During the pandemic, many dance studios closed their lobbies and found alternative ways to successfully execute administrative tasks and serve their populations.
This shift was a positive change for our dance studio locations. By repurposing our former lobbies, we now have more productive workspaces that serve a variety of functions. If you’re considering doing the same, here are a few tips for how we successfully maintain and manage this model:
1) Keep Parents Involved. Parents are an important part of the extracurricular experience, and I believe visibility and transparency are critical in youth extracurricular activities. You want parents on your team! Early in the pandemic, we purchased the SpotTV closed-circuit monitoring system, so families could watch their child in class at all times (with sound!) via their own personal devices. This year, we will return to scheduled, in-person observations as well as an optional social/networking club for families.
2) Educate, Respond, and Automate. Make sure your families understand the expectation in advance. All of our trial guides and welcome packets reiterate that we have no indoor waiting spaces for parents or loved ones. Because parents are not in the building, make sure there is someone actively checking phone lines, voicemails, emails, and any communication portal in a timely manner. If systems can be automated (e.g., tuition payments, trial scheduling), do it! This shift should not compromise your clients’ customer service experience.
3)Take Note of the Positive. Here are a few reasons we prefer this shift:
Safety: At any given time, we know exactly who is in the building.
Cleanliness: Our facilities (especially the bathrooms) are much cleaner with less foot traffic.
Focus: With a distraction-free interior environment, everyone can focus on their respective tasks.
Transparency: With the closed-circuit system, everyone operates at a high level of accountability: students, staff, and our entire team.
4) Constantly Tweak and Evaluate. If there’s anything we’ve learned, it is that anything can change in an instant. With each day, week, and session, we are continuing to evaluate what works best for our programming, vision, and needs. If you’ve discovered things that worked well for you, like closed lobbies, have the confidence to keep that change in place. Evaluate it regularly and tweak it as needed.
Ultimately, your leadership will guide you to what is best for your community. Be confident and empowered in your voice because that, in itself, is a form of freedom.
Happy Fourth of July!
Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:
The #1 way to generate revenue for your dance studio is to keep as much of your revenue in-house as possible. While summertime is typically known as the “low-revenue season,” it doesn’t have to be that way.
With a little strategy and planning, you can reap the rewards of an excellent summer session that will likely (1) generate revenue, (2) introduce your programming to a number of new, prospective students, and (3) serve and affirm your current client base.
Below are some DOs and DON’Ts to help you rock your summer months!
Survey your community to understand their summer interests and needs.
Mix up themes and keep the vibe FUN!
Be flexible! Have a flexible make-up/ proration policy for people that may have advance, inflexible travel plans. Clients will appreciate it.
Follow-up with all summer program participants about enrolling for the main dance season.
Feel like you have to operate on a similar schedule to your regular season (e.g., close for a vacation week, take a break from weekend classes).
Stress about discounts/deals. With it being a recovery season, don’t neglect to focus on your financials.
Hesitate to cancel low enrollment programming. Set a required minimum, and if it isn’t met by 30 days out, offer to transfer students into something else (Note: never cancel programming last minute if it risks placing your clients in a bind.)
Wait until the last minute. Summer programming is much more enjoyable with advanced planning, communication, preparation, and strategy.
Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:
Chasta Hamilton is the Owner/Artistic Director of Stage Door Dance Productions in Raleigh, NC. She authored the best-selling book Trash The Trophies: How to Win Without Losing Your Soul. Later this spring, her TEDx talk “You Weren’t Built to Break” will debut, combining her passion for performance with the necessity of resilience.
We are still trucking through the COVID-19 crisis and salvaging our businesses. But we have more knowledge than ever and gain more with each and every day!
It’s 2021, and that means it is time to GET IT DONE.
One of my favorite quotes is:
“You can’t talk butterfly language with caterpillar people.”
This year, are you a butterfly, or are you a caterpillar? The choice is in your hands and will be based on the actions you take NOW.
The days of feeling defeated are over.
Now is the time to shift frustration, exhaustion, and discontent into strong and effective leadership tactics that will pay off in the long run. What contingencies are you setting in place to make sure your programs generate revenue and run creatively, safely, and in alignment with your brand?
Have you considered that:
Competitions may not happen
Recitals may not happen in their traditional sense
Travel opportunities may have to be postponed
Shipping and the supply chain may continue to face delays/disruptions (aka get those costume orders in ASAP!)
Instead of waiting and watching and having another off-the-rails spring semester, take this into your control, and create opportunities for your clientele to heighten the return on investment of your brand.
Prioritize YOU and align yourself with third-party vendors that help instead of hurt your cause.
It may be easy to say
“I don’t know what’s happening, so I can’t do that.”
“This is so out of my control.”
“I don’t have the energy to do what I used to do.”
These are all excuses, and they are excuses that will ultimately hurt your business.
Leave the excuses in 2020 and start figuring out how you CAN make things happen.
Set the Schedules
Use Project Timelines to Keep You On Track
Hit the Deadlines
Apply for the Funding
Meet With Your Staff
Keep Your Clients Looped In
Build Excitement for The Things That Are Coming
While it may not be identical to the way we’ve formerly operated, it is important to generate a confident, forward motion that embraces the resources and opportunities we have.
FIND YOUR MOTIVATION
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, find some sources of inspiration.
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 of 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, continued.
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
From our toll-free call center
How It Works: Step 2 – Patrons Buy Tickets, continued.
For reserved seating, online ticket buyers can select their own seats with our easy-to-use 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.
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