As we all finish our show seasons, we might have allowed ourselves a second of celebration before the reality of the challenges ahead fully set in.
While we are closing the chapter of the people that stood by us and cheered us on throughout an entire season of the pandemic, we are now facing the next phase of this weird grey space of normalization.
And, as a business, it is TOUGH.
If you are feeling tired, burned out, exhausted, or questioning your ability to operate in this environment, you aren’t alone.
In addition to recouping a year and a half of lower enrollment numbers and lost revenue, there are also the following internal business hurdles:
Chasta Hamilton is the Owner/Artistic Director of Stage Door Dance Productions in Raleigh, NC. She authored the best-selling book Trash The Trophies: How to Win Without Losing Your Soul. Later this summer, her TEDx talk “You Weren’t Built to Break” will debut, combining her passion for performance with the necessity of resilience.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year? If you feel like you’re crawling into 2021, you aren’t alone. Crisis leadership is exhausting, and we haven’t had a break since March. With holidays feeling unusual amidst an escalating pandemic, the heaviness may continue to weigh on you during this festive season. Now is the time to take a breath, inventory where you stand, and prepare for the push forward. You’ve made it this far, and you can make it to 2021 and beyond!
TAKE A BREATH
Give yourself space. When the adrenaline and/or fear kicks in, it can be easy to feel reactionary, stressed, angry, out of control, and /or frustrated. Using the tips below, monitor your self-awareness and give yourself permission to breathe.
Monitor your health: exercise, stay hydrated, eat healthily, and sleep!
Have non-professional hobbies: find a new project, skill, or activity, and dig in!
Seek inspiration: make sure you aren’t becoming paralyzed to the new reality, seek inspirational sources.
Monitor your time: do you find yourself doomscrolling or plunging into the wasteland of social media? Be mindful of how you’re spending your time.
Reach out: talk to friends, other businesses, and maintain your connections.
Self-advocate: skip the gathering, decorate for Christmas early, do whatever you need to do to protect your well-being.
INVENTORY WHERE YOU STAND
Now is a great time to review the months behind us while looking forward to the future. Make sure you aren’t only looking to the immediate future. Continue your long-term strategy, as well.
Continue to mitigate: keep your studios and classrooms as safe as possible through consistent messaging, cohesive leadership, and standardized enforcement. Remind your community that it is a shared responsibility to keep the community safe.
Recognize your accomplishments: celebrate your pivots and recognize the fact that you have worked really hard to get to where you are today. Take a minute to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how you can learn/grow from this experience in the future.
Do the numbers: this may feel painful, but it is necessary for your financial planning and projections. What’s your percentage compared to past years? How long can you sustain?
PREPARE FOR THE PUSH FORWARD
While you may want to stop, don’t. Keep going, keep planning, and keep dreaming. Never lose sight that YOU create and inspire magic!
Create contingencies: There’s no need for surprises or panic-inducing situations at this point. Create contingencies and work smartly, so you do not have to rework strategies or plans.
Think beyond the pandemic: When this subsides, what do you want your business to look like? How will you continue to grow, scale, and serve your community?
Involve others in the conversations: Lean into your team, a mentor, a therapist, and/or a leadership coach to help you navigate the now and the future.
Stay optimistic: optimism isn’t the same as always being positive. Keep your outlook in check and remind yourself that you have the power to influence others.
Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:
In my experience coaching dance studio owners, the word bullying can paralyze even the most experienced entrepreneur. It’s a word that means there is a serious cause for concern, and it’s a word that is sometimes mistakenly used when conflict would be a better choice. To say the least, knowing how to define and address bullying in the dance studio environment can be a challenge.
As a business owner who serves families and children, your first priority is to keep them safe within your walls. True bullying must be taken seriously and handled swiftly, and it’s important to educate your clientele and your staff about what that means. One such way we are handling this at Misty’s Dance Unlimited is by becoming YPAD (Youth Protection Advocates in Dance) Certified. Our staff has completed the YPAD online education coursework in order to become more knowledgeable about bullying and other harmful behaviors. We have implemented new policies around bullying to show our clients that we are invested in keeping their kids safe, happy, and healthy.
Through this education, and through my own experience over the past two decades, I’ve developed a few clear ways of addressing bullying at my studio. I encourage you to keep reading to learn more about my 3 Ways to Address Bullying and build your confidence in developing a studio culture that minimizes issues with bullying.
Here are my 3 Ways to Address Bullying:
Decide what type of meeting it will be
Clarity is key for successful meetings! Make sure your team knows what type of meeting they are stepping into, and set the expectation that the meeting will be focused on specific outcomes related to that type—off-topic questions or conversations will be saved for another time. Here are some common meeting types you may be using (or will want to implement):
Use these meetings to brief the team on projects you are working on, or to check in with them on the status of their projects. Status check meetings should serve as task-oriented progress reports, where everyone contributes to discuss their specific responsibilities.
