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It’s Halftime: Mid-Season Dance Teacher Reviews

It's Halftime: Mid-Season Dance Teacher Reviews

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.

  1. 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:
    1. Have an organized and well-disciplined classroom.
    2. Cover the entire curriculum by the end of the year.
    3. Follow dress code for yourself and students.
    4. Have a well-rehearsed, age-appropriate dance for recital.
    5. Continue to learn and grow as a dancer yourself.

These clear expectations become the basis of our Mid-Season Teacher Review.

  1. 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?”
  2. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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!

Studio owners don't pay ANYTHING when they use TutuTix.

Trouble viewing the article? Email us at info@tututix.com.

The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.

More Than Just Great Dancing

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Dance Studio Management Software Survey 2015

Dance Studio Management Software Survey 2015

For the second year in a row, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our most recent dance studio management software 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.

You can see the results of the dance studio management survey here!

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FAQs When You Start a Dance Studio

start a dance studio

If you’re considering opening a dance studio, you may have a lot of questions. Well, you’re not alone. There are plenty of other aspiring dance studio owners with the same concerns. Consider a few of these frequently asked questions if you want to start a dance studio.

1. What’s the best place to open a studio?

Picking the right location for your dance studio can have a lot to do with your success rate. Of course, you want it to be in a spot that’s easy for parents and dancers to find and see—it shouldn’t be tucked away out of sight. It should also have adequate parking space—enough for staff, students and parents, Dance Exec stated.

It’s also a good idea to look at a location that has a space for a drop-off lane. That way, it won’t disrupt traffic flow but dancers can come and go as they please. The location should also be safe or else parents will not feel comfortable dropping off their children. Look for a space that is local to a park, a school or another establishment that welcomes children. It shouldn’t be near bars or other areas that are adults-only.

Another location consideration is your proximity to other studios, and whether you’ve taught or attended at those locations. Most studio owners would take offense at a former teacher or student opening a studio in a location that would place them in direct competition. Even if you were not previously affiliated with nearby studios, you’ll want to consider whether you’re willing to go head-to-head with those already-established businesses.

2. How can I afford to start a dance studio?

Owning a dance studio can certainly come with its expenses. Between leasing or buying a space and utilities and maintenance, costs can quickly add up. All studio owners need have a business plan, which should include an analysis of these and all other costs, before considering opening a studio. Again, it’s important not to skimp on the studio’s location to try and help your budget.

Instead, choose a smaller space at first that you can expand on later. Look into bank loans and see if there’s one you qualify for that’s reasonable for your budget. If you’re incredibly passionate about opening a studio but can’t afford the space, think about opening one in your basement or garage to help build clientele before moving to a bigger spot.

3. Where should I look for potential staff?

As an owner, you may attempt to run the studio on your own at first, and that’s OK. However, as your clientele grows, you’re going to need a little help. Consider posting ads for local college dance students to see if they are willing to take on an unpaid internship, Dance Teacher suggested. That way, you can save money and have an experienced staff.

If you’re impressed by their teaching skills, offer them a job down the road when you’re completely financially stable. If you are ready to hire instructors right away, the administration of those nearby college dance programs may be able to recommend suitable candidates. If there are any semi-professional dance companies in the vicinity, you might also want to send them information on open positions. Whichever route you take, make sure you are hiring staff with the right qualities for the job.

4. How do I come up with a good name for my studio?

If you’ve always wanted to open a dance studio, you may have a few names in mind. However, if this is a recent initiative, it might be more difficult for you to think of something. Picking a name is one of the very early steps in the process of opening a studio. Regardless of what you choose, it should be easy to remember. That means it shouldn’t be a long name, DanceStudioOwner.com noted. It should also be a name that clearly indicates you’re a dance studio, whether it has dance in the name or not. You can choose something simple, like Jenny Smith Dance Studios, or something that has a play on words, like At the Barre.

Finally, make sure that your name is easy to say AND easy to search for on the web. You don’t want a name that you have to constantly spell or explain—those can be hard to remember. On the other hand, you also don’t want to choose a name that’s too generic and risk people being unable to find you in an online search. Find a good balance!

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10 Tips for a Confident Dance Teacher Contract

10 Tips for a Confident Dance Teacher Contract

My five kids are all getting ready to go back to school in the next week and along with registration for school comes paperwork…lots of paperwork.

