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:
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:
Looking for more great ideas to help with boosting employee morale? Check out the following articles:
Attend any type of business event or seminar and you’ll probably hear the word “culture” quite a bit! So what does it mean exactly, and how, exactly, do we build a strong studio culture?
By definition, corporate culture is a collection of values that the organization believes in and follows. They are the values that are exemplified in its people and the work they do each day, and so creating a strong culture means naming those values and breathing life into them. Your business uses them as the lens through which decisions are made, and as a barometer for accountability.
I believe that culture can also be described by the senses. For example, what do people “see” when they walk into your studio? Do they see kindness, inclusivity, excellence … or something else? What do your customers “taste” when they interact with your staff, and how do you develop the “flavor” you want?
In my experience, what is sensed by your culture is created by a ripple effect. It starts with you, the owner, in the middle, and then ripples outward to everyone else. Growing the culture you want takes time, but more importantly, it takes consistency, It can never just be what you say; it has to be what you do. And it has to start with determining what’s important to your mission and naming those values. With the following 5 Steps to Building a Strong Studio Culture, I have confidence that you’ll have the tools you need for doing just that and more!
Here are my 5 Steps to Building a Strong Studio Culture:
Looking for more great ideas to help you build your studio’s culture? Check out the following articles:
It’s the midpoint of the season, a time when many studio owners put their leadership into high gear and offer performance reviews for their employees. Whether you have a carefully-developed system in place or you simply meet informally with each person, performance reviews open up the opportunity for you to check-in on your team’s progress and look ahead to the future. They also allow you to hold your team members accountable (and for them to do the same for you!).
Performance reviews aren’t something I recommend doing off-the-cuff. While you may need to improvise here and there, having a plan in place makes it possible to proceed with confidence and communicate with clarity. Many studio owners I know have found success with implementing a rating system or a document of standards to help employees see where they stand on the key behaviors that lead to effective outcomes. Others I know simply use a few, firm guidelines as touchpoints for the conversation.
However you choose to conduct your reviews, there are some key elements to the process that I have found essential to make sure each meeting is insightful and productive for everyone. Through two decades of practice, I’ve been using and revising these 7 Dos & Don’ts for Staff Performance Reviews. Keep reading to use these Dos & Don’ts for yourself!
Here are my 7 Dos & Don’ts for Staff Performance Reviews:
Looking for more great ideas to help you manage an awesome team? 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
To see the full summary of the survey results, please enter your email below.
Check out previous editions our dance studio management software survey results and dance studio software reviews here:
Have you ever gotten to the day of recital and been surprised by something you know you could have prevented, if only you had prepared ahead of time? Yep, me too. I’ve been in those shoes before and boy do they hurt! With time and experience though, I’ve learned better tactics for planning out my dance recital day.
I distinctly remember this one dance recital moment early in my career as a studio owner when we had mounted an ambitious opening number to “Be Our Guest,” complete with seven-year-old tap dancing waiters! The first show went off without a hitch and so I didn’t check to see if all of the classes were in place for the second show. There we were, mid-production, with a faculty member gesturing to the side of the stage to usher in the waiters …. and NO WAITERS! You should’ve seen our faces of shock! We finished the dance, found the waiters, and ran the number again. And you can bet that’s an oversight I never made again.
While surprises will pop up, the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to plan your work and then work your plan. The effort you spend upfront will save you from mishaps, when the last thing you need is to put out one more fire (or find a class of missing waiters!).
Keep reading to learn 6 Steps to a Satisfying Dance Recital Day.
Are you looking for some more recital tips and ideas? Check out these other articles and resources from Misty:
Overloaded. Scattered. Forgetful. Late. Have you ever felt that any of these words describe you as a studio owner? I once did. Other studio owners tell me often that they too, have been consumed by their work and feel like they are constantly in need of help. The one thing that made a difference for me? Hiring the right studio staff for my team. An amazing group of employees is a huge game-changer. I call mine the Dream Team.
The process of hiring can be one of the most daunting tasks for a studio owner. You feel a lot of pressure (from yourself!) to make a good decision; one that at best, could benefit your team for years to come and that at worst, could create a toxic environment. Hiring someone who is a good fit for your business is truly win-win: you get the help you need to run an organized and efficient studio, and your new employee obtains a job at a meaningful place to work.