The problem-solving meeting is centered around brainstorming new ideas on how to approach a specific issue, or related issues, the studio is facing. These meetings will probably be centered around finding the best resolution, or at the very least, innovating solutions that can be explored further.
Setting studio-wide goals and expectations are the two pillars of a visionary type of meeting. This is likely to be a meeting led by you or someone on your leadership team, to set the tone of the season, the semester, or the month ahead. Also, remember that casting the vision for your team means this type of meeting is usually the most motivational!
2. Know who needs to attend and why
Not every meeting is for every staff member. For example, you may have meetings that are better suited for your leadership team only or meetings that are strictly for administrative personnel. Or perhaps your teachers need their own classroom-focused meeting once every quarter. Dial into the needs of your team by making sure each meeting has a defined purpose and no one’s time is wasted.
One great way to do this is by taking the time to personally invite team members to a meeting and giving them advance notice of the topic at hand. There may be times where you also ask them to bring ideas to share. Explain how much listening, note-taking, or contributing they should expect. Doing this allows meetings to feel less like an obligation, and more of an opportunity to connect.
3. Be prepared—and be prepared to improvise
Go into every meeting with an agenda, and expect to improvise off of it as needed. I’ve learned that when I’m in charge of a meeting, I do my best when I’m clear about the main points that need to be discussed. If I’m not clear, nobody is clear.
If you have members of your team who also lead meetings, talk to them about developing this skill too. Consistency and organization among staff, no matter who is setting the meeting, shows that meetings are not taken lightly and will be used to enhance everyone’s productivity.
Don’t underestimate the value of a great staff meeting! With some fine-tuned planning and a little extra attention to detail, your team can gain a whole new appreciation for what a A+ meeting can be like.
I hope that your studio can benefit from these tips and turn meetings into a source of respectful relationship-building and enhanced focus at work. And if there something else YOU do with your meetings to make them successful, please share your advice in the comments. I’d love to hear what serves you well when it comes to meetings—and maybe try it out myself!
Looking for more great ideas to help address bullying in your studio? Check out the following articles:
There is no doubt that this time of year for studio owners can be hectic and, let’s face it, a little crazy! With recital on the horizon, class placements being prepped, and audition details coming together, it’s not surprising that you may begin to physically feel the effects of stress of the busy season.
I went through far too many years of entrepreneurship knowing this season was coming and yet not quite prepared for it to the degree I should have! Now that I know better though, I do better. And one of the best ways I do better is by understanding that yes, it will be busy, and yes, I can still take good care of myself. And I encourage YOU to do the same!
It’s so easy to get swept up into stress and let it overtake your mindset. But you know what’s also pretty easy? Making a plan to relieve that stress by having a few simple tactics in your pocket. Here, I’m going to share my best tips for thriving in the busyness of your life. These are all things that help me tremendously at this time of year, and I hope they will serve you well too!
Here are my 5 Quick Ways to Recharge During the Busy Season:
Commit to self-care in the morning
The morning can often dictate how the rest of your day goes, so decide now that your mornings will be proactive for your peace of mind. Spend a few quiet minutes in meditation or prayer; edit your to-do list; read one chapter of an inspiring book; brew your favorite coffee or tea; move your body through some gentle stretching or yoga. Have a ritual in place—even a short one—that will encourage you to start the day with your best foot forward.
Go outside at least once a day
A few deep breaths of fresh air can change your entire frame of mind when you are caught in the whirlwind of busyness. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you should go all day at your desk with only a few stretch breaks. Try to block out 15 minutes here and there to step outside, walk around the block, and enjoy a change of scenery. You may be surprised at how refreshed you feel!
Connect with friends who understand
I personally think this is one of the best ways to combat the weariness that can accompany long work days: human connection. Our tendency as entrepreneurs is to isolate ourselves when we feel stress when really it’s much more helpful to reach out to others! Maybe you don’t have time for a long heart-to-heart phone call, but sending a quick text or email to check in with a friend can give you a burst of energy AND put a smile on your face.
Fuel up with your favorite things
When you’re in busy mode, don’t let yourself fall into the trap of poor nutrition habits! Stock up on your favorite healthy snacks, treats, or meals to keep you going. Now’s the time to splurge on the protein bars you crave, the smoothies with extra vitamins, or maybe even the meal delivery service you’ve been meaning to try. Your health can’t be taken for granted at any time—and most especially when you need to be on your A-game.
Give yourself a chance to wind down
Resist the urge to completely crash at the end of the day. Your evening routine should allow you the chance to center yourself and relax. As hard as it is to do, put your phone and computer in another room to charge, and focus on yourself and your family before turning in for the night. Your mind will feel clearer and more rested to take on whatever’s next.
