By now your studio’s season is officially in full swing and your classes are humming along. Your students and their families are getting used to their new dance schedules, school commitments, and carpools. Your staff members have also settled into your new routines around the studio and you are starting to find your “new normal” with the fall schedule. It can be such a satisfying feeling as a studio owner to finally feel like the pieces of your puzzle have fallen into place!
It’s completely fine (and encouraged!) for you to celebrate the success of starting off the new season right. But don’t let that satisfaction turn into complacency when it comes to your leadership: your team is on the front lines of service every day, and they need your active support, direction, and motivation to keep moving forward and offering up their best selves.
It’s probably been at least a few weeks – maybe more – since your new-season kickoff meeting with your team, which means it is the perfect time to re-cast your expectations and set the pace for the year ahead.
Keep your staff members feeling excited to come to work and on the right track by implementing these 3 Best Practices For Coaching Your Dance Studio Staff This Fall:
One-on-one check-in meetings
Different from an annual performance review and with less formality, a one-on-one check-in meeting with each employee in September or October can give you the opportunity to receive feedback from them on how the season has started: what’s going well and where they need help. I recommend scheduling 15-30 minutes per staff member with the intent to do more listening than talking. If they need prompting to start the conversation, use just two guiding questions: 1) Which parts of your job are the most rewarding right now, and which are most challenging? And 2) How can I help you achieve your best work with both? Your team members will appreciate that you’re hearing them out, and you can use the information you learn to better support and direct them in the moment and in the coming weeks. It may even become a habit that you want to do these one-on-ones more often with your team, to keep your finger on the pulse of the studio and prevent fires before they start!
Inspect what you expect
By the time fall classes are in full swing, your staff members have probably already attended at least one staff meeting where you laid out your expectations for them as employees of your studio. For example, your front desk team probably knows that they are expected to follow-up with all trial class participants in a certain way. For the sake of this example, let’s say they follow four steps: they ask for the sale on the day of the trial class, making a follow-up phone call within two days to those who didn’t sign up, after which time an email is sent, and if there’s still no registration, the child’s information is put into a “general interest” email campaign. You know your front desk team knows and has practiced all of these steps, but are all the steps being completed (and correctly)? The only way to find out is to “inspect what you expect”: take the time to observe the process once in a while, and ask your team how it’s working for them. You may find a part of the process needs a little tweaking, or that a staff member needs a refresher on how to handle certain types of situations. Help redirect your team before any small glitches become waves.
Praise the progress
Make sure your team knows that you notice their hard work! As humans, we all have the desire to feel like we belong, and to feel appreciated. When you see or hear a staff member do something awesome, say something! Say your receptionist does an exemplary job converting a trial class participant into a student, and you happened to overhear the interaction – don’t just say “well done!” in the moment, also praise their work in a private email or in front of the team at the next staff meeting. That positive interaction offers the staff member a well-earned ego-boost and encourages them to repeat their efforts. I know it sounds almost too simple, but think about yourself: isn’t it a great feeling to be recognized when you do a good job at something and have set an example for your peers? And doesn’t it make you want to keep doing the thing that earned you the recognition in the first place? Yes! Case closed! Your team members need to hear that kind of special, personal affirmation from you when they are doing great work. It shows you care, and shows you notice them – and not just for showing up each day.
Fall is THE perfect time to ensure that your studio’s season is set up to run smoothly for the busy months ahead and to take care that your team has started the year on the right foot. Implementing these 3 Best Practices will help you coach your staff members to success! Tell us in the comments which practice helps you and your team the most, and connect with me on social media @MistyLown to continue sharing your leadership journey. I wish you AND your team a wonderfully productive fall semester!
Looking for more great studio staff management ideas? Check out the following articles:
One element of the dance studio that can make or break your business is your dance staff. From executive roles to administration to instructors, every piece of the dance staff puzzle must fit perfectly to implement a smooth operation that reflects your culture, mission, and brand. This begins with the hiring process and leads into detailing roles, responsibilities, and expectations.
