During the pandemic, many dance studios closed their lobbies and found alternative ways to successfully execute administrative tasks and serve their populations.
This shift was a positive change for our dance studio locations. By repurposing our former lobbies, we now have more productive workspaces that serve a variety of functions. If you’re considering doing the same, here are a few tips for how we successfully maintain and manage this model:
1) Keep Parents Involved. Parents are an important part of the extracurricular experience, and I believe visibility and transparency are critical in youth extracurricular activities. You want parents on your team! Early in the pandemic, we purchased the SpotTV closed-circuit monitoring system, so families could watch their child in class at all times (with sound!) via their own personal devices. This year, we will return to scheduled, in-person observations as well as an optional social/networking club for families.
2) Educate, Respond, and Automate. Make sure your families understand the expectation in advance. All of our trial guides and welcome packets reiterate that we have no indoor waiting spaces for parents or loved ones. Because parents are not in the building, make sure there is someone actively checking phone lines, voicemails, emails, and any communication portal in a timely manner. If systems can be automated (e.g., tuition payments, trial scheduling), do it! This shift should not compromise your clients’ customer service experience.
3)Take Note of the Positive. Here are a few reasons we prefer this shift:
Safety: At any given time, we know exactly who is in the building.
Cleanliness: Our facilities (especially the bathrooms) are much cleaner with less foot traffic.
Focus: With a distraction-free interior environment, everyone can focus on their respective tasks.
Transparency: With the closed-circuit system, everyone operates at a high level of accountability: students, staff, and our entire team.
4) Constantly Tweak and Evaluate. If there’s anything we’ve learned, it is that anything can change in an instant. With each day, week, and session, we are continuing to evaluate what works best for our programming, vision, and needs. If you’ve discovered things that worked well for you, like closed lobbies, have the confidence to keep that change in place. Evaluate it regularly and tweak it as needed.
Ultimately, your leadership will guide you to what is best for your community. Be confident and empowered in your voice because that, in itself, is a form of freedom.
Happy Fourth of July!
Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:
Around May or June, if you’re in the dance industry, this phrase starts popping up on social media with the frequency of 2014’s Ice Bucket Challenge. But, for us, it happens like clockwork, every single year.
“Made it to the Done Club!”
“Meet the newest member of the Done Club!”
The “Done Club” represents the conclusion of the annual dance recital, a huge benchmark and a capstone to a dance studio’s annual dance season.
But, where did the phrase “the Done Club” originate? And what made people subscribe to it?
There’s nobody in business that is okay with just being done. You don’t see retailers stopping their hustle after a busy holiday season. You didn’t see Apple declaring themselves as in the “Done Club” with the release of the original iPhone. Yes, we all have big benchmarks, but these are stepping stones to our next greatest accomplishment. There’s nothing “done” about it.
Here are five reasons to shift your philosophy:
1) Your Recital Lays the Foundation for Your Future Success. Instead of winding down after your recital, I encourage you to rev up. Synthesize that energy into actualized goals.
2) Don’t Risk Losing Your Visibility. The recital is a powerful memory for your studio’s community. Don’t ghost your community once it is done. Continue the celebration via social media, emails, and programming.
3) Balance Your Budget. Check the profit-loss of your shows, events, and programming. If you do not know where you stand budget-wise, you have even bigger problems.
4) Innovate. Analyze what worked in your season, what didn’t, what could be improved, what should stay the same, and what should change. Then, make it happen.
5) We Deserve Respect and Reputability. For too long, dance education institutions have been seen as hobby businesses. As a female-dominated industry, we have the capability to shift that narrative, and now is the perfect time to make it happen.
Instead of the Done Club, I’ll be joining the Get It Done Club.
Consider joining me.
Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:
Recitals are back, baby! While you may be bubbling with excitement for show days, others may need a reminder about WHY this is an exciting time.
Here are five ways to build the hype within your community, so everyone can share in the fun and celebration!
1) Make It Educational and Informative.
How can you turn your recital routines into engaging conversation points?