Recharging during this time of year can be a challenge, but if anyone can accept a challenge and overcome it, it’s a studio owner! I want you to feel encouraged that this season of “busy” can also be a season of “health” if you are committed to it. I know that for me, this time of year now holds more excitement than stress because I’m able to look out for my well-being in a way I didn’t know how to do before.
If you have another method of recharging that works well in your life, share it in the comments below! I would love to hear what helps keep you fueled, prepared, and nourished during this time of year. I wish you much success as you charge full-steam ahead into the coming weeks!
Looking for more tips keeping your sanity through the busy season? Check out the following articles:
It’s that time of year again! That time when we start to see our students feel the “mid-year slump” … which means they’re in need of some extra TLC and motivation in class as we push through the remaining cold weather months. But did you know that your employees are probably feeling the slump too? The post-winter break, dreary weather, pre-recital doldrums are VERY real for your team as well, whether they show it or not. But fear not, there are ways that make boosting employee morale a breeze!
I know you want to keep employee morale up ALL year long (I do too) so this time of year is perfect to recalibrate that dial. Remember that keeping your team motivated and excited about work isn’t just about making them feel good; it’s about setting them up for success so they can do their best work for your studio and dance families.
If you’re expecting a high level of performance from your team, it’s in your best interest to ensure they are working in an environment conducive to reaching goals and seeing results. Taking the time to keep their morale up will continue to benefit your business in this way. Keep reading to learn more about my 4 Ideas for Boosting Employee Morale, and see if you can give everyone’s spirits a little lift!
Here are my 4 Ideas for Boosting Employee Morale:
Solicit their feedback and suggestions
Although not every business decision you make is a democratic one, you can choose to allow your team’s suggestions to be heard on decisions that affect them. People are energized when they contribute to their organization’s success, so by being open to their feedback, you are letting your team know that they—and their opinions—matter.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying you should have a free-for-all on feedback! It is still important that you communicate when your people have a “voice” versus when they have a “vote.” But everyone’s confidence gets a boost when they know that you are actively listening and that you care about what they think.
Have fun together outside of work
Perhaps this is “easier said than done” when it comes to scheduling, but getting together with your team just for fun can be a MAJOR morale booster! This could be as simple as a Sunday brunch, or as involved as a weekend retreat. The idea is to create a relaxed environment for everyone to enjoy each other’s company, without any work pressures or agendas. These group experiences away from the studio humanize you and them by taking everyone out of the usual routine. Think bonding activities like bowling or visiting an escape room; or entertainment, such as a game night at your house or seeing a show together.
You don’t have to hold these types of events often, but make it a point to schedule at least a few each season. Be prepared to pick up the tab, and consider inviting spouses or significant others into the mix too!
Discover their “language of appreciation”
You may have heard of The 5 Love Languages before, a book by Gary Chapman. Well, he also has a companion book, authored with Paul White, called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. The concept behind the book is that different personality styles value different expressions of appreciation, and it’s important to tap into your employees’ preferences in order to show appreciation in a meaningful way.
What’s most important is to learn what is motivating for your team members! For example, if you have an employee who values tangible gifts, they are going to feel appreciated when you bring them a Starbucks gift card. Another employee, however, may feel more motivated by quality time, and so scheduling regular check-ins with that person is going to bring more value to them than Starbucks does.
Offer consistent praise and encouragement
When you see an employee doing something great, honor it! Don’t wait. Praise often, as soon as you witness a positive interaction or grace under pressure. And don’t hesitate to praise publicly, especially in front of other team members.
As a studio owner, it’s easy to get caught up in giving constant corrections, but by offering frequent and deserving praise, you are showing your employees that you notice their efforts. Everyone loves being lifted up for a job well done, and finding these moments of praise demonstrates that you’re committed to finding a balance between compliments and criticism.
I challenge you to use all four of these ideas to give your team an extra boost and some well-earned pats-on-the-back. Your employees are the conduit to your customers, and so the more confident and positive they feel, the better they can serve. Allow them to be heard and encourage their successes. Share in the comments below if you have experienced a great return on your investment into employee morale! I’d love to hear about it.
Looking for more great ideas to help with boosting employee morale? Check out the following articles:
For the fourth year in a row, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our annual dance studio software reviews survey. We asked thousands of dance studio owners to answer questions about their dance studio management software. We’ve continued to see some recurring trends about how studio owners choose their dance studio software, how they utilize it, and what they like and dislike about it.
If you’ve considered investing in software to help you manage your studio, this data will definitely be eye-opening.
The percentage of studio owners that are using dance studio management software continues to rise, from 67% in 2014 to 82.2% in 2018.
Studio owners overwhelmingly choose software based on its ability to meet their needs; referrals from friends and associates also carry significant influence in the purchase decision.
Jackrabbit and Studio Director continue to dominate market share with a combined 65% , but this has decreased from 2017, when they held 74% of the market.