In order to keep your studio running the way you would like, you must consistently:
Offer feedback and training sessions
Know when it is time for a staff member to move on to another venture.
Undoubtedly, staff management is one of the most challenging components of owning a business. You are bringing together an assortment of people with entirely different backgrounds. That group is then supposed to maintain and uphold the values and beliefs of your entire business environment.
Additionally, you are not dealing with employees in a competitive academic market (like, technology companies, for example). Most of the time, you are dealing with artists that may underestimate the underlying business strategies required for dance studios. Creating and maintaining a “dream team” staff takes time, energy, commitment, and frequently, mistakes, to ultimately create a team that pushes your business towards greater success.
STEP 1: Defining Leadership Roles
Within your business, it is absolutely essential that you have explicitly detailed and defined roles of who is in charge of each facet of the business. At The Dance Exec’s Studio, the executive role is broken down into two divisions: Business Manager & Artistic Director.
The breakdown of your executive duties may differ (as may task assignments), but the duties required will be similar for all studios. This insures completion of tasks and organizational efficiency.
The Business Manager oversees the logistical and financial operations of the business. This includes: accounting, payroll, building maintenance and repair, cleaning of the facility, registration and enrollment, and all financial transactions. If a particular item is beyond the Business Manager’s skill set, it is their responsibility to arrange and oversee its completion (i.e. tax preparation or serious repairs). The Business Manager is the only person at The Dance Exec’s Studio that handles money.
The Artistic Director oversees class scheduling and curriculums, staffing, parent and student issues, the competition team, the work-study program, recital planning, community partnerships, and marketing. The Artistic Director also oversees the Business Manager’s transactions.
In reading these descriptions, you can see that each role is detailed. If you attempt to manage all of these tasks independently, it is very likely that something will get “lost in the shuffle”. You should never let one area of your business suffer because it becomes “too much” work.
Running a dance studio is a very involved process, and you must guarantee that you have the help needed to make your business a true success. (Please note that help does not have to be employees. It can be an accountant, maintenance person, cleaning service, etc.)
Additionally, it is important to note that “too many hands in the pot” can be just as frustrating as not having enough hands. The executive roles and responsibilities are critical to the success of your business, and you should avoid carelessly distributing the roles to multiple staff that may not have accountability or investment in your brand. At the end of the day, studio owners cannot independently accomplish everything that is required of their business, so it is important to delegate tasks to people you trust.
STEP 2: Finding the Perfect Cast
When you are venturing into the hiring process, think of the procedure as casting a show. Each role needs just the right person. If you cast the tenth best person for a part, your ticket sales and show reviews will not soar. The same goes for your in-studio hiring considerations. If you miscast a role with the wrong instructor, it will lead to more headaches for you and your business.
Take the time to make the right choices, but do not be afraid to correct an incorrect choice. Everyone makes mistakes, and this is certainly a learning process.
How do you go about finding your instructors? Many studios rely on online postings, local college programs, or former students.
Whatever search techniques you utilize, it is imperative that your ad postings be reflective regarding the quality of instructor you are seeking for your business.
What character traits do you value? For The Dance Exec’s Studio, we reiterate that prospective employees must be motivated, enthusiastic, professional, punctual, and organized. We also value educational and instructional experience, especially with children.
In our posting, we ask that interested candidates provide a cover letter, resume, and headshot. This request alone will assist in weeding through candidates that are not detail oriented enough to be a part of our business.
In candidates’ responses to your posting, you should look for the following:
The prospective instructor should include a resume, headshot, and cover letter (per your request). If anything is missing from their response, you should immediately eliminate them from your search because it shows they cannot follow very basic instructions.
The resume should be properly formatted and condensed to one page. The experiences listed on each person’s resume should be checked for accuracy (internet searches greatly help with this process). If a person lies or exaggerates on their resume, you should eliminate them from your list of potential candidates.
In the cover letter and resume, check for use of proper grammar and formality as indicators of professionalism and attention to correctness. Since professionalism is a character trait valued at The Dance Exec, it is imperative in making it to the interview process. This also indicates levels of a candidate’s seriousness and shows a glimpse into their personality.
