As you settle in to the new dance season, you may have been talking to your staff or students about setting goals for themselves (I know I have been!). Every kickoff meeting or first class has been an opportunity to set new expectations and begin following through.
But have you checked in with yourself lately when it comes to goals? With the clean slate of a new school year upon us, now is the ideal time to hold yourself accountable to the same thing you ask of others … to put your intentions into action!
I LOVE getting out of bed in the morning with a purpose to fulfill on a bigger-than-life-size target. And I love knowing what I’m going to do that day to make progress. But I’ll be the first to admit that I can get so excited about my goals, which leads to new ideas, that I can find myself running in circles by noon. When I talk with other studio owners, I often hear about their distractions too, so I know this can be a common entrepreneurial hurdle!
Something I’ve learned over the years is that every goal can benefit from the same go-to action steps, no matter how big or small the goal itself. Let’s face it, all goals need some TLC to become a reality, so to get to the finish line there are a handful of things I always have to do.
Are you ready to learn what those things are and put them to use for yourself? Jump into the next section to read my 5 Tips for Taking Action on Your Goals.
Being a good communicator
The skills of communication in business can never be underestimated! There are so many ways you communicate: through speaking and writing, through your marketing and advertising verbiage, through your body language, and more. Being a good communicator is more than having correct grammar or a smile on your face (though those things ARE important!). It’s actively listening when someone has an objection. It’s genuinely caring about a child’s outcome at the end of the year. It’s interacting with people in a kind and respectful way … always, under every circumstance.
The ability to empower others
As a leader, you are someone others will aspire to be, and as you inspire them, you also want to empower them. Teaching your students how to bounce back from struggles or frustrations is one way you do this in the classroom. Coaching your staff through difficult tasks or detailed projects works much the same way. You are allowing those who follow you to learn from your experience, but in a way that puts them in their own driver’s seat.
Having personal and professional integrity
Although this may not be a leadership skill per se, it is an essential quality to develop and maintain in every aspect of your life as a business person. Integrity is something you must choose for yourself and practice in your relationships. It’s something that becomes part of your nature; it’s part of the standard you hold yourself to and the way you do business. Integrity becomes a non-negotiable part of your life because as a business owner, you understand the importance of leading with honesty, fairness, and sincerity. So much of your work will be about doing what’s right, not necessarily what’s easy!
Using curiosity and creativity to problem-solve
Being an entrepreneur means you’re encountering problems at every level and size, every day. And getting stronger at problem-solving can only happen when you are willing to get curious about the issue and think of creative solutions. Your solution-oriented skills will only improve when you approach problems with the mindset of a detective. No problem is truly a problem if you discover why it happened and learn from it! Using this kind of perspective takes practice, but it’s key to growing as a leader.
Leadership encompasses SO many skills…these just happen to be the ones I believe are the most important! I also think that having faith in yourself, your business, and your team can take you a long way as a leader because if there is a common thread throughout all of these skills, it is faith. You must believe in your purpose. And you must have confidence in yourself that you can grow and teach others how to grow too.I believe that the work we do to develop our leadership skills is never truly done. It’s something that lives “in progress” for all of us as we strive to do better for ourselves and others! I hope that you’ll consider sharing in the comments which leadership skills are your strengths, and which ones you’d like to keep improving. Want to connect about leadership? Reach out to me on social media @mistylown and let’s chat! Wishing you an amazing start to the new dance season!
Looking for more great ideas to help with taking action on your goals and becoming a more effective studio owner? Check out the following articles:
When I first opened my studio over 20 years ago, I had a big learning curve when it came to all things human resources-related—interviewing, hiring, firing, payroll, benefits, and everything in between!
One of the biggest lessons I learned right away is that hiring great people for my team was a lot of WORK, especially when it came time for interviews. It was not always easy to discern who would really be a good fit for the team and it took way more preparation than I thought! But just like with dance, practice makes progress, and I’ve made a LOT of progress.
I’ve also discovered that I really enjoy providing meaningful career opportunities for others. Watching people flourish in their roles at the studio is one of the most fulfilling aspects of running a business! And it all starts with getting the right people on board in the first place, which means making sure the systems behind the interview process are in top-notch shape. With that in mind, I created this list of 6 Best Practices for Interviewing Job Candidates, and I hope it will serve your studio as well as it has mine!