The features most important to studio owners continue to be billing and payment processing, email and text communication, and class management. Following the 2017 trend, however, online registration continues to increase in popularity.
For the first time since the survey inception, overall customer satisfaction dipped, from a 2017 high of 84%, to 79% in 2018.
Read the In-Depth Report on Dance Studio Software Reviews
Think about your dance studio front desk person(s). Is he/she friendly? Is he/she focused? Is he/she committed to the success of your business?
If your answer is:
(1) I don’t have a front desk person.
(2) My front desk person is not friendly.
(3) My front desk person is not focused.
(4) My front desk person is not invested in the success of my business.
Then, STOP. Houston, we have a problem.
Why You Need a Front Desk Person
Your front desk person is your gatekeeper, your pulse, and your frontline of battle. All of those roles are considered mission: critical to the success of any operation. Your front desk person is no exception.
This person represents your studio, and generally, makes the first impression a client experiences when entering your facility.
The front desk person should know the ins/out of your studio and its operation, and if a tricky question arises, he/she should know the proper communication procedures for finding the answer. He/she should be friendly, eager, enthusiastic, and happy to be a part of your organization.
The front desk person should never gossip or show preferential treatment to particular clients.
Of course, like any other staff member, the front desk representative should be trained, evaluated, and supported within the infrastructure of your business. After all, the front desk person can make or break a prospective client’s interest in your facility and/or a current client’s experience with your facility.
Choose someone that will make a positive, lasting impression!
For the third year, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our annual dance studio management software reviews survey. We asked dance studio owners to answer questions about their dance studio management software. We’ve continued to see some recurring trends about how studio owners choose their dance studio software, how they utilize it, and what they like and dislike about it.
The percentage of studio owners that are using dance studio management software has steadily risen year after year, from 67% in 2014 to 80% in 2017.
The three most important features of studio management software have consistently been billing and payment processing, email or text communication and class management, but over the last year, online registration has seen a marked increase in importance.
The percentage of studios who have a majority of students paying by credit/debit card has continued to increase (to 54% in 2017), though studios across the country still vary widely in their ability to process credit card payments.
Overall satisfaction with dance studio management software has continued to creep up with 84% indicating that they were either “extremely satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied,” up from 82% in 2015.
Read the In-Depth Report on Dance Studio Software Survey Results
If you choose to hire a person, it is important to bring them back to your studio to review your expectations and discuss details in a staff orientation session. In the orientation, you should discuss three things:
Expectations for Professionalism
Accountability & Preparedness
Details of the Working Agreement
Expectations for Professionalism
You must never assume that people will understand your standards for professionalism. Rather, you must detail a code of behavior and work ethics that specifically addresses your expectations and consequences for non-compliance. Our society is constantly evolving, and you must ensure that your code of ethics and professionalism evolves with the trends of society.
Each year, The Dance Exec’s Studio takes time to review the values, policies, and guidelines for our entire staff. Topics addressed range from curriculum to dress to behavior to attendance and more. Your expectations should be explicit and detailed. Consequences for non-compliance of expectations should be discussed, too.
As time evolves, your expectations for professionalism may evolve. You should constantly evaluate and update your expectations to make sure your studio complies with the highest standards of the dance industry.
For example, in the middle of the 2011-2012 season, the studio saw a need to implement a new social media policy to alleviate grievances that were arising from student/staff online “friendships” and interactions (the grievances were petty, but based on conversations in the academic environment, it seemed that the issue could further spiral out of control and needed to be addressed).
The studio spent a couple of weeks determining the best course of action and took staff opinions and feelings into consideration, too.
Ultimately, an email was sent out to the staff to address our new social media policy (which states that instructors will not “friend” students on social media sites). This new, professional policy was complimented with a follow-up email to the studio parents.
Both emails were very similar and described the benefits of the evolved policy to the respective targeted audience. The studio did not receive one complaint regarding the new policy. If you are consistently on the cutting-edge of business developments and you approach your choices as bettering the business, you will never go wrong.
Set your standards for professionalism and do not feel ashamed for what you deem appropriate/inappropriate. Be clear and concise in your expectations and you will succeed.
Accountability & Preparedness / Details of Working Agreement
In addition to professionalism within the workplace, high standards of accountability and preparedness are essential to creating a staffing model that contributes to the culture of your studio. Again, your accountability and preparedness expectations should be set forth prior to hiring and consequences should be standardized in case a staff member chooses to not follow your requirements.
How can you make sure that your staff members are consistently maintaining the standards set forth by your studio? At The Dance Exec’s Studio, a detailed, written working agreement (this is not a contract) is provided to all of our employees at the beginning of each season. It is imperative that you constantly renew your written material since new issues arise, improvements are made, etc. Never become complacent in your standards.