Use the candidate’s headshot to determine if the request was taken seriously. Is the photo a professional headshot, or is it a snapshot or something pulled from Facebook? If a candidate sends in a snapshot from Facebook of him/her partying, he/she is likely not a good candidate for your business.
Remember, whatever the prospective candidates have sent you, they are putting their best foot forward in their initial interaction.
If this does not appeal to what you want, then you should follow-up with a response that indicates that the candidate is not best suited for the position. If you find the applicant to be a decent but not great candidate, you can always state that your staff positions are currently filled. But, let them know that you will keep their resume on file for future openings.
If their resume is appealing to you, then you should promptly follow-up with an interview request. Offer a list of times that would work for you (obviously, offering a variety of times, if possible). If the candidate is interested, they will find time to meet with you. State in this email that if the interview goes well, the candidate may be asked to teach a demo class. Keep in mind that this is the candidate’s opportunity and attempt to put their best foot forward. Consider anything less than impressive as a red flag.
When the candidate attends their interview, there are several observations you should note:
How early does the interviewee arrive for the interview? Did he/she take the time to find your location in advance? If an interviewee arrives late, they should not be interviewed or considered for the position. This shows a less than exemplary work ethic and poor planning.
What is the interviewee wearing? Even though this is the dance industry, The Dance Exec’s Studio likes to see potential candidates taking the interview seriously. As such, expect candidates to dress in business casual attire.
How is the initial interaction with the candidate? Is the candidate gracious and mature? If the candidate’s behavior would not work in a corporate interview, then it should be noted as a “red flag”.
During the interview process, The Dance Exec’s Studio prefers to ask standardized interview questions. This allows all candidates an equal option to answer, but, often the questions will distinguish the higher qualified candidates from the mediocre or weaker candidates.
Some examples of questions include:
If you had a choice between seeking and avoiding challenges in the performance industry, where would you place yourself? Please give an example to support your choice.
This type of question asks the candidate to place him/herself on an industry-related spectrum while also showing levels of ambition and motivation. Ideally, the candidate will back-up their ranking with a legitimate example that supports his/her self-perception.
What is the name of one of your close friends? What did (your close friend) think you would grow up to be? Tell us what you may have done to make him/her feel this way.
This type of question allows the person to give a personal reference. The story he/she chooses will give you insight to his/her personality as well as a back story. If the candidate struggles to think of anyone, it could be indicative of a weaker candidate.
Please tell us about a time you dealt with a challenging child in the classroom environment. Justify your rationale for handling the situation in such a way.
This type of question allows insight into how the candidate would handle conflict. Through their answer, you will gain insight to their thought process, diplomacy, regard to instruction, etc. Based on their answer, you will know if their method of conflict management ties into your culture and brand.
Based on these questions and questions you create on your own, you should gain a lot of insight into the interviewee’s personality and thinking process. With open-ended questions, you are allowing the candidate the opportunity to tell stories and engage you via examples and observances throughout their life. Such questions can make some interviewees feel uncomfortable.
Use this exercise to observe a candidate’s communication skills, thinking strategies, and behavioral gestures. Through this process, you should be able to identify confident, well-spoken, thoughtful instructors that could be an asset to your business.
In your interview, avoid asking “yes” or “no” questions. Try to steer the candidate towards open-ended questions so that the candidate has time to provide more details. Questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” are often the easy way out and do not give you a complete representation of a candidate’s personality.
In your interviewing, make sure that you never ask questions concerning protected classes as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
If a candidate succeeds in the interview, invite him/her to teach a demo class with students. The Dance Exec’s Studio always pays teachers for instructing demo classes. The studio wants there to be an understanding from the beginning that this is a strictly professional work environment.
Ultimately, there is no greater way to judge a candidate’s qualifications than putting him/her directly in the classroom environment. During the demo class, make sure you observe the teacher’s preparedness, confidence, teaching style, charisma, and enthusiasm. After the class, ask for students’ opinions, and more importantly, value your instincts. After the demo, do not feel obligated to immediately let the instructor know your decision. Thank him/her for teaching the class and take the time to truly consider if this person is right for you and your business.
