What's your typical morning routine? How do you get your day started off right?
I get up at about 6 am and start the day with prayer. I want to make sure to start my day with a positive happy attitude. I then have coffee, play with the dogs and watch the local news. After that, I always do some reading starting with a devotional. Then I contemplate what I learned and how I can develop it into a message for martial arts school owners. I then put together a post for the Greg Silva Coaching group on Facebook. Most of the messages are original content and take a half hour or more to write. That pretty much sets me up for a good day and I spend some time feeding and walking my dogs.
What did you want to be when you grew up? What interested you in being an entrepreneur and working for yourself?
My parents were entrepreneurs in the bakery business. They instilled in me the desire to be a business owner early on. My father would tell me that was the only way to make a serious income and advised me not to work for someone else. My parents helped me start many small businesses including selling bait at our lake house, mowing lawns, clearing snow and more. I did work for a food truck for a short time when I was 18. It was actually just one day. I told my parents what the “hot dog” truck grossed and I bought the business the second day. This taught me a lot about planning, marketing, inventory, customer service and handling money.
Why the martial arts? When did you first start training and what made you want to devote so much time to that one thing?
My father was an amateur boxer. When I was 13, I was in a fight at a local park and got my nose broken. My father enrolled me in a Judo class at a health club. I am not sure why I stuck it out so long. There were mostly adults in the class. In summers, my parents would take me out but every fall I enrolled again. My mom was a huge influence that you stick with something and never give up.
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?
I had 5 schools and 1 club in Connecticut in 1988. The combined enrollment was about 2000 students. At that time, I was a board member of EFC. The board was very competitive. I wanted to move to Florida and did lots of research on locations. I found Coral Springs. This was a new “All Electric Community” designed by Westinghouse. There were 64,000 people with 80% of the population under 18. They were transplanted from all over the country. At the time there were 5 martial arts schools in town but I found a great location on the main road. I believe in the law of attraction and created a super staff of black belts that moved to Florida to be part of it. I had very strong demographic, and incredible team, new ideas and experience. I met several very successful business people in town and they helped me immensely with improving my business knowledge.
How do you define success? Was there a moment when you felt like you really made it?
My definition of success has changed over time as my values have changed. I once thought it was money, cars, watches and houses. Today success is enjoying life, family and friends without being “in love” with stuff.
It’s a difficult time to be a business owner this year. What is some advice you’ve been giving to school owners to keep going?
Creating a mindset that you're not going to give up, slow down or stop. Do what it takes to stay connected with students and provide services to your students. It’s about everything we teach our students. Be confident, have a positive attitude, be resilient, don’t give up and do what it takes to preserve your business so you can then rebuild quickly. In March I did a Zoom call to school owners with William Pierce and Scott Dolloff. We advised schools to apply for PPP aid and EDIL money. We also suggested that owners immediately communicate with students and explain that you would be moving to a virtual format. Schools that did these things are seeing a loss of students in the past 6 months that has been relatively small. Pivoting and shifting are the strategies of the year. Things change quickly and schools need to adapt and do the best they can to provide great classes. These may be virtually, in your parking lot, a park or small classes inside. It’s not over and I believe schools may never stop Zoom. Zooming live classes is a remedy for students leaving or taking time off in summers and for vacations.
You started Black Belt Excellence and it’s been going strong for years and years now. What do you like about the program and why would you encourage schools to partake?
In the 90’s my company United Professionals started a STARS program. STARS stood for Students Taking A Responsible Stand. The program was to help school owners present a solid life skill curriculum along with their martial arts curriculum. About 15 years ago we upgraded the program a lot. My kids, Mark Silva and Valerie Lugo of GetStudents.com, have taken over Black Belt Excellence and made some great changes and additions. It now includes a monthly activity newsletter for the students on the topic of the month. In addition, they have me do weekly class theme videos for owners and instructors so that the topic is actually practiced in class. By creating an action plan, students become empowered with the life skill lessons. Schools then finish classes with a mat chat and pass out rewards to students for completing the activity sheet. Also included are downloadable posters, coloring sheets, Zoom backgrounds, Facebook covers and more. Everything is included in digital format so you can even send everything prospects and former students. I think all schools should be offing Black Belt Excellence. The program is highly professional and students and parents love the lessons and topics equally. This results in increased referrals and community involvement.
What is your favorite part of working with martial arts schools? What kind of success do you see that you’re most proud of?
I truly enjoy helping school owners make a great income and future doing what they love to do. I have over 4 decades in the industry. With social media and google, everything to be successful is available equally to everyone. Yet we still have some school owners struggling and some school owners making a hundred thousand dollars a month. I feel my gift is understanding why and giving martial arts entrepreneurs the beliefs and strategies to change and grow. This past August, I began working with a client in England. I told him it was my vision to make his school a Lighthouse school. He asked what that means exactly and I told him the goal is for you to be so attracting that your town will seek you out. You are going to be best known school for sport martial arts, fitness, child development, community involvement, leadership and for the family culture in your school. When people in your area think of martial arts you are going to be on top of mind. You are going to attract new members; not chase them down. This school has grown from 190 to 275 students in just over two months. His name is Ricky Stafford and his school is TEMPEST meaning “violent storm.” Maybe that’s why he is becoming the lighthouse.
What is currently inspiring you and in what way? (book, movie, song, charity, anything really…)
In 2019 I began a Residency program at Family Church in downtown West Palm Beach. It’s a program that Family Church Institute has to develop leaders and pastors. This church’s goal is to have neighborhood churches with neighborhood pastors speaking the neighborhood language in 100 neighborhoods in South Florida. I am set to graduate in 2021. Not sure what that will lead to but it’s driving my inspiration right now. I enjoy learning, sharing, going to classes and the mission of the church.
How do you end a typical day? What do you do to unwind?
I really don’t have a routine like I have in the morning. It’s more of a R and R thing. Two days a week group of neighbors do a social distancing happy hour. We usually gather around a large tree with chairs separated and talk about our days and the week. It’s a pretty fun group and good for laughing and unwinding. Other days it may be just cooking a good meal or going fishing in the lake behind my home.