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Tag: studio management

Independence Day, Lobby Edition

row of empty blue chairs against a white and red background

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:

Chasta Hamilton is the Founder/CEO of Stage Door Dance Productions in Raleigh, NC, and the Founder/President of the non-profit Girls Geared for Greatness. She authored the best-selling book Trash The Trophies: How to Win Without Losing Your Soul and continued sharing her story in her TEDx talk “You Weren’t Built to Break.” She loves sharing what she’s learned while empowering other studio owners to pursue truth, purpose, and passion in their unique journeys.

Follow Chasta on Instagram at @chastahamilton and connect with her online at www.chastahamilton.com.

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Rocking Your Recital Dance Exec TutuTix

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Five Reasons Why I’m Opting Out of the “Done Club”

hand holding pen over pink card with the word "Done"

The Done Club.

Around May or June, if you’re in the dance industry, this phrase starts popping up on social media with the frequency of 2014’s Ice Bucket Challenge. But, for us, it happens like clockwork, every single year.

“Made it to the Done Club!”

“Meet the newest member of the Done Club!”

The “Done Club” represents the conclusion of the annual dance recital, a huge benchmark and a capstone to a dance studio’s annual dance season.

But, where did the phrase “the Done Club” originate? And what made people subscribe to it?

There’s nobody in business that is okay with just being done. You don’t see retailers stopping their hustle after a busy holiday season. You didn’t see Apple declaring themselves as in the “Done Club” with the release of the original iPhone. Yes, we all have big benchmarks, but these are stepping stones to our next greatest accomplishment. There’s nothing “done” about it.

Here are five reasons to shift your philosophy:

1) Your Recital Lays the Foundation for Your Future Success. Instead of winding down after your recital, I encourage you to rev up. Synthesize that energy into actualized goals.

2) Don’t Risk Losing Your Visibility. The recital is a powerful memory for your studio’s community. Don’t ghost your community once it is done. Continue the celebration via social media, emails, and programming.

3) Balance Your Budget. Check the profit-loss of your shows, events, and programming. If you do not know where you stand budget-wise, you have even bigger problems.

4) Innovate. Analyze what worked in your season, what didn’t, what could be improved, what should stay the same, and what should change. Then, make it happen.

5) We Deserve Respect and Reputability. For too long, dance education institutions have been seen as hobby businesses. As a female-dominated industry, we have the capability to shift that narrative, and now is the perfect time to make it happen.

Instead of the Done Club, I’ll be joining the Get It Done Club.

Consider joining me.


Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:

Chasta Hamilton is the Founder/CEO of Stage Door Dance Productions in Raleigh, NC, and the Founder/President of the non-profit Girls Geared for Greatness. She authored the best-selling book Trash The Trophies: How to Win Without Losing Your Soul and continued sharing her story in her TEDx talk “You Weren’t Built to Break.” She loves sharing what she’s learned while empowering other studio owners to pursue truth, purpose, and passion in their unique journeys.

Follow Chasta on Instagram at @chastahamilton and connect with her online at www.chastahamilton.com.

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Resurrecting Your Recital, Part I: De-Escalation

Girls in tutus backstage

Recitals are back, baby! If you’re like me, you feel nothing but excitement for that familiar dusty, wooden smell of a theater.

Before you jump to the celebration, take some time to think about these five important tips for de-escalating stress and conflict.

1) This isn’t 2019.
Keep in mind this is a different world from 2019. We are still emerging from the pandemic, and people can be overwhelmed and stressed by the emergence of events and expectations. Be gentle with their questions, concerns, and anxieties.

2) Communicate.

Right now, you can’t communicate enough.

  • Create information hubs
  • Take it back to the basics
  • Make it easy to understand
  • Keep the information accessible
  • Make sure you’re hitting communication impressions in a variety of ways (e.g., email, social media, in-person)

3) Set Detailed Expectations.
Whatever you expect of someone right now, you need to communicate it in advance with clear, concrete, and tangible expectations and deadlines. If there are consequences for not complying, provide those details as well. Even if the expectation formerly existed, take time to re-establish these boundaries to avoid confusion and frustration.