Whatever your decision, you must let the person know. A prompt response shows professionalism on your part, and people will have greater respect for you (even with a “no” answer) than they will if you neglect to respond. Through experience with dance studios, some owners do not place enough value on communication. With so many readily available communication devices (email, cell phones, etc.), there is no excuse for not responding to prospective candidates.
Writing a dance studio business plan is a BIG project. But an important one! This plan will lay out your studio’s hopes and dreams, as well as the step-by-step process for getting from Point A to Point B. A few questions to ask yourself as you get started:
Where are you now?
Where do you want to be in three years? In five?
Who will help you get there?
The point of a dance studio business plan is to clearly lay out the aspects of a new company: strengths, challenges, and all of the minor details that will make the business a success. This document is an opportunity for entrepreneurs and hopeful business owners to put all of their ideas on paper, so that colleagues and other advisors can review the plan and offer any advice or criticism before the business is launched.
As an example, TutuTix has created a sample dance studio business plan for our imaginary dance studio, TIPS (the TutuTix Imaginary Performance Studios).
Feel free to use our guide’s ideas in your own plan, and please send us feedback about ideas we might not have that work particularly well in your studio! You can download the example dance studio business plan for free by completing the form below:
The layout of a business plan follows a logical progression of topics that a company needs to have defined prior to opening for business.
That order of topics should look something like this:
A concise description of your company, that acts as an overview of your goals and values. Keep it short but sweet! Why did you choose to build this kind of company?
Here, you can flesh out your overview and touch on how your business will function. Talk a little about your customer base, marketing goals, and strengths of your company. Why are you the best? Is it because you have the best staff, the most experience, the best rates?
Who are you competing against? How strong is that competition, and why do you think your studio can handle it? How will your business grow in this community over time?
There are lots of talented teachers and dancers who would be great studio owners. But in their current city or location, they would have a really hard time getting into the market and signing up students. That might be because of competition, lack of student interest in the area, or other reasons. How will your studio stand up to these tests?
Products and Services
Which dance classes will you offer? Will you rent out your space? Will you sell any retail items?
This section lists out your business functions: what do you offer, and how much will you charge? All of the items listed here will add up to be your studio’s income.
Marketing Publishing Strategy
How will people find out about your business, and how will you recruit additional students after your first season? What does your brand mean to you, and what do you want it to mean to others?
Operational Plan, Legal, and Startup Expenses
You can’t start a business from scratch: you’ll need funds and some professional consulting to get your company off the ground. How will you pay for your startup costs? Do you have that money already, or will you need to raise money with partners? Is a loan from the bank your best option?
By the time you get to writing this portion, hopefully you’ve talked to colleagues who might be opening the studio with you, or you’ve found a legal and/or financial professional who can advise you on the best way to move forward. Taking on debt to open a business is always risky, so you want to find funds the right way and have a plan to pay that debt back.
Most importantly: don’t be afraid to adapt! After the completion of the business plan, go back through and make adjustments based on information you’ve learned along the way! Ideas can and should evolve when they’re laid out on paper, so be sure to look for guidance from other teachers and business owners when putting together your plan.
How do you maintain your accountability as a dance professional?
Here are some thoughts for maintaining your relevance and staying refreshed:
Research New Ideas
Network with Other Professionals
Continue Your Education
Reflect on Your Career Progress
Consider Progress & Evolution
Have A Responsibility to Share
The responsibility to share promotes the practical application of research, network, education, reflection, and progress & evolution.
Find Your Outlet
As an example, with The Dance Exec, I enjoy the process of finding new content and information about our industry. I enjoy thinking through my teaching and choreography style to see what and how I can improve and evolve as an instructor.
It expands my network and worldview, and in turn, it makes me approach all of my work with a unique perspective.
What is your outlet for professional accountability? What do you do to make yourself the best professional?