Dance schools are no exception. In fact, among all the studio owners I have spoken with this year (and there have been hundreds), not a single one allows students to participate without signed registration forms.

And, yet for as many who are diligent with student paperwork, there are half as many who take the same care to create a dance teacher contract before class is in session.

If you have other people teaching for you, check out this list for 10 Tips for a Confident Dance Teacher Contract:

  1. Binding – The first part of the employment contract should sets the stage for the rest of agreement. “Binding” establishes that the document is a binding legal document for the term set forth in the contract.
  2. Terms – The terms spell out the basic agreement of how long your employee will work (usually the length of your dance season) and what they will do (position) during that time. To avoid possible future questions or problems, be as detailed as possible when describing what an employee’s responsibilities will be for the length of the contract.
  3. Liquidated Damages Clause – This clause outlines what will happen if either party fails to fulfill the contract. For example, what will the consequence be if a teacher decides to leave mid-season? Spell it out now to avoid problems later.
  4. Non-Compete – A non-compete clause protects you by prohibiting an employee from working for another studio, or opening their own studio, within a certain amount of miles and length of time. Non-compete language and viability varies from state to state, so check with your attorney for state specific language.
  5. Closure Clause – This clause allows for the contract to become null and void if the studio ceases operations for a certain period of days (30 days is typical). Causes for ceasing operations include, but are not limited to, natural disaster, mechanical failure, fire, theft, lawsuit, bankruptcy, and personal emergency of the owner.
  6. Compensation – This is the area to spell out what the employee will earn in exchange for the services provided. Be sure to account for compensation for non-teaching time such as meetings, rehearsals, recitals and competitions.
  7. Benefits – You may be thinking, “I don’t offer benefits,” but I am confident you do. Do you provide complimentary lessons for children of staff members? That’s a benefit to your employees. Do you pay for convention fees or other continuing education opportunities? Again, that’s a benefit. A contract is an opportunity to spell out the great things you do for your employees over and above an hourly wage.
  8. Absences – Now is the time to establish what the acceptable number of absences will be for the employees at your studio and how absences will affect pay and other privileges.
  9. Professional Courtesies – A series of “professionals courtesies” are outlined in our employment contracts and include things such as arriving 15 minutes early to class, wearing neat hairstyles, adhering to dress code, returning messages within 24 hours and reporting any problems with students, parents or the facility to the leadership team in timely manner.
  10. Employee Restrictions – Is there anything that is off limits for your employees? For example, our employees are not allowed to drive students to events, to use office equipment for personal use or to share confidential information about students. Any restrictions should be noted in your contracts.

You may also give consideration to including a policy regarding social media and a photo and video release as part of your employment contracts.

 

Regardless of your studio size or geographic location, a well-written contract is a foundation for a healthy employer-employee relationship. Will you take the time to write, or update, yours this year?

Studio owners don't pay ANYTHING when they use TutuTix.

Trouble viewing the article? Email us at info@tututix.com.

The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.

More Than Just Great Dancing

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Crunching the Numbers Part 1: Profit Calculations for Studio Owners

If you aren’t a big fan of math, you’re not alone. An article in Psychology Today explained that almost 80 percent of college students described math as a skill they felt they couldn’t figure out. Even if math isn’t your thing, there are going to be quite a few instances where you need to crunch numbers as a dance studio owner. Yes, your calculator can help, but it’s important to understand the basic formulas and processes behind some standard small business profit calculations. Here’s some must-have math that studio owners need to know.

Calculating Gross Profit

Here’s that illustrious word that all studio owners hope for but many fail to achieve: profit. If you’re going to run a business and keep your doors open, you’ll need to know how to calculate gross profit, or the money you’ve earned from selling a service. The seemingly simple equation for gross profit is sales minus cost of services sold.

For studio owners, profit calculations are usually quite simple. Your revenue for a given season – or the money you collected from students – is your sales, and then you subtract any variable costs. Since you’re selling a service instead of a product, your variable costs will likely only include the salaries of hourly teachers, materials used in class and other expenses that incur as a direct result of holding class. Leave any fixed costs – such as full-time employee salaries, rent or mortgage payments, insurance, marketing costs or office expenses – out of this calculation.

So for example, if you charge $500 per student, and you teach 20 students this season, your revenue will be $10,000. If you spend $4,000 on variable costs, your gross profit would be $6,000.