Implementing these ideas has had a profound effect on my hiring choices and continues to inform my decision-making when it comes to bringing new people to our team. Keep reading to see my 6 Best Practices for Interviewing Job Candidates.
Here are my 6 Best Practices for Interviewing Job Candidates:
Consider a pre-interview screening
Before you begin a series of interviews, think about implement one more step: the pre-interview submission. This could be done by asking the applicant to complete a short questionnaire via email, having them leave a voice message, or upload a video introduction. Any of these methods will allow you an additional screening before taking the time to meet someone in person.
Use the first interview as a simple getting-to-know-you meeting
Don’t expect to get too much done in the first face-to-face interview. What do I mean by that? Well, use that meeting a little like a first date: ask basic questions, read the candidate’s body language, and do a gut-check on whether you think they would be a good culture fit for your studio.
Always interview at least twice, probably more
I am a big proponent of “hire slowly, fire quickly,” meaning that if I’m going to invest the time, money, and energy into hiring for a position, I want to be very sure that we’re bringing in someone who will be the right match for that role. Rushing the process only risks potential problems. For example, an initial interview, lunch or coffee interview, and a sample class interview are part of my go-to process for hiring new teachers.
Ask open-ended questions
Remember that asking questions that begin with “What,” “How,” or “When,” can be great openers into deeper interview questions, such as “How would you handle this type of situation?” Other great questions can come from prompts like, “Tell me about a time when …” or “Describe your experience with …”
Find out what the candidate knows about you
Ask what research the candidate has conducted on you or your studio; someone who is very interested in the job and does their homework will probably have a few things to say! I always like hearing from candidates who share what they like about the studio or have questions about our programming, because it shows their curiosity.
Take good notes—and not just about their answers
Remembering every little thing a candidate says in an interview is probably not necessary, but I do like to be able to review my notes days later and get a sense of my instincts at the moment. For instance, I’ll make note if the person was extra-prepared (or not enough), if they dressed appropriately, if they were on time, and if any of their behavior during the interview requires further questioning.
Once upon a time, I thought owning a dance studio was all about dance … but of course, it’s about so much more! And one of the most rewarding parts is hiring amazing people for your team. It isn’t always easy finding those people, but with these best practices in place, you can feel more confident than ever that the right candidate is just an interview away!
Looking for more tips for hiring an excellent staff? Check out the following articles:
As a studio owner, your customer service is an essential part of your business … perhaps even THE essential element of this time of year, as you prepare for the recital, summer, and next season. Communications with your dance families can make or break their understanding of the way your studio works during this busy time.
And of course, you are probably not handling all of the customer service alone! Whether you have part-time help or a full team in place, YOU set the pace for how hard your employees will run to achieve awesome customer service. As their leader, you are aiming to take their abilities to new heights so that your dance families’ needs are being met with the utmost care.
For me and my team, there are 3 Keys to High-Level Customer Service through which we choose to activate ALL of our service-oriented decisions and interactions with families. I’ve developed these key points over the last two decades of studio ownership, through my own personal experience and by learning from the feedback we receive from parents. Through the consistent application of these basic points in our daily workflow, my staff has full clarity on what is expected of them when it comes to communicating with our customers. Keep reading to see how my 3 Keys to High-Level Customer Service can transform your studio’s approach too!
Here are my 3 Keys to High-Level Customer Service:
Communicate with kindness, clarity, and speed
To me, there’s almost nothing more important than communicating with kindness. You just never know what a customer may be going through, and your kindness may make all the difference to their day. Of course, that doesn’t mean being a doormat when it comes to answering questions, which is why clarity is also part of this key! Being kind and clear means that your message can be heard without any guesswork. Top it off by making sure that your response time (if communicating by phone, email, chat, or text) is quick so that customers aren’t left wondering when they’ll hear back.
This isn’t an earth-shattering concept, but it does take more effort to execute than you think! Remind your team often that they will encounter moments where they will feel tested on their kindness, clarity, or speed, and it’s essential that they commit and deliver no matter what. Five-star service comes with understanding that every customer deserves this level of care at every point in their journey with your studio
Handle concerns with extra TLC
Anytime there is a problem or mistake, your best path forward is going to include extra patience and attention to that customer. My advice here is to train your team to vet and troubleshoot any issues right away, so that the concerned party knows that their issue is a priority. One rule we have in place at my studio is what I call the “$100 Happiness Policy,” which means that if a customer’s problem can be solved quickly and responsibly for $100 or less, my front desk team knows they have the authority to do so, with no questions asked. It’s worth explaining for your staff that if they’re doing their jobs well, concerns won’t be the norm! But problems will happen from time to time, and the best course of action starts with professionalism and ends with peace of mind.