Maybe you’re discussing the music selection, the choreography inspiration, or the rationale behind the theme or choreography concept.
The more you can make the routine experience bigger than the dancers’ time within the studio, the more meaningful students will feel towards their performance.
2) Get the Parents Involved.
The strongest extracurricular programs celebrate the trifecta of parent, participant, and instructor.
To boost parent engagement:
Share the music link
Share a home practice video
Invite them to an in-studio sneak peek prior to the big performance day (this is a great way to distribute key information as well)
3) Keep the Stress to a Minimum.
Has something historically been high stress about your shows (e.g., ticketing, seating, backstage, or merchandise orders)?
Think of ways to make things as easy and fun as possible.
4) Embrace the Theme.
How can you infuse the excitement of the show into your studio’s culture?
Decorate the building
Discuss the benefits of performance
Celebrate the accomplishment!
5) Be Generous with Praise.
We’ve waited a long time for performances to return! Even if there are bumps and hiccups, don’t forget how important it is to spread joy through the process of performing. When dancers feel good about their performance, they’ll want to do it again. This is a win-win for our dance studios!
As we all finish our show seasons, we might have allowed ourselves a second of celebration before the reality of the challenges ahead fully set in.
While we are closing the chapter of the people that stood by us and cheered us on throughout an entire season of the pandemic, we are now facing the next phase of this weird grey space of normalization.
And, as a business, it is TOUGH.
If you are feeling tired, burned out, exhausted, or questioning your ability to operate in this environment, you aren’t alone.
In addition to recouping a year and a half of lower enrollment numbers and lost revenue, there are also the following internal business hurdles:
Chasta Hamilton is the Owner/Artistic Director of Stage Door Dance Productions in Raleigh, NC. She authored the best-selling book Trash The Trophies: How to Win Without Losing Your Soul. Later this summer, her TEDx talk “You Weren’t Built to Break” will debut, combining her passion for performance with the necessity of resilience.
The #1 way to generate revenue for your dance studio is to keep as much of your revenue in-house as possible. While summertime is typically known as the “low-revenue season,” it doesn’t have to be that way.
With a little strategy and planning, you can reap the rewards of an excellent summer session that will likely (1) generate revenue, (2) introduce your programming to a number of new, prospective students, and (3) serve and affirm your current client base.
Below are some DOs and DON’Ts to help you rock your summer months!
Survey your community to understand their summer interests and needs.
Mix up themes and keep the vibe FUN!
Be flexible! Have a flexible make-up/ proration policy for people that may have advance, inflexible travel plans. Clients will appreciate it.
Follow-up with all summer program participants about enrolling for the main dance season.
Feel like you have to operate on a similar schedule to your regular season (e.g., close for a vacation week, take a break from weekend classes).
Stress about discounts/deals. With it being a recovery season, don’t neglect to focus on your financials.
Hesitate to cancel low enrollment programming. Set a required minimum, and if it isn’t met by 30 days out, offer to transfer students into something else (Note: never cancel programming last minute if it risks placing your clients in a bind.)
Wait until the last minute. Summer programming is much more enjoyable with advanced planning, communication, preparation, and strategy.
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.
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:
Whew, what a year it has been! As we cruise into the home stretch of 2020 (cheers!), now is the time to think about safe and seasonal ways to focus on your community and generate some additional revenue for your dance studio biz.
CUSTOM PARTIES & PLAYDATES
This is a great menu item to consider offering to your current clients. If you already have birthday party packages available for booking, consider adding custom parties and playdates themed for the season.If you haven’t added birthday parties to your offerings, consider launching this new revenue source with seasonal highlights.
Seasonal theme ideas are endless, but may include:
Sugar Plum Party
A Very Merry Holiday Jam
Nites and Lites Hanukkah Party
A Royal Christmas Affair
New Year’s Eve Disco Party
With people traveling less this season, it is the perfect time to focus on bringing joy to your dance community. Have you thought about the following ideas?
