As dance educators, we know how GOOD it feels when our students persevere. Whether it is the music cutting out during a performance or a brave recovery after an unexpected fall, we champion and encourage their resilience, in rehearsal and in performance.
In our industry, we’ve surpassed the year benchmark of COVID-19 shutdowns and challenges. As we continue to move into the future, we need to ensure we are championing ourselves and our teams as we continue to make decisions that will determine the future success of our studios.
STOP MAKING EXCUSES
During the pandemic, we’ve had a lot of things happen to our industry. In the beginning, it was scary, unsettling, and unknown. While it can be easy to feel victimized and vulnerable, NOW is the time to take control of your circumstances and set yourself up for future success.
Every day, we gain more knowledge. We have to use it to propel ourselves forward.
Keep in mind that the pandemic affected EVERYONE in different ways. Avoid making excuses and be empathetic in hearing others’ stories, as well.
Inventory your systems, protocols, and operations and make sure everything is operating at your expected level of excellence. If you disagree with something or it doesn’t fit or contribute to the growth and development of your business: Change it!
PICK UP THE PACE
As things slowly start to normalize, be prepared to pick up the pace.
Because there have been many months of atypical operations, prepare yourself, your team, and your students for the upcoming change of pace.
As we prepare for performances, be prepared to re-educate students, families, and staff on the expectations, especially since there may still be modifications in place. Communication is key.
Do not delay scheduling and enrollment cycles. Be ahead of the game.
PRACTICE GOOD HABITS
Over the past year, many people have formed new habits, some good and some bad. Offer training sessions to reinforce positive behavior within your community.
For Goals: Are you ahead, on time, or behind?
For Self-Awareness: Are people making positive contributions to getting your studio back on track or are they hindering the pace/ development of the brand?
For Health (Mental & Physical): Are you taking care of your mind and body? How are you supporting your return to performance?
Lead By Example: Let your actions positively motivate your people.
Keep in mind: the windshield of your car is bigger than the rear window of your car for a reason. Know what is behind you, but keep your focus forward!
Give yourself grace for the trips and stumbles of the past and invest your energy into doing what we do best: changing children’s lives through dance!
FALLING DOES NOT EQUAL FAILURE!
Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:
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 spring, her TEDx talk “You Weren’t Built to Break” will debut, combining her passion for performance with the necessity of resilience.
We are still trucking through the COVID-19 crisis and salvaging our businesses. But we have more knowledge than ever and gain more with each and every day!
It’s 2021, and that means it is time to GET IT DONE.
One of my favorite quotes is:
“You can’t talk butterfly language with caterpillar people.”
This year, are you a butterfly, or are you a caterpillar? The choice is in your hands and will be based on the actions you take NOW.
The days of feeling defeated are over.
Now is the time to shift frustration, exhaustion, and discontent into strong and effective leadership tactics that will pay off in the long run. What contingencies are you setting in place to make sure your programs generate revenue and run creatively, safely, and in alignment with your brand?
Have you considered that:
Competitions may not happen
Recitals may not happen in their traditional sense
Travel opportunities may have to be postponed
Shipping and the supply chain may continue to face delays/disruptions (aka get those costume orders in ASAP!)
Instead of waiting and watching and having another off-the-rails spring semester, take this into your control, and create opportunities for your clientele to heighten the return on investment of your brand.
Prioritize YOU and align yourself with third-party vendors that help instead of hurt your cause.
It may be easy to say
“I don’t know what’s happening, so I can’t do that.”
“This is so out of my control.”
“I don’t have the energy to do what I used to do.”
These are all excuses, and they are excuses that will ultimately hurt your business.
Leave the excuses in 2020 and start figuring out how you CAN make things happen.
Set the Schedules
Use Project Timelines to Keep You On Track
Hit the Deadlines
Apply for the Funding
Meet With Your Staff
Keep Your Clients Looped In
Build Excitement for The Things That Are Coming
While it may not be identical to the way we’ve formerly operated, it is important to generate a confident, forward motion that embraces the resources and opportunities we have.
FIND YOUR MOTIVATION
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, find some sources of inspiration.
We all know the song “Seasons of Love” from the musical RENT. It asks, “How do you measure, measure a year?” If you’re like me, many of my minutes in 2020 were measured through processing, applying, and mitigating public health information, applying for grants and funding, and spinning on the hamster wheel of the global pandemic while keeping my small businesses sustainable (hello, anxiety).
While a light switch isn’t going to make 2021 this immediate, magic wonderland of yesteryear, it gives us the opportunity to move ahead with insight, focus, and control over how we are spending our time and maximizing our productivity to guarantee our success into the next season and beyond!
INVENTORY YOUR TIME
We are closing out a year unlike any other. Like Elsa says, “the past is in the past—Let it GOOOOOOOO.” Whether you’re guilty of too much doom scrolling or simply feel paralyzed in the unpredictability of each moment, it is important to know how you are spending your time.
Time is your most valuable resource.
This is one of my favorite productivity exercises, which can also be shared with your staff and team.