Make it normal practice to go above and beyond
When it comes to customer service, we can choose to strive for a baseline of satisfactory work or we can choose to shoot for the stars … five stars to be exact! I prefer to coach my staff to shoot for the stars, because THAT is what truly takes our service to the next level.
Here’s an example of what I mean: one day a while back, a staff member noticed a student had been dropped off for class without her dance bag. The child had been going back and forth from her newly-divorced parents’ homes and was crushed that she wasn’t prepared. Instead of just reassuring the dancer everything would be OK (baseline service), this staff member went above and beyond and gave the little girl a new leotard and tights on the spot ($100 Happiness Policy), and found some shoes for her to borrow from the lost and found box. The dancer left smiling and her mom was forever grateful that we were able to help save the day during a time that their home life had been turned upside down.
Although these three keys are my go-to customer service guidelines, I have one other piece of advice to pass along: Take note of the service YOU receive at the businesses you patronize. Are there practices you would want to emulate at your studio? Others that weren’t up to your standards? We can learn a LOT from our own interactions as customers.
I believe our impact as studio owners is only as strong as our service, so it stands to reason that our leadership in this area is vital to our business’s success. If you have a customer service tip that works awesomely well at your studio, please share it in the comments! I’d love to hear about it. We can all contribute to a higher industry standard if we learn from each other!
Looking for more great ideas to help with boosting employee morale? Check out the following articles:
For the fourth year in a row, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our annual dance studio software reviews survey. We asked thousands of dance studio owners to answer questions about their dance studio management software. We’ve continued to see some recurring trends about how studio owners choose their dance studio software, how they utilize it, and what they like and dislike about it.
If you’ve considered investing in software to help you manage your studio, this data will definitely be eye-opening.
The percentage of studio owners that are using dance studio management software continues to rise, from 67% in 2014 to 82.2% in 2018.
Studio owners overwhelmingly choose software based on its ability to meet their needs; referrals from friends and associates also carry significant influence in the purchase decision.
Jackrabbit and Studio Director continue to dominate market share with a combined 65% , but this has decreased from 2017, when they held 74% of the market.
The features most important to studio owners continue to be billing and payment processing, email and text communication, and class management. Following the 2017 trend, however, online registration continues to increase in popularity.
For the first time since the survey inception, overall customer satisfaction dipped, from a 2017 high of 84%, to 79% in 2018.
Read the In-Depth Report on Dance Studio Software Reviews
Business growth: it’s something every studio owner desires!
Whether it’s more students, more staff members, more space, more financial freedom, or more time at home, at some point or another, we all want MORE for our studios.
Growth can be great! It means your business is healthy, and healthy things grow! But business growth usually doesn’t come without a few growing pains. As your studio expands to accommodate more people or more space, or as you step out to spend more time at home, you’ll probably notice that some of your existing systems don’t work as well anymore. I often tell the dance studio owners that I coach, “Every time something your business doubles, all of your systems break.”
If you are in a position where you are seeing your numbers rise and your systems aren’t quite keeping up, take advantage of this opportunity to make some key updates in the way you organize and communicate before the new year starts. Keeping up with your studio’s growth—and then staying ahead of it—will allow you to maintain its health. Don’t ignore the warning signs that you need to make improvements. Warning signs might include things like customer confusion or dropping balls on details and follow up.
If these types of things are happening to you, it’s probably time to dig in to some new resources that will help improve your systems!
Keep reading to learn about my 5 Tools to Implement for Business Growth.
Here are my 5 Tools to Implement as Your Business Grows:
A rhythm calendar
The “rhythm calendar” is a tool that helps everyone on your team see what tasks need to be done and when, for the entire year. It may be an actual printed document which follows your studio’s calendar or it may be kept in a project-management software system like Asana or Basecamp. Either way, it’s a roadmap to keep you on track all year. It’s also a “living” document that covers the responsibilities in every area of your business, so expect it to change over time as your studio grows and changes.
