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Tag: misty lown

Should I Step Back From Teaching to Focus on Studio Business?

Studio Business

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:


  1. 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.

  1. 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 mistylown@gmail.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!

Looking for more dance studio owner insights? Check out these other articles and resources:

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

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When is it Time to Add a Second Show to Your Recital? 4 Factors to Help You Decide

add a second show

There’s nothing more satisfying than the feeling you get when your studio is thriving! When the hallways are buzzing and the classes are full, you feel such pride in having grown your business to a successful place. But it’s not all sunshine and daisies, of course. Success can also mean growing pains in every facet of your business—especially at recital time.

As your studio gains families and dancers, you will inevitably need to decide how to present your recital in the best way possible, which may mean adding shows as you grow. The single 90-minute performance that worked well five years ago might no longer be a reasonable option if you’ve doubled your student count since then. While there’s no magic enrollment number that equals two shows (or three or four!) there are certain factors you can consider in your planning process.

If you are at the tipping point, keep reading to learn about the four factors to consider when deciding whether to add a second show for your recital:


Here are the four factors to consider when deciding whether to add another show for your recital:

  1. Your enrollment vs. the number of seats at your venue. Take a look at your current student count and compare it to the number of seats available for you to sell. If each student brought two guests, would you fill all the seats? What about three or four guests each?

    My takeaway when it comes to available seats is that you a) want your customers to invite as many guests as they want, and b) you don’t want to risk selling out of tickets. Turning people away not only feels bad for a studio owner, it’s just not great for business (I’ve been there and wouldn’t want to go back!).

  2. The total length of time for a show. If your recital is over two hours (including intermission), it’s time to consider adding another show. If Disney can’t keep our attention for more than two hours in a movie, then we probably can’t keep an audience’s attention for longer than that either.

    To forecast what this year’s recital length would be like, look at the number of routines your recital has and how long each routine is estimated to last. Total up that amount of time and add in a minimum of 30 seconds per routine as a buffer, plus the time you allow for intermission, announcements, or any other presentations. That should give you an accurate approximation of how long your show would be.

    An ideal number will be under 120 minutes. We’ve gone to as many as six shows in the past and then cut back to five shows to try to make things easier on the staff. But the shows got too long, so guess what? Back to six shows we go in 2019.

  1. Backstage organization. Think about your venue’s backstage area: are your students feeling cramped in their dressing rooms? Do they have to wait long stretches of time before they dance on stage? A yes to either question might be a sign that it’s time to branch out to an additional show.

    Ask your staff and volunteers what it’s like backstage from their perspective. Sometimes all the organization in the world won’t help if there is simply not enough space.

  2. Customer feedback. If you haven’t already done so, survey your customers about their previous recital experience at your studio. Ask questions like:
  • Were you able to get the tickets you needed?
  • Was the ticketing process painless or panicked? Was the length of the show too short, too long, or just right?
  • Did your child have a good experience backstage?
These answers will be useful for you to evaluate as you are making recital decisions, and they may nudge you toward adding another show if the feedback tells you that it was hard to get tickets or the show felt too long. Understanding the recital from your customers’ points of view will be helpful, so offer the survey with an open mind and a willingness to make changes.

As you make recital plans and decide how many shows to present, look at these four factors as your guide to the best path forward. Most studio owners I know are always in pursuit of a perfect recital plan so the day can run smoothly and customers are pleased with the experience. While perfect may not be practical, I do believe excellence is always within reach!

In the comments below, tell us how you plan to proceed with recital this year, or what you are thinking about doing differently. You can also connect with me on social media @mistylown to continue the discussion of recital shows. In the meantime, I’ll be cheering for you as you plan for the big show!

Are you looking for some more recital tips and ideas? Check out these other articles and resources from Misty:

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

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Are Dance Competitions Worth It? Three Questions to Ask Yourself

Are Dance Competitions Worth It? Three Questions to Ask Yourself

There’s plenty to consider when asking the question “Are dance competitions worth it?” for your studio—-the endless hours of preparation, the cost to attend and the time it takes to travel. And yet the results for your students can far outweigh the headaches if competition opportunities are an important part of your studio goals.

If you already participate in competitions, then you know how much work the dancers put into learning and practicing their routines, and how much money their parents invest in their classes and rehearsals. You also know the stress that can come if you are unprepared for an event, if your expectations were off, or if the competition doesn’t feel like a good fit. Then there’s that amazing feeling of watching your students onstage and earning well-deserved recognition for their hard work. Indeed, competing can be a roller coaster!

So how do you really know if that roller coaster is a worthwhile ride for your studio?

Keep reading to learn the three questions you should consider when asking yourself, “Are dance competitions worth it?”


Are you up for competition? Here are three questions to ask yourself when deciding if competitions are worth it for your studio:

  1. What outcomes will my students and their parents desire from competition opportunities?
    Whether your studio is new or has been established for decades, it’s important to check in with your students and their families about their reasons for participating in dance competitions. What are the benefits they hope these opportunities will provide? Are they looking strictly for an extra chance to perform, or are they also interested in convention classes or scholarship opportunities? Do those expectations align with yours? If your customers are wholly invested in having their dancers involved in competitions for reasons that align with yours, then you know it will be worth it to make your competition program as organized and strong as possible. Successful competition programs start with studio support.
  1. How will I find competitions that fit my studio’s mission and values?  
    With so many competitions to choose from, it can be tricky to narrow down which ones are a good match for your studio. Researching competitions online is a good start, but word of mouth from people you trust is even better. Ask your studio owner friends and dance teacher friends what their students’ experiences have been like at different competitions. If you know anyone who judges for competitions, talk to them as well.  What do they like about a certain competition’s voice in the industry? Do the days run in an organized fashion? Are the policies and rules enforced? Do they receive positive feedback from dance studios? Do they run short weekends or run into school days? Are awards are reasonable hours or at all hours of the night? Use these answers to help you understand a competition’s business ethics and behaviors. Competitions that line up with your values and expectations are going to be the most worthwhile for you, your dancers, and their parents.
  2. If we don’t compete, what will we do instead?
    While competitions have become the norm for many dance studios, some schools do choose to be non-competitive instead. Their customers may not be interested in the time, travel, and cost of competitions, or they may prefer the comparative simplicity of community performances. Whatever the reason, non-competitive groups can still reap the benefits of performing in other ways: community performances might include local festivals, parades, or fairs. Some non-competitive studios choose to produce their own concerts in addition to the recital, and others elect to take on annual or biannual travels to non-competitive performances, such as with Disney’s Youth Performing Arts programs.