Finding Your Gross Profit Margin

The next step in the important financial calculation is to figure out your gross profit margin, which is your gross profit expressed as a percentage of your revenue. Don’t worry – it sounds harder than it is!

To calculate gross profit margin, simply divide your gross profit by your sales, and then multiply by 100. Following the example above, $6,000 divided by $10,000 is 0.6. Multiple this by 100, and you get your gross profit margin of 60 percent.

Using Gross Profit and Gross Profit Margin

You may think that you’re in the clear if your gross profit increases year after year, but this isn’t always the case. Your gross profit margin is actually a better indicator of how efficiently your business is performing. If you notice that your gross profits are increasing but your margins are on the decline, this indicates that your spending is outpacing your revenue growth. Be wary of this trend! If your costs grow too fast, you could be heading for financial trouble.

Crunching Net Income Numbers

As you may have gathered, gross profit isn’t equivalent to the amount of money your studio is left with at the end of the year. You still need to take into account those fixed costs that remain stable from month to month. According to Entrepreneur magazine, these expenses include:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Office supplies
  • Marketing
  • Your salary
  • Wages of full-time workers
  • Taxes
  • Insurance.

Once you’ve added up all these fixed costs, you’re ready to find net income. Subtract this number from the gross profit you’ve calculated. So if your fixed costs are $5,000 and your gross profits were $6,000, your net income would be $1,000. This may not seem like a lot of money, but it’s always a good thing when your business has a net gain at the end of the year. If your net profit turns out to be a negative number, this means you’ve sustained a net loss, and you’ll need to find a way to lower your costs or increase your revenue.

Check back soon for more math-related tips that are key for studio owners!

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How to Create a Dance Class Syllabus

dance class syllabus

You probably have a system for planning classes for dance season. Maybe you have some tried-and-true methods that you’ll be repeating or perhaps you’re going to revamp your class structure to better your studio. Either way, you should make a point to create class syllabi for the different courses you’ll be offering in the coming season. Here are some of the benefits that studio owners can reap from a structured dance class syllabus and a few pointers for drafting these documents.

Benefits of an Established Syllabus

A carefully crafted syllabus can benefit not only the teachers, but the students as well. When you take the time to create these documents for your classes, you can ensure that everyone will have a better experience at your studio.

The perks for instructors include:

  • Syllabi help teachers prepare for classes.
  • The document helps teachers keep the course on track throughout the year.
  • Syllabi serve as a reminder of the skills teachers need to cover.
  • It helps staff enforce studio policies.
  • It clearly establishes behavioral expectations for students.

According to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, the benefits of syllabi for students include:

  • The document can help students establish educational plans. In this case, it helps them to plan their growth as dancers.
  • It provides essential information, such as contact details, class times, rehearsal schedules and the like.
  • A syllabus serves as a remind of studio policies on behavior, dress code, attendance and more.
  • It informs students of what they’ll be learning, when they’ll be learning it and what they need to do to succeed in the class.

What to Include in a Syllabus

When you first sit down to create a syllabus, you may be tempted to simply jot down all your thoughts and goals for the class. This is a good way to get your thoughts down on paper, but you’ll want to create a document with a little more structure.

Start by writing the static parts of your syllabus – these sections will likely remain unchanged between courses and seasons. If you have a studio contract, you may even want to simply copy and paste the sections about classroom behavior, attendance, proper attire and other studio rules.

Next, you’ll want to create sections like:

  • Instructor info: Note who will be teaching the class and his or her contact information.
  • Class description: A general description of the course, genre and skill level.
  • Course goals: List the skills and techniques that students will ideally master over the course of the season.
  • Class timeline: Lay out the major events and lesson plans that will take place in the class. Include the topic for each class, as well as dates for performances and dress rehearsals if you know them.

Once you have these sections written, you may want to have the instructor look over the document and make changes or suggestions. This will ensure that the syllabus is a team effort and that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the class.

Don’t Forget to Revisit Old Syllabi

If you have syllabi that you’ve been using for years, it’s a good idea to revise them each season. After all, there are likely things that your studio could be doing better and you’ll want to reflect those changes in the document.

“We constantly reassess what we are doing, but it’s the team effort that makes it successful,” Peter Stark, dance department chair at the Patel Conservatory, explained to Dance Teacher magazine. “Star students come and go, star teachers come and go, but a methodology can maintain through that.”

Once you’ve written, revised and reviewed your syllabi, you’ll be ready to distribute them to the students, post them on your website and jump on into the new season of dance.