Pick a day and set up a table in 15-minute increments.
Document the way you spend each 15-minute segment.
Review how you’re spending your time and consider ways you may be misusing your time (aka “trim the fat”).
MAKE A PLAN
It only takes 21 days to form a habit. Once your time inventory is complete, honestly ask yourself:
Is this time well-spent?
Does this make me feel good?
Could this be delegated?
Am I using my time in a way that motivates my personal and professional goal forward?
For items that need to be extracted from your daily routine, take action (this includes micromanaging, which is easy to revert to during a crisis). Lock your phone in a timed jar, set an intentional schedule for multitasking, and set aside time to make sure you are healthily recharging and energizing. Do what needs to be done to get YOU back on track.
STICK TO IT
Frequently revisit the way you are spending your minutes. This way, you’ll make sure you aren’t falling prey to former bad habits. If you find yourself feeling guilty that you’ve missed a journal entry or haven’t read as much as you’d like (I’m talking about myself here), make the moves to get it done.
Write it down: Keep your schedule in a planner, digital or electronic, and track your time.
Have an accountability buddy: Pick a team member or friend to help hold you accountable.
Celebrate: When you successfully acknowledge and make small changes, they can have a huge impact. Acknowledge them!
Remember, more minutes = more you can accomplish! As you move through 2021, this will be important as we continue to regain momentum and rebuild.
Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:
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:
For the sixth year in a row, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our annual dance studio software reviews survey. We asked dance studio owners to answer questions about their dance studio management software, and over 500 studio owners did just that.
If you’ve considered investing in software to help you manage your studio, we hope you find this data useful.
The percentage of studio owners that are using dance studio management software was up this year, with ~78% of respondents saying they used it.
Just like last year, 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.
Growing your studio doesn’t have to be stressful, right?
There’s got to be a better way; a better way to streamline marketing and sales, and get more students… right?
Yep, there is…
Hey, I’m Austin Roberson—Founder & CEO of Studio Studio, the all-in-one marketing automation tool for studios, and in this video, I’ll share with you my unique approach to growing your studio & scaling up fast.
Maybe you’re in a place where you’re already successful, but you constantly feel behind…
Or perhaps you’re growing quickly, but so is your to-do list…
Or maybe you’ve got a different problem because, for whatever reason, you can’t seem to get more students than you had last year so every year ends up the same 😩
These 5 pillars will help you build the foundation for rapid studio growth, so that you can stress less, get more students, and scale up fast!
With increased consumer engagement rapidly expanding in the digital sphere, how do we create purposeful boundaries and opportunities for engagement in our dance studios? The line between the personal and professional can often be blurry in this sphere, and it’s caused a serious digital dilemma. If we embrace the strategic potential of the platform versus resisting change, it can result in exciting and meaningful growth for our businesses.
THE DIGITAL DILEMMA:
The ability for us to “be connected” all the time is certainly a recognized dilemma in our society. While it is amazing to have the ability to remotely check-in, it is also putting a strain on our mental health and emotional well-being. Purposeful boundaries are necessary in order for us to continue thriving in our businesses, our creativity, and our personal lives.
In the New Year, try the following:
Schedule Phone-Free Times Each Day
Schedule Email Checkpoints to Refrain from Constantly Refreshing Your Device
Make Your Time Spent Online Intentional: Try to Refrain from Mindless Scrolling.
Set Boundaries (and Enforce Them) re: Social Media Engagement. Business Questions should be handled via email or through the office.
Make Sure You Maintain and Enjoy Non-Digital Activities
Keep Dance Classes a Digital Distraction-Free Space (for students + instructors)
THE DIGITAL STRATEGY:
1-page intro to recital sheet in every student’s digital welcome packet at the start of each season
A detailed timeline of when to expect information, including specific dates/times for emails so they can easily search to reference materials
The dissemination of information by class, so families are not overwhelmed or confused by too much information at once
A digital, all you need to know recital guide for parents and students
Recital Q+A Events: In-Person and on Instagram
BUILD THE HYPE
The recital is something to celebrate, and we plan events to make the experience an inclusive conversation piece in our programming.
While we only work on choreography in classes during the months of March, April, and May, we start promoting the Recital and its surrounding events in January with our Theme + Costume Reveal.
Other ways we hype up the show include:
Conversation Components to involve the family outside of the studio. For example, if your show is based around books, create a family reading list. If your show features character concepts, consider age-appropriate worksheets for a series of monthly themes.
Shared Choreography Rehearsal Videos so families can rehearse their routine(s) at home. This increases the students’ accountability, involves the parent in the process, and generates respect for the rehearsal process, as well.
A Recital Pep Rally featuring photo booths, themed stations, merchandise sales and seminars (how to make a bun, packing your backstage bag, etc.)
Complimentary group photos that are taken at dress rehearsal and posted to social media prior to the performance days.
Studio Branded step and repeat for use on show days
“I Rocked Recital!” Buttons that are distributed to every student prior to the Recital Curtain Call at every performance.