Competitions are indeed worth it for many studios, and your definition of a successful program is at the heart of your decision to compete or not. Understanding your studio families and shopping around for the right events are key components to that definition, and to making sure the competition experience is advantageous for all involved. And if competitions aren’t really your thing, that’s fine too! Performance opportunities abound in other ways; it’s all about discovering what’s valuable to your dance families and fits your studio’s culture.

Tell us in the comments about what makes competitions worth it to you, or in what ways you prefer for your dancers to perform outside of competitions. I invite you to connect with me on social media @mistylown to share your thoughts on competitions and what works best for your studio. In whichever ways your dancers perform, I wish you a successful spring season ahead!

Looking for more great info on dance competitions? Check out the following articles:

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

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3 Best Practices For Coaching Your Dance Studio Staff

3 Best Practices For Coaching Your Dance Studio Staff

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:


  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  1. 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:

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

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4 Ways to Boost Dance Studio Retention Early In The Season

4 Ways to Boost Dance Studio Retention Early In The Season

You’ve held your open house. You’ve put out your back-to-school social media campaigns. You’ve advertised in a local parenting publication. If you’re like me, you are feeling like you are on a roll for getting new students into the studio this time of year!

The good news is, new students are coming in and you are VERY glad to see them. The bad news is, maybe you feel like your existing students need a little extra attention now, that they need to be thanked and loved on for choosing your studio.

Retaining students—not just getting them in the door—is at the heart of sustaining your business over time and demonstrating that you have happy clientele. We often think of retention mid-year, when some kids want to quit, or at the end of the season, when we want them to re-register after recital. But this crucial back-to-school time can’t be ignored. It is an excellent time—right out of the gate—to show you personally care about your dance families and appreciate their business.

So classes are in session, and you’re meeting new faces every day….how can you best use this time to show the love? What can you do to increase retention and keep those families engaged?

Keep reading for 4 Way to Boost Dance Studio Retention Early in the Season.

  1. Meet people in the hallway – OK, I know this might seem like an obvious one, but hang in there with me. Make a point, every day during the first week of dance classes, to walk the hallways and mingle with your customers. Learn names and ask about their summer, and you’ll begin forming real relationships. It’s these high-quality relationships that have much more meaning than just a “hello” or “goodbye” …. you get to know people! You won’t do this every week, but be sure to do it during the most important weeks. But the positivity you gain from making a true effort to know your customers is priceless.
  2. Have a “withdrawal turnaround” plan – You know these calls will start coming about the third week of classes: “She’s too tired.” “They moved her swimming lessons to Tuesday.” “She doesn’t seem to like ballet anymore.” It can seem like the beginning of the year is rife with people who get started, and then want to withdraw from lessons. Turning attrition to retention isn’t guaranteed, but it’s worth trying a few extra steps. Having a “withdrawal turnaround” plan with your staff can completely shift the process and help retain customers who might have otherwise disappeared. Be prepared to offer families a new day of the week or a different style of dance instead of withdrawing right away – a free trial of that new class couldn’t hurt! Chances are they didn’t realize what else could work for their schedule, or they didn’t know that their tiny dancer might really love a jazz class.
  1. Calls, emails, and cards – A personal “check-in” phone call, email, or handwritten card to every enrolled student’s family can go a long way to show they are not just a number at your studio. Decide what you can do yourself, and delegate the rest to a staff member or two. The phone call could be as easy as saying, “Thank you for dancing with us this season! How is Sara enjoying her classes?” And then just listen (and take notes)! An email can say something similar, along with a special message from the teacher. And a gratitude-filled, handwritten card – well, that is worth much, much more than the price of the stamp. Choose the method that makes the most sense for your time and your studio, and run with it! Not only do you get to show that you care, these communications may open the door for you to solve problems that you didn’t even know existed – saving you AND your customers from future frustrations.
  2. Ask for feedback – Although we may typically survey our customers at the end of each season, why not reach out at the start too? A simple “How are we doing?” can go a long way. Maybe you had no idea that parking was an issue for families during the 4-5pm hour, or maybe there were inconsistencies with the way welcome folders were distributed. Hearing this valuable feedback right from the get-go can help you make immediate improvements for some things, and plan for others – keeping your customers happy. When your dance families feel truly heard, they’ll feel more invested in staying at your studio over time.

Retention is something you ALWAYS want to strive for, and starting right away during the back-to-school months is imperative. Take these four tips and customize them to your studio, then tell us in the comments what worked well for you! You can also find me on social @MistyLown. I’d love to hear from you. Until then, I wish you a successful start to the year with your retention only going up and up and up!

Looking for more great enrollment and retention ideas? Check out the following articles:

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

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Six Keys to a Successful Dance Studio Open House

Six Keys to a Successful Dance Studio Open House

It could be the BIGGEST promotional day of the year at your studio…the open house! You know you want your studio to look its best, and you know you want to positively engage with prospective customers in addition to current customers. This is your opportunity to love on returning clients, WOW potential customers and invite the community to see what your studio is all about.