Before taking the first step in your hiring process, be sure that you know what it is that you’re hiring for. I recommend writing up a job description: include the job title, responsibilities, and the qualities desired in your ideal candidate. This job description will be for your internal use only, so expect that it might change somewhat once you’ve found a great person to hire and want to adapt the position to their strengths. For now, the description is simply your guideline. Having it prepared gives you a starting point for the way you need to advertise the job opening, and for the types of questions you might need to ask during interviews.
Once your hiring needs are clear, it’s time to prepare a job listing or advertisement. This is the information you’ll post online, such as on Indeed or Craigslist, or through other hiring avenues, such as your local university or community newsletter. Be sure to tell your current staff members that you’re looking to hire; I often find that getting referrals from my employees is far more successful than any other method. Birds of a feather do flock together after all!
After your job description and job listing are complete, it’s time to focus on the big task ahead: the hiring process itself. Your diligent attention to the details can make all the difference! Normally I have a whole list of tips and ideas for you for each topic, but hiring is different. There are really only two rules you need to heed for hiring.
Keep reading for my “THE ONLY 2 TIPS FOR HIRING” so that you can build your very own Dream Team:
Looking for more dance studio staff insights? 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.
Looking for more great info on dance studio growth and other studio management topics? Check out the following articles:
By now your studio’s season is officially in full swing and your classes are humming along. Your students and their families are getting used to their new dance schedules, school commitments, and carpools. Your staff members have also settled into your new routines around the studio and you are starting to find your “new normal” with the fall schedule. It can be such a satisfying feeling as a studio owner to finally feel like the pieces of your puzzle have fallen into place!
It’s completely fine (and encouraged!) for you to celebrate the success of starting off the new season right. But don’t let that satisfaction turn into complacency when it comes to your leadership: your team is on the front lines of service every day, and they need your active support, direction, and motivation to keep moving forward and offering up their best selves.
It’s probably been at least a few weeks – maybe more – since your new-season kickoff meeting with your team, which means it is the perfect time to re-cast your expectations and set the pace for the year ahead.
Keep your staff members feeling excited to come to work and on the right track by implementing these 3 Best Practices For Coaching Your Dance Studio Staff This Fall:
Looking for more great studio staff management ideas? 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
To see the full summary of the survey results, please enter your email below.
Check out previous editions our dance studio management software survey results here:
The school supply lists are posted at Target, the mailbox is filling up with registration paperwork for my children’s schools and Facebook is blowing up with pictures of kids in backpacks. It’s officially time for back-to-school and that means it’s time to get serious about back-to-dance!
As a studio owner, I’m a big fan of observing what the local schools do and taking my cues from their systems. For example, we do our registration for summer classes when the local school opens theirs. We offer parent teacher conferences just like the schools do and we follow their model for teacher training as well.
Most studio owners consider themselves to be in the business of training students, but the strongest studios I know understand that they are in the business of training teachers as well.
Here are 5 tips to step up your teacher training this year with Dance Studio Teacher Staff Meetings that ROCK:
The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.
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.
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.
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.
Only two weeks left to go before the recital – can you believe it? Your dancers are probably starting to feel some nerves, not to mention the stress you’re likely feeling as you run over in your head the zillion things you have to do before showtime.
Before you drive yourself crazy running around, take a breather and look at this checklist of the things you need to do over the next two weeks.
Host a Makeup Rehearsal
Whether it’s this week or next (before the dress rehearsal) make sure you hold a makeup and hair rehearsal for your dancers, and their parents if they want to join. A beauty rehearsal is a great way for novice dancers and the parents of younger students to practice how the makeup will be applied and how their hair will be styled. This way, you save the time going over the hair and makeup at the dress rehearsal, and there’s (hopefully) few or no questions before the actual recital.
It’s not just the newbies that need a beauty rehearsal, though. According to Dance Informa, even the most experienced dancers should attend a makeup and hair rehearsal before the recital, since this helps the dancers make sure that their hair and makeup styles are uniform and coordinated with the rest of the dancers in the group.