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Hiring Dance Teachers: The Qualities of a Great Instructor

dance staff

What makes a dance teacher great? Yes, knowledge of the art form and technical ability are important, but what sets the dancers apart from the teachers? Here are a few qualities that you may want to look for when you’re hiring dance teachers.

Passion

As is important in many other careers, passion is a necessary quality in a superior dance instructor. Not only will love of dance make even the toughest classes enjoyable, but a teacher with continually positive energy will pass that same joy on to young students.

Flexibility

Another important characteristic is flexibility. Dance teachers need to be able to go with the flow, and this is something that poses a struggle for some professional dancers. You never know when a lesson is going to fall flat with students or when a class will be particularly rowdy. A great teacher will adjust on the fly and make the most of each class, even when things don’t go according to plan.

Dedication

Great dance teachers are often set apart from mediocre instructors by their dedication to the job at hand. Teachers who aren’t fully committed to explaining the necessary skills and molding young dancers often let little things slide in the studio. Maybe they aren’t willing to help out at dress rehearsal or won’t commit to extra hours with a struggling student. The once-in-a-lifetime teachers are the ones who are willing and ready to go the extra mile in the name of teaching.

Patience

Patience is a necessary virtue for all types of teachers. There will more than likely be difficult days with challenging students, and an awesome teacher will overcome these obstacles without losing her cool. Patience is doubly important for instructors who will be working with young or inexperienced dancers, as these students sometimes need a little extra time to grasp concepts.

Education

Even great dancers with natural teaching ability will benefit from training geared specifically for dance education (as opposed to performance). While there are college programs in dance education, there are also other opportunities for instructors to hone their skills, like the teacher training schools offered by Dance Masters of America or Dance Educators of America. While there may be some positions, like assistant teachers, that may not necessitate a certification, requiring your teachers to have some more advanced credentials will greatly increase the quality and safety of instruction provided by your studio.

Professionalism

Finally, a truly top-notch teacher is one that you can count on to handle parents and students with the utmost grace and professionalism. When you have a great teacher on your staff, you won’t worry about him or her sullying the studio’s reputation by acting inappropriately.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to include additional information on dance education programs.

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5 Ways to Make Your Dance Instructors’ Lives Easier

What would your studio be without your awesome dance instructors? They’re the ones working with students, helping put together recital pieces and fending parent questions. In many dance schools, instructors are an integral part of the business.

However, being a dance teacher isn’t all tutus and glitter. There are times when your instructors will be stressed and frustrated, and it’s in your best interest to help alleviate some of their problems to make their lives a little easier. Here are five common problems that studio owners can solve for the sake of their teachers.

1. Set Clear Studio Policies

You may not realize it, but if your studio has lax or unclear policies, it can end up affecting your teachers. On a Dance.net forum, a few instructors explained that when their studios do a poor job of communicating with parents, setting up dress codes or explaining expected class behaviors, it makes their lives a lot harder.

Setting up set policies for your school is a quick fix to this issues, and it not only will benefit your teachers, but it will likely help out you and your business as a whole.

2. Enforce Pickup and Dropoff Times

Your teachers likely love their charges, but that doesn’t mean they want to hang out with students for 20 minutes after class ends. Instructors have lives too, and many times, they’ll have places they need to be. It’s your job as the studio owner to enforce your pickup and dropoff times so that no one has to be babysitting after class is over.

3. Be a Parent Buffer

Mama drama is inevitable sometimes, and you should be there to help your instructors deal with unhappy parents. Establish clear guidelines for parent complaints and make sure you’re involved in the resolution process. It will take a whole lot of stress off the shoulders of your teachers.

4. Limit Parent Observation

Parents love to watch their little dancers perform, but it’s often distracting for the class and the instructor. Find a way to minimize distractions that come along with parent observation, whether it’s by setting up limited class time when parents can watch or installing a one-way mirror or TV monitoring system.

5.Offer Compensation for Any Extras

There may be times when you really need a teacher to stay after hours with a student or to help set up for a recital. However, it’s important that you realize what tasks aren’t in the usual scope of a dance instructor’s job description and offer additional compensation if necessary.

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4 Tips for Screening Employees for Your Studio

Screening Employees

When you’re hiring new dance instructors, it’s essential that you take the right steps when it comes to background screening. It’s part of your responsibility as an employer to create a safe environment for both students and other employees, and that means looking into the backgrounds of individuals who will be working in the studio. If you’re not currently screening employees or you want to revamp your background check processes, here are four tips that will help you streamline the task.