In your dance studio employee handbook, you should include expectations of staff during their employment term, their terms of employment (at-will employee, contract employee, etc.), consequences of breaking the terms of employment, and their pay for their agreement period. The staff member and the studio owner(s) should sign off on the agreement, and the staff member should initial each clause in the agreement.
Topics in your dance studio employee handbook should include:
An Employee Handbook Acknowledgement
Terms & Conditions of Employment
Studio Curriculums & Confidentiality
Pay Agreement & Procedure
Class Structure & Preparation
Rewards Systems/ Behavioral Protocol
Zero Tolerance Items
Yearly Calendar (with pay information re: holidays, etc.)
Special Events (expectations and compensation for recitals, competitions, etc.)
Professionalism & Workplace Values
Appropriate On & Off-Site Studio Affiliated Behavior
Expectations for Evaluation & Sample Evaluation Form
Detailed Information Regarding Performance Review
Yearly Calendar/Curriculum Guide
The Dance Exec also recommends consulting an attorney to make sure your terms of employment and rules are legal within the laws of your state.
In regards to legal advice and staff, within the dance studio industry, there is a lot of conversation and debate regarding labeling dance studio instructors as independent contractors versus employees. At The Dance Exec’s Studio, the regular, in-studio staff are labeled as employees since we dictate their schedules, classes, etc. If the studio brings in a guest artist, then he/she is considered an independent contractor.
Whatever you choose to do at your studio, make sure it fits within the bounds of the law. (Incorrectly labeling employees as contractors can lead to an IRS audit and back payment of payroll taxes.)
Ultimately, you have to view yourself as a business entity and you must approach every decision from that same perspective. Be sure to consult an attorney to make sure you are handling your staff’s finances properly. Do not cut payroll corners. If you handle everything the correct way, then you are laying the foundation to protect yourself and your business for years to come.
Systemizing Staffing Conflicts
In a perfect world, staffing conflicts, mishaps, and broken rules would not occur. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect and neither is human nature. At some point in the time, an incident will occur that will concern or involve a staff member, and the way you choose to handle it will make all the difference in the world to you, your professional relationships, and your business.
Your consequential/disciplinary plan for your staff should be so detailed that there are no surprises. If a staff member is not conforming to your written expectations, they should be reprimanded in an appropriate way.
This is not to say that all reprimands should be negative. Joining a studio’s culture is a learning process, and often times, you can turn a conflict into a learning experience. Most staff members will appreciate your guidance and will learn and develop from your feedback.
For each incident that occurs, you should have levels of consequence, documentation forms, and staff file folders to track any disciplinary actions. Please note that all forms must be signed and dated by the staff member and the studio owner(s). Implementing a standardized system alleviates the emotions involved with disciplinary action, and better protects you and your business.
Ready for the next step? You can see the third part of the Dance Studio Management Guide here:
Only two weeks left to go before the recital – can you believe it? Your dancers are probably starting to feel some nerves, not to mention the stress you’re likely feeling as you run over in your head the zillion things you have to do before showtime.
Before you drive yourself crazy running around, take a breather and look at this checklist of the things you need to do over the next two weeks.
Host a Makeup Rehearsal
Whether it’s this week or next (before the dress rehearsal) make sure you hold a makeup and hair rehearsal for your dancers, and their parents if they want to join. A beauty rehearsal is a great way for novice dancers and the parents of younger students to practice how the makeup will be applied and how their hair will be styled. This way, you save the time going over the hair and makeup at the dress rehearsal, and there’s (hopefully) few or no questions before the actual recital.
It’s not just the newbies that need a beauty rehearsal, though. According to Dance Informa, even the most experienced dancers should attend a makeup and hair rehearsal before the recital, since this helps the dancers make sure that their hair and makeup styles are uniform and coordinated with the rest of the dancers in the group.
Have Recital Programs Submitted to the Printer
Recital programs are pretty much an expectation for dance recitals, as they help inform parents and patrons about the order of dances and the general timeline for the evening. At two weeks out, you MUST have your finalized program designs submitted to your printer to make sure:
You have a timely delivery of the final product
Any emergency issues can be resolved
Collect Pre-Orders of DVDs and Other Items for Dance Recitals
If you have the resources and manpower, it can be profitable to have a table at the recital selling performance DVDs, photos and other collectible items. However, collecting pre-orders a couple weeks before the event helps maximize profits and make sure every parent or dancer who wants the extras gets them. Send out emails and social media posts reminding parents to pre-order DVDs and other souvenirs and set a deadline for orders at least a week before the recital. You can use physical forms for orders, but online forms make things easy for both you and the parents.