Starting a dance studio (or relocating a studio) is certainly not an easy endeavor. It is a decision that should be thoroughly considered, weighed, and understood. Varying personal factors that should be considered are: personality type, business sense, life stability, income requirements, investment resources, personal willingness to commit, and a passion for business and/or dance. Most people would not open a clothing boutique if they did not love fashion, and the same should be said for dance studio entrepreneurs.
In starting a dance studio (or expanding your current studio), you must find your niche location and market. This section of the guide will cover all of the factors involved in choosing and up fitting a space for your current or prospective dance studio. In terms of your success, location is everything!
Finding Your Ideal Property
To begin searching for commercial property, it is a best practice to consult a commercial real estate agent. The agent will represent you and will protect your best interests throughout the process.
In searching for a prospective studio spot, it is important to consider the following items:
How much space (think square footage) do you need for your dance studio? How much space can you support with your anticipated student base and financial resources? Will the studio be a one-room facility, or will it have multiple studio rooms?
In planning for the studio, consider the following spaces:
When looking at spaces and considering prospective floor plans and layouts, as much space as possible should be dedicated to the actual studio areas. This is the primary selling point of your facility and will be the most used, income producing space.
Is the space you are considering zoned for your intended use? A real estate agent or landlord can clarify an area’s intended use and zoning.
Lobby space should be kept to a minimum. The lobby does not need to be a large space for parents to loiter, as that encourages gossip and detracts from studio space.
Office space, bathrooms, and storage should be kept to a minimum, but be sure that they are adequate enough to accommodate your needs.
Does the space have adequate parking to accommodate the number of clients you hope to have at your studio? Be mindful that you will likely need a spot for every person at your studio at any given time, including: students currently taking class, students transitioning to the next class, and staff vehicles.
The bottom line is that you need a spot for every single person that might be in attendance at the studio. Extra parking is always a plus—people will never complain if there are too many spaces, but there will be complaints if there is not enough parking.
You may also consider having a student drop off area, so parents can drop off and pick up students without utilizing a parking space. In considering this option, you want to ensure that someone that may take too long in the drop off area will not interrupt the overall traffic flow.
A well-designed parking/drop off area can be one less thing for parents to stress about when coming to your studio.
Since dance studios frequently involve children, it is absolutely imperative to consider the safety (actual or perceived) of your location. Ask yourself if you would feel comfortable leaving your own child in a particular locale?
You can run the best studio in the world, but if it is not a great, safe location, people will hesitate to bring their children. This could cost you business! And, while the price of a less than desirable location may be appealing, this is not an area to skimp on your budget; rather, you should invest in being in a better part of town.
When considering locations, investigate your neighbors and see if that fits into your ideologies and overall theme. A great place for a primary location might be in an area with a fun park, a children’s preschool, and a music center. You would not want to open your facility in an area that was surrounded by bars or other non-child friendly venues. Be alert, and think of how parents may view your location and presentation.
The cost of a visible location is expensive, and ultimately you will pay more rent. But, you will compensate the cost through blatant marketing. If your location is centered in an area that supports a lot of drive-by traffic, your facility will constantly be on the forefront of your community’s mind.
Keep in mind that convenience is a primary factor for people joining a dance studio (or any extracurricular activity). Make sure your locale is near prospective clients and reflects the mentality of the neighborhood. Some dancers will come to you because you run an excellent program and train great performers. But, the bulk of your students (and, consequently, your income) will result from people that are taking dance because your activity is convenient to their home. Make sure that where you decide to put your studio is near a solid base of prospective clients.
Consider what nearby, prospective clients want in a space. Are you near a country club with high expectations for their children’s extracurricular activities? Be sure that your space reflects the mentality of the neighborhood and fits in with your potential client’s expectations. If a competitor (dance studio, gym or otherwise) has a considerably nicer or more visible facility, how are you planning on competing?