The right software
From accounting software to studio management software, you may need to consider implementing a new product or some more training on an existing product to stay on top of your studio’s growth. Is what you’re currently using causing more headaches than it solves? Are you actually using your software tools? If technology isn’t your zone of genius, schedule an appointment to talk with your accountant or dance studio software representative to ask questions and get a refresher on which solution may help your business the most.
A trial class system
Take the time to look back and see how many trial students you’ve served so far this year, and what their conversion rate to enrollment has been. If your conversions are below 20% (or you don’t know this number to begin with) it’s probably time to get a real system in place. A great starting place is to have one employee on your team act as the champion of this trial classes, from scheduling to follow-up. Or you get techie with it. I recently installed a product called the Trial Class System by Studio Owners Academy and we have already had over 30 trial students. Now that’s a win this time of year!
A file sharing program
As your student numbers grow, your team of staff members will likely grow too, meaning more people need access to more information. Make your work more efficient by getting those files organized in one place. A program like Google Drive, G Suite, or Dropbox will store your electronic files in the cloud, allowing you to choose who to share files with (and to limit access if needed). No matter what system you use, it’s important to get everyone on the same page for naming documents. There is no sense in created great documents if you can’t find them later:)
An email system
From automating marketing campaigns to sending out monthly newsletters to your existing customers, email still rules as one of the top ways to communicate. Programs like MailChimp, iContact, or Drip allow you to break up lists into smaller groups according to interest and to create branded, professional-looking information to send out to them on a regular basis making your studio look organized and reliable.
As your business grows, your systems must grow, too! Remember: whatever time you put in to update your systems NOW will save you heaps of time in the new year.
Do you have questions on how to grow your studio business (or to how to manage the growth you are having?) Let’s talk! Connect with me on social media @mistylown. I’d love to hear your questions, concerns, or stories of success.
Looking for more dance studio staff insights? Check out these other articles and resources:
We recently teamed up with Jackrabbit Dance for a webinar on how to produce a more profitable recital. Check out the recording above or read through the main points below for tips on how to financially improve your biggest production of the year!
Three BIG Ideas to Make Your Recital More Profitable
Is it okay to make money on your recital?
How do you collect money for your recital?
Recital fees: 38%
Ticket sales: 62%
Do you sell your tickets as reserved seating?
Recital Fee vs. Online Sales
Many studio owners ask: “Should I charge a recital fee or just do ticket sales?” The answer is BOTH. The recital fee allows you to capture revenue at the beginning of the dance year, but a ticket sale presents an opportunity later in the year to maximize your profits in ways that add value to the experience your performers and attendees.
And that leads us to BIG Idea #1…
Big Idea #1: Bundle and Sell Online
Consumers spend more when they use a credit card than when they make purchases with cash. You can present merchandise purchase options with your ticket sales and customers will be more likely to buy, especially if they perceive that there is a bundle.
Big Idea #1: Bundle and Sell Online, cont’d.
All of our clients who sell merchandise online in advance report higher merchandise sales, with some reporting a 2x increase over previous years when they would accept cash only at the event. In addition, online sales enable you to more closely approximate the amount of merchandise you need to have on hand, so you have less inventory that goes unsold.
Big Idea #2: Inventory Management/Reserved Seating
Recognize that your seats are your inventory, and sell them in the most appropriate way to make more money. Seats in the front are worth more than seats in the back. If ticket buyers complain about a change in prices this year, explain that prices for the seats in the back are the same, but seats in the front are worth more, and therefore cost more.
So, why should you price seats according to their value?
Better experience for the ticket buyer = higher perceived value.
Offer perks for more loyal families.
Increases urgency to get the ticket = you get the money in hand sooner.
2016 Per Ticket Data
Reserved seating is a type of seating setup in which the ticket buyer can choose specific seats they want to sit in. Now, why is this important?
The average price paid in 2016 for a general admission ticket to a dance recital nationwide was $10.80, vs. $14.03 for a reserved ticket! That’s a 30% difference!
2016 Per Ticket Data, cont’d.
Moreover, the average gross per event with general admission seating was $1,715, while the average gross per event with reserved seating was $5,370! Don’t leave money on the table!
Big Idea #3: Generate Leads
Owners put forth an inordinate amount of effort into producing a recital, and most of the time, the only people exposed are the ones who already know how great their studio is! That’s such a waste! Your RECITAL is a prime opportunity to SHOWCASE your studio to prospective families and the community.