Trunk or Treat or Fall Fest
Nutcracker-Themed Camp or Mini Virtual Performance
Drive-Through Lights Display at Your Facility
Holiday Morning Mini Camps
New Year’s Parties
Remote Parent Observation or Parent Participation
Because CDC and state/local protocols must be followed and vary from place to place, plan ahead and communicate any adaptations and safety protocols and expectations in advance.
If your event doesn’t fill up immediately, don’t stress. People are waiting until the last minute to do things right now, and that’s okay! They will appreciate your effort, and in return, you’ll gain: client loyalty/buy-in, marketing exposure/impressions, and the satisfaction of bringing joy to others!
Now is the time to pull out of all of the stops! After a year of pivots and constant creativity, I know we are all ready for some “downtime”, but don’t lose sight of the momentum your brand has the potential to deliver. This season, people are eager to support local businesses, which includes dance studios! Here are a few additional revenue sources you can consider:
Private Lesson Packages
Holiday Merchandise Orders
Gift Wrapping Drop-Off/ Pick-Up
New Dancer Starter Kits (focus on recruiting January enrollment!)
Now’s the time to really get creative and get ready to start strong in 2021. Got any ideas you want to share with us? Send ’em to marketing (at) TutuTix (dot) com and let us know if we can share them in a future post!
Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:
Attend any type of business event or seminar and you’ll probably hear the word “culture” quite a bit! So what does it mean exactly, and how, exactly, do we build a strong studio culture?
By definition, corporate culture is a collection of values that the organization believes in and follows. They are the values that are exemplified in its people and the work they do each day, and so creating a strong culture means naming those values and breathing life into them. Your business uses them as the lens through which decisions are made, and as a barometer for accountability.
I believe that culture can also be described by the senses. For example, what do people “see” when they walk into your studio? Do they see kindness, inclusivity, excellence … or something else? What do your customers “taste” when they interact with your staff, and how do you develop the “flavor” you want?
In my experience, what is sensed by your culture is created by a ripple effect. It starts with you, the owner, in the middle, and then ripples outward to everyone else. Growing the culture you want takes time, but more importantly, it takes consistency, It can never just be what you say; it has to be what you do. And it has to start with determining what’s important to your mission and naming those values. With the following 5 Steps to Building a Strong Studio Culture, I have confidence that you’ll have the tools you need for doing just that and more!
Here are my 5 Steps to Building a Strong Studio Culture:
Start with yourself and your “why”
Because you are the owner of the business, the culture starts with you. Take a moment to think about why you started (or acquired) the studio in the first place. Was it to nurture young talent? Provide a safe space for learning? Offer a unique perspective in the marketplace? Build confidence and leadership in children? Write down some of the values you hold as a studio owner, that come from your why. Think about what’s important to the vision you have!
Next, involve your staff
Although building a strong culture starts with you, it isn’t a solo act. You want (and need) your employees to feel strongly about the same values so they can serve your dance families with those qualities in mind. Present your why to your team, and discuss with them which of those values are most important. Listen to their feedback and open up the conversation to understand their “why” too. Use this time to settle on the values that will drive your studio forward in the coming months and years.
Demonstrate the culture out loud
Reflect your studio’s values everywhere in your actions: claim them in your marketing pieces, display them on the wall, discuss them on social media. Create a buzz around the ideas and then demonstrate your follow-through. For example, if growing leadership is important to your culture, don’t just talk about it … expand your class assistant program or develop an internship course. Make it a normal part of your studio world!
Use your values in the classroom
Building a strong culture means that your students are exposed to it even from a young age. Incorporate values-driven language and behavior expectations in the classroom, such as agreeing that “we always try our best” because developing a work ethic is an essential value to your studio culture. As younger dancers grow up at your school, this culture will simply become what they already expect of themselves and others.
Think of it as an ongoing development, not a destination
Business culture isn’t something you build and then it’s just there forever. To me, it’s more like a garden that needs cultivating, and it requires some patience. Sometimes the weeds need to be pulled, and sometimes the blooms are magnificent! But it always needs attention so that it can flourish.
