DN: Mr. Arcemont, welcome to the Dojo Nation Times.
Mr. Arcemont: Thanks for having me, sir!
DN: What I’d like to do today is talk a little bit about your journey. In this big scheme of things, you’re relatively kind of a newcomer compared to some of the old cowboys out there. So tell us a little bit about your background in martial arts and how long you’ve been in business.
Mr. Arcemont: I took my first karate class in 1987. I was of that karate kid generation. I started in a really small school. The kids class I began in had three students. We had to travel 30 minutes just to find a school back then. I lasted for about a year before I ended up quitting because I got bored. I think it was because our instructor really didn’t know how to teach kids because there was that generation of kids that came in and the instructors weren’t prepared for that. But I got back into Taekwondo in 1993 when I was in high school. I was 15 years old, a little bit more mature, and knew what I wanted. Also I was really inspired by Bruce Lee and his whole philosophy. And by chance a friend in school invited me to come to his Taekwondo school. So I ended up taking class, and of course I loved it. The kicks, acrobatics, all that stuff. I just fell in love with that. I said I’d do that until I stopped getting good. And when I stopped getting good, I’d try something else. What I didn’t realize is that you never stop getting good in some form or fashion! My instructor said hey you should try out this competition thing. I didn’t know what Olympic style Taekwondo was. I started some competitions and fell in love with that. I did pretty well in competition. Started teaching classes around that same time in 1996 and my mom ended up marrying my instructor lol! So married into the business of martial arts. I helped run the school, my mom, me and my step-dad from 1996-2009. Later I opened up my own school in 2010.
DN: So what town is your school in?
Mr. Arcemont: My school is in Spring, Texas, a suburb of Houston.
DN: You’ve had a good background for years and then you decided to get into business for yourself. What were a couple of the major challenges that you faced when beginning your career as a martial arts businessman?
Mr. Arcemont: I had learned a lot from running a school and being a manager, so I had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done. I think the biggest thing would be that you know all of the behind the scenes stuff that you just don’t know until you are an owner. A lot of little things. I wouldn’t say there was any big setbacks, but things you learn along the way. I shouldn’t have done that – I shouldn’t have done that. Just little things. Nothing huge – no big setbacks – no big learning curve. I felt like I knew what I needed to know and I had learned enough to make a school successful.
DN: So right now, you have about 320 active students. What programs are you running? Do you have separate programs or just doing straight taekwondo classes?
Mr. Arcemont: Well, I ended up getting into MMA (mixed martial arts) and was a part of American Top Team for a while with Master (Richardo) Liborio as one of my mentors. In 2006, we started that program and I ran MMA and TKD as separate programs. We did that for eight years. Now we have blended the MMA and Taekwondo as our core martial arts. That’s our system. We don’t have any upgrade programs. Once they hit red belt level, we do have different classes that they can go into. We call it different majors that they can go into: forms specific class, sparring Olympic class, and then a combat class with the grappling, HYPER, more like the fight club. Mixed martial arts style class is something that we are just starting in 2015 and everybody is loving it and signing up for it. But it’s not like an upgrade. It’s just something they get to do when they get to that level.
DN: So you aren’t running a black belt club or a leadership club or anything like that type of thing?
Mr. Arcemont: No black belt club. We do offer leadership training. It meets once a week. And it’s our pipeline for junior instructors. All of my instructors that work here started off in that program. So even though the school has been open five years, we had some that came from my former school so I was able to open with existing students.
DN: The majority of your students right now are children, correct?
Mr. Arcemont: Correct .
DN: You’ve had terrific growth at your school the past five years, from opening up with 50 or 60 students and now you are up to over 300. I’ve noticed that you work with some of the top guys. Who are some of the people who’ve come in and helped you with your business as a businessman and martial artist?
Mr. Arcemont: I was with my step-dad’s school, we had done a lot of consulting with a so-called big-name consultant. So when I’d started. HERO? I stayed on that same track. But after about a year of dealing with him, I found out that my core values weren’t matching with what he was telling me to do and I felt like I was just paying for something that just didn’t feel right. So I had reached out to Roland Osborne and he was just starting his HYPER martial arts program at the time. I didn’t even know what that was, and I asked him if he could come out and do a seminar and train my instructors and he was gracious enough to say yes. He came out and after talking with him, I realized that man, there were better ways to do this and other ways to go about running a school. And so I decided to align with like-minded people. Through him I met people like Professor Beliso, Mr. John Cassidy and then it just snowballed and I realized that this was the group of people that I wanted to be around to be inspired by.
