THE TENTH DEGREE: 10 Questions with Successful Entrepreneurs Doing Interesting Things

This week we have GREG SILVA:  Graduate of The University of Connecticut School of Business, Martial Arts millionaire by the age of 40, owner of numerous incredibly successful martial arts schools over the years, & CEO of United Professionals and Cornerman Consulting.


01.  What's your typical morning routine?  How do you get your day started off right?

Mornings are my favorite time of day.  I naturally wake up early.  The cool thing about being an entrepreneur is that I rarely have to use an alarm, only if I need to be up for an early flight.  Once I'm out of bed; it’s coffee, 30 minutes of reflection and meditation and then I go for a brisk walk with my dogs.  Before breakfast I like to do a little reading or listen to some music to get my mind going, and then it’s answering e-mails.  I'm up around 6 so I have a few great hours before I really need to get down to business.

02.  What was your first entrepreneurial endeavor?

My parents were hard working self-employed bakers.  They told me very early that, to be financially successful, I needed to work for myself and not waste time making money for someone else.  They helped me start my first business at a very young age.  We lived on a lake so we would go digging for night crawlers and then I'd sell them to the local fishermen.  I was probably 10 or 12 years old.  They helped me create a sign; my first marketing lesson.  I'd sell a baker's dozen of worms for a few cents, under-promising and over-delivering.

03.  Why the martial arts?  What made you devote so much time to that one thing?

When I was 13-years-old I used to go play baseball in an open lot with kids from the neighborhood.  One day I got in a confrontation and received not only a broken nose but a whopper of a black eye.  My dad immediately signed me up for Judo classes, he was tough man and an ex-boxer.  I enjoyed the classes so much that I stuck with them through all of high school.  This particular Judo school was pretty successful and I saw the potential for making a living at something I loved.  My parents weren’t so sure.  They were hoping for me to be a lawyer or a stockbroker, something like that.  My mom said, "Go to college and once you graduate you can decide."  She wanted to make sure I had an education to fall back on.  My studies included marketing and psychology, perfect training for running a successful martial arts school.

04.  Your school in Coral Springs, FL was one of the most successful martial schools of all time.  What was it about that school that made it so special?

Some people say I was at the right place at the right time.  That may be somewhat true, but that was part of the master plan.  It was partially a result of thorough demographic research, finding where my potential students were.  I knew what I wanted and what was needed.  I surrounded myself with a team of the best instructors around.  There were no weak links.  We all shared a vision of developing the best curriculum, the best students and the coolest experiences for them possible.  It all took on a life of its own and grew at an amazing rate.

05.  What advice would you give to someone trying to get a new idea/business started?

Do your research and make sure you are well-funded.  Then find someone successful in your industry and learn as much as you can from them!

06.  How do you define success?

Success is when your business affords you the finances and time you desire.  Your business should reflect what you believe to be your purpose in life.  With time and hard work, purpose and financial security will come and you'll develop the mindset to appreciate everything.

07.  Can you describe a moment when you felt like you really made it?  What did that feel like?

Great question!  I had my martial arts school for several years at this point.  I was working some crazy hours to build the business and develop my staff.  It took me a long time to learn how to delegate and turn things over.  One
Monday I decided to take the day off to go fishing in my new bass boat.  I remember driving to the lake and this crazy feeling crept over me, this guilty feeling that I wasn't going to work.  But I blew the day off to go fishing and it was great.

08.  Are you working on anything new right now that you're excited about?

I'm currently working with my partner Bill Storm on developing new online martial arts business courses.  Helping people be successful in martial arts has been my career for a long time.  I now have a method of training that will help school owners get to where they want to be faster.  These are very specific courses I'm designing through feedback and requests I get from school owners.  Some want 50 new students, some want staff development and others want to know how to manage finances.  These courses will include audio training, videos, written material and one-on-one sessions.  I'm concerned about the direction martial arts is headed.  I loved the impact it had on kids and families 20 years ago.  I want to help redirect the industry.  In the 80’s, school owners made a great living by dedicating themselves to the values of martial arts.  I feel today some people are only looking for short cuts and not wanting to walk the walk and talk the talk.

09.  What is currently inspiring you and in what way? (book, movie, song, charity, anything really…)

Lots of things inspire me.  I have friends that are innovating new businesses and technologies all the time and they inspire me.  I'm working with a mentor right now who was once a client and I'm learning more and more about appreciation and joy.  My wife and I are also involved in a dog rescue program that I find very rewarding.

10.  How do you end a typical day? What do you do to unwind?

I don’t have a ritual for the end of the day like I do in the morning.   My day may wind down at 1:00pm or it may wind down at 8:00pm.  I work from home so I often confuse work and enjoyment.  I enjoy what I do so it never feels like work.  My clients are my friends and my team is my family.  I'm lucky enough to live at the edge of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona, famous for its amazing sunsets.   I guess my wind down, if anything, is enjoying the view of the sun setting over the desert.

You can find Mr. Silva on the web: