DN: And good morning, Mr. Quirk. How you doing today?
Jeff Quirk: Good. Good morning, sir.
DN: So, we’re going to be doing an interview with Jeff Quirk who has two schools in the Milwaukee area, one in Brookfield and one in the Pewaukee area. His Brookfield school has 438 members, I think, last time I was over there, plus 40 or 50 after school students.
So it’s a very successful school. But before we get started here a little, what do they call that, a disclaimer? Mr. Quirk is out of my Karate America Wisconsin system out here. He was a student of one of my students and we’ve been working together for quite a few years here.
And I’ve been very impressed with what he’s doing over there and I think it’s real important that our Dojo Nation readers listen to what he has to say. So Mr. Quirk let’s just get started now that we’ve confessed how well we know each other.
Jeff Quirk: [LAUGH]
DN: [LAUGH] Let’s start a little bit with your background for those that don’t know.
Jeff Quirk: Okay. Yes, I started martial arts with Karate America when I was 15 years old. We had no martial arts schools in our town, and Mr. Reid was the first one that brought a school in there.
DN: [LAUGH] You should tell people how old you are now if you’re only 17 now, it Starting at 15 doesn’t mean much.
Jeff Quirk: Right. [LAUGH] Yeah, I’m 42 if that helps!
DN: There you go, do a little math, I can figure it out.
Jeff Quirk: Yeah, so I was the first student in the school, I was the first black belt. I started teaching at a pretty early belt rank. And decided at that point I just loved it and wanted to do that.
I did a bunch of national competitions in sparring. I helped found and form Karate America’s Team Extreme which was a performance team and competition team. Traveled around the nation competing there too. I went to college and ended up having an opportunity to run a martial arts school, so I did that.
I had two martial art schools in the Madison area. And then the opportunity came up to open and run a school in the Milwaukee area so I sold those two, came here to the Milwaukee area and here I am.
DN: Great, so when you started in the Madison area, we had things pretty well tight around this time in Madison, Middleton, and the whole Dane county area.
Going over to Milwaukee, you were one of the first ones to head out and do that: Going into a virgin market for the Karate America system 90 miles away and really running your own show. What was the hardest part of that part of your journey?
Jeff Quirk: That part of it was really tough. In the Madison area, we had – what? – 30, 35 years of advertising and promotion in that community. When I came to the Milwaukee area there was another school that had been here for 30 to 35 years. So they had the name brand around here for being the go-to for martial arts.
So getting the word out as to who we are was tough at first. Going it alone, being down here for the first six months or so alone, without a team was tough. Now, I did have my wife with me the whole time and she was an integral part of it, but not having the karate team of martial artists, instructors and a close network of peers around me, that was difficult.
Jeff Quirk: And then eventually my brother came here too and became a terrific team member, so that made things a little bit easier.
DN: I see, but the school really wasn’t a resounding success for quite awhile. Is that correct?
Jeff Quirk: Actually we did really well considering. I mean we were able to pay rent in month one.
Which I always found pretty impressive. But as far as take-home income for me personally, no. I mean, that was the tough part. Long hours, no money, living off of Ramen noodles – and also you lent me a truck at one point so I had a vehicle!
DN: [LAUGH] I remember that.
Jeff Quirk: It was rough for the first couple years, yeah.
DN: Sure. Yeah we’ve all been down that road. So now you’ve hit some pretty impressive numbers and you’re in the top 1% of the schools in the country from a gross income standpoint, based on my knowledge on what I see out there. How did you go from where you were, to where you are now?
And how did you fix those challenges?
Jeff Quirk: Well for the longest time I had the mindset of: “As long as I just teach good martial arts the money will come’ And that’s not true. I mean that can be true up to a point, but the money won’t necessarily stay or continue to be “enough” to compensate for the effort and investment. So I went through a long period of time where I would go to just about every convention and seminar in the industry. I’d go to MAIA, I’d go to NAPMA…. I’d hire consultants to come in. “Why aren’t we making more money?”, “Why are we not taking home as much money as we ‘should’ be, or we feel we should be taking home?” And it was then, that I stumbled onto Rudy Miick and The Miick Company. We found him through Nick Sarillo. And we started implementing some serious, precise financial systems. We started implementing some explicit, sophisticated communication systems. We defined our purpose and values and got really explicit about who we are. We went to management and staff training, and then came back to the school and actually did the work – and it just it changed our business.