Among studio owners I know, dance studio open houses are usually two to three hours long on an evening or Saturday, and have a “come-and-go” schedule. Some families will stay nearly the whole time; others will attend just to look around your facility, shop for shoes or obtain registration information.

After you’ve set a date and begun marketing for the event, what can you do to maximize the relatively short amount of time? How can you make this your best Open House event ever? Keep reading for 6 Keys to a Successful Open House:

Here are 6 Keys to a Successful Dance Studio Open House event at your studio:

  1. SPARKLE up that studio space – I know that you always want to present a clean studio anyway, but for open house, go above (literally) and beyond: clear those ancient cobwebs from your 20-foot studio ceilings, put a fresh coat of paint on the hallways, deep-clean your bathrooms….and if you already planned to have your carpets professionally cleaned, or plants freshened up for fall, make sure to schedule those tasks at least two weeks prior to your open house.
  2. Be ready to SHARE – A dance studio open house isn’t complete without dancing! Whether you offer full classes to demonstrate each style offered at your school, or 20-minute bite-sized sessions, get people moving and grooving in your classrooms. Hire one or more of your teachers to come up with a fun and easy class agenda suitable for a variety of ages, and invite some of your current students to take the lead in class.
  3. Meet your TEACHER – Just like at school, prospective students and their parents want to meet their teacher, see their classroom, and learn more about what to expect on the first class day. Having your teachers present at open house not only allows them to introduce themselves and mingle with the community, they can also help guide tours around the studio. This is also an opportunity to give name tags to dancers for the first day of class.
  1. A REASON to show up – When people show up at your open house, have a studio staffer immediately get their contact information and enter them into your raffle (and make that raffle prize super-fun, like a dance bag full of studio swag)! Also offer an open-house-only, big-value registration incentive, such as a free or discounted recital costume or double-referral rewards for a parent and their friend.
  2. Hear from other PARENTS – Your open house presents a unique opportunity to have your existing dance families chat with prospective dance families. Think about it: if you are signing your child up for dance, who do you really want to hear from? Other parents! Make a point to invite a few of your most loyal dance parents to share their experiences, and thank them afterward with a small tuition credit or free pair of tights. Be sure to have veterans on hand to help field questions as they arise or consider going the extra mile by setting aside one or two 20-minute time slots during open house to moderate a “Question and Answer” session between those parents and prospective customers.
  3. Get SNACK-Y with it! – It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it IS a nice gesture to have some kind of food offering or snack at your open house. A fun way to incorporate food into your event is to invite a food truck to attend (and pay that food truck for a minimum number of items to ensure it’s free for your guests). From snow cones to tacos, a third party food vendor can be a huge win! If you are looking to save those costs, consider a simple yet stylish “candy bar” instead: set up a table with five or six different candy options, logo-ed cups, and let the kids (and parents) scoop up what they want to munch on during the event. Just make sure the snacks aren’t near the merchandise. Chocolate and leotards do not mix. 🙂

I hope these keys help “open” the door for you to have the best open house ever! If you have other ideas to share, please include them in the comments below or find me on social @MistyLown. Wishing you a fantastic and fun event full of new registrations!

Looking for more great marketing ideas for your studio? Check out:

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

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Dance Class Size: Why 9 Students Are Much Less Profitable Than 8

Dance Class Size: Why 9 Students Are Much Less Profitable Than 8

About seven years ago I was a partner in a business that managed five daycare centers. It was an excellent learning experience, but one lesson continues to rise above the rest:

The concept of “break points” in enrollment.

And, this is how I learned that 9 students are less profitable than 8!

Curious about this math? Keep reading for an explanation of way break points are crucial for a profitable dance class size.


Daycares have very strict rules regarding student-teacher ratios by age. For example, for five year olds students, the ratio is 1:8. Practically speaking this means there can only be eight students in the care of one teacher. Financially speaking this means that enrolling eight five year olds is very profitable for daycares because they have maximized their income opportunity for the hour of paying the teacher.

And this leads to the concept of a “break point”.

If enrolling eight students in a day care is optimal, enrolling nine students destroys profitability because the daycare center will have to open an additional classroom and hire an additional teacher for just ONE student.

It simply doesn’t make sense for a daycare center to add that additional expense for just one student. So they manage their risk by closing enrollment until their waiting list builds to 5 or 6 names before committing to open another classroom and hire another teacher.

The lesson of the “breakpoint” caused me to look at my “always enrolling” philosophy at the studio a little closer. I found that although our enrollment was “bigger than ever” our bottom line wasn’t reflecting that growth. Digging a little deeper, I found we were running several classes with a small number of students that would’ve been better served to be combined into fewer, but more fully utilized, classes.

Have you ever felt like you were working harder, serving more students, yet making less profit? If so, now might be a good time to take a closer look at your enrollment distribution as you start planning classes for next year. Just remember the lesson I learned from my time in daycare management: Be careful about crossing breakpoints. Fewer, fuller classes is better for the bottom line.

 

Looking for other enrollment-related tips? Check out:

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

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Three Ways to Evaluate Your Dance School Enrollment

Three Ways to Evaluate Your Dance School Enrollment

As I travel the country talking to studio owners the question I hear exchanged more often than any other is some version of: “How big is your studio?” I understand the motivation behind the question and have asked it several times myself. I believe the enrollment size questions are motivated by a few things:

  1. We are all just trying to figure out how our studio measures up with the rest of the world.
  2. “Am I big?” “Am I small?” “Am I normal?” We really just want to know that we are doing okay.
  3. We want to find other people like us. It makes sense that I might face the same challenges and benefit from the same solution as a studio of a similar size.

But the number of students you enroll is far from a complete picture of your actually enrollment.

