Steven Bosyk is the COO for Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts, the largest Martial Arts school in the United States. Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts was founded by Daniel “Tiger” Schulmann, who wanted to provide others with the many benefits studying Martial Arts had given him.
After retirement from competition, Tiger Schulmann developed a hybrid style of martial art, combining the most effective streetwise self-defense from a combination of boxing, muay thai, wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts has grown from one school in 1984 to more than 45 schools today, with locations in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.
Drawn by his outstanding reputation and high standards, people come to train at TSMA schools year after year. Today, more than 300,000 students have taken classes at Tiger Schulmann’s school. Many students have even gone on to become instructors and school owners themselves.
In this capacity, Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts has helped thousands of men, women, and children reach their full potential while meeting a variety of personal goals. Multiple students have even gone on to compete at the highest level of professional competition including Invicta FC, Bellator, and The UFC.
But TSMA teaches more than self-defense. Every one of Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts Schools strives to provide an alternative form of physical fitness while instilling life lessons and personal development.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
Daniel “Tiger” Schulmann initially set out to create a different and better experience for Martial Art students. Prior to Tiger Schulmann’s, most martial arts instructors taught part-time, usually in the evenings after their “real jobs.” They mostly taught very traditional martial arts that had changed very little over hundreds of years. These systems were very rigid in both the method of instruction and the skills they taught. Those traditional styles strongly discouraged influences from other systems or the adoption of new and improved techniques, no matter their effectiveness.
Tiger Schulmann set out to open a professional school that was run by dedicated, full-time instructors who would teach an American style of Martial Arts. A style that combined the most effective techniques from boxing, Muay Thai kickboxing, wrestling and Jiu Jitsu to create an unparalleled system of self defense and fitness. In addition, he wanted to offer these classes broken out into several experience levels including beginner, intermediate and advanced and multiple age groups including adults, teens, pre-teens and younger children. This had never been done before and it allowed the largest population of people to feel comfortable taking up martial arts.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical weekday starts with a morning martial arts-inspired workout, usually something like bag training and stretching.
Once in the office (or even before) I always prioritize reviewing the daily performance metrics. I feel this is the best way to get the daily pulse of the organization and identify any potentially negative trends before they get too big.
While my area of focus will shift from day to day, I tend to adhere pretty strictly to my task list and my calendar. I especially make sure to block out time in my calendar for each of those tasks during the day, not just for meetings or calls. If I am not strict about that, the day can easily get from me with pop-in meetings and unscheduled phone calls. My tasks would never get accomplished.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing an idea to life always starts with very clear communication around whatever it is you are trying to achieve. Getting the initial alignment and maintaining proper momentum is almost always a result of how effectively something is communicated. Establishing that clarity, especially in the beginning is of the utmost importance. To help with that, I really try and lean on visual forms of communication. A picture, a video, or even a chart can often communicate a situation or a concept so much better than even the most eloquent description. I have found the old adage to be so true “A picture is worth 1,000” words.
Obviously, sometimes a visual isn’t appropriate or available. What I like to do then is paint a verbal picture. I do this with storytelling or by using very vivid analogies. I want the people listening to really “see” what I am saying. For me, there is no better way to make ideas and concepts really resonate.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Social Media is well past the point of being a “trend” and it definitely gets a lot of negative criticism. Much of it, perhaps, deservedly so. But, that criticism stems directly from the power of these platforms. As an organization, we used to rely heavily on print ads and 30 second TV spots. It helped to build our business and greatly enhanced our brand awareness. But, those mediums don’t allow much room for brands to tell their story. Today, we can share the many life-changing experiences our students and instructors have had as a result of our program. We want their success to be an inspiration to other people, and social media allows us to do that at a relatively low cost. As these platforms continue to grow and evolve, it will allow us to tell our stores in an even more effective way.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Listening. Early on in my career, I wanted to make sure people heard and understood my point of view. Over time, I have found that one of the best ways to engage people is by simply listening. People want to be heard. When you are quick to dismiss their ideas or tell them why they are wrong, they immediately get defensive and often won’t then listen to what you have to say. I try to let people talk and thank them for sharing that with me. Obviously, not every idea I hear is a good one or worth acting on. But, the simple act of listening to someone, and not being negative or combative, can go a long way, especially in the long run. And, most of the time, they do bring a perspective I didn’t consider. So when I am making a decision, I often have an added perspective that had I not listened I never would have had.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Work hard… There is no substitute. In fact, that is the philosophy of our organization. We call it a “non-quitting” spirit. Talent or natural abilities definitely help, but just like the tortoise and the hare, talent alone is not enough. In the end, if you put the time in and just keep moving forward towards the goal, you will reach it.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
There is usually never just “one truth.” Most things can be accomplished in a variety of ways and still be correct.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
To embrace the “non-quitting” spirit. Just keep going… try until you get it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
There are maybe two things that actually stand out. The first is authenticity. In our business, being a fake in any way gets exposed quickly. Whether it is the ability and commitment of our instructors, the results of our students, or the promises we make to our student’s parents, we have to be upfront, honest, and real. You will get exposed very quickly in a variety of ways for anything that is less than truthful.
The other aspect of our business that I am extremely proud of is the fact that all our school owners are homegrown and came out of the system. You cannot take a two-week seminar and teach at Tiger Schulmann’s. We spend years qualifying our instructors and ensuring they have a true understanding and dedication. All our instructors started as paying students and are true enthusiasts. This also comes back to ensuring our authenticity.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Over the years, there have been several times we have tried to break into categories outside of our core business. While tangent to our business, they were not our expertise and these efforts clearly distracted from what we do best. There are good ways to execute that, and we have learned to try those ways next time and not take away from what got us here.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
This is such a great question. I feel that spending money on a nice meal out with my wife is always money well spent. Americans take one or two weeks of vacation a year. Compared to other countries, that’s not much. I see going out to eat as a 2-hour mini-vacation. It feels just like a vacation, it is just for a shorter amount of time.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Google Workspace Suite. It has been revolutionary for our company. I know schools have been quicker to adopt it than the business community has… but these businesses have to catch up. It’s so much better than anything else out there. All the software integrates together, you are not worried about hosting servers, hitting save, seeing the old versions of docs. Gmail alone would be so worth it, but then integrated with Google Drive and the office software… to me, it is a no-brainer.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. This book gave me a better appreciation of life and all we have available in these times. He teaches you the importance of finding a purpose in life. We often hear about searching out happiness and trying to do this or that to feel good in the moment. That’s not what it (life) is about. Fulfillment, which is what we are all truly after, comes as a result of having a mission or a purpose in your life. Being dedicated to something bigger than yourself and working towards that goal, is what ultimately gives you meaning in life.
What is your favorite quote?
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”
- – No matter how you branch out, try to remain true to the core purpose and vision for your business
– Use your time well: Make sure to divide your day out and give time to the things that need to get done
– Don’t be afraid to listen; hearing another perspective usually gives you an edge, and if it doesn’t, at least it allows you to make a good impression
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.