CREATE YOUR RECITAL PLAYBOOK
In order for your clients to benefit from a smooth and easy recital experience, you have to enter the season calm and in control. The recital is a major undertaking, and with appropriate planning, you’ll be able to enjoy it as much as your students!
Set a timeline and stick to it. With our timeline, everything is finished a month prior to the show.
Train your staff on the general aesthetic of the show. Every routine and every recital should fit the overall brand of the studio.
Implement systems (e.g. hiring a stage manager to deal with the production components) and/or vendors (like TutuTix!) to make your life easier.
Delegate! Everyone should know their role and assignment and expected place/location- from paid studio staff to parent volunteers. Make sure they are trained and prepared for their assignments.
Create consistent workflows for check-in, pick-up, stage entrance, stage blocking, and stage exit.
Expect the unexpected. With live theatre, everything will not go according to plan. When the unexpected arises, creatively problem solve, stay calm, and keep your focus forward.
Looking for more great ideas to navigate the Digital Dilemma at your studio? Check out the following articles:
When I first opened my studio over 20 years ago, I had a big learning curve when it came to all things human resources-related—interviewing, hiring, firing, payroll, benefits, and everything in between!
One of the biggest lessons I learned right away is that hiring great people for my team was a lot of WORK, especially when it came time for interviews. It was not always easy to discern who would really be a good fit for the team and it took way more preparation than I thought! But just like with dance, practice makes progress, and I’ve made a LOT of progress.
I’ve also discovered that I really enjoy providing meaningful career opportunities for others. Watching people flourish in their roles at the studio is one of the most fulfilling aspects of running a business! And it all starts with getting the right people on board in the first place, which means making sure the systems behind the interview process are in top-notch shape. With that in mind, I created this list of 6 Best Practices for Interviewing Job Candidates, and I hope it will serve your studio as well as it has mine!
Implementing these ideas has had a profound effect on my hiring choices and continues to inform my decision-making when it comes to bringing new people to our team. Keep reading to see my 6 Best Practices for Interviewing Job Candidates.
Here are my 6 Best Practices for Interviewing Job Candidates:
Consider a pre-interview screening
Before you begin a series of interviews, think about implement one more step: the pre-interview submission. This could be done by asking the applicant to complete a short questionnaire via email, having them leave a voice message, or upload a video introduction. Any of these methods will allow you an additional screening before taking the time to meet someone in person.
Use the first interview as a simple getting-to-know-you meeting
Don’t expect to get too much done in the first face-to-face interview. What do I mean by that? Well, use that meeting a little like a first date: ask basic questions, read the candidate’s body language, and do a gut-check on whether you think they would be a good culture fit for your studio.
Always interview at least twice, probably more
I am a big proponent of “hire slowly, fire quickly,” meaning that if I’m going to invest the time, money, and energy into hiring for a position, I want to be very sure that we’re bringing in someone who will be the right match for that role. Rushing the process only risks potential problems. For example, an initial interview, lunch or coffee interview, and a sample class interview are part of my go-to process for hiring new teachers.
Ask open-ended questions
Remember that asking questions that begin with “What,” “How,” or “When,” can be great openers into deeper interview questions, such as “How would you handle this type of situation?” Other great questions can come from prompts like, “Tell me about a time when …” or “Describe your experience with …”
Find out what the candidate knows about you
Ask what research the candidate has conducted on you or your studio; someone who is very interested in the job and does their homework will probably have a few things to say! I always like hearing from candidates who share what they like about the studio or have questions about our programming, because it shows their curiosity.
Take good notes—and not just about their answers
Remembering every little thing a candidate says in an interview is probably not necessary, but I do like to be able to review my notes days later and get a sense of my instincts at the moment. For instance, I’ll make note if the person was extra-prepared (or not enough), if they dressed appropriately, if they were on time, and if any of their behavior during the interview requires further questioning.
Once upon a time, I thought owning a dance studio was all about dance … but of course, it’s about so much more! And one of the most rewarding parts is hiring amazing people for your team. It isn’t always easy finding those people, but with these best practices in place, you can feel more confident than ever that the right candidate is just an interview away!
Looking for more tips for hiring an excellent staff? Check out the following articles:
When coaching studio owners, one of the most common topics we discuss is people. Specifically, dance studio faculty and staff. There are so many factors to consider when hiring people, onboarding them, integrating them into your studio culture, and holding them accountable for a job well done.
One of those factors that I think sometimes doesn’t get enough attention is the coaching required—the ongoing advice and guidance studio owners must give each individual team member so they can personally learn and grow, and so the business can achieve its goals. As studio owners, we are responsible for establishing this essential communication loop throughout an employee’s tenure with us.
Amazing results come from employees who are motivated and committed to doing their best work, and who feel supported by their leader. Leadership is about serving as much as it is about directing, and part of that service is coaching. Through your coaching efforts, the personal connections and “lightbulb” moments that happen are invaluable!
Keep reading to help your team members achieve more with my Top 6 Ways to Coach Your Team to Success.
