Griffin aggressive, focused

by Martin Willoughby

Published: April 3,2011

Tags: COLUMNS, Jason Griffin, Jason Griffin’s TaeKwonDo Academy

Entrepreneur passionate about his growing business

I have observed that successful entrepreneurs and leaders have a keen sense of who they are and where they are going. They have clarity in their lives that allows them to lead others on a focused path. As a young adult, I remember the sense of uncertainty I had as I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. I was always envious of people who just seemed to know their calling and career path.

Jason Griffin looks to teach his students more than just how to punch and kick.

Jason Griffin looks to teach his students more than just how to punch and kick.

Jason Griffin, owner of Jason Griffin’s TaeKwonDo Academy, is a Mississippi entrepreneur that found his passion early on. Jason grew up in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at age 11 he started taking taekwondo lessons. He was hooked. Through his teen years, he excelled in this martial art and began instructing others at age 15. By the time he finished high school, he was a third-degree black belt and a champion competitor. In 1996, Jason, at the age 22, had the opportunity to move to Jackson and open his taekwondo business. While there are a number of very good martial arts training facilities, Griffin’s business exploded, and today he has the largest martial arts business in Central Mississippi. He has over 14 employees and locations in Jackson and Brandon. He also recently opened up a branch in Denver, Col., and has plans for expansion in other states, as well.

I sat down recently to visit with Griffin to learn about the key ingredients of his success. One of the first things that I noticed was his passion for what he does. Not only is Griffin passionate about teaching the martial arts, he is probably even more enthusiastic about the opportunity to positively influence lives, particularly his junior students. As he noted, “any skilled instructor can teach you to kick and punch, but we also try to teach valuable life skills.” They are teaching their students how to be strong in mind, body, and spirit. Ours is a society in need of help in this regard. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. We have also become lax in our character training that leads to general disrespect for teachers and people of authority.

Griffin shared with me how they teach not only martial arts skills, but also teach the 10 core tenets of honor, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, courage, community, strength, humility and knowledge. Griffin’s students maintain a character development journal where they track their progress in accomplishing their goals. Griffin encourages his students to eat healthfully, read to grow their mind and to perform random acts of kindness. He asks his students to perform and journal 15 random acts of kindness every two months.

During our interview, I referenced the fact that he was drinking a health drink, and he noted, “It is important as the leader to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.” Griffin continued, “I learned early on that it is important to always remain a student, and not just be the instructor.”  As a seventh-degree black belt, Griffin has certainly remained the student, as well. As a leader of a growing organization, he is setting a great example for his team as he purposely tries to live out what they are teaching to so many students.

The lessons I learn from observing Griffin’s business include the fundamental point to find something you love and pursue it passionately. To me, life is too short to be miserable in your job. I also note that it is important to be great at what you do. A service business is based on trust, and a fundamental element of trust is competency. Griffin’s expertise in his field instills a sense of confidence that he knows what he is doing. In other words, we need to become an expert in our chosen field. I’m impressed with the way Griffin and his team have taken teaching martial arts, a potentially commoditized business, and have created a value add through their character education. As service professionals, we all have to seek ways to differentiate ourselves in a crowded marketplace. Finally, I note that Griffin is not standing still with his business. He has aggressive plans to methodically grow and expand his company, and he is constantly trying to improve. When things are good it’s easy to become complacent.  However, as one successful entrepreneur emphasized to me, “You always want to run a little scared in your business.”

Griffin, age 36, is a part of Mississippi’s entrepreneurial future, and I am excited to see his success. I’m also encouraged by the positive impact that his team is having on the students in our community. However, after spending some time with Griffin, I am convicted that I need to still a little more time in the gym!

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Up Close With …

Jason Griffin

Favorite Books: “My favorite book is ‘Experiencing God’ by Henry Blackaby, and I am currently reading ‘Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney’ by Lee Cockrell.”

First Job: “My first job was cutting grass, and I worked in a car wash when I was 14.”

Proudest Moment as a Leader: “My proudest moments are when I tie a black belt around students, and when I have students who decide to pursue teaching taekwondo as a career!”

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