If you are looking for a more complete picture of your enrollment, keep reading for 3 Ways to Measure Your Dance School Enrollment:

Student count is the easiest measurement of enrollment. Simply stated: “How many students take classes at your studio each week?” But for a more accurate picture of enrollment consider tracking the following information:

Units

The term “units” refers to the total number of classes, or spaces in classes, that are filled each week. Here’s a little story problem to help you see the relationship between student count and units. Imagine that you have 200 students and your studio offers 50 classes per week. There are 10 spaces available in each class, which mean that you have 500 units of class for sale. If your 200 students each take one class, you would have an enrollment of 200 students taking 200 units of class. However, imagine that those same 200 students take an average of two classes per week. Now you have 200 students taking 400 units of class per week. Financially speaking that is a much healthier situation for a studio owner. Same number of students, but a completely different outcome for the owner.

Structure

The term “structure” refers to the shape of your enrollment. A “triangular enrollment,” with lots of little ones at the bottom that slowly tapers as kids get older and explore other activities, is normal and healthy. However, sometimes the structure of an enrollment can become a little more “rectangular.” This starts out as a good thing because it means more dancers are staying longer, but if you find yourself in a situation where you have as many older dancers as young dancers, it may be time to work on building your preschool program. If you don’t, you might end up with an “upside down” enrollment where you have more older/competitive than younger/recreational students and that is not a stable enrollment.

Stress Factor

And then there is “Stress Factor.” This is term I use to describe the relationship between enrollment and “workload.” For example, several studio owners of large studios have shared that they feel they are doing too much work for the end result. On the other hand, I know some studio owners with smaller enrollments who feel like what they earn and the work required are aligned. It’s important to remember that not all enrollment is created equal. Some programs are easier to manage than others. Some programs are very labor intensive. As you seek to grow enrollment, the value of the “Stress Factor” cannot be underestimated.

So where are you this year with your enrollment goals? Now is a good time to take a closer look at the relationship between Units, Structure and Stress Factor to make sure you are building a business that is in alignment with how you want to spend your time and energy.

 

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Dance Studio Teacher Staff Meetings That ROCK

Dance Studio Teacher Staff Meetings that ROCK

The school supply lists are posted at Target, the mailbox is filling up with registration paperwork for my children’s schools and Facebook is blowing up with pictures of kids in backpacks. It’s officially time for back-to-school and that means it’s time to get serious about back-to-dance!

As a studio owner, I’m a big fan of observing what the local schools do and taking my cues from their systems. For example, we do our registration for summer classes when the local school opens theirs. We offer parent teacher conferences just like the schools do and we follow their model for teacher training as well.

Most studio owners consider themselves to be in the business of training students, but the strongest studios I know understand that they are in the business of training teachers as well.

Here are 5 tips to step up your teacher training this year with Dance Studio Teacher Staff Meetings that ROCK:


  1. Timing is everything.
    Time is the most important commodity we have. Make your meetings few and powerful. I meet with my full time leadership team once every two weeks and the entire staff once each quarter. Our bi-weekly leadership meetings are about 1.5 hours in length and our quarterly all-staff meetings are three hours. Bi-weekly leadership meetings focus on weekly operational issues such as scheduling, weekend events, student concerns, ordering costumes, dress code, equipment and tracking classroom progress. Quarterly meetings are centered on important times in our dance season: back-to-school kickoff in August, recital planning in October, parent-teacher conferences and competition details in January and preparing for the two biggest events of the year—registration and recital—in April. Respecting people’s time and hitting the most important parts of the season are two keys to having successful staff meetings.
  2. Remember that there are three parts to every successful meeting.
    The most successful meetings we have address three areas:

    1. Informational
    2. Inspirational
    3. Instructional
Take our Back-to-Dance meeting for example. A big part of this meeting is informational in nature—reviewing schedule changes, turning in contracts and going over employment handbooks. But, the real purpose of this meeting is inspirational. Back-to-school is a time for your teachers to remember why they became teachers in the first place and to set new goals for the year. The last part of a successful meeting is instructional. The best teachers never stop learning, so take advantage of this time together to teach your team something new. It could be as simple as getting everyone in the studio to decide what preparation for pirouette is going to look like for all the classes at your studio, or it could be a short teaching on time management or customer service.
  1. Develop a theme for the year.
    Every year at my studio we have an overarching theme that helps us focus our activities. One year when we were in a high period of growth our theme was “Every Student, Every Class.” The idea was that even though we had become a larger studio we wanted every student in every class to feel the warmth of personal and  positive attention. This year our theme is “Energize Enrollment” because we have set some ambitious enrollment goals for the upcoming season. At each of our meetings we talk about how we are measuring up against the theme that we have prioritized for the year.
  1. Celebrate what you want to elevate.
    Staff meetings are a great time to “lift up” what you want to “build up.” For example, one of our core values is service so I give shout outs at our meetings to staff members who have recently gone the extra mile for their colleagues or our clients. If dress code is something that is important to you, give some public praise to a teacher who exemplifies that. We even have an old-fashioned star chart to measure teacher progress just like you might see in a Kindergarten classroom. Our teachers are broken into teams and the teams can earn stars over the course of the year for things like being in dress code, attending meetings, turning their music in on time, helping colleagues by subbing, etc. Our teachers love it and get silly-competitive over earning stars because they know prizes will be handed out at the next meeting for the leaders.
  2. Bring the fun!
    Most people equate the word meetings with the word boring, so find ways to break it up with some fun.We once kicked off a meeting by tossing a ball from person to person asking them to share one thing we would never guess about them. Who knew I had one staff member whose mom is Australian and another who rides a Harley?! We have also broken it up by giving out dollar-store type prizes for our star chart winners and tossing out small candy bars for those who could answer pop questions about schedule or policies. When the meeting is about recital, we bring food to keep them fueled during the planning process. The idea is to make doing what you NEED to do something that they WANT to do.

How about you? What do you do to make your staff meetings worthwhile for teachers and owners alike? Leave your ideas in the comments below. Have a great season kick-off everyone!