Give Parents Detailed Drop-off/Pick-up Instructions
Dance Exec noted that it’s important that parents have detailed logistical information for the recital ahead of time. It’s a good idea to hold a pre-dress rehearsal meeting in addition to sending a detailed letter – over email is most convenient for the parents – that describes the drop-off and pick-up process, along with any reminders about ticket and DVD sales, costumes and other important dates and times, in addition to thorough directions to the venue if the recital is not held at your studio.
Need a letter or dance recital information sheet template? We’ve made an example sheet you can download and customize in Microsoft Word for your studio’s needs below:
Have “Day Of” Plans Finalized and Supplies Prepared
Two weeks before the recital – and in the week leading up to it – reach out to your volunteers to confirm that they will be helping out. Make sure you have enough volunteers to cover all duties. If not, you have time to recruit some last-minute helpers.
For some backstage organization ideas, check out this quick video:
Along the lines of volunteers, have all of your signs and backstage planning items printed/laminated/explained/etc. If you plan to have clear signs backstage that point to “Stage,” “Lobby,” “restrooms,” or particular areas of the backstage, have them done and checked off your list.
Michelle Spezio, director of Spezio’s Dance Dynamics in Buffalo, New York, shared a great tip with Dance Studio Life. She puts together boxes of frequently forgotten and emergency items like bobby pins, lip stick, hairspray, sewing kits, nail polish remover, tape, scissors and safety pins, and then places these boxes on either side of the stage and in dressing rooms. You should still remind dancers and their parents to bring their own back-up kits, but these boxes are much-appreciated insurance.
You’ve probably been here before – hunched over your laptop late at night, playing the same four seconds of music over and over again on your editing software trying to get it exactly right. Maybe a transition is too clunky, a background instrument is too loud or the fade out is too sudden. No matter the issue, music editing is a recipe for stress and frustration. Music editing apps for your phone are designed to help reduce some of the stress so you can get back to focusing on your students. The apps have streamlined, easy-to-use interfaces that simplify the editing process and make it conveniently portable, so you can tackle any editing issues or make quick adjustments whenever and wherever you are.
Try any – or all – of these music editing apps for using on-the-go:
Audacity is one of the most popular music editing software programs that dance teachers use, and Audacity Portable, the mobile app, means that you can take advantage of all of its useful functionality anywhere. Audacity is an open source software program that means that any developer can use the code to create their own versions of the original program, which is how the mobile app was created. Its layout is easy to get a grasp on, allowing you to make basic adjustments to tracks or “zoom in” for more intricate editing, and best of all, it’s free!
One of the leading music production programs for Macs, also has an app version for iPhones and iPads. GarageBand allows you to create your own songs with a variety of realistic-sounding digital instruments, but you can also easily edit imported tracks and add effects in seconds. For those that are new to GarageBand, The Dance Buzz gave a great tutorial on using the program here.
Hokusai Audio Editor
While Audacity and GarageBand were originally created for desktops, Hokusai was designed with smartphones in mind. The interface is optimized for use on touchscreens, meaning you can make music edits with just a swipe. You can use tools to normalize volume levels and fade-in and fade-out, and can alter the resonance or echoes. The app also features a neat “scrubbing effect” that means you can hear what the music sounds like as you move your finger down a track. And you can edit without worrying about making mistakes, since any changes can be easily undone.
WavePad Audio Editor
WavePad is a free app that contains the basic features needed for editing music. You can record and edit your own sounds and songs, and the app also works with third-party tracks. Your tracks are clearly organized for easy access and it comes with tools like filters that will make sounds clearer. However, WavePad is best for short choreography, between 3-5 minutes, since it does not have a zoom function that allows you to make more minute edits.
Notetracks is not part of the collection of music editing apps, but it is incredibly useful for dance teachers working with choreography, and is recommended by Dance Teacher Connect. With the app, you can easily make notes anywhere in a song and can clearly see the notes marked on the track, making it very helpful for when you’re creating a new routine. Notetracks also makes it easy to share your notes and ideas with others.
Music editing tips
Your expertise is dance, not music mixing, though effective editing will help your dancers perform at their very best. Dance Advantage offered several helpful tips for great music editing. Make sure the volume level is consistent throughout the track, since any discrepancies – even subtle ones – are distracting to both the dancers and audience.
Cutting and pasting is a common way to edit tracks, but it’s not always suitable – the site noted that mixing tracks and adding effects are very noticeable in stripped-down musical pieces with few instruments, so the cut-and-paste method is most effective for acoustic songs.
Editor’s Note: Check out the results of our most recent annual dance studio management software survey here.
For the second year in a row, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our most recent survey. We asked dance studio owners to answer questions about their dance studio management software. This year we’ve definitely noticed some recurring trends about how studio owners choose their dance studio management software, how they utilize it, and what they like and dislike about it.
The percentage of studio owners that are using dance studio management software increased 8% last year, from 67% in 2014 to 75% in 2015.
The three most important features of studio management software are still billing and payment processing, class management, and email or text communication, and online registration is gaining in importance.