Here are my Top 6 Ways to Coach Your Team to Success:
Vision-casting … and recasting – As the studio owner, your eye is consistently on the big picture. Your team, on the other hand, is consistently in the trenches of day-to-day details. And so communicating to them about what the big picture looks like—what “winning” on the team looks like—is one way to coach them to success. Through casting the vision, you’re doing more than painting that picture; you’re reminding them of their impact on the business’s higher purpose! My recommendation is to find ways to recast this vision at least once a month.
Productive meetings – Meetings can be fertile ground for coaching if you approach them in just the right way. Plant the seeds of preparedness, follow-through, and followup by planning meetings that have an objective which involves everyone invited. Consider sending out an agenda beforehand to make the objective clear, and ask for specific contributions. Coach your staff to listen actively, share ideas, and when necessary, debate with grace.
Encouraging teamwork – As the studio owner, it’s important that you publicly compliment your employees’ strengths and encourage peer leadership. Coach them to think of their fellow team members first when they have a question or need help solving a problem. You are teaching them to depend on each other when needed and form bonds along the way, rather than go it alone or always come to you for answers.
Personal check-ins – Schedule one or two times during the year to personally check in one-on-one with your employees, not just to evaluate their job performance and give feedback, but to get to know their lives and personal goals. As a coach, you want to feel connected to your team members in a way that gives you insight into what motivates them. This way you are equipped throughout the season to educate them, lift them up, and cheer them on.
Praise and corrections – Coaching your team to success doesn’t have to be all wellplanned and thought-out; it might happen spur of the moment! Be prepared to praise an employee immediately upon witnessing a desired behavior, like an outstanding phone call or closing of a sale. Those “high-fives” build major confidence. When you hear about something that didn’t go right, be sure to offer coaching to the employee quickly to correct the problem but privately to maintain trust.
Continuing education opportunities – A leadership book club. Dance-related trainings and certifications. Business seminars. All of these things create opportunities for learning outside of the studio bubble. Coach your employees to take an interest in continuing their education—however big or small the opportunity may be. (It’s worth studying your budget to see how much you can invest in them too.) By nudging your team members to seek out and appreciate their own personal growth, you are showing them how valued they are at your organization.
Your responsibility as a studio owner doesn’t start and end with the basics of hiring and firing; your true leadership comes from your ability to see potential in others and capitalize on it so that everyone wins. Coaching takes time, effort, energy, and communication, but the dividends it pays are often far beyond what you put in!
I encourage you to start putting these six tips to use at your studio. Already working on it? I hope you’ll share in the comments below what your most rewarding coaching moment has been so far, and how you hope to grow your coaching skills from here. I wish you much success on this unique journey of leadership!
Looking for more great studio staff coaching ideas? Check out the following articles:
Being a studio owner and achieving a work life balance can seem flat-out impossible! But what if we are just thinking of the word “balance” in the wrong way?
I’ve come to the conclusion that we have to change our definition of the word. Instead of “balance” meaning equal attention at all times, I propose that we adopt the mentality that “balance” means the right amount of attention at any given time. In other words, we could stop striving for the seesaw of our lives to be level. We could strive instead to make sure it functions well; that each side can go up and down as needed. That, to me, is more like a balance that reflects real life!
For example, there will be times where you simply need to be all-in with your family. Maybe you have a vacation planned, a new baby, or an emergency. And there will be times that you’re all-in with the studio because it’s peak registration or recital week or an employee quits. Just because you are all-in with one area of your life doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong! There will always be some give-and-take, and the balance may shift accordingly.
So what can you do to achieve just the right (proportionate!) balance in YOUR life day-to-day? Keep reading to learn more about my 4 Tips to Achieve Your Best Work Life Balance.
Here are my 4 Tips to Achieve Your Best Work/Life Balance:
Know that flexibility is required
Devoting time to your work at the studio and having family time means that being flexible has to be part of your DNA. To find your best version of balance, it helps to be able to think on your feet and adapt when needed. A balanced day doesn’t always have to abide by a strict schedule! It’s very likely that no two days will look alike, but they can all have a sense of balance if you remain flexible.
Establish your boundaries
Achieving balance often requires having a few, firm guidelines for yourself when it comes to boundaries. For example, you may need to set limits on the times you will read and respond to emails so that you aren’t stuck to a screen during family time. Or you may have to set non-negotiable studio work hours for each week, where your family knows that interruptions are for emergencies only. Using boundaries effectively gives me great peace of mind, especially during busy times.
Open yourself up to change|
During different seasons of life, know that you may have to get comfortable changing what your work/life balance looks like. When your kids are young, you may require more time at home with them instead of at the studio. Or if your studio experiences a growth spurt, you may find that you need to dedicate more hours there on certain days of the week. Establish points of the year to re-evaluate what a successful work/life balance means to YOU and then take action to achieve it. It’s OK to change it up as needed.
Be in the moment
If you’re finding balance in your life in proportionate ways, quality will always trump quantity! Think about your intentions behind the time you do have, with your family or your studio. Let’s say you have an employee who rarely gets face time with you … when you see that person, make a point to connect. Ask how things are going, get feedback from them about their work, and let them know you care. Your intentional efforts to use your time wisely will reflect positively in every area of your life.