Looking for more inspiration?  Sign up for the Misty Minute for weekly ideas to transform your studio and your life. 

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First Impressions Still Matter

First Impressions Still Matter

In business we call it “first impressions.” Psychologists call it “thin slicing.” Regardless of what you call it, career experts say it takes just three seconds for someone to determine whether they like you and want to do business with you.

According to BusinessInsider.com (2015), you have even less time to make a good first impression. Research from Princeton, Loyola Marymount University and the University of Liverpool demonstrates that judgments people make regarding your trustworthiness, intelligence and competence as a business leader are based on first impressions—sometimes in as little as one-tenth of a second.

One-tenth of a second?

If you don’t think this is true, just measure your own reactions next time you walk into someone else’s business for the first time. If a friend recommends a new restaurant but it has a funny smell when I walk in the door, I immediately begin to question my decision to eat there. Once, when I was driving on vacation I stopped to check availability at a hotel, but walked out before I could get the answer—based on my first impression.

The situation doesn’t have to be extreme to leave a bad impression. Have you ever taken your children to another activity outside of dance and found yourself fighting the urge to jump in and help the coach manage the children? Or have you ever wanted to straighten up someone else’s lobby? That’s why the saying, “First impressions make lasting impressions” is true.

Keep reading to learn what first impressions you may be giving your dance families without even realizing it.


Indeed the very first impression we make on a potential or new client sets a powerful tone for the rest of the relationship. Think about all of the different layers of first impressions someone has with your business before the first class:

It might start with a referral from a friend, or overhearing an opinion from another community member at the pool or the PTA. This will be followed up with a Google search for your business or a scroll through your social media. You may not be able to control what people say at the pool or the PTA, but once a prospective client visits you online, you are in control of the first impressions and client experience. Will your potential customer find an easy-to-navigate and up-to-date mobile site, or will they be forced to stretch and scroll for days in order to find basic information? Can they register online, or will they have to leave a voicemail and hope someone gets back to them? What will the first time mom find when she searches for you on social media? She’s mostly likely looking for children’s classes. Is that what she will see, or will she only see accolades for your advanced dancers?

It will take much less time for a prospective client to do all of the things above than it took for me to write the paragraph describing the process. That’s how fast business is moving now. The process a prospective client will got through will either be:

  1. Hear about you, look for you online or call, have a good first impression, inquire for more information, become a student.
  2. Hear about you, look for you online or call, have a negative first impression, look someplace else.

And, it can happen in minutes.

Let’s assume for a moment that you leave a positive first impression with the prospective client and they enroll in classes. You’ve won, right? Not so fast. Now begin the many layers of first impressions you will have on your new client for years to come.

First impressions don’t end after an initial introduction or enrollment of a new student. Not at all! This is where the real work begins. Think of all the “first time experiences” a student will go through with your studio.

  1. First class.
  2. First parent’s day.
  3. First costume.
  4. First picture day.
  5. First buying recital tickets experience.
  6. First rehearsal.
  7. First recital.

And, that’s just the first year. The “firsts” keep building the longer they remain clients.

  1. First placement for the next year’s classes.
  2. First audition for a team.
  3. First problem with a class.
  4. First disappointment with a placement.
  5. First conflict with school.
  6. First pair of pointe shoes.
  7. First solo.

Each of these interactions is an opportunity to make another new first impression. How do you handle problems at your studio as a leader? Do you lead with communication and a we-can-figure-this-out-together attitude? Do have an attitude of grace and service or are you quick to become defensive about policies and complaints?

As the old adage goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I would add, “You never get to stop making first impressions.”

If first impressions matter so much, and for such a long time over the studio-client relationship, why don’t we do more to create more continuous positive first impressions as studio owners? The reasons are simple:

  1. Lack of understanding/awareness
  2. Lack of experience
  3. Lack of time
  4. Lack of resources
  5. You are simply too close to see it

Will you commit with me to make the 2016-17 school year a season of getting serious about the many layers of continuous first impressions we make on the students and families that we serve each week? It will not only help you to influence other’s perception of your business, but it also projects trustworthiness and inspires confidence in your abilities.

Putting continual effort into positive first impressions exudes friendliness, approachability and likeability to your clients and opens doors to opportunities in the community. Put first impressions first on your to-do list this year.

Looking for more inspiration?  Sign up for the Misty Minute for weekly ideas to transform your studio and your life. 


One Small Yes

Check out Misty’s new book, One Small Yes, available on AmazonThis book is a must read for studio owners that are looking for ways to balance the dance of work and life.

“Amazing! One Small Yes is such a great book on finding your calling in life and how to navigate and work through living out the calling. Must have for all entrepreneurs!!” – Kristen, Absolute Dance

“Loved One Small Yes by Misty Lown. Outstanding book for anyone, especially the small business owner or entrepreneur. An inspirational book which helps the reader face challenges and give them the courage to continue to move forward and face what lies ahead. Loved it!” – Melanie, Tonawanda Dance Arts

“Reading Misty’s book was like opening my inbox and finding a personal email written just for me. She took my thoughts and feelings about being a small business owner, put them down on paper, and then step by step carefully explained what was holding me back from achieving more in life. Now I have no excuses to moving closer to my Yes.” – Nancy, Studio B Dance


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Summer Dance Camps and More: Filling Hours at Your Studio

Summer Dance Camps and More: Filling Hours at Your Studio

To borrow a made up word by one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Doyle Melton, Summer is a BRUTIFUL season at the dance studio.

BRUTIFUL? Yes. Beautiful + brutal = brutiful.

Summer at the dance studio is BEAUTIFUL for several reasons:

  1. It’s a break from the marathon of weekly classes.
  2. There is a more relaxed schedule with schools no longer in session.
  3. It’s warm and sunny in Wisconsin for a couple of days; I mean months.

