Summit Martial Arts in Calgary, Canada has been with us since the end of 2018. During that time, their feedback and input have been instrumental in developing many of the features at Martial Arts on Rails. We sat down to talk to Leigh-Ann Morris about their history and plans going forward.
Eran (Martial Arts on Rails founder): Thanks for taking the time to talk us, Leigh-Ann. Please introduce yourself and your school to our readers.
Leigh-Ann Morris (Summit Martial Arts): We are Summit Martial Arts. A small, family run Tae Kwon Do school in Calgary. We are the only Moo Duk Kwan style of TKD in Western Canada.
I am a Librarian by trade, I hold a Masters degree in Library and Information Science. My husband, Master Shane Morris (7th Dan) has been teaching for 30+ years. With his martial arts expertise and my background we created Summit Martial Arts. Both our children train at the school.
Eran: Tell us about Summit Martial Arts – What is the story behind opening it?
Leigh-Ann: In early 2014, we decided to open a school in Calgary. Master Morris does the teaching and Mrs. Morris runs the business operations. Our name and logo was chosen carefully to embody our vision.
Eran: What did you struggle with when you were just getting started? What did you learn and how did you improve?
Leigh-Ann: We were originally operating out of a community centre, just on the edge of the city. Location and lack of training space was a deterrent for getting students in the very beginning. We opened in May 2014.
By the fall, our students were ready to start competing. Once we got involved in the tournament circuit and started meeting other schools/instructors, we built a solid reputation for quality students and integrity. It takes time to build trust and loyalty.
It is easy to lose sight of what you are doing in the beginning. When you are trying to gain traction, build your business, attract customers/students, you can be swayed by someone else’s vision.
It is really important to stay your course, believe in your service/product, have a clear vision of who you are and what you want to accomplish. We all fall down sometimes. Success is definitely not a linear path, there are ups and downs along the way.
It’s how you deal with those that determines your path. Never lose sight of who you are as a business in the process – eye of the tiger! Stay focused! Never give up when things get tough!
Eran: What is involved in the day-to-day operations of running the school?
Leigh-Ann: Most of the day-to-day processes, web design/maintenance, social media, bookkeeping, schedule, registrations, web inquiries, and parent correspondence is done from home. I handle all the business-end of things. In the evenings, I attend the school in person to manage student flow and our check-in process and Master Morris teaches the classes.
Things look much different with COVID restrictions, it has changed our day-to-day process completely, including COVID pre-screening and check-ins.
Eran: How are you using Martial Arts on Rails to help manage your operations? How was it before and after you started using our software?
Leigh-Ann: I have tried a few different softwares aimed at martial arts schools at differing price points. They all seemed to be lacking in some way, not designed with martial arts specifically in mind – more generalized sports.
Martial Arts on Rails has helped streamline processes, input contracts/registration documents, made communication with specific classes or the whole school easy, was adaptable to new COVID online screening tool, allows attendance and belt progression tracking easily.
It allows my families to have 1 convenient place to look for all their documents, contracts, belt progression, attendance in an easy to navigate portal. It looks professional and customer service is extremely responsive to any issues.
Eran: What other tools do you use to help with managing your operations?
Leigh-Ann: Accounting software is separate – we are in Canada. I use Quickbooks online and have a Square processing terminal for in person (we do not accept credit cards, only debit).
Eran: How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your business? How did you adapt?
Leigh-Ann: In 2020, we were closed from March 15 – June 22 and are on lockdown orders again from November 13 – Jan 15, 2021. We are closed to in person classes. Our instructors have been an amazing support – we took 2 days to pivot to online classes. We are using zoom to conduct all our classes virtually.
Eran: What is your approach for attracting new members? What worked for you and what didn’t?
Leigh-Ann: We are largely referral for new students. We do not do any paid advertising. Most students find us through friends/family or a simple google search. We have found that if you have a solid program with quality instructors and an organized business model, the students will come. We have ALL prospective students do a trial class to ensure it is a right fit.
Eran: Unlike many martial arts schools, you advertise your fees online. What’s the reasoning behind it, and would you recommend others to do the same?
Leigh-Ann: Yes, we do list our fees online. We believe in being upfront and transparent in our business practice. Cost is usually the first thing people ask. The feedback we receive is excellent from new students, how easy our site was to navigate and they were able to find all the relevant information before calling to arrange a trial class.
This way you know the prospective students calling are serious because they already have the information. Further to that, we list our policies upfront for contracts, student readiness, and cancellation. We believe this speaks to our integrity (tenets of TKD) and honesty.
Eran: How do you help members succeed and stay motivated through their training?
Leigh-Ann: Certainly challenging during the COVID pandemic with virtual training. We make sure we lead by example. Our instructors will never ask a student to do something they aren’t willing to do themselves. We provide feedback often, in written reports and during class.
We want to be clear so our students know what they need to do to achieve their goals. We are truly invested in our students, not just as martial artists but as young people. We want to see them be successful in our program.
Eran: On a final note, before we end the interview – What are your plans for the future?
Leigh-Ann: Our plans are to stay afloat during this latest closure and focus on keeping students motivated. We hope that Jan 2021 will have us back on the mats and training hard.