1. Find a Reputable Company

You probably have a pretty tight budget when it comes to recruiting and hiring, so “free” or “do-it-yourself” background checks may seem like the best option to save money. However, sites the claim to offer free background screening usually have hidden fees or provide inaccurate, incomplete or outdated information. It’s better to look into reputable consumer reporting agencies that are known for working with small businesses. These companies will provide you with quality information at a price you can afford.

2. Create Written Policies

When you conduct inconsistent background checks, you’re opening up a can of legal worms. Consistency is key if you want to avoid any legal issues, so it’s a best practice to put your screening policies in writing. Document the steps you take with each candidate and make sure to keep records of the background checks you conduct. This documentation will be invaluable if legal action is ever taken against your studio.

3. Check References

Another way to ensure the integrity of your potential employees is to check their references. Take the time to call past employers, coworkers or fellow performers. This may eat up a little bit of your valuable time, but you may discover issues that otherwise would go undetected.

4. Check Social Media – Carefully

Looking up a job candidate’s social media sites is a helpful way to get insight on the person’s character, but there are some legal limitations to the information you can gather from these sites. A good rule to follow is that if you can’t legally ask the candidate a question in an interview, you shouldn’t gather the answer from social media. For example, it’s unlawful to ask about a job applicant’s age, race or marital status, so don’t turn to social media sites for this information. Otherwise, you could end up with a discrimination lawsuit on your hands.

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Owning a Dance Studio: A Guide to Taxes

Owning A Dance Studio

Each spring, you’re faced with one of the more unpleasant aspects of owning a dance studio – filing your taxes. If you think personal taxes were confusing, chances are that you’ll find business taxes even more so. There are a number of different deadlines you’ll have to adhere to and a variety of forms that need to be filled out.

If you struggle to keep your paperwork in order and get your taxes done on time, use this guide to straighten yourself out and get your studio’s taxes squared away.

Best Practices for Studio Owners

Your studio taxes will be so much easier if you stay organized throughout the year. If you throw paperwork here, there and everywhere, chances are that you’ll be scrambling to find it once tax season arrives. Make your life a whole lot simpler by setting up an organized filing system for your expenses, receipts, bills, invoices and other important paperwork. If you have office staff, train them to use the new system so that everyone is on the same page.

It’s important to save copies of other materials as well, especially if your studio isn’t making a profit quite yet. Dance Teacher magazine explained that if you don’t make money three out of five years, the IRS could deem your business a “hobby,” leading to you owing more money for losses you’ve claimed. If you’re operating in the red, save evidence that can be used to prove you’re taking steps to improve your studio, whether it’s marketing materials, new business cards, a company roadmap or your day planner.

Start getting your books in order at the end of each calendar year. As tempting as it is, you shouldn’t wait until February or March to start preparing your taxes.

What’s Up with Sales Tax?

Since your studio is an educational institution, you don’t have to charge sales tax on lessons, right? The answer actually depends on what state you live in. Back in 2014, dance studio owners across Missouri were shocked to find they owed back taxes to the state because of a legislative change. Americans for the Arts explained that the state reclassified studios as places of recreation and entertainment, which means they aren’t exempt from sales taxes.

There are actually a number of states where studios must tack sales tax onto tuition bills. DanceStudioOwner.com explained that this is necessary in Iowa, West Virginia, New Mexico, South Dakota, Hawaii and sometimes New Jersey.

“When dance studio owners don’t feel comfortable with sales tax, they’re definitely not alone,” Jessica Sheitler, owner of Financial Groove, explained to DanceStudioOwner.com. “I feel like it’s probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of running a dance studio, honestly. [Taxes are] different in every single state. Even within your state, it can be different within your county and your city.”

Chances are that you should also be charging sales tax on costumes and other merchandise that you sell. However, the regulations vary by state and jurisdiction, so figure out what’s necessary in your area.

Know Your Write-Off Options

You might owe the government more money than you’d originally thought, but the silver lining is that there are a number of expenses you may not have realized you could write off. The Houston Chronicle explained that you can write off reasonable and necessary expenses related to your profession. This means you can write off dance supplies, such as props and music or even office supplies. If you take the bus to work, you can likely file a deduction for the cost of your pass. Similarly, if you travel for the studio, track your mileage and write off the cost of gas.

