivating it is to keep recruiting people who are, as often as not, full of crap. The irony that he perhaps failed to notice, was that as an SDC, he was known on numerous occasions to deliberately leave his phone turned off, or make up stories about why he was late or could not be reached. It’s par for the course – get over it!

The bottom line is this: love ‘em or hate ‘em, SDCs are the critical instrument for growing your business. The other three elements only have any relevance if you have a decent-sized team who are out there getting the members.

Now this won’t be news to you, although, like many managers, you may have somehow deluded yourself into thinking that you can survive by improving student retention and teaching quality. You can’t. If you were fortunate enough to receive a region that already had students, if you don’t have a good-sized SDC team, your region is withering – like grapes on a vine that is not being watered.

Now you can winge to yourself and others about the difficulty of the job, your limited free time, your relationship with your zone director, the quality of SDC candidates, the way they get paid, and the price of tea in China, but at the end of the day, nothing will ever change the plain truth that your business requires you to acquire, and maintain teams of SDCs.

Whether you spend your time interviewing, placing adverts, training existing teams, or devising more effective ways to recruit and retain SDCs, this should be an important focus of your business. Perhaps you can set aside a part of every single day or week, to SDC recruitment. Given their value to your region, a few hours a week at the very least seems reasonable.

The funny thing is, many managers push really hard to build a team of 8 or 10 SDCs, then they lose focus and relax too much, waiting until the team is down to zero before they start to push again. Folks, you know that it’s far harder to build a team from scratch than to build upon a team of 4 or 6. Candidates are more likely to believe in the value of the job when many others are also committed to the same goal ahead of them. On an even simpler note, there is just a much better working vibe when you have a bigger team.

I’d like to make a suggestion. Supermarkets have what is known as a restock level. Obviously, if their shelves are too full, they’re paying for products to sit on the shelves. If they leave it too late to re-order, then products will be out of stock before replacements arrive, and they’ll be losing sales. Perhaps once you’ve pushed to build your team, you should set your SDC restock level? 4-6 seems like a good number, but you may wish to set it higher. Don’t wait for your SDC stock to dwindle too low before you make an effort. You might have one guy who will never quit, but who is never quite good enough to make it to manager. He’s like the last slice of meat at the deli counter – no-one will buy it because it looks unwholesome, and perhaps new SDCs will question why Old faithful has been in the job for 4 years. You’re thinking to yourself that this guy is the one core around which you can always build new teams, and newcomers are all questioning why he’s been around so long…