But, summer at the dance studio is BRUTAL for other reasons:

  1. A break from classes means far less income to cover fixed expenses.
  2. It can be hard to balance studio and home now that school’s out.
  3. With only a few days of true summer to enjoy in Wisconsin, the last place I want to be is in the office.

If this sounds familiar to you, keep reading for 4 easy ways to fill your studio with summer dance camps and more and still carve out time for family.

  1. Community Camps
    Last year our Community Outreach Coordinator came up with an idea to offer an hour and a half long camp each month. At first I didn’t think that anyone would be interested in buying one lesson per month, but boy was I wrong!  We had almost 200 students participate in our monthly community camps over the course of the school year. The short camps were so popular that we decided to offer eight of them for our summer session and I am pleased to say that we have had OVER 200 sign up this time. The lesson here is two-fold: 1) Be willing to try new things. My old summer programming had gotten tired and this was the perfect way to freshen it up; 2) Parents really appreciate a low commitment way to try out dance as an activity.
  2. Private Lessons
    On the opposite end of the spectrum from the first-time student who appreciates community camps are the intermediate and advanced students who appreciate private lessons. While private lessons in and of themselves are not new, they way we package them is. Consider selling your lessons in a 10-pack for a discount or connecting them to content specific themes such as choreography, flexibility, core strength or turns. Content-focused lessons are more attractive to students than generic ones.
  3. Guest Artists
    Hosting guest artists has become a staple of summer programming at my studio over the past ten years. The visiting teachers allow us to fill camps and programs during the summer months when our own faculty is travelling as well as get access to fresh choreography for our students before the school year starts. If you haven’t hosted a guest artist before, start with something as simple as having an alumnus who is home for the summer guest teach some classes. If you are ready and able to do more, consider a source like Stage Door Connections to deliver ready-made workshops with professional dancers to your doorstep.
    1. Team Requirements
      About ten years ago we started requiring our team to participate in our annual Dance Camp in August. It was a great opportunity to kick off the year with technique classes and choreography. Soon we added a Stay Strong All Summer series of weekly classes to the roster in order to keep kids moving in the weeks between the spring recital in May and the big camp in August. This helped to keep both the teachers and the students active in the months of June and July.
    2. Family
      As our summer schedule grew at the studio, it became harder to carve out much needed time for family over the summer months. A few years ago, I decided to pull myself off the June schedule and spend some time driving across the country with my family for a reunion. I was nervous about how things would go while I was gone and even more worried about what families would think about my absence. But, then the most beautiful thing happened…the studio survived without my involvement for a few weeks and most of the families told me to have a great time on vacation. Win-win!

Friends, I want you to fill your studio with activity in the summer, but not at the expense of being able to take a break with your loved ones. So, fill those summer hours with community camps, private lessons, dance camp and team classes, but don’t forget to put your family on the schedule as well. You can always teach another class, but you never get a second chance to raise your kids.

Happy Summer, everyone!

Looking for more inspiration?  Sign up for the Misty Minute for weekly ideas to transform your studio and your life. 

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

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Dance Studio Registration: Back-to-School Starts TODAY!

dance studio registration

It’s mid-April, right? If you own a dance studio, that’s not EXACTLY true. It may be the middle of April on your Google calendar, but if you are like me, your mind is somewhere closer to September.

Not convinced? Just take a look at your to-do list.

  1. Finalize fall schedule
  2. Find one more teacher for Tuesday nights.
  3. Send out teacher contracts.
  4. Take one final look at tuition changes.
  5. Add policy for kids who skip rehearsal and still show up at competition. 🙂

A successful Back-to-School experience starts today. Are you ready?

Keep reading for 7 things that you can do today for a successful September and a successful dance studio registration campaign.


  1. Review Tuition Structure
    Call me nuts, but every year I make an excel spreadsheet of every student and every class that they take. This is a long and arduous process, but I do it to find find and fix the cracks that can emerge over time as pricing and programs fluctuate. For example, when I started this process three years ago I realized that our “Unlimited Dancer” program was no longer viable. Not even by a long shot. It worked eighteen years ago when we only offered eight classes for high school students. But, fast forward fifteen years and I found myself in a situation where families were paying for six classes under our Unlimited Dancer program and taking twenty. Our tuition structure had simply not kept pace with our program and it was not sustainable. We had to make some difficult decisions, but in the end we ended up with a program/price structure that was fair to the students and to the studio.
  2. Evaluate Your Teachers
    There is no busier time of year for studio owners than spring. Between the daily demands of preparing for the year-end recital and the planning required to get fall classes ready there is hardly time to breathe. Even so, you must slow down enough to get into your teacher’s classrooms. Are their kids prepared to for the big show? Do they look confident, calm and happy? A positive recital experience for current students means more returning students. This is also a chance for you to make adjustments to what your faculty will be teaching in the fall. You might find, as I did, that you have a teacher on older level classes who is actually strong with the little ones, and then make a change to what they are teaching for the fall.
  3. “Parse” Your Programs
    Parse means “to analyze a sentence,” but I think it is a pretty good description of the way we have to break down our programs into details so that we can make good decisions about what stays and what goes. Do you know which of your programs were profitable? Maybe ballet is selling well for you, but musical theater has fallen out of favor. What about individual classes and levels? Are you busting at the seams in pre-school classes and pretty slim in the advanced classes. If so, combo up some of those older level classes to make room for younger ones.
  1. Plan for Partnerships
    The organizations we want to partner with in town are also planning for fall at this time. I know it’s important to get on their calendars now if we want to be able to work together come fall, so I am spending April making calls to the mall, daycares, preschools, the Children’s Museum, the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, and Big Brother’s Big Sisters, to name a few. We want to be aligned with the other organizations that do good things for kids in our community.
  2. Your Personal Schedule
    I remember one time years ago when I was complaining about how hard my schedule was to keep up. I was telling my husband about the long days I was teaching and the piles of book work in between. He responded, “Don’t you know the person who made that schedule?” Point made! I’ve long since learned to make sure that my decisions on a schedule that I will have to keep for an entire year will not have a negative impact on family life.
  3. Build a Budget
    I often joke that I became a dance teacher because I don’t do math beyond 5-6-7-8. I’m kidding, of course, but that doesn’t mean I’m skilled at accounting. When it comes to having my hands on the numbers for fall, I’m going to be spending time with my accountant now. An accountant can bring a valuable perspective by looking at the big picture of your finances and helping you make wise decisions for the future.
  4. Press and Promotions
    Plan now an action-packed open house to kick off your fall semester of classes. A really great event could mean an opportunity for you to share your studio story with the press, which could translate into greater enrollment later. Think of your ideal media placement (radio, newspaper, TV) and then design an event to get their attention.