Discovering your ideal work/life balance won’t be a one-time thing; you’ll continue to figure out what works well (and what doesn’t) as you move forward. I invite you to share in the comments below what your own experience of balance is like right now … and how it has changed over time.
Remember, it’s OK to give yourself permission to find balance in your own unique way! Your life as a studio owner will sometimes be unpredictable, but using these 4 tips can help you stay on track to juggle it all with grace. I believe in you!
Looking for more tips to help with work life balance? Check out these other articles and resources:
Business growth: it’s something every studio owner desires!
Whether it’s more students, more staff members, more space, more financial freedom, or more time at home, at some point or another, we all want MORE for our studios.
Growth can be great! It means your business is healthy, and healthy things grow! But business growth usually doesn’t come without a few growing pains. As your studio expands to accommodate more people or more space, or as you step out to spend more time at home, you’ll probably notice that some of your existing systems don’t work as well anymore. I often tell the dance studio owners that I coach, “Every time something your business doubles, all of your systems break.”
If you are in a position where you are seeing your numbers rise and your systems aren’t quite keeping up, take advantage of this opportunity to make some key updates in the way you organize and communicate before the new year starts. Keeping up with your studio’s growth—and then staying ahead of it—will allow you to maintain its health. Don’t ignore the warning signs that you need to make improvements. Warning signs might include things like customer confusion or dropping balls on details and follow up.
If these types of things are happening to you, it’s probably time to dig in to some new resources that will help improve your systems!
Keep reading to learn about my 5 Tools to Implement for Business Growth.
Here are my 5 Tools to Implement as Your Business Grows:
A rhythm calendar
The “rhythm calendar” is a tool that helps everyone on your team see what tasks need to be done and when, for the entire year. It may be an actual printed document which follows your studio’s calendar or it may be kept in a project-management software system like Asana or Basecamp. Either way, it’s a roadmap to keep you on track all year. It’s also a “living” document that covers the responsibilities in every area of your business, so expect it to change over time as your studio grows and changes.
The right software
From accounting software to studio management software, you may need to consider implementing a new product or some more training on an existing product to stay on top of your studio’s growth. Is what you’re currently using causing more headaches than it solves? Are you actually using your software tools? If technology isn’t your zone of genius, schedule an appointment to talk with your accountant or dance studio software representative to ask questions and get a refresher on which solution may help your business the most.
A trial class system
Take the time to look back and see how many trial students you’ve served so far this year, and what their conversion rate to enrollment has been. If your conversions are below 20% (or you don’t know this number to begin with) it’s probably time to get a real system in place. A great starting place is to have one employee on your team act as the champion of this trial classes, from scheduling to follow-up. Or you get techie with it. I recently installed a product called the Trial Class System by Studio Owners Academy and we have already had over 30 trial students. Now that’s a win this time of year!
A file sharing program
As your student numbers grow, your team of staff members will likely grow too, meaning more people need access to more information. Make your work more efficient by getting those files organized in one place. A program like Google Drive, G Suite, or Dropbox will store your electronic files in the cloud, allowing you to choose who to share files with (and to limit access if needed). No matter what system you use, it’s important to get everyone on the same page for naming documents. There is no sense in created great documents if you can’t find them later:)
An email system
From automating marketing campaigns to sending out monthly newsletters to your existing customers, email still rules as one of the top ways to communicate. Programs like MailChimp, iContact, or Drip allow you to break up lists into smaller groups according to interest and to create branded, professional-looking information to send out to them on a regular basis making your studio look organized and reliable.
As your business grows, your systems must grow, too! Remember: whatever time you put in to update your systems NOW will save you heaps of time in the new year.
Do you have questions on how to grow your studio business (or to how to manage the growth you are having?) Let’s talk! Connect with me on social media @mistylown. I’d love to hear your questions, concerns, or stories of success.
Looking for more dance studio staff insights? Check out these other articles and resources:
Overloaded. Scattered. Forgetful. Late. Have you ever felt that any of these words describe you as a studio owner? I once did. Other studio owners tell me often that they too, have been consumed by their work and feel like they are constantly in need of help. The one thing that made a difference for me? Hiring the right studio staff for my team. An amazing group of employees is a huge game-changer. I call mine the Dream Team.
The process of hiring can be one of the most daunting tasks for a studio owner. You feel a lot of pressure (from yourself!) to make a good decision; one that at best, could benefit your team for years to come and that at worst, could create a toxic environment. Hiring someone who is a good fit for your business is truly win-win: you get the help you need to run an organized and efficient studio, and your new employee obtains a job at a meaningful place to work.
Before taking the first step in your hiring process, be sure that you know what it is that you’re hiring for. I recommend writing up a job description: include the job title, responsibilities, and the qualities desired in your ideal candidate. This job description will be for your internal use only, so expect that it might change somewhat once you’ve found a great person to hire and want to adapt the position to their strengths. For now, the description is simply your guideline. Having it prepared gives you a starting point for the way you need to advertise the job opening, and for the types of questions you might need to ask during interviews.