DN: Well I know that we all went down to a weekend seminar with Nick Sarillo, he wrote the book “A Slice of the Pie”And I had a chance to go down and meet him, because he’s down in Chicago, a couple hours from Madison. And after that weekend, his mentor, the guy who had showed him everything, was this gentleman you mentioned, Rudy Miick. And you and John Cassidy hired Rudy Miick and made a very substantial six figure investment in that training.
The difference was John Cassidy was running six schools and doing about 5 million a year, you weren’t. So you really went all in to make that investment. What gave you the confidence to make that kind of investment?
Jeff Quirk: Sure – so let me first of all say we’re really appreciative to Rudy because the stuff that we got and the tools that we got through our work with him are actually worth a lot more than what we paid for them. [LAUGH] And being a small business, he worked with us to make that possible.
So we’re really appreciative to him for that. But as far as the impetus, we went down to Nick Sarillo and I saw the way his staff interacted, the culture, the money they were doing out of the type of business that they were running which was just… it’s just a pizza place!
DN: Yes, Two Pizzas places doing $9 million a year.
Jeff Quirk: [LAUGH] Right! And with a staff that was young and self-managing, using these really high level communication skills with very little drama in the workplace. And I just knew that I needed it. And that’s my job; My job is to see the vision, and let the team know where we’re going, and my team trusted me to do that.
DN: Well, I’ve been an observer of the result of your taking to heart his training, and bringing him into your town. And it’s not one of these things people do easily, They get a little confused. They think that they can write a check and get the information. They forget about the part of doing the work. It’s no different than writing a big check to go to Harvard. You still have to go to classes. You still have to learn. You still have to develop a skill. And you’ve done that at a very high level. Which brings us to what it is you did : Which is this purpose and values and Conscious Communication ™ . As a baseline for all the other stuff, and I’ve seen what a dramatic effect it’s had on your income, your lifestyle and everything else. So can you explain purpose and values and Conscious Communication ™ in layman’s terms?
Jeff Quirk: Well, I can do my best. So, purpose is the Why. It’s the Why our business exists beyond profit. It’s the concious part of our company. What do we do and why do we do it? The values are the guidelines that we use as tools to make decisions. So it’s Why does the business exist and by what values it is it going to move forward.
Jeff Quirk: Conscious Communication ™ is a Miick Company tool set that our staff uses which allows us to get rid of “drama” as quickly as possible.
DN: Yes Sir!
Jeff Quirk: It’s just how quickly can we identify drama and how quickly can we move past it.
Jeff Quirk: The explicit purpose and the values really allowed us to align as a staff and all pull in the same direction. So now if there’s even a small bit of drama or argument or questions – what we call the “Moose” – the staff can bring them up in a healthy way, have real conversations in the moment. Solve it and move forward.
DN: Okay, so a moose would be another similar analogy for unspoken issues like the elephant in the room… Nick’s used the term the moose in the room. So that’s what that means.
Jeff Quirk: Right.
DN: But that seems so easy, I’ve seen people do it.
They say “We’ll spend an hour and we’ll come up with a purpose statement, (sometimes they confuse it with a missions statement) we’ll write down some values and then we’ll agree that we can communicate” And it seems easy on the outside, but you spent days, weeks, months, years, flushing this whole thing out.
Not to mention, as I said, over six figures in investment to do it. So getting people, even myself, to understand the depth of how far you go into that. That’s a little bit more of a challenge for people to understand, I think.
Jeff Quirk: Right, I agree. I think the average person will look at a martial artist doing a punch and they’ll say “Yeah, you just throw your arm out. I get it.” But as martial artists, we know there’s so much complex science and depth and intricacy to how to throw a proper punch. It’s the exact same thing with purpose and values. I think a lot of people look at it, and they say, “Okay, I get it, we’ll make a purpose, we’ll make some values.” But there’s actual complex science behind creating these things and then actually using them on a daily basis as tools in our business. The specific word choice. The punctuation in the sentence. How the staff is trained on it. It’s so intricate that just coming up with a purpose, some values and then throwing them on a wall or a website – doesn’t come close to doing it justice.
DN: Right, and I’ve been over there to see how your staff works. And it’s just amazing the way they work together. It’s amazing. The results are great. This stuff is all well and fine, but it has to come down to being measured. And one of the ways we measure, two ways I measure things, first is what is your income? First, your gross and then of course your net, that’s the important one.
And then second, how much effort, personal effort, do you have to put in to get that result? And you have done some big things, your numbers have been just amazing over the last couple of years since you started this. Are you, can you share whatever you’re comfortable sharing in your numbers?
So people get an idea how well this is work for you.