Looking for more inspiration?  Sign up for the Misty Minute for weekly ideas to transform your studio and your life. 

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Backstage Management Tools for Dance Recitals

Backstage Management Tools for Dance Recitals

As a studio owner, I have three lists running in my brain at all times. I’m always asking myself the following three questions:

What needs to be done today?
What needs to be done in the next 2-6 months?
What can I make for dinner without going to the store?

(Not kidding on that last one. Anyone whose business is open almost exclusively nights and weekends is sure to have some challenges in the getting-dinner-on-the-table department!)

But, back to practical things. It’s the second week of March, so while our bodies are busy distributing recital costumes and getting ready for competition, our minds are on RECITAL. And, a great show from the audience perspective is dependent on having an awesome act backstage.

Are you gearing up for recital? Keep reading for 5 Backstage Management Tools to make your backstage flow smoothly this year for all ages!


  1. Entertainment reigns supreme for little ones.  
    At our recital, we run different types of activities to keep little kids entertained backstage. First are the quiet hands-on activities such as drawing, reading and making crafts. When the attention for crafting wanes, we watch a bit of a movie. Nothing lasts more than 20 minutes, so we rotate activities often.
  2. Manage quick changes for really little ones by using “shape cards.”  
    It was a real “a-ha” moment for me as a teacher when I realized that the reason our little kids couldn’t keep track of their things backstage was because they couldn’t read yet. Now we line up their shoes, accessories and costume changes on easy to identify “shape cards.” Three- and four-year-olds may not be able to read name labels, but they won’t forget their items are on the card shaped like a sunshine! Other shapes include rainbows, stars, clouds, animals and more. Get creative. Kids love picking out their “shape cards!”
  3. Have a backstage “show.” 
    Our younger dancers wait for their turn in the show in a large room just off the true backstage area. We take advantage of the generous space by having older girls practice their dances in front of the little ones backstage before they hit the big stage. This serves two purposes: First of all, you don’t want the first time that your older students run their choreography that day to be on the stage. The backstage “show” takes care of this. Second, the little kids don’t ever really get a sense of how amazing it is to be in your studio’s production if they only see the stage for a few minutes during the entire show. Sharing dances helps the little ones see a mini-version of recital and increases their understanding of the bigger picture.
  1. Have a code word, hand signal or rhythm clap for getting attention.  
    All of our students know that when they hear the iconic “clap, clap, clap clap clap,” it’s time to listen. The students repeat the clap pattern in a call-and-response fashion followed by silence. If your waiting area is too close to the stage for rhythm claps, consider having a hand signal for silence. We use the “quiet fox,” which is a hand signal where the third and fourth finger touch the thumb and the pinky and pointer go up for the fox’s ears. If a teacher puts up her fox, it’s a race to see how quickly the kids can put up their foxes as well. The “quiet fox” was intended for little ones, but I think the older ones get more of a kick out of it than the little ones do.
  2. Keep performers moving “stations and checkpoints.”  
    Another go-to that we use backstage with all age groups is “stations and checkpoints.” Students stay in their dressing room until called by the stage manager. From that point they go to a costume checking station where everyone is checked for accessories, correct shoes, clean tights and tidy hairstyles. If anything needs attention it is taken care of before hitting the true backstage area. Next, they are “in the hole,” which is the area just outside the backstage followed by “on deck,” which is true backstage or side stage. And then, it’s time to dance on stage! The whole process is both very orderly and anticipation-building for the dancers.

Do you have a great tool for backstage management? I’d love to hear  from you in the comments below.

Merde! 

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Parent Teacher Conference for Dancers

Parent Teacher Conference for Dancers

Looking back, I feel like I have had three different lives as a studio owner:

  1. Studio owner before kids.
  2. Studio owner with young kids.
  3. Studio owner with kids in other activities.

Before I had children, my studio centered on the needs of the classes. Whatever worked best for the classes took first place. If we needed an extra rehearsal and the only time to do it was 9:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night, by golly, we got it done.

Then I had my first of five kids and my focus became survival. Whatever it took to survive, that’s what I did. Classes with coffee? Yes. Email at 2 a.m.? I was up anyway. It was all about just keeping things going.

Then my children became involved in their own activities and I got a new perspective on the studio—that of the parent who wanted to do everything they could to support their child, but didn’t know how. I was the soccer parent who didn’t know about the goalie camp. I was the snowboard mom who didn’t buy the right equipment. And, worse of all, I was the dance team mom who was late to a performance because I didn’t know the arrival protocol.

Once I became an “activity mom,” I vowed to make it easier for our studio parents to understand dance training, progress and policy by offering parent-teacher conferences. These annual one-on-one meetings for dancers in our Graded Technique program (4th grade and up) have become a huge hit.

Want to know more about the wonders parent teacher conference for dancers have had for students, parents and teachers alike?

Keep reading for 5 Ways Parent-Teacher Conferences Changed My Studio.


