The Tenth Degree with Stephen Johnson

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

I wake up at 4:00 am while the house is still quiet to enjoy a hot cup of coffee while reading the news. Next, I create/review my action item list and prioritize my day. Then I head to the gym!
What did you want to be when you grew up? What interested you in being an entrepreneur and working for yourself?

I wanted to be a Franciscan Friar, which I was for a few years. Then I worked for two incredible entrepreneurs for over 20 years. I was amazed at being able to think outside the box. I like the freedom to try new things and measure results. I have also enjoyed working with many talented entrepreneurs.

Why the martial arts? When did you first start training and what made you want to devote so much time to that one thing? Where is your school located and what do you teach?

My son was training, and I was always sitting on the bench as an observer. His instructor did the right thing and encouraged me to get on the mats. I have not been off the mats since. I started late in life, 2013. We have always wanted to have our own business, and why not focus on something we love to do. Thus we opened our own dojang!  My dojang is located in Rancho Cordova, CA (Greater Sacramento area) and we teach WT taekwondo.

How do you define success? Was there a moment when you felt like you really made it?

For me, I define success by happiness.  I have not been this happy in years. The moment I felt like I really made it was when I realized that this is about impacting students and about little more than that.
What’s a good piece of advice you could give a fellow school owner that you recently learned for yourself?

Surround yourself with people on the same mission as you!  Find mentors.  Ask questions.  Be bold.  Be open to new ideas.

Kids are going back to school very soon. Do you do anything special to use "Back to School" as a way to enroll students. If not, do you have any special programs you're working on now?

Our city has asked us to provide a demo at our local 9-11 event. We are also working with the City to host an anti-bullying event at our dojang sponsored by the City. They will have a police car, ambulance, and a fire truck at this event.  Along with participating in events like these, we also find that online marketing is an effective tool to get our name out into the community.

How do you utilize the Black Belt Excellence program in your school? 

We have multiple uses for the Black Belt Excellence tool. 1) Every one of our students must complete the workbook each month.  When completed, they earn their life skills stripe for their belt.  They must have 3 life skills stripes and 3 curriculum stripes to be eligible for our quarterly belt testing - no exceptions. 2) We use Black Belt Excellence in every prospective student's discussion with parents.  They are given a copy of the high-quality workbook and we explain that building our students up is as important as helping them become the best martial artist they can be. 3) Every walk-in gets a copy of the workbook. 4) We take leftover workbooks, coloring sheets and achievement charm rewards to every booth we operate.  I simply put a school logo sticker on the front so they know who they got it from!


What do your students and parents think about Black Belt Excellence? 

Some of our students race to see who completes it first, some do it because it is a requirement.  I believe that our parents see this as something that sets us apart from our competitors as well as other sports.  Some schools talk about life skills; however, with Black Belt Excellence we actually have tangible items (workbook, coloring sheet, achievement charms and belt stripes) that demonstrate that it is important. We also find that almost all of our parents are telling us, up front, that life skills is something extremely important to them for their children.

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

I am currently participating in a group of school owners locally here in Sacramento and am being fueled by being in a group of like-minded people.

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

I enjoy leaving the dojang at the end of classes and going home to some peace and quiet prior to going to bed.