Nobody Is Stealing Your Customers


I was shooting the proverbial $hit the other day with a friend in the martial arts industry. A coach’s name came up and my friend said he stole students from another gym. This is a common topic I run into whenever with people on the ownership or management side of the industry. Sorry, but unless a coach sneaks into your gym and kidnaps a student, they are not stealing your students if they switch gyms.

I get loyalty. I don’t allow people from other teams come to my gym without running it by their current coach. If a regular student wants to switch gyms, that is different. Competitive athletes rarely pay a full fee in exchange for their training which alway is much more than class time. Fighters on the way up don’t make much money and a coach will invest time into these people in exchange for long term success together. Sometimes it works out, other times it does not.

Students pay a monthly fee for training. If they want to pay somebody else a fee for training, free market, go for it. If I do my job and it fits the needs of the student, they will most likely stay until the circumstances change. If they go, nobody stole them, they see greater value in something else.

I have had coaches ask me not to train people. I honor that ask when we are working together in a way that is mutually beneficial. If the relationship is only benefiting them, they shouldn’t ask me to accommodate them in the 1st place. No matter what you do, all relationships are about mutually beneficial trades.

Whenever you share something you have a personal attachment to, you run the risk of it being treated differently than you intend. Is what it is. We can’t live in fear of people leaving, other people benefiting, or anything else. We have to do our best to provide the most value possible while developing relationships where people have a deeper understanding of what and why we do what we do.  

If I stick with the idea of mutually beneficial trade and keep working to provide a value for your investment in my gym, I sleep well and stay in business. It will always hurt when people leave, but I have to point the finger at myself so I can do my job better and retain people longer. If I get caught up in blaming the other gyms for my shortcomings, I just lose more people.

This doesn’t just apply to the martial arts industry. This goes for everything. I have a retail business too. When people shop elsewhere because we are not competing with the other shop's benefit, people are not being disloyal, they are being smart with their money. People are going to go where it benefits them. None of us deserve anything, we have to earn it daily.

Brian Wright