Jeff Quirk: Definitely. And let me say also that the biggest part of the purpose, values, Conscious Communication ™ , and all the training that came with it – was work that I did on me personally. How do I become a better leader? How do I not be the bottleneck in the business? Because in the past, all the questions came through me. If a decision had to be made, it came from me. And I was there for every day, every class, six days a week. Now with purpose and values, the staff have the tools to make decisions like I would make decisions.
And they’ve been trained on it, and held accountable for using it. So it’s not just writing on the wall or in a brochure. I’m at the school now roughly three hours a week. My staff basically run and manage both locations without me having to be there.
Jeff Quirk: So in 2013 and 2014, we started learning and using the tools with Rudy Miick. And we increased a little at first.
So just sharing some percentages: We increased our gross by about 15%. We increased our bottom line, our net, by about 33%. Now that was when we started defining, we started learning, we started implementing. In 2014, we really started drilling in. And during that year from ‘14 to ‘15, we increased our gross by 33%.But we increased our Net by about 540%.
DN: Man, [LAUGH] that’s a lot of money!
Jeff Quirk: It’s huge.
DN: And that’s on top of what you did the year before, from the year before right?
Jeff Quirk: That’s just from the year, from that year ‘14 to ’15.
DN: Just that year, wow.
Jeff Quirk: And in 2015 to 2016 we increased, by 5% on our net. But I gave about $90,000 in pay increases and bonuses to my staff.
Jeff Quirk: So we had approximately an additional 50% increase from ‘15 to ‘16, in our Net.
Jeff Quirk: I just chose to give a lot of it back to them because they deserve it. They’re amazing.
DN: So you’re creeping up on a seven figure a year business, you’re within spitting distance of that now. So there’s some profit in there that puts you into the top 2% of the income earners in the country and getting close to the top 1%.
And this has all been done in the space of 24 to 36 months. Is that correct?
Jeff Quirk: Well, I would say that the past 20 years have been some building, but yes [LAUGH]!
DN: Right, the foundation. But the real accelerated growth has come quite a bit in this last 24 to 36 months.
Your personal income has dramatically improved. And if you want to call it a per hour rate, it’s skyrocketed from 60 hours a week to 3 hours a week. So that’s a huge amount of getting your life, style and of getting your life back. So there’s a dollar figure you can’t even put on that.
Very cool, so over there in the Milwaukee area, what’s your future plans for you and the team?
Jeff Quirk: Well, we have two schools right now and we have two guys, two people that want to run new locations. So as long as people want to run schools, and they have what it takes, I’m going help them do that for our company.
So it’s basically providing career opportunities for future instructors and school runners.
That’s on the Milwaukee end, down here. We are going to expand. And then, the other part is, I’m going be speaking in Cozumel (teamcozumel.com) about some of the growth aspects and changes that we’ve seen in the company, in the business.
How do my wife and I possibly help other martial arts in the industry with these same tools.
How do we share, and how can we move forward that way too.
DN: Well, I know I’ve been encouraging you to share this in some format or another.
Because I deal with so many martial arts schools and I hear a lot of their problems.
And a lot of them kind of remind me of the medical field, where they’re trying to treat a symptom instead of trying to stop a disease. And getting this foundation of these things, this purpose and values attached to communication, makes everything else work. And without that, as we’ve discussed before, when we look back on 20 years for you, almost 40 years for me, of how incredibly hard we’ve worked because we didn’t have these tools. I mean, you can do it without it. There’s people that do it all the time. But man, they’re busting their butts to do it. And this allows what we all want to do, which is to be able to operate at a high level but not have to carry all that on our back. Let the team carry it. Let the purpose of the school carry it instead of it all falling on one guy. And I really think that what you’ve been able to do is just outstanding. And as I said, we’ll talk more about ways you can share this with the martial arts community. I think it’s a real, real important piece of the puzzle.
Jeff Quirk: Yes sir, I agree.
DN: Okay well this gives our reader some idea of some things to think about.
Once again, you’re going to speak in Cozumel. And we’re going have a video recording of that for people who can’t make it to Cozumel. But through our sponsors, Rainmaker, 97Display, Skillz, and Hyper, they all pitch in so we can share these videos. So they’ll be able to see what you’re going talk about on that.
Jeff Quirk: Yes sir. And quickly let me, give a shout out to my team, they do a tremendous job!
If you guys hear this, you are amazing. Keep up the great work. Stay on purpose.
DN: [LAUGH] You got them. All right, thank you for your time sir.
Jeff Quirk: Thank you.