DN: The people you’ve mentioned are the new guard of martial arts educators out there. They all are people we classify as the givers of martial arts and are very focused on service and retention of martial arts students verses strictly the sales and marketing. We understand we still must have sales, but sales and marketing work much, much better if it’s connected to a high service model.
Mr. Arcemont: That’s for sure. We truly believe in providing the best possible experience for our students. We don’t do contracts. We don’t do a sign up fee. There is no cancellation fee. We don’t charge for belt testing. That’s just some of what I’ve modeled after these top owners. I already wanted to run that model, I just didn’t if it was possible. So once I saw people who were successfully doing it, now I know it’s possible.
DN: The problem with the higher service model is that it’s continuous effort to take care of your customers, and some owners don’t want to put in the effort. If you are strictly focused on sales and marketing, you are interested in the sale first and how fast you can accelerate the income from the student and it takes the focus away from the long term deal. What’s interesting is, as you’ve seen, in the long run, the service retention and model financially is much more lucrative than the sales and marketing in the long run.
Mr. Arcemont: At my other school, we were with a “consultant” that pushed the hard sell, so I came from the opposite end of the spectrum to this other side. So I’ve seen both. I was talking with a close friend and school owner yesterday, and he said “yeah I know how to get them in; I’m great at marketing. I just can’t keep my students,” so I believe in this system, it’s sure working great for me.
DN: Nice, you know our industry is really only 40-50 years old. It’s really a relatively new industry. We had a huge jumpstart from the media for years. We went through Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and jumped on board with Kung Fu show. And then come the kids in ’86 with the Karate Kid followed by the Ninja Turtles, followed by the Power Rangers. And so there was a lot of low hanging fruit for a lot of years. All we had to do was become marketers and it was there. When the low hanging fruit went away, a lot of us weren’t prepared for that and we had a lot of success from the other way. It’s taking the industry a long time to pivot and learn about these sort of things. But the people like you mentioned: John Cassidy, Roland Osborne, Professor Beliso and others, have led the way and shown that the income potential is huge. Also, you feel much better about yourself as a martial artist and person if you are helping service people and making a positive impact on their lives.
Mr. Arcemont: Yes, if it’s in line with what you believe and your core values. There are some people who don’t care about that. So it doesn’t bother them that they are doing it. For me though, it must match my value because it’s a lifestyle job. If it doesn’t fit in my lifestyle choice, it just doesn’t make sense. I’m not going to be happy.
DN: By the way, I love the name Hero Martial Arts. Where did that come from?
Mr. Arcemont: Thank you. I thought about a name for so long. The name of my formal school was called South East Texas Taekwondo Academy. And every time I had to answer the phone, it was a mouth full. I want a name with one word. And the word Hero popped into my head one day and I was like that’s what every martial artist should be. We should be enjoying martial arts for self defense but beyond that we get to a certain level that it’s not self defense but community defense. It’s about helping people and that’s why we teach. And that’s what I want my students to be. So I said Hero is it. And there is no negative connotation with the word Hero. There’s no ego or anything. So I was like, that’s it. That’s the whole philosophy right there in one word. So that’s what I went with and the three stripes in the logo represent body, mind and spirit. And it’s something we try to cultivate in every class.
DN: So what’s the future for your business plans and yourself?
Mr. Arcemont: For my business to be less dependent on me. And that’s always been the goal and its’ something that’s actually working. So I’m training my team to be able to run the school without me and that way I can teach when I want to and not because I have to. I don’t have like a set thing like I’m going to open a second school or I want to get the next number. I’m just focused on serving the customers, doing a great job, training my team and whatever is going to come out of that is going to be what’s going to happen. And it’s only going to be something good. There are a lot of variables that can happen and that’s out of my control. I want it to be like a fight where I can react to the moment to moment and interaction to what’s happening in my life. And if I just focus on what’s important, the outcome will happen by itself. I just know to keep improving–to keep getting better, and that’s always been my goal since day one and it’s been working so far. I think eventually it may lead to a second school or helping one of my instructors at some point to start a school.
DN: Mr. Arcemont, It’s been a pleasure. Good luck on your journey and we’ll be rooting for you here at DNT!