The special care you give your culture will positively impact everyone at your studio, from your staff to your students to their parents. I hope you’ll consider using these steps to establish or renew the values your culture depends on! Ask yourself: if not now, when? There’s no time like the present to prioritize this important work.Tell me in the comments what you love best about your studio’s culture, or what shifts you are making to improve it. I believe we can all learn from each other’s experiences and build our studio’s culture to be stronger than ever!
Looking for more great ideas to help you build your studio’s culture? Check out the following articles:
Have you ever gotten to the day of recital and been surprised by something you know you could have prevented, if only you had prepared ahead of time? Yep, me too. I’ve been in those shoes before and boy do they hurt! With time and experience though, I’ve learned better tactics for planning out my dance recital day.
I distinctly remember this one dance recital moment early in my career as a studio owner when we had mounted an ambitious opening number to “Be Our Guest,” complete with seven-year-old tap dancing waiters! The first show went off without a hitch and so I didn’t check to see if all of the classes were in place for the second show. There we were, mid-production, with a faculty member gesturing to the side of the stage to usher in the waiters …. and NO WAITERS! You should’ve seen our faces of shock! We finished the dance, found the waiters, and ran the number again. And you can bet that’s an oversight I never made again.
While surprises will pop up, the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to plan your work and then work your plan. The effort you spend upfront will save you from mishaps, when the last thing you need is to put out one more fire (or find a class of missing waiters!).
Keep reading to learn 6 Steps to a Satisfying Dance Recital Day.
Here are my 6 Steps to a Satisfying Recital Day:
1. Find a quiet moment to yourself before the day begins
This should be completely non-recital related: maybe you decide to take an early-morning walk with your spouse, enjoy a cup of coffee on your patio, or read through an inspirational book. It doesn’t need to be more than 15 minutes, but find the time to breathe before the you head off to the races. Because we all know that once you get in your car for the day, it will be go, go, go until your head hits your pillow at the end of the day (and then, likely, your mind will keep going).
2. Arrive early to greet venue staff, employees, volunteers, and vendors
Schedule time before your dancers’ arrival to personally (yet briefly) check in with everyone who is helping to run the show. This is the perfect time to go through any last-minute notes or checkpoints to ensure the best organization. Offer up some encouragement too; it’s not just the dancers who get nervous for recital day! If you want to go the extra mile, bring them a care basket. Nothing warms the heart of a theater tech person like a basket of treats and some caffeine for long show days.
3. Be proactive: anticipate problems
Although you can’t predict everything, you can prepare for some problems. Stash a “recital supplies” bag in the wings or in the dressing room with extra tights, extra tickets, backup music, an emergency kit, a sewing kit, Sharpies … anything you can think of that might come in handy. We even station our Business Manager by the door to backstage with our recital supply kit to make sure that every child is checked over from head-to-toe before they hit the stage. We’ve averted many small crises of missing shoes and costume pieces, costumes on backwards and upside down hair pieces during this pre-show check.
4. Make plans in advance to protect your time
As the studio owner, you will likely be the first person a parent wants to see if they’re upset about something, however big or small. We all know emotions can run high at performance time! Designate a time on your calendar when you will be ready to answer phone calls or emails, and make sure you have an employee or a volunteer who can run interference and offer redirection for people who want to approach you. Even something as simple as putting an autoresponder on your email and a cheery message on your voicemail box explaining that you are at the theater and will be returning calls and checking email at 9am each day of recital week can be very helpful for keeping parent expectations for communication in line with what you are able to actually give.
5. Give gratitude where it is due
Your recital day satisfaction goes way up the moment you start saying “thank you”. Show your gratitude in whichever ways are most available to you: hand out small gifts to your employees, thank your teachers by name in your welcome speech, offer up compliments when you see great work happening, provide a meal for your employees, and tell your dance parents you appreciate their trust in your studio. Recital day is full of opportunities to be share the love-be generous with your praise!