Talk with your accountant about what expenses can be written off come tax time. Just remember that if you plan to write items off, it’s imperative that you keep any and all receipts related to the purchase or expense. The more detailed your records are, the more likely that the write-off will stick.

Find the Right Help

If all of this sounds overwhelming, it’s in your best interest to find a knowledgeable accountant who can help you get your taxes done right. Be sure to find a professional who has experience working with creative businesses – preferably studios – so you know that he or she can get you as much money back as possible. Once you find an accountant who is a good fit for your needs, don’t be afraid to seek advice for matters other than taxes. Chances are that he or she can help you work toward your other business goals.

“Have a dream for your studio and discuss it,” Lilia Wood, a studio owner who worked with Financial Groove, explained to Dance Teacher magazine. “Take advantage of their expertise so you can make those dreams a financial reality.”

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Dance Studio Owner Tips: Is Hiring a Collection Agency Worthwhile?

As wonderful as all your dance students are, there’s always a chance that one or two parents will try to skip out on their bills. It’s certainly an unfortunate and awkward situation to handle, but it’s often an inevitable part of being a small business owner. While every situation is unique, and there may be instances in which you are able to meet privately with a parent and work out payment arrangements, there will be times that parents simply aren’t paying their fees. When you’ve sent multiple invoices, made phone calls, sent emails, etc. and received nothing back, you have two main options: accept that you probably won’t see that money or enlist the help of a collection agency.

There are probably a lot of considerations you’ll want to take into account before hiring a collection agency, but the bottom line is whether the service will be worth it for your particular situation. If you are a dance studio owner, here’s how you can figure out if you need to go to collection and a few tips to make the process a smooth one.

Are Collection Agencies Worth It?

Perhaps the most important factor to take into account when deciding how to handle past-due bills is whether going to collection will be worth it financially. If you have a customer who owes $50, chances are that the process of sending the account to collection and having service fees deducted won’t be worth it for the minimal amount of money you’ll get in return. However, bigger bills can sometimes make or break your studio, and if you get the sense the parents aren’t going to pay, it might be time to call in the professionals. After all, it’s better to get a portion of the total bill after the agency’s commission than to get nothing at all.

Many small business owners think that if they’re persistent, they can collect the money themselves. This is sometimes the case, but it will likely sap your time and resources to be calling, emailing and mailing the customers in question. You should also realize that the longer an invoice is past due, the less likely you are to see your money. A survey from the Commercial Collection Agency Association found that after three months, the probability of you collecting the money drops by 30 percent. At six months past due, there’s only a 50 percent chance that you’ll be able to collect.

Will Using a Collection Agency Hurt Your Reputation?

Sometimes small business owners are hesitant to work with collection agencies because it will hurt the company’s reputation. It’s no secret that customers generally dislike collection agencies, and there’s always the chance that the disgruntled parent will tell your other customers what transpired.

It’s a real possibility and you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to take the risk. However, one studio owner put the issue into perspective on a forum about collection agencies.

“If people don’t like collection agencies, then they need to pay their bills or at the least work out an arrangement to pay off the debt,” explained the owner on Dance.net. “A dance studio is a business and needs to be thought of as a business and run like a business.”

As always, payment policies should be clearly stated in registration materials and student contracts. Since payment issues could potentially affect a student who is still taking classes, carefully think through whether students with delinquent accounts can still attend, and make sure those policies are also communicated. If you run into problems down the road, these policies will give you a solid foundation for dealing with delinquent payments, and will help protect your studio’s reputation.

How Can You Streamline the Process?

The first time you use a collection agency, you may be a little lost in the process. However, you can make the ordeal easier by picking the right agency to work with and knowing what to expect.

When choosing a company to handle your collections, ask if they’ve worked with dance studios before and get references if possible. Call the other studios and see what their experiences were like before you sign up with an agency. The Fox Small Business Center recommended you check that the company is authorized to collect money from debtors in other states in case your past-due customers have recently moved. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with a few different agencies to find the one that’s the best fit for your needs.

Once you’ve chosen a company to work with, you can sit back and let them handle the awkward encounters. However, be aware that your past-due customers may very well call you to try and work things out. In these situations, you should simply explain that the matter is in the hands of the collection agency now and all communication and payment should go through them. Remember: You’re completely within your rights as a business owner to do what it takes to get the money you’re owed!