Studios that fully embrace credit card payments see a vast majority of student payments come in via that method, though studios across the country vary widely in their ability to process credit card payments.
Overall satisfaction with dance studio management software has increased by 7%, with 82% indicating that they were either “extremely satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied”.
Read the In-Depth Report on Survey Results
To see the full summary of the survey results here.
Well-developed studio policies are essential to keeping your dance studio running smoothly. Not only that, they also help keep your sanity intact! If your policies are poorly drawn up, or don’t cover what they need to, then your classes will be disorganized and inefficient, dealing with parent and student issues will be a headache and you may not even receive the tuition payments that you deserve.
Strong, clear-cut studio policies are the gears that make the dance studio machine turn. However, creating policies is not as simple as just jotting a few basic rules down. Read on to learn how you can create the best policies for your business.
The Bottom Line
Suzanne Blake Gerety of DanceStudioOwner.com told listeners in a recent webinar that studio policies are the terms of a business transaction. Keep this thought at the forefront of your mind when creating your rules.
“When someone becomes a student, it’s easy for us to get caught in the warm welcome, without realizing that you’re doing a business exchange: tuition for education,” said one of the hosts.
You can’t continue to operate your dance studio and share your passion with students if you can’t make a profit. While emphasizing payment requirements may seem uncouth or harsh, it’s absolutely necessary to make sure they’re clearly communicated in your policies. Your time and expertise is valuable, so don’t be afraid to strongly express payment requirements – and stick with them. If a parent has an issue with tuition or other financial expectations, you can then point to the policies that were agreed upon ahead of time.
Keep It Snappy
Another factor to keep in mind when drafting your dance studio’s policies is that, like it or not, people have short attention spans in this digital age. That doesn’t mean you should skimp on creating comprehensive policies or leave things out, however, it’s worth it to think about how you can most effectively communicate your policies. Parents deal with demanding schedules and a million different responsibilities, not to mention how they have many forms to sign and disclaimers to read over for their children on a daily basis.
“They have messages coming at them from 8 million different directions and it’s getting more and more challenging to deliver and get the message into their hand, not only get it to them, but make them clearly understand it,” said one of the webinar hosts.
Keep policies clear and concise, and use images wherever you can to dynamically convey information. Bullet point lists break up longer blocks of content so parents can digest it more quickly. Put the most important information at the top, and bold, use color font, use all capital letters – or do all three – to make important deadlines stick out, or otherwise they will be missed. Also, post your policies in as many places as possible, so it’s easily accessible and never more than a few clicks away. Upload them on your website and email them to parents, and make sure you’re constantly regularly reminding students and parents about them.
Topics to Include
DanceStudioOwner.com provided a helpful checklist of which topics should be covered in your policies. These include:
Tuition and fee general information
Tuition & fees due date
Releases, consent forms and privacy policies
Attendance expectations and minimum participation policy
Dress code, class attire, student/parent conduct, studio rules and regulations
The most well-crafted policies in the world, however, don’t matter if they can’t be enforced. As one of the hosts of the policies webinar said:
“This is the hard part: imposing the late fee, kicking the kid out of class, not letting them perform in the recital. We agonize over this. Let me tell you, your policies do not carry any weight if you’re not ready to enforce them.”
Making sure your policies are followed ensures that you can provide the best dance education and experience for your students.
You’ve put together your class schedule and written your studio policies, but one of the most important tasks still has to be done: deciding how you will process payments. As using cash and checks has fallen by the wayside, credit cards have become the preferred form of payment. Her are some tips for secure credit card processing for your dance studio!
Why you Should Accept Credit Cards
Accepting credit cards helps ensure your studio generates as much revenue as possible. One way it does this is by making it convenient for parents to pay tuition and other fees. Paying with a credit card takes just seconds and, depending on your system, can take place almost anywhere, whether online or from a mobile phone. Parents are already using credit cards for their children’s other activities and expenses, and by accepting credit cards you make sure parents can pay the way they prefer and don’t see your studio as that one difficult business they have to deal with.
As more and more dance studios accept credit cards, it’s important that your business remains competitive. Jon Koerber, software expert for dance studios and gymnastics classes, cited that online credit card transactions increased from $2.8 billion to $4.8 billion between 2006 and 2012, and they are only set to grow even more. Credit card processing is no longer weighed down to a clunky machine – they’ve been released online and in mobile applications. As Koerber wrote in a blog post for Capterra:
“You’ll also be losing business to your competitors if you not are doing business around the clock … And all the more so if [parents] can go ahead and sign up for classes from their living room after dinner. If your competitors have online registration and payment processing but you don’t, guess which dance studio will get the new customer after hours.”