Invite “warm” prospects to your recital
Donate tickets to community charities
Leverage local schools / end of year activities
BUNDLE and sell online
Manage your INVENTORY wisely
Use your recital to GENERATE LEADS
So you want to sell tickets and merchandise online—now what?
TutuTix: The Easiest Way to Sell and Distribute Tickets to Your Dance Performances
How It Works: Step 1 – You Sign Up Online
It’s easy to get started with our easy online sign-up form. We just need some basic information in order to set up your events, including:
Your event info
The ticket prices
The date you want your tickets to go on sale
Your seating chart (if you plan on using assigned seating)
Your dedicated relationship manager will walk you through the process and help you fill in the blanks, and answer any questions you may have. After we have your information, our staff sets up your event, and you’ll get a final opportunity to review your event before we make tickets available to the public.
How It Works: Step 1 – You Sign Up Online, cont’d.
Codes? Comps? No Problem! With more than 1,200 clients nationwide, chances are, we’ve done every kind of presale setup there is. We can do:
Reserved seating, general admission and mixed reserved/general seating.
Promo codes, discount codes and comps.
Shopping cart for multiple performances or merchandise sales.
How It Works: Step 2 – Patrons Buy Tickets
When your tickets go on sale, your patrons can buy them:
Online at tututix.com/yourstudioname
On their mobile devices
On your Facebook page
From our toll-free call center
How It Works: Step 2 – Patrons Buy Tickets, cont’d.
For reserved seating, online ticket buyers can select their own seats with our easy-to-use seatPower seat selector.
How It Works: Step 2 – We Deliver Tickets
To Your Patrons – Your patrons can choose to get tickets delivered instantly to their email or smartphone, or to have souvenir tickets mailed to them. Tickets are mailed out immediately, and usually arrive within one week of purchase.
And to You – A few days before the event, we print any unsold tickets on the same keepsake ticket stock and ship them directly to you for FREE as part of our Door Ticket Kit so that you can have tickets on hand for door sales.
You Get Paid Weekly
We deposit ticket proceeds into your account weekly, giving you the flexibility to use those funds when you need them.
Your patrons can choose to have full-color, foil-embossed barcoded keepsake tickets mailed to them. We even print the dancer’s name directly on the tickets! Tickets are mailed out immediately, and usually arrive within one week of purchase.
Customizable Print-at-Home Tickets
Our print-at home tickets are customizable! You can promote upcoming classes, workshops or performances, or even sell advertising to your event sponsors!
Door Ticket Kit
Our FREE door ticket kit makes it easy to sell any remaining tickets on the day of your event.
Accept credit debit cards on-site at your event or studio.
iPhone and Android Scanner Apps
Need an easy way to scan tickets at the door? Our free scanner apps are available for iPhone and Android.
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:
Whether your studio is in its first season, its fifteenth, or its fiftieth, chances are you want to see it grow! And when I say “grow” I’m talking about making real progress, which for your studio might mean increasing enrollment, nurturing your current customers, gaining square footage, developing leadership roles for your staff, improving your culture, redefining your mission, or all of the above.
You may already be experiencing the growing pains that can happen as you, the studio owner, shift focus in order to navigate growth of any kind. For me, as my own children have grown, I’ve shifted more and more time leading our faculty at our studio and less time teaching in the classroom.
No matter which type of growth your studio goes through, it most likely means that it will depend on you less and less for its day-to-day operations, and that your physical presence there will likely become less as well. But your personal connection to the studio—to your employees and to your dance families—will still be essential to supporting its success as it shifts and changes over time.
So how do you keep your relationship with the studio feeling vibrant and effective, even during different stages and phases of growth?
Keep reading to learn more about my 5 Ways To Support And Connect To Your Studio As It Grows.
Here are 5 Ways To Support And Connect To Your Studio As It Grows:
Have your dream team in place
As your studio grows, be sure that you have the right people in the right places on your team because they will be the ones in the trenches every day. From customer service to classroom management they need your personal touch with training and leadership to feel confident in their authority at the studio. Their confidence = your confidence!
Support your team while they lead
Once you have full confidence in your staff members, let your dance families see that you believe in your team one hundred percent. Don’t correct your staff in front of others, but DO compliment them publicly! If they make a mistake, coach them on it afterwards in private. Work to pass customer questions to the right player on your team as well, so your dance families can trust that your team will have the right answers.