5. Nearby Anchors
As mentioned in the safety segment, knowing the businesses that surround you can greatly impact your business, positively or negatively. Know the resources that will be surrounding you and how you can use them to benefit your business. Being near a popular landmark can help your business when providing directions. Also, if you are near a school or another complimentary business to your target market, this can be highly beneficial. People appreciate surroundings that are familiar.
6. Feasibility of Meeting your Opening Goals / Timeline
It’s important to consult with your landlord/contractor to ensure that they can meet your opening goals with construction permitting, up fits, etc. It’s important to initiate the beginning phases of starting a dance studio with the highest levels of professionalism and organization.
The Bottom Line
Your dance studio’s outward appearance will make a huge impression on your clientele. Take the time to provide the best possible environment and regularly evaluate areas for potential improvement. Make sure your facility is cutting-edge, safe, and the appropriate environment for your dancers to thrive.
Earlier this year, I wrote a post about plagiarism in creating dances and dance material. Since then, I have received an outpouring of information regarding situations involving copied dance choreography material. It is intellectually difficult to comprehend the necessity of this vice, especially when it impacts our students.
Check out this story, submitted by a parent, about her daughter’s experience:
A couple of years ago, I had the unfortunate surprise of finding my daughter’s jazz dance on YouTube. It was the beginning of our dance year and after the second week, my dancer excitedly came home and wanted to show us what she had learned so far.
She loved the song, the dance – she was thrilled. Not being able to find the exact version on iTunes, I searched on YouTube – the name of the song and dance. I clicked one dance and she said, that song is different, try another one. So I play another video. “That’s it,” she said. Well, as she is dancing and I am glancing at my laptop, I realize she is doing the exact same dance.
I waited another week and when my dancer came home continuing to do the dance from the internet, I knew there was a phone call I needed to make. Calling the Studio Owner the next day, who happens to be someone I highly respect and like, was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. She was shocked and embarrassed, I felt sick to my stomach having to tell her.
I will never forget her apologizing and saying that it was a phone call no parent should ever have to make. She is the epitome of integrity. I did not share what had happened with my dancer or other parents because it would have created unnecessary drama.
I don’t know nor is it my business to know how the situation was handled, but the song and dance were completely changed. Unfortunately the group of 10 and 11 year olds did not understand why the dance they loved was being changed so it was a challenge to hear that and hear other parents question why as well.
It is so important for dance teachers to create their own work. It could easily be a dancer who finds the dance on YouTube, a dance they have workedhard on all year. Even if the teacher thinks, my studio doesn’t post dances, I can get away with it. What if it performs well at a competition and is featured on a competitions Facebook Page or YouTube channel?
I think the above situation was a verybig learning experience for a new and young teacher. Just wanted to sharemy perspective on what it is like when a parent discovers their daughter’sdance is not the teacher’s original choreography.
Should this be happening in our industry? Absolutely not. As leaders, we have to implement a standard of originality and creativity. While this is a specific example, it represents a common occurrence that happens too frequently. It is hard to comprehend that there are teachers using entire routines from YouTube, master instructors duplicating exact dance choreography for multiple dancers, and competition teams that are blatantly and specifically copying other studio’s concepts.
We have to be role models of integrity, originality, and creativity for our students, instructors, and peers to prevent situations like the one above. We have to separate and clearly define inspiration versus plagiarism. When we incorporate such high standards in our studios and our students, we create a stronger culture, brand, and legacy. And, that is something everyone can respect.
In school, students are taught to be vigilant about citing sources and making sure that proper credit is given where it is due in regards to research. You would assume this heightened level of respect for others’ work would translate to the professional world; however, with advances in technology making creative content easily accessible, it seems that copying without credit has quickly become a frustrating fad.
From choreographic concepts to entire routines to business models to misrepresentation via falsely acquired photographic images, the possibilities of using materials that do not belong to you are endless. But, here’s the question: why would you choose to use content that does not belong to you? You have created a unique institution that should reflect your core values, mission, and beliefs– not someone else’s culture and beliefs.
The next time a creative block occurs, allow yourself the opportunity to find your own unique inspiration. The final product will be representative of your culture, and you will feel honest in projecting it to your students and clientele.