1. Communication

As a studio owner, you probably feel as if you are constantly bombarded by questions from
parents. The questions can come at you from all directions: email, Facebook, text, the studio
hallway and the grocery store aisle. Having a published time where parents can meet with
teachers face-to-face will eliminate much messaging and worry on the part of parents. Most
parents are truly just eager to do the right thing and help their children as much as they can.
Parent-teacher conferences gives them a structured platform to do it.

2. Clarity

Nothing is more mysterious to parents (and even some students) than how progress is made
in dance. “When will I be ready for pointe shoes?” “What do I need to do to get from Ballet 2
to Ballet 3?” “Why didn’t I make company?” What is obvious to you as a lifetime participant in
dance may not be so obvious to a first-time dance parent. Nothing creates more clarity than
personalized explanation.

3. Appreciation

Another beautiful side effect of the parent teacher conferences has been appreciation. The
appreciation we have seen grow out of these meetings is a two way street. Families usually
walk away with a greater appreciation for the teacher’s knowledge base and studio policy
and a better understanding of where the student is in his or her development. On the other
hand, the teacher gains a better understanding of the motivations and goals of the family.
Win-win.

4. Accountability

We strongly encourage students to attend conferences (in their dance clothes) with their
parents. Having the students in attendance allows teachers to demonstrate key corrections,
such as placement or turn out, right in front of the parent. It’s also a time to discuss any
problem areas that may be cropping up such as attendance or attitude. Parents are much
more likely to help hold students accountable if they know specifically what they need to be
working on.

5. Community

Parent-teacher conferences are a big deal. Families look forward to them for weeks advance
and make their plans around attending. Yes, I pay all of our teachers to attend for hours on
end, but the sense of community and commitment between the family and studio that comes
out of the event is priceless.

Nothing says you value someone like spending uninterrupted time talking to them. Parent-teacher
conferences are one of the best investments I make each year. Give it a try before your dance
season is over.

Misty Lown is the founder, president and energized

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7 Ways to Ensure a Strong Dance Summer

7 Ways to Ensure a Strong Dance Summer

As I sit down to write this article, it’s 10 below zero outside the doors of my studio. We are in the depths of winter in Wisconsin and summer is on my mind. But, I’m not thinking about vacations or visits to the local pool. My mind is fixed on the programming I can offer to bring kids IN to the studio once school is OUT.

Summer is typically a hard time to keep things going for school year-based businesses such as ours. I suspect that if you are reading this article you, too, are looking for ways to strengthen your summer programs.

If so, keep reading for 7 Ways to Ensure a Stronger Dance Summer! The road to a strong summer starts NOW. 

Take an afternoon to pound through this checklist. You’ll thank yourself in July.


Ensure your summer success by taking time to plan today.

  1. Survey the families. Do you remember when you were a student and your English teacher told you to consider your audience before writing a word of that research paper? Turns out she was right. You have to know who you are speaking to before creating a single offering. Are your families looking for weekly classes in the summer or would they rather come every day for one week straight and then move on to other activities? Are they looking for theme-based camps or technique-based intensives? You’ll be surprised how much clarity you can get just by sending a simple survey to your families before the planning begins. Not ready to survey parents? Ask your students☺
  2. Gather the troops. A successful summer program depends on having not just ENOUGH staff, but the RIGHT staff, to pull it off. If your parents want weekly summer ballet classes or the opportunity to get a jump-start on next season by setting solos in the summer, you are going to have to make sure you have the specialists around to serve those needs. Once you know what your clients want from your summer program, you can start confirming availability with teachers.
  3. Study the landscape. As a mom of five kids I know that the competition for our summer spending is hot. There will be a night not too far from now when I sit at the kitchen table with ten brochures for summer camps for my kids in front of me. Your dance parents are no different. They are also trying to give their kids as many interesting and meaningful summer experiences as they can. Maximize your chance to be a part of their summer schedule by understanding what your programs will be competing against. In our community, the university, school district and parks district all have robust summer programs so I make sure my pricing and program packages are comparable. For example, if they are all offering weekly day camps, it doesn’t make sense for me to offer a program that meets once a week all summer. It simply wouldn’t line up with the other things kids are doing and would likely be passed overcome scheduling time.
  1. Call in the experts. Summer is a great time to call in the experts. Start sending emails today to the guest teachers you know who might be willing to come in and share their knowledge with your students this summer. And, don’t forget about experts that are complementary to dance: nutritionists, photographers, boot camp instructors, sports psychologists, yoga instructors, chiropractors and more. Your community is likely bursting at the seams with people who have an expertise that would benefit your dancers, saving you the expense of flights and housing for guest teachers.
  2. Brand the boring out of it. When my kids became school age I became a consumer of summer camps as a parent for the first time. I immediately noticed was how EXCITING the programs were. All of the sudden, my offering of “Summer Ballet Classes” looked pretty bland next to “Flip with the Ninjas Camp” that gymnastics was offering. Since that time, I’ve made a real effort to come up with attractive themes, catchy titles and compelling logos to capture the imagination of the reader. A generic “Jazz 1 Class” may be appropriate for the school year, but it just won’t cut on the summer camp circuit.
  3. Publish and Promote. We may be in the digital age, but printed brochures still rule the summer camp world. Remember when I talked about sitting around the kitchen table with camp brochures and mapping my summer schedule out? That’s a real thing for parents. For as great as online everything is you still need to get your summer brochures into the hands of parents. Start with your existing clients and then work your way towards new families via community expos, local family publications and partnerships with other like-minded businesses.
  4. Refine and Repeat. Monitor enrollment trends as you ramp up towards summer. Some of the programs you offer will be bursting at the seams and some might just be a bust. Decide early to increase offerings of summer classes and camps that are doing well and to cut program that will not have enough kids to make a go of it. This will give parents a chance to choose another class or camp to fit their schedule.

Summer success starts today. Are you ready to do the “winter work” now to have a great summer later?

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

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