The Business of Tai Chi: If you can plan a party, you can write a business plan!

(Originally published in the June 2013 issue of USTCC News)

So you received your certification to teach Dr. Lam’s program. Congratulations on your success. Now what? You have a vision in your head of what you want to do with your certification. You want to teach, to share your knowledge and skill with others. This is your vision. How will you go about making your vision come to life? One very excellent way is to write a business plan. The business plan takes the writer’s vision and turns the vision into action steps. The plan is a written expression of the goals, actions, and structures. If you can plan a party, you can write a business plan.

Suppose you want to throw a 50th anniversary for your parents. You visualize the party that you want your parents to have and enjoy. What will that require? The first thing you need to is rent a hall, but which hall? It requires some research, to find a hall that meets the needs of your guests. Finding the right caterer may require some research as well. Do you want live music? Another bit of research to find a band that is available and offers the music best suited to the occasion. Pretty soon it becomes important that the details get written down to guide you and ensure your venture is a success.

Writing a business plan is very similar to planning your party. A business plan is like a road map of the steps you need to take to arrive at your destination. Assuring success as a new instructor requires the clarification of one’s vision. Let’s call it a Vision Statement. Think of it as a concise statement about your vision to teach tai chi to others. It might include something about your target market, i.e., the people you want to reach. A simple example of your vision statement might be something like this, “To provide excellent instruction of TCA to individuals with arthritis and to decrease their likelihood of falls.” A written plan enables you to make better business decisions.

A written business plan has the following goals:

  • To turn your idea into actual business practice.
  • To identify what makes your business unique from that of other instructors in your area and to provide a strategy for your success.
  • To develop a plan for the operation of your business.

You have a vision of where and how you want to teach tai chi. The next step is to define your participants, your target market. Who do you want to reach?

Identify them as best you can using demographics – is there a specific age range, where are these participants located, are they mobile, and any other information that describes the people you want to reach.

Include doing a little research regarding the demand for tai chi in the specific community – this is a very good time to offer tai chi instruction because organizations, healthcare programs, physical therapy, rehab facilities, residential living communities, senior centers, and churches all want to offer tai chi.

Research who is meeting those needs now, what they teach, where and when, how much do they charge? Then decide how you differentiate yourself. What makes you different? What are your strengths? Are you able to take your class to the people or do you want the people to come to you?

Marketing is an important part of your plan. Identify by name the organizations or venues you want to reach. How will you reach them? Will you prepare flyers? Will you mail out letters?

Will you arrange to sit down face to face with individuals in charge of those venues? Do you need business cards? How much do you think is reasonable to charge?

The business plan includes four sections:

  • About your business – describe your business, the service you offer, it’s location, and what makes your business unique.
  • The marketing plan – about your market and how you will reach them: describe your customer demographics and discussion of the benefits your service. Who are the other players in the business of tai chi and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • The financial management plan – projections of income and expenses The management plan – about you and your credentials.

Keep it simple.

You may reach Kate Rueschhoff at krue.1@att.net 

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