Once your hiring needs are clear, it’s time to prepare a job listing or advertisement. This is the information you’ll post online, such as on Indeed or Craigslist, or through other hiring avenues, such as your local university or community newsletter. Be sure to tell your current staff members that you’re looking to hire; I often find that getting referrals from my employees is far more successful than any other method. Birds of a feather do flock together after all!
After your job description and job listing are complete, it’s time to focus on the big task ahead: the hiring process itself. Your diligent attention to the details can make all the difference! Normally I have a whole list of tips and ideas for you for each topic, but hiring is different. There are really only two rules you need to heed for hiring.
Keep reading for my “THE ONLY 2 TIPS FOR HIRING” so that you can build your very own Dream Team:
Here they are! THE ONLY 2 TIPS FOR HIRING you need:
My first tip is to never be in a hurry to hire! I’ve certainly learned this the hard way. Rushed hiring almost always results in a poor match between you and the new employee because you didn’t have enough time to thoroughly assess their potential with your business.
Create a hiring system that includes several steps instead; this will help you evaluate candidates in different ways over time. For example, your first step might include instructing applicants to introduce themselves by leaving a voicemail (we use Google Voice) or by uploading a video message. This will allow you to “meet” them virtually. Those who are articulate and enthusiastic can be invited to complete the next step, which could be a phone interview or an email questionnaire.
At this point your goal is simply to get to know the candidate better, so your questions might include topics like “What type of books do you read?” or “Tell me about a time when you helped make a positive change in someone else’s life.” From there, you would ask the successful candidates to meet for a personal interview, either with you or someone from your leadership team.
A second, off-site personal interview (for example, over lunch) or a teaching audition would be an appropriate next step for those candidates who are still in the running after the first personal interview. Having your candidates pass through each of the benchmark steps allows you to get to know them under different conditions, and if at any point they no longer seem like a good fit for your studio, you can thank them for their time and move on.
Hire for character
My second tip comes from 20 years’ experience building an excellent studio culture: hire only those people who have the character qualities you know you need in your business. There’s no better match for your studio than someone who already demonstrates that they hold similar values to yours.
Remember that the culture of your business depends heavily on its people, and so any new hires need to fit well within your culture. The difficulty is that your candidates (who want a job!) can easily profess to hold such values, but as well all know, actions speak louder than words.
A continued benefit of the “hire slowly” advice above is that you have several opportunities to see the candidate’s character qualities in action, and in different conditions. For example, do they send you a thank you note after an interview? That certainly displays their values. Are they kind to the waitstaff when you meet for lunch? Another values-check. When they teach a sample class, are they prepared, organized, pleasant, curious? All part of their personal values.
To be fair, some candidates may be excellent “politicians” and may say and do things to get the job and not show you their true selves. Though I find this is rare, I think it is important that you pay attention to your gut feelings about someone. Let your instincts guide you, whether the feeling is positive or negative. Remember that you can’t necessarily teach great character, but you can train and mold the skillset of the right candidate.
Hiring employees is truly one of the hardest and best parts of being a business owner. The people on your team are the ones who bring your vision, your mission, and your culture to life. It’s no wonder we feel such a heavy responsibility to get it right!
I’m confident that these two tips can boost your hiring process up a level, and that they will help you find the support you need. Share with us in the comments below how you plan to take action with your next new hire. And you can always find me @mistylown on social media if you’d like to discuss more about how to hire your Dream Team. I wish you much success as you revitalize your hiring process!
Misty Lown is the founder, president and energized force behind More Than Just Great Dancing™. Misty shares her methods of creating a professional environment where people learn and grow from the life experiences lived in the dance studio. Sharing information, providing helpful observations, and giving feedback to parents, teachers and students is an essential part of the learning process that Misty delivers with More Than Just Great Dancing™.
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Dance studio owners know that running a studio is a rewarding and joyous experience; there’s truly no other life like it! From the moment you open your doors, your mission is to make an impact on the world through dance. But even with the greatest of missions, there will still be times when things get tough—times when you question yourself or don’t know where to turn for help.
When those moments happen it can be helpful to talk with your peers, just to have someone who understands really LISTEN to you. But do you know what is even more beneficial? Seeking out a mentor—someone who can not only listen, but also inspire you to be your best, solve problems, raise your perspective, help you develop better leadership strategies, and coach you through big decisions.
Finding the right mentor can sometimes take a bit of work, but the payoff is awesome when you’ve found someone you respect and trust. Having had a few different mentors over the past two decades, I can honestly say that each one brought a unique and timely perspective to my life when I needed it.
Before you search for a mentor, think about what you want to achieve from the relationship. Do you want to work with someone who has knowledge of the dance industry, or would you prefer to have a mentor who comes from a different professional background? Do you want to meet on a consistent schedule, or keep things open-ended? How much time do you hope to spend with your mentor?