6. Enjoy the little things
Take note of the special things you notice throughout the day. I once saw the spark of a new friendship, between a younger dancer and an older one, when the older dancer offered comfort to the younger one who was struck with stage fright. It made my whole day to have witnessed that moment they shared, but I never would have paid attention to it if I had run right past them. The exchange even made my closing comments for the show because it was such an example of what we are really doing through dance … not just making great dancers, but making great kids!
Recital time is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work for us and our students, just in different ways! It’s a highly emotional time on top of the busy-ness, so take steps to help give yourself a sense of control as well as the freedom to enjoy the day. I’d love to hear if following these steps makes a difference in your recital planning, or if you have more steps to share! Comment below or share your thoughts with me on social media @mistylown. Here’s to a joyful and successful recital season!
Are you looking for some more recital tips and ideas? Check out these other articles and resources from Misty:
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!
Looking for more insights for dance studio owners? Check out these other articles and resources:
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 protected] 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!
Looking for more dance studio owner insights? Check out these other articles and resources:
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.
The influx of chilly winter weather can also bring along particularly tricky illnesses like the seasonal flu. To promote health and safety in a dance studio, it’s important to proactive in keeping the space clean and germ-free.
Think Ahead and Change Studio Habits
When the season changes, it’s hard for everyone to adapt at the same pace. As a studio owner, the best you can do is to broadcast best practices and habits for your dancers: how to eat, how to dress, and how to deal with sickness (more on that later).
Immune systems often face a challenge when it comes to changing weather, so it’s important to remind dancers to eat well and get plenty of sleep. Don’t wait until you’re already sick to be eating chicken soup and other nutritious meals!
You probably explained your studio’s sickness policies at the beginning of the season, but now is a good time to reiterate them to your students and instructors. Explain to everyone that if they feel too ill to perform, you’d prefer they stay at home and rest.
Sometimes, dedicated dancers will want to push through their sniffles, but it’s in their best interest to take time to recover. Simply ask that anyone who misses class give you adequate notice via your preferred method of communication and that you’ll make exceptions to your studio’s attendance policies in the case of illness.
By staying home and getting better, they accelerate their recovery AND keep germs out of the studio.
Dance Studio Life noted that it’s generally a good idea to encourage students and teachers to take a full week to recover from the flu, while they will usually be able to return in a few days if it is just a cold.
Be Diligent About Disinfecting
The second important step in combating seasonal sickness is to keep your studio as clean as possible. Seattle Yoga News explained that you should amp up your disinfecting procedures to 110 percent if you have sick students. This means wiping down equipment with disinfectant after every use.
It might be easiest to take a few minutes at the end of each class to have students wipe down whatever barre or mats they used.
Have your office staff help disinfect high traffic areas and objects, like door handles, bathrooms and the front desk. You can also have bottles of hand sanitizer in strategic places around your studio to encourage parents and students to keep their hands germ free.
Follow Your Own Rules
Finally, keep in mind that you’re just as susceptible to sickness as your students are! It’s equally important that you follow the studio rules should you fall ill.
Even if you have a to-do list a mile long, you won’t be helping anyone if you come into class sick. Take time off to recover and delegate as many tasks as you can. Your instructors and support staff will be more than willing to help out if you extend the same courtesy when they’re feeling under the weather.
Last year, we decided to adopt a “Studio Mascot” for our studio and competitive team. Since we were attending Nationals in New Orleans, we selected a fun-looking alligator, named her Louise, and dressed her in dance-like attire (yes, we actually went shopping for a stuffed alligator).
We introduced Louise to the studio with the following poem:
I am proud to say “Hi there,
my name is Louise.”
I am a pretty little dancer
from Stage Door, if you please.
I hail from a southern city.
You may know it as New Orleans,
A city with lots of culture
Known for its Mardi Gras scenes.
You may be thinking
You’ve seen me before in a bog
But you’re thinking of my brother
from Princess and the Frog
I was so busy dancing
While my brother played his trumpet
They wanted me in the movie,
But I had to dump it!
I love ballet, tap and jazz,
theatre, acro, and hip-hop!
I love every style of dance,
And I doubt I’ll ever stop!