It’s always a good idea to build a relationship with the agency, especially if you think you’ll need to use them again. Be available to answer their questions and try to set up a meeting so you can talk about best collection practices face-to-face.

“When you hire a collection agency, you’re hiring a business partner,” Martin Sher, co-owner of AmSher Receivables Management, explained to Fox. “Smart clients meet with their agencies, discuss any issues that arise, provide them with any information they need and give them feedback.”

Using a collection agency probably won’t be an enjoyable experience, but at the end of the day, you’ll come out a stronger, more efficient business owner.

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What Are Dance Teacher Responsibilities?

Dance Teacher Responsibilities

Are you hiring new teachers for your studio? Or, revisiting your teacher contracts? If so, you’re probably considering what to expect from your employees. After all, it’s seldom that dance teachers are required to simply show up and teach class – there’s so much more to the role! Having clear expectations for teachers makes for a successful school. Consider these points when laying out dance teacher responsibilities at your studio.

Responsibilities in the Classroom

There are a number of “givens” that you can expect from any employees working in your studio. These include showing up on time, behaving professionally, being prepared and respectful, and successfully teaching the students. However, there are also a number of supplementary responsibilities that you may also want to outline in a teacher’s contract. The UNITY Dance Organizations explained that dance educators should always provide a safe environment for their students, both physically and emotionally. Additionally, it is important that they serve as role models for dancers in terms of sportsmanship, lifestyle choices and attitude.

Expectations Outside of Teaching

There are a number of dance teacher responsibilities outside the classroom. On a daily basis, teachers should be respectful and supportive of other staff members and as open as possible regarding studio matters. Many studios expect their instructors to become familiar with the parents of their students and help to enforce policies on dress code and behavior. These are pretty standard tasks that you do not need to offer additional compensation for. However, be sure to clearly outline these responsibilities in your employment contracts so teachers know what is expected of them.

When Additional Compensation is Required

Outside of these standard responsibilities, there are instances where you may have to offer additional compensation to your instructors. DanceStudioOwner.com explained that many studios pay their teachers extra to attend certain yearly events, such as open houses, competitions and auditions. Similarly, extra tasks like choreographing routines and conducting private lessons should be compensated accordingly. You’ll want to outline your policies and rates for these tasks before hiring new teachers. This way everyone will be on the same page as to what is part of the job description and what is considered extra work.

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How to Write a Great Dance Studio Newsletter

Dance Studio Newsletter

When it comes to marketing and communicating with your clientele, few mediums are as easy and inexpensive as email. Most people have round-the-clock access to email via their smartphones, so it’s a great way to keep in touch with your MVPs – most valuable parents! Here are a few suggestions on how to make the most of a digital dance studio newsletter and send out content that your customers are actually going to read.

Have a Clear Purpose

If you’re going to send out a studio newsletter to your parents and students, you should have a defined goal for the email. Otherwise, you may end up with a rather jumbled, unfocused newsletter that’s ultimately uninteresting to your recipients. HubSpot recommended that all e-newsletters have a common thread that ties the content together. So when you’re coming up on recital season, you might send an email that has performance-related tips and tricks, along with your recital schedule and how to purchase tickets. During your registration period, a influential newsletter might contain an article on the benefits of dance, a list of new class offerings and details about your early bird specials. When your newsletter has a clear purpose, it will be much more engaging to readers and serve as a valuable marketing tool.

Craft an Awesome Subject

When you see a book with a boring, generic title, do you feel compelled to read it? Probably not. The same holds true for emails with boring subject lines. The subject is the first thing a reader sees, so it sets the tone for the whole newsletter. If you send an email with the subject “Studio Updates,” your recipients may very well put off opening it. Inc. magazine recommended keeping your subject between five and seven words and changing it up with every subsequent email. For a newsletter during registration season, a compelling subject might be something like, “Early bird discounts on new classes are going fast!”

Populate with Compelling Content

Once you’ve established a purpose for your newsletter and crafted a pithy and engaging subject line, it’s time to focus on the bread and butter of the email. Each and every newsletter needs to have compelling content if you want your readers to continually open the emails. It doesn’t have to be award-winning journalism, but you should certainly put some thought and effort into your content. On Suite.io, former studio owner Terry Finch suggested using the following prompts to get started on newsletter content:

  • Reviews of previous performances or competitions
  • Teacher biographies
  • Interviews with industry professionals
  • Tips from teachers or choreographers
  • Question-and-answer sessions with students
  • Dance industry news
  • Exciting studio announcements
  • Original content relating to the newsletter theme.