The answers to these questions will help prepare you to find a mentor who is the best fit possible. All it takes is a little planning, and a willingness to put yourself out there and meet new people.
Keep reading to learn about my 5 Ways to Find a Mentor:
Here are my 5 Ways to Find a Mentor:
Approach someone who has a business you admire
One of my local grocery stores, Festival Foods, has some of the most excellent customer service and community engagement I’ve ever seen and has been an inspiration for me since I started in business. While I was shopping one day, it occurred to me that I could learn a lot from the way Festival Foods runs its stores.
It didn’t take long before I was able to set up a meeting with its founder, Dave Skogen, who soon became my mentor and friend. Think about your local business neighbors; what business owner could YOU establish a relationship with?
Network in local business groups
Networking to find a mentor in your community can be as simple as joining the right groups, such as your city’s chamber of commerce or local arts council. In those places you’ll find business owners just like you who are looking to connect and develop deeper business relationships.
Try attending the next breakfast meeting or mixer, and begin getting to know who’s who. Remember that you all already have one pretty big quality in common: you want to better the community with your product or service.
Check your mutual connections
While it’s convenient to have a local mentor, long-distance can work too! Check the connections you have through social media, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, to see who might be a potential mentor-match for you.
Perhaps you’ll be inspired to reach out to an old boss or a friend-of-a-friend who could become a mentor to you through phone calls, Skype meetings, or email. Ask your family and friends if they know of someone who seems like a good business-match for you. I have an accountability partner from Canada that I exchange emails with on a monthly basis.
Look into a business coaching program
Business coaching programs can steer you on the right path to finding an effective mentor, either through the program’s leader or its other members.
A coaching program that is dance-studio specific (such as my studio affiliation program, More Than Just Great Dancing®, Clint Salter’s Dance Studio Owner Association, Suzanne Blake Gerety’s DanceStudioOwner.com, or Austin Roberson’s Studio Owners Academy) could be a great fit, or it might be worth considering a broader business program (such as Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership’s All-Access).
Once you find a program you like, see if you can talk with a representative about your wants and needs in mentorship, or ask to experience a trial period before investing in a full membership.
Meet a mentor through SCORE
Formerly known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives, SCORE is a business mentorship program through the U.S. Small Business Administration. SCORE mentors are volunteers who are current or former business owners and executives.
A volunteer can be matched to you by location or industry. Based on your goals and timeline, they can offer you mentorship in person or via email.
Having a mentor by your side through the highs and lows of business ownership is truly invaluable! While there’s no exact formula for finding the right mentor, these 5 ways will give you some excellent traction to get started. Remember that you are developing new business relationships through this process: take the time to introduce yourself to prospective mentors, ask a few engaging questions, and follow up with a thank you message.
In the comments below, tell us how you plan to proceed with finding a mentor—or share with us how you connected with your current mentor. I also invite you to connect with me @mistylown on social media to continue the conversation about how having a mentor makes a difference in your life. I can’t wait to hear more about your mentorship experience!
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Should I step back from teaching to focus on studio business?
There are only 2 questions you need to answer to make this decision.
I meet a lot of studio owners in my travels, and there seems to be one thing that unites us—we all have a similar backstory. Somewhere along the way in life we fell in love with dance. We became dedicated to creating a career out of dance; we were passionate about the power of dance to change lives; and we were resourceful at using our skills and connections to make a difference in the lives of others.
I believe that studio owners are unique in this way, and this passion for sharing our love of dance is what drives us to succeed. But as we grow in our studio careers, we realize that the job of running a studio is about so much more than dance. We discover that we need to learn how to lead people, manage accounting, develop programming, understand new marketing trends and more. As your studio grows, the business needs can begin to rival the artistic side for your time and attention.
When this happens, you might feel like you’ve come to a crossroads. I know I did! This is where you have to start making decisions about the best place to direct your focus in this new season of life.
Should you step back from teaching to focus on studio business? Continue reading to see the only two questions you need to answer to make this decision.
There are only two questions you need to answer when deciding if you should step back from teaching:
Where is my zone of genius at the studio?
Your zone of genius is the place you want to be! This is where your talent and your passion intersect, and it may very well be in the classroom. If you wake up in the morning and can’t wait to teach—and you are a skilled teacher—then this is a strength area you can’t ignore or suppress.
If this is you, I would encourage you to stick with teaching because you flourish there! Your zone of genius might be in other areas too, so take note of those now before moving on to Question 2.
I am not shy to admit that although I am an excellent teacher, choreography was never my real zone of genius. I can do it, but I really have to work at it and have others on my team who are more naturally gifted in this area. Me? I prefer to “choreograph” the business side of things; creating new programs and marketing efforts to promote our work in the community.
When I was scheduled to teach several classes a week, the preparation time alone would cause me angst because it felt like it was taking time away from the areas of my business I was much better at handling (not to mention time away from my growing family).
With that realization, I made the decision to step back from teaching (to only one class per week) and focus on my leadership skills. Eventually, I stepped out of teaching altogether to focus on my family and running the business.
Who can I equip (or hire) to work in the areas that are NOT in my zone of genius?