4) Take the Lead.
People will follow your energy. If you are frazzled, stressed, and constantly complaining, your community will follow suit. Lead with love, and your community will do the same.

5) Be Present.
Your greatest tool for de-escalation is listening and addressing concerns in a timely manner. Whether involving clients or staff, do not allow your leadership fatigue to default to avoidance. Once you hear about the concerns, you can collaboratively and productively move forward.

Looking for engaging ways to get recitals back up and running? Check out Resurrecting Your Recital Part II: Reviving the Excitement!


Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:

Chasta Hamilton is the Founder/CEO of Stage Door Dance Productions in Raleigh, NC, and the Founder/President of the non-profit Girls Geared for Greatness. She authored the best-selling book Trash The Trophies: How to Win Without Losing Your Soul and continued sharing her story in her TEDx talk “You Weren’t Built to Break.” She loves sharing what she’s learned while empowering other studio owners to pursue truth, purpose, and passion in their unique journeys.

Follow Chasta on Instagram at @chastahamilton and connect with her online at www.chastahamilton.com.

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Resurrecting Your Recital, Part II: Reviving the Excitement!

children in tutus dancing on stage

Recitals are back, baby! While you may be bubbling with excitement for show days, others may need a reminder about WHY this is an exciting time.

Here are five ways to build the hype within your community, so everyone can share in the fun and celebration!

1) Make It Educational and Informative.

How can you turn your recital routines into engaging conversation points?

Maybe you’re discussing the music selection, the choreography inspiration, or the rationale behind the theme or choreography concept.

The more you can make the routine experience bigger than the dancers’ time within the studio, the more meaningful students will feel towards their performance.

2) Get the Parents Involved.

The strongest extracurricular programs celebrate the trifecta of parent, participant, and instructor.

To boost parent engagement:

  • Share the music link
  • Share a home practice video
  • Invite them to an in-studio sneak peek prior to the big performance day (this is a great way to distribute key information as well)

3) Keep the Stress to a Minimum.

Has something historically been high stress about your shows (e.g., ticketing, seating, backstage, or merchandise orders)?

Think of ways to make things as easy and fun as possible.

4) Embrace the Theme.

How can you infuse the excitement of the show into your studio’s culture?

  • Decorate the building
  • Discuss the benefits of performance
  • Celebrate the accomplishment!

5) Be Generous with Praise.

We’ve waited a long time for performances to return! Even if there are bumps and hiccups, don’t forget how important it is to spread joy through the process of performing. When dancers feel good about their performance, they’ll want to do it again. This is a win-win for our dance studios!

Looking for ways to keep things cool this recital season? Check out Resurrecting Your Recital Part I: De-Escalation.


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, and the Founder/President of the non-profit Girls Geared for Greatness. She authored the best-selling book Trash The Trophies: How to Win Without Losing Your Soul and continued sharing her story in her TEDx talk “You Weren’t Built to Break.” She loves sharing what she’s learned while empowering other studio owners to pursue truth, purpose, and passion in their unique journeys.

Follow Chasta on Instagram at @chastahamilton and connect with her online at www.chastahamilton.com.

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F@!* and Other Four-Letter Words to Remember this Recital Season

Woman with hand covering her mouth

It’s the most wonderfully crazy time of the year: Recital Season! While we may not fully be “post-pandemic,” we are most certainly entering the most normal performance season we’ve had since 2019. Entering this new normal means that we can make adjustments to better serve our shows, our businesses, and our clients. 

And, while you may think these four-letter words are reserved for the shipping delays, the one size of a costume you desperately need but can’t find, the client that asks you in May to remind them of the recital date, or the venue that “forgets” to send the contract, they’re actually four-letter words designed to better serve YOU. 

FREE

Free is a word that needs to be eliminated from your vocabulary.

Free essentially equates to a cost to the company. 