HubSpot noted that a good balance of content is 90 percent educational and 10 percent promotional, so be sure to add a call to action at the end, but keep it short and sweet.

Don’t Forget Aesthetics

With all the newsletter programs available online, there’s really no need to pay for a platform. However, be sure to use a template that will make your emails look professional. It’s important that your newsletter is easy to read, organized and overall aesthetically pleasing. An email that is jumbled and not intuitive to read will lose the interest of recipients and possibly result in people unsubscribing. When it doubt, keep it simple – don’t go overboard with fonts and colors. You should also choose a template that is optimized for mobile viewing so busy parents and students can scroll through the email on their phones.

If you follow these easy steps as a guide, you’ll quickly learn to put together great newsletters that will engage your customers and serve as supplementary marketing material for your studio.

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Dance Studio Policies: Should You Have a Social Media Policy?

Dance Studio Policies

Social media sites – especially Facebook – are useful tools for dance studios, as they can aid in marketing and communication with students. However, there have also been many instances where teenagers and sometimes parents abuse the sites, using them to hurt other people or businesses. Because of the potential harm that can be done on Facebook and other social platforms, many studio owners choose to create social media policies for their businesses. These guidelines can be beneficial, but there are a few considerations to take into account when creating dance studio policies that regulate social media use.

Focus Social Efforts Through a Main Page

The first factor that you’ll want to take into account is who will be authorized to post news and announcements on behalf of the studio. Sometimes businesses can get into sticky situations when instructors post unauthorized information on their personal pages regarding the studio. Dance Teacher magazine recommended that you establish expectations that all student and parent communications occur through the main studio page. If teachers have something they want to share, have them forward you the information before posting it live. This way you’ll be able to monitor and approve all posts.

Establish Criteria for Acceptable Posts

One of the benefits of social media is that your followers can chime into conversations with their own thoughts and ideas. This is a great way to get students and their parents engaged with the studio, but sometimes people will post mean or derogatory comments on a public page. To address this issue, you’ll want to explain to students your expectations for posts on the studio main page. Any remarks, photos or videos should be appropriate and reflect well on the studio. Be sure to explain that you reserve the right to delete any harmful or unnecessary comments.

Be Careful Regulating Personal Posts

While you can control what third-parties are posting on your studio’s social media pages, it’s important to realize that what gets said on private accounts is a different matter altogether. Some studios include stipulations in their dance studio policies that bar students from defaming the school on their personal social media accounts. However, Dance Studio Life explained that there have been lawsuits filed to keep businesses from enforcing these types of regulations, as they are often construed as limiting freedom of speech. Be careful how you word expectations about posts on personal accounts. It’s generally best to phrase these rules as suggestions instead of hard policies.

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Dance Studio Management Software Reviews: Studio Owner Survey Results

Dance Studio Management Software Reviews: Studio Owner Survey Results

Editor’s Note: Check out the results of our most recent annual dance studio management software survey here.

Because we deal with a lot of dance studios, we try to stay in tune with ways we can help them out in their day to day operations. Recently, we’ve noticed a recurring theme among our dance studio owner friends: questions about dance studio management software.

Should they use it? Which one is the best? How expensive is it?

Dance Studio Management Software Reviews

Working with several studio owners and dance industry experts, we created a survey to help answer these questions and more. The survey was deployed in late 2014, and garnered over 600 complete, verified responses. Here are some of the key things we learned:

  • About two thirds (67%) of dance studios use studio management software.
  • Features rule. 35% of respondents say that they chose their particular software based on a feature set that met their needs. Also important: inexpensiveness (17%), ease of operation (16%), and recommendation of others (16%).
  • The three most important features of studio management software are billing and payment processing, class management, and email or text communication. The three features ranked least important were staff scheduling, website maintenance, and staff time clock.
  • Jackrabbit Dance is dominant, with 28% of the respondents indicating that they used it. Other popular software providers were Studio Director (18%), and Dance Works (14%).
  • Studio owner operators are generally satisfied with their studio management software, with 76% indicating that they were either “extremely satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied.” ClassJuggler, DanceStudio-Pro, Studio Director, and Jackrabbit Dance ranked the highest in satisfaction.

Read the In-Depth Report on Survey Results

See the full summary of these dance studio management software reviews here!

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