Beyond providing convenience for your clients, accepting credit cards also makes everything easier for you. All the payment information will be stored in one place, which makes it simple to view or print revenue reports and quickly access the payment history of certain customers. All the complicated tasks involved with handling and depositing funds is left to the credit card service, which leaves you more time to run your studio.
What You Need to Get Started
You first need to identify which credit card providers you want to accept. Most business accept Visa and MasterCard, while some choose to also accept American Express. Then, you need to select a merchant account service. DanceExec explained a merchant account as “a kind of bank account designed to enable your business to accept payments by debit cards or credit cards. Your merchant account establishes an agreement between you the merchant and the merchant account bank on how to settle money you receive in the form of payment card transactions.”
Make sure the merchant account service you select enables you to accept credit card payments in multiple ways – ideally in-studio, online, over the phone and via smartphones. This way, parents can have a variety of payment methods available to them and can choose the one that’s most convenient for them, wherever they are.
Once you have chosen a merchant account and bank and have been verified, you can begin accepting credit card payments. While you can track and manage credit card payments on a separate system, most major dance studio management software companies enable credit card transactions in their overall system. This is a great option because the credit card transaction program is already fully integrated into the rest of your studio’s systems, which saves you time and headaches!
If you’re accepting credit card payments, you’re dealing with sensitive financial and personal information. So, you need to make sure you’re following the highest measures for security and privacy. Make sure the merchant account service you select has a strong record of PCI, or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, compliance.
Another security consideration is where the credit card payment information is stored. The information should not be kept on your computer or on servers owned by credit card transaction software that you use – instead, the data should be stored securely on an independent server.
Costs to Be Aware Of
Accepting credit card payments comes with several fees. One is gateway fees, which are the fees that merchant accounts charge each month for verifying that the credit card used in each transaction is in good standing. Other merchant account fees include a monthly fixed management fee and PCI compliance fee.
Additionally, there are small fees placed on every individual credit card transaction. These include an interchange fee, which depends on the type of credit card used, discount fees and per-transaction fees. The specific fee amounts vary from provider to provider, so make sure you compare these figures when choosing a merchant account to get the best value for your money.
Though setting up secure credit card processing requires some initial research, the benefits for your dance studio make it well worth the time.
It’s halftime! No, I’m not talking about football (and I call the Packers’ mid-game break “intermission” anyway). I’m talking about halftime of the DANCE SEASON—the midway point for studio owners between the first days of class and the finish line of recital.
By now you are far enough into classes to be past the busyness of the season opener and into a routine of the season. Your time is likely stretched carefully between the behind the scenes work that keeps the business going during the day and the actual work of serving your clients in the evenings. Running a dance studio is a delicate balancing act of time management, often with no margin for error.
Time may be at a premium, but don’t let that be an excuse to overlook one of the most critical pieces of your business: meaningful communication with your teachers. As a studio owner, this is an ongoing challenge for me. I have five kids under the age of 14 and I am no longer in the classroom on a regular basis. I work on the studio every day, but because I’m not always at the studio when the teachers are, it’s really important to establish routines to keep communication flowing.
There are all sorts of tools that we use at the studio to keep in touch with teachers on a regular basis such as weekly emails, private Facebook groups for staff and quarterly meetings with the whole group.
For as great as all of those things are, nothing replaces the importance of meeting a teacher face to face in the middle of the season to give and receive feedback before recital and competition season kicks in.
If you are ready to step up your communication with your teachers, keep reading for 5 Ideas for Mid-Season Dance Teacher Reviews.
Have a clear definition of what winning looks like on your teaching team. At my studio every studio knows that we have five firm expectations of teachers:
Have an organized and well-disciplined classroom.
Cover the entire curriculum by the end of the year.
Follow dress code for yourself and students.
Have a well-rehearsed, age-appropriate dance for recital.
Continue to learn and grow as a dancer yourself.
These clear expectations become the basis of our Mid-Season Teacher Review.
Keep it simple. In each of these areas we ask teachers, “Where are you winning? Where are you striking out? What ideas do you have to make it better?”
Listen before offering advice. Start by asking the teacher these questions before you give any feedback. Only after they have had a chance to give their feedback, do we give our feedback as leaders.
Ditch the papers. Have a conversation. In my early years of studio ownership, I tried to develop an elaborate scoring system for classroom performance. I hated sitting there grading teachers and I don’t think they liked it much either. I have found it is much more effective to have a clear definition of what it looks like to be a great teacher at our studio and then to have a conversation with teachers about how they are doing upholding those standards. These conversations focus on the positive and on finding solutions for problems. The mark of a good review is when both people leave feeling equipped to better do their jobs.
Follow up. Does your teacher need support in a particular area to succeed with a difficult class or a challenging situation? Follow up with the coaching, resources or tools your teachers need to succeed.
Our main job as leaders is to equip the people we lead for success. A Mid-Season Review goes a long way towards making that possible!