Have Recital Programs Submitted to the Printer
Recital programs are pretty much an expectation for dance recitals, as they help inform parents and patrons about the order of dances and the general timeline for the evening. At two weeks out, you MUST have your finalized program designs submitted to your printer to make sure:
You have a timely delivery of the final product
Any emergency issues can be resolved
Collect Pre-Orders of DVDs and Other Items for Dance Recitals
If you have the resources and manpower, it can be profitable to have a table at the recital selling performance DVDs, photos and other collectible items. However, collecting pre-orders a couple weeks before the event helps maximize profits and make sure every parent or dancer who wants the extras gets them. Send out emails and social media posts reminding parents to pre-order DVDs and other souvenirs and set a deadline for orders at least a week before the recital. You can use physical forms for orders, but online forms make things easy for both you and the parents.
Give Parents Detailed Drop-off/Pick-up Instructions
Dance Exec noted that it’s important that parents have detailed logistical information for the recital ahead of time. It’s a good idea to hold a pre-dress rehearsal meeting in addition to sending a detailed letter – over email is most convenient for the parents – that describes the drop-off and pick-up process, along with any reminders about ticket and DVD sales, costumes and other important dates and times, in addition to thorough directions to the venue if the recital is not held at your studio.
Need a letter or dance recital information sheet template? We’ve made an example sheet you can download and customize in Microsoft Word for your studio’s needs below:
Have “Day Of” Plans Finalized and Supplies Prepared
Two weeks before the recital – and in the week leading up to it – reach out to your volunteers to confirm that they will be helping out. Make sure you have enough volunteers to cover all duties. If not, you have time to recruit some last-minute helpers.
For some backstage organization ideas, check out this quick video:
Along the lines of volunteers, have all of your signs and backstage planning items printed/laminated/explained/etc. If you plan to have clear signs backstage that point to “Stage,” “Lobby,” “restrooms,” or particular areas of the backstage, have them done and checked off your list.
Michelle Spezio, director of Spezio’s Dance Dynamics in Buffalo, New York, shared a great tip with Dance Studio Life. She puts together boxes of frequently forgotten and emergency items like bobby pins, lip stick, hairspray, sewing kits, nail polish remover, tape, scissors and safety pins, and then places these boxes on either side of the stage and in dressing rooms. You should still remind dancers and their parents to bring their own back-up kits, but these boxes are much-appreciated insurance.
Recital season is an exciting time, but it can also be a cause of worry for parents. Recitals are typically, frenzied and fast-paced experiences, and parents may be a little weary of dropping their child in a chaotic situation. Here are some smart event safety tips to keep in mind this recital season:
Pack an Event Safety First Aid Kit
In addition to having a bag full of extra performance essentials, like bobby pins, hair spray and a spare pair of tights, you should also safety items, like Band-aids, Neosporin and wet wipes. Make sure you have a comprehensive first-aid kit on hand at the recital venue, too.
Make Sure Emergency Contact Info Is Up to Date
Emergency contact info is often a line parents quickly fill out without a second thought, but in the worst case that there ever is an actual emergency, this information will need to be up-to-date. In the weeks leading up to the recital, verify parent or guardian contact info and make sure it’s stored somewhere that’s easily and quickly accessible.
Do a Risk Assessment of the Venue
While you already have an overflowing to-do list to prepare for the recital, you must make time to do a risk assessment of the venue, noted the resource Safe Dance Practice. Tour the venue and note fire exits. You should also familiarize yourself with the venue’s emergency procedures, and alter them to fit the recital set-up if necessary. Record this information and make sure to share it with dancers, parents and all volunteers and studio staff members prior to the event.
Practice Safe Drop-off and Pick-Up Procedures
The nerves are flying before the curtain rises, but some of the most stressful times of a recital are when parents are dropping off and picking up their dancers. When you have a dizzying swarm of dancers coming and going or when you’re distracted by a million things all at once, it can be easy to lose sight of a dancer or not notice who came to get them.
There is software that you can purchase for checking in dancers, if you feel that it would help you organize the process better. Capterra noted that many check-in systems allow multiple ways to identify who is checking in, such as using the last name or phone number, or even a bar code. While software is not necessary, and may be beyond your resources, make sure you get the full name and contact info of the person who is checking in the dancer.
Think about what the best option is for check-out, too. You can have parents come directly to the dressing room during intermission or at the end of the show, or you can have a separate table staffed with volunteers to take the info of the family members picking up. Whatever you choose, make sure you fully brief the parents, dancers and volunteers on the event safety procedures.