Know when to step in
Even with well-trained and confident staff, there will be questions they can’t answer or situations they don’t feel comfortable taking the lead on. Talk to your team about what these scenarios look like, so they are clear about what you want them to tackle on their own versus when they should reach out to you for help. For example, if there are technical difficulties with the classroom speakers, your office manager can probably handle the phone call to fix it. But if the speakers are damaged and need to be replaced, you might want to approve those charges. Come up with a list of example situations, and discuss with your team how those situations might be resolved.
Studio special events
Look through the calendar and find which event (or events) can become a special highlight for your presence at the studio. For me this year, it’s the week we measure for costumes—I’ll be the one in the lobby engaging with parents while I measure kids for recital costumes. Other highlight events for me will be our parent/student conferences, parent observation week and community performances. There are always opportunities to gain some personal face time with your team and your dance families if you look for them.
When you are present, be really present
As your studio grows, you will likely feel pulled in many directions—more so than normal! So whether you are with your team, chatting with a customer, visiting a dance class, or taking the lead on a special event, be all in while you’re there. You might’ve been knee-deep in costume order details in your home office the hour before, but while you are present at the studio, focus on the studio and the people in front of you. Just like we tell our dancers when class starts, leave your worries at the door! Studio growth—even with it’s challenges—is something to be thankful for. As your studio grows, the way you spend your time there may change, but your responsibility won’t. Staying connected and supporting your team and your customers will allow you to continue building those relationships and developing your skills as a leader. Tell us in the comments about which ways your studio is growing, and which tips here are most encouraging for you! I invite you to connect with me on social media @mistylown to continue sharing your growth stories, and wish you luck as you discover the best ways to support and connect with your studio.
Looking for more great info on dance studio growth and other studio management topics? Check out the following articles:
For the third year, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our annual dance studio management software reviews survey. We asked dance studio owners to answer questions about their dance studio management software. We’ve continued to see some recurring trends about how studio owners choose their dance studio software, how they utilize it, and what they like and dislike about it.
The percentage of studio owners that are using dance studio management software has steadily risen year after year, from 67% in 2014 to 80% in 2017.
The three most important features of studio management software have consistently been billing and payment processing, email or text communication and class management, but over the last year, online registration has seen a marked increase in importance.
The percentage of studios who have a majority of students paying by credit/debit card has continued to increase (to 54% in 2017), though studios across the country still vary widely in their ability to process credit card payments.
Overall satisfaction with dance studio management software has continued to creep up with 84% indicating that they were either “extremely satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied,” up from 82% in 2015.
Read the In-Depth Report on Dance Studio Software Survey Results
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:
TutuTix is pleased to announce the addition of content from The Dance Exec into its content library. For several years, The Dance Exec (www.danceexec.com) has been an excellent source of training and knowledge for dance studio owners as they grow their business and strive to provide excellence in dance training. As Chasta Hamilton Calhoun, the founder of The Dance Exec, directs her focus to her thriving dance studios, the incredible studio owner resources that the site has offered through the years will find a new home as part of the TutuTix blog, which covers topics of interest to dance studio owners and teachers in particular, and the dance community in general. From time to time, Chasta will continue to contribute to the blog in her ongoing role as a studio owner (and TutuTix client!). The addition of these incredible resources is just one more way TutuTix can help dance studio owners build a successful business. Check out the first article from The Dance Exec archives today: 101 Marketing Ideas & Strategies for Dance Studios
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:
We are all just trying to figure out how our studio measures up with the rest of the world.
“Am I big?” “Am I small?” “Am I normal?” We really just want to know that we are doing okay.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Looking for more great dance studio enrollment tips? Check out
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:
Hear about you, look for you online or call, have a good first impression, inquire for more information, become a student.
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.
First parent’s day.
First picture day.
First buying recital tickets experience.
And, that’s just the first year. The “firsts” keep building the longer they remain clients.
First placement for the next year’s classes.
First audition for a team.
First problem with a class.
First disappointment with a placement.
First conflict with school.
First pair of pointe shoes.
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:
Lack of understanding/awareness
Lack of experience
Lack of time
Lack of resources
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.
Check out Misty’s new book, One Small Yes, available on Amazon. This 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
The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.
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:
It’s a break from the marathon of weekly classes.
There is a more relaxed schedule with schools no longer in session.