If your zone of genius is in teaching, then it’s essential that you are surrounded by a team of people who are talented in the other areas of your business. For example, you may need an office manager who can take on more customer service and administrative responsibilities, or you may need a bookkeeper to make sure your accounting stays clean and up to date each month.
If your zone of genius (like mine) is in an area other than the creation of dances and preparation of lessons, then it’s probably time to step out of the classroom or to consider a reduced teaching schedule. Talk with your staff members to see who is interested in accepting more opportunities to teach, or begin the hiring process to bring new teachers on board.
If you are currently the primary teacher at your studio, consider stepping out of the classroom gradually—over a year or two—to make the transition smoother for your students and their parents. My transition out of the classroom was a five-year process that took me from teaching 27 classes per week to four, and then eventually to none.
I should pause and note here that even though I no longer teach weekly classes, I am still responsible for the quality of our classrooms and the artistic choices that end up on our stages. No matter which side of the business you decide to focus on, you still have responsibility for oversight of the other side of the business—even if you are not in the daily details of that aspect.
As a business owner, you will always have different hats to wear at your studio. But because of your personal history and passion for the art of dance, it can be a challenge to know whether “teacher” should still be one of them.
If you’ve ever thought about whether or not you should still be in the classroom, reflect back on your answers to the two questions here. Harmony can be found with both “the business side” and “the teaching side” of your studio; they are both vital to your studio’s success, and you will naturally have more strengths on one side than the other. I encourage you to play to those strengths and stand in your zone of genius as much as possible!
Connect with me @mistylown on social media or email me at email@example.com if you’d like to talk about where your zone of genius is, or to share your own experience of staying in or stepping out of the classroom. I wish you success as you determine which direction to dance in next!
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Over the years, I have bought a couple of businesses and I recently even looked into buying a national franchise and negotiated for close to a month before I decided not to buy. But it wasn’t until last year, when I decided to offer my dance studio for sale, that I realized how many questions get fired at you when you’re in the selling seat.
Even though I had been a buyer and had asked a bunch of questions, when the tables were reversed I was sometimes rather taken aback by what was asked!
In a nutshell, I started a preschool dance school and built it to a couple of locations, had a solid, loyal student base and after nearly 2 years decided I needed to sell it for a range of reasons, primarily because I had competing opportunities and limited time. Luckily, I had approached my dance studio from the outset in a very organized and systemized fashion.
Questions Potential Buyers Asked Me
Are the venues locked in place and secured for the next 6-12 months?
What are the rentals, and where’s the paperwork outlining the agreement that the set days and times are secured for this dance studio?
Have you told your teachers that you’re selling?
If yes, how did they react? If not, why and when will you?
Have your teachers asked you if they can buy the studio?
Why don’t they want to buy it?
My note on this: I decided to tell my teachers as soon as I’d made the decision to sell and I offered them the business. They weren’t in a position to buy it, so, after they were made aware but declined, I looked further afield.
I waited a few days to see if the teachers changed their minds. Then, I approached other dance schools and dance teachers to see if they might like to buy the business.
How many students are there?
What is the life cycle of a student?
What profit is made per class per student less costs?
What is the gross and net profit per year per student?
What is the detailed P/L (profit and loss statement)?
Is this studio profitable? Is this studio in the red?
What’s the largest cost/s?
What are the fixed costs and variable costs?
Does this business have any outstanding debts/liabilities?
About Parents and Students
Do they know you’re selling?
Have you told them?
How have they responded?
If you haven’t told them when are you planning to?
About Other Dance Schools
What other dance schools are offering similar classes?
What price are they charging per term for similar classes?
Money seems to be the focus
Interestingly, I noticed that most of the questions related to money – profit, turnover, price per student, profit per student and all the financials. People also wanted to know about the staff and whether they would stay on. The teachers in my business were a critical piece of the puzzle since I myself wasn’t teaching in the studio; in some studios this might not be so important.
What I found amazing was that no one was really that interested in the brand, the goodwill, the dance programs I’d created or the social media following. The main value they saw in the business was in the monetary side of things, student numbers and staff retention.
What the selling experience taught me was that unless your business systems are tight and your financials are solid it will be very hard to sell a business based on reputation, name or quality programs alone. That being said, those aspects are really important to the success of the studio and therefore the profitability, so they are still important.
I have attributed this to the fact that a lot of dance teachers who acquire other dance schools will make the assumption, rightly or wrongly, that they already have their own programs, reputation, and branding. Therefore, they don’t need to worry about yours as they will just bring the acquisition under their already existing umbrella.
At the end of the day, selling a dance studio is the same as selling any business and a buyer, like a property buyer, wants to know that what they are buying has value and profit.
Ensuring that your business systems, financials and all fees are paid is going to be key when and if you need to sell your dance studio.
Emma Franklin Bell is an entrepreneur, author and mentor. In 2014, she sold 2 small businesses in the children’s entertainment space. She has written and published a book, and mentors dance teachers on the strategic direction of their business. She is based in Australia.