I am thrilled to be a part
Of the family at Stage Door
I will be your mascot, your friend
and so much more!
I will travel to competitions
with the Stage Door Elite
I will cheer real loud,
and stamp my feet!
At the end of the season
In July of twenty thirteen,
My journey will continue at Nationals
down in New Orleans.
I’ll show you my stomping grounds
and we’ll have fun
Riding in swamp buggies
in the hot summer sun.
After the summer,
I might choose to stay
at the studio in Raleigh
to laugh, dance, sing, and play.
So let’s start this adventure
And become great friends
We’ll work hard, practice,
and be a team to the end!
Louise had such popularity that smaller mascots began popping up at competitions:
Our studio families and students LOVE Louise! The students enjoy seeing her at events, and they are always eager to sit beside her, hold her, and take pictures with her.
Louise even had a starring role in our Spring Recital:
So, how can you create dance studio mascots for your team/studio?
Select something that ties into the theme/mission/culture/events of your studio
Tailor the mascot’s presence to reflect your brand
Promote the dance studio mascots to your studio and students
Be imaginative! Creativity is what brings a mascot to life.
The mascot brought a great level of camaraderie to our team and studio last year, and we are excited to begin Louise’s adventures this year. Select your mascot, and join in on the fun! It will add a little magic to your season. 🙂
I often hear the debate of what age is acceptable for a child to begin performing. I firmly believe that the earlier young dancers can start performing, the more comfortable, self-confident, and present they will become as performers and artists.
At my studio, I am completely comfortable putting a 3-year old student onstage for the annual performance (taking show times and performance length into consideration, of course). I first performed at 3-years old, and I remember absolutely loving the experience. When I am feeling nostalgic, I will find the VHS (and the VHS player) and watch the playback (anyone remember toast shiny tights?).
Younger students are so capable and uninhibited, and I think too many instructors (and, perhaps, even some parents) underestimate their power to learn. If you instill disciplined habits and work ethics in students at a young age, they will really excel in their training dance training.
Obviously, there are proper teaching methods and philosophies for younger students that are developmentally in-line with their physical and psychological maturation. These students should be nurtured, loved, and taught in a way that will allow them to develop a proper passion for the art.
And, performing at a younger age can mean many different things. Obviously, the expectation is not that a young, 3-year old will perform double pirouettes, extensions, and aerials. Rather, the accomplishment lies in the completion of the task.
Some of a young student’s accomplishments may be: standing on stage and not crying, forming the circle in the routine, knowing where to stand, remembering to smile, finishing a routine, or feeling proud of themselves for accomplishing a goal.
With each opportunity, the child will feel more comfortable and progressive in his/her capabilities and performance. The growth is truly rewarding for everyone involved in the process.
Getting Older Students to Start Performing
As a counter observation, for students that begin performing in their pre-teen/adolescence, it is more difficult to instill performance qualities since they lack the extent of early exposure to the stage and performing. As students age, they become concerned about others’ opinions of their projection, which usually translates to being more nervous, apprehensive, and tense when asked to perform and project onstage.
Of course, students’ projections can be fostered and improved, regardless of age, but, for students that are truly interested in performing, the younger a student can start acquiring the culture of the performance environment, the better. Then, the act of performing becomes second nature.
Certainly, younger students’ performance capabilities are dependent upon maturity, personal readiness, and level of interest. This philosophy is not a blanket standard; rather, it is something to consider for students that are young and ready for the performance experience. Do not write off opportunities simply because of a child’s age; rather, see how you can further ignite their passion and interest in dance.
You have the power to offer students opportunities to grow and blossom, regardless of age, and that is a tremendous gift and reward of being a dance educator. Let’s use it!
(This is a recital picture in the dance scrapbook I created in high school. This pic is from my second recital; I was 4 years old.)
(This pic is of one of my students. He has been performing on stage since he was 2 years old. Now 6, he absolutely loves the performance experience. We are fortunate to have many students at our studio that feel the same way. Words cannot begin describe the pride we feel towards our young, tenacious, passionate performers!)