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:
A break from classes means far less income to cover fixed expenses.
It can be hard to balance studio and home now that school’s out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Check out more articles on summer dance camps and other summer programming here.
Dance studio owners must fill many roles to keep their classes running. It can be very rewarding to build a career out of dance and to have the opportunity to foster a love for the art in a new generation of dancers. However, studios are businesses, and running a business requires payment from clients in the form of dance tuition and other fees.
Discussing finances can be an uncomfortable topic, even for seasoned business owners. However, in order to keep a dance studio running, owners need to be able to collect dance tuition on time from their students. When those payments aren’t coming through when they’re supposed to, studio owners will have to have conversations with their students or with parents to rectify the situation.
Fortunately, there are steps that dance studio owners can take early on to mitigate some of these conversations and problems related to late payments. With the right planning and communication, studio owners can create a system that works for everyone involved.
State Expectations Early
One of the most important things for any business owners to do before providing a service is make their expectations known from the start. Studios should have their prices and policy information clearly visible on their websites. When students enquire about classes or programs they should be given an information packet that has a clear, direct section dedicated to dance tuition payments.
While that should be more than enough to help keep students informed, the fact of the matter is that some people simply won’t read those kind of documents carefully. They’ll skim the parts that appeal to their interests and miss what they really need to know.
That’s why owners will need to verbally reiterate the structure to people as they sign up, and possibly even make a quick reminder announcement on the first day of class about payments or any other key policies that they don’t want anyone to miss. Remind students of where they can find this information so they can look back to it when they need to.
Dance tuition information should also be emphasized in class contracts. Use a bold emphasis for the numbers and make sure that the client signs all the right paperwork. If you want, you can even go a step further and ask that they specifically initial next to the payment due date information. If you say it enough and put it in writing your clients won’t be able to use “I didn’t know” as an excuse to try and shirk their responsibilities.
Give People Payment Options
Providing payment options for your students can encourage them to pay on time. Many times people who pay late aren’t trying to do anything malicious but are simply busy and lose track of the date easily. By making it as convenient as possible for people to pay, you can avoid the well-meaning “Oh, I meant to do that!” from your students and their parents.
An easy way to do this is to accept different methods of payment. Invest in mobile payment technology, which can let you accept credit card payments at the studio. According to a Bankrate survey, 9 percent of Americans report that they don’t carry cash on a regular basis. An additional 40 percent don’t carry more than $20 in paper money.
Besides credit cards, while checks are decreasing in usage, you should still accept them. Most banks will allow you to deposit a check right through your smart phone, so it doesn’t need to be an inconvenience for you.
Give People Timelines
Another way to provide options is to give people a choice of how much they pay and when. You could reward people who pay for a full year’s worth of classes upfront by offering a small discount for a lump sum payment instead of paying month to month, or even for paying six or three months in advance. This could benefit you in a few ways.
For one thing, it can help stop those forgetful payers. They can write one check and not have to think about it again. It will also give you some extra cushioning in case several students stop paying on time during the year. Having that safety net from early payers can help keep late payments from doing any damage to your business while you work to collect from them. They may need that little incentive to do so, though, so small discounts that won’t break your bank can help incentivize them.
You can also use websites that will allow people to automate their payments. Some of these programs will send out due date alerts on your behalf, or you can also choose to send an email to all of your students yourself.
How to Collect Dance Tuition When They’re Late
It can be awkward to confront late payers, because sometimes people just can’t afford it. If a student starts the year with a good job and then suddenly gets her hours cut, she may find herself suddenly unable to hold to her agreements on time.
There are a few ways to handle people in those circumstances. If you’re willing to be lenient and allow students to continue classes even if their economic position changes, you should write that into your payment policy. If they know they can come to you and explain why they may be late with some of their payments you can deal with the situation early and not have to chase them down or guess why their payments have stopped.
You should decide before a session starts what the qualifications are for being allowed to pay late without penalty or before they need to suspend their involvement with the program. If you have to enforce either of those consequences, it will be easier and less awkward if you can point to a standing policy that’s been written out, Inc.com noted.
For students who can pay and just can’t seem to stay organized, you may want to implement a short grace period and then a late fee. Remind people with another written message that a fee is coming if they don’t pay, and then enforce it if they still don’t. People who can pay but routinely refuse to should have their access to school resources limited until they either start paying, or at least offer a viable reason for their lateness.