If you added up your giveaways, ranging from complimentary tickets to t-shirts to swag, you’d probably be amazed at the amount of revenue you are missing out on. Just like lines are important on stage, your line items on your expense sheets are of equal importance. Don’t throw away unnecessary dollars!

PACK

Packs are bundles that are inclusive of multiple things: tickets, media, t-shirts, souvenirs, and so on. If you create a recital pack, it is SUPER important to itemize it out and make sure you aren’t tiptoeing into the “free zone.” 

There should still be a solid profit margin. 

COST

If you are selling “at cost,” you are operating at a loss. 

When pricing items, take into consideration the time required to strategize, collect, process, sort, and deliver orders. You should be charging enough to cover that amount of time and still earn a profit.

SELL

Make sure people understand what you’re selling (the recital and all of its components) and why it matters. The year-end performance is a HUGE event that will make a memorable impression on your clients, and you don’t want anyone to feel confused, uninvolved, or excluded. 

Clarify the fees, communicate upcoming happenings and deadlines, show them examples of what they can expect, and generate excitement that will result in people wanting to buy into the experience. 

Your attitude is an incredible sales tool! If you’re stressed, your clients will sense that stress. If you’re excited and sharing the GOOD about the process and all of the things you offer, they’ll get on board, too. 

HELP

Year-end performances are huge undertakings that require an extreme amount of time, preparation, and detailed processes. While you’re busy helping everyone around you, don’t forget to help yourself! 

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute
  2. Put processes in place and delegate 
  3. Surround yourself with great vendors that support you in achieving your goals 

Apply these tips, and you’ll walk away from your performances with only two four-letter words left in your mind: EPIC BOSS


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, and the Founder/President of the non-profit Girls Geared for Greatness. She authored the best-selling book Trash The Trophies: How to Win Without Losing Your Soul and continued sharing her story in her TEDx talk “You Weren’t Built to Break.” She loves sharing what she’s learned while empowering other studio owners to pursue truth, purpose, and passion in their unique journeys.

Follow Chasta on Instagram at @chastahamilton and connect with her online at www.chastahamilton.com.

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A State of Grace: Balancing the New Normal

Woman in pink meditating

As we all finish our show seasons, we might have allowed ourselves a second of celebration before the reality of the challenges ahead fully set in.

While we are closing the chapter of the people that stood by us and cheered us on throughout an entire season of the pandemic, we are now facing the next phase of this weird grey space of normalization. 

And, as a business, it is TOUGH. 

If you are feeling tired, burned out, exhausted, or questioning your ability to operate in this environment, you aren’t alone. 

Frustrated woman on computer

 

In addition to recouping a year and a half of lower enrollment numbers and lost revenue, there are also the following internal business hurdles:

At the same time, on the consumer front, we are seeing heightened expectations as clients re-integrate into the extracurricular market. 

There’s also an increasing intensity surrounding the best way to address COVID protocols for children—the primary audience of our target market.  

It’s A LOT. 

Make sure you:

  • Give yourself grace
  • Know that you aren’t alone.
  • Lean into your team. 
  • Vent in safe spaces. 
  • Stay above the anger. 
  • Do wellness and mental health checks. 

Do what YOU need to do for YOU in order to maintain your presence in your business. 


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 summer, her TEDx talk “You Weren’t Built to Break” will debut, combining her passion for performance with the necessity of resilience.

To stay connected, follow her on Instagram at @chastahamilton or @stagedoordanceproductions or via her website www.chastahamilton.com. TutuTix Logo
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Ring in that Summer Cha-Ching: Ways to Keep the Revenue Rolling During the “Off Season”

girl dancing in summer

 

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. 

 

house with opportunities

 

Below are some DOs and DON’Ts to help you rock your summer months! 

DO:

  • 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.

DON’T:

  • 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. 

Follow Chasta on Instagram at @chastahamilton or @stagedoordanceproductions or via her website www.chastahamilton.com.

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Making the Most of Your Minutes: Planning with Purpose

Daily planner with pens and scarf

We all know the song “Seasons of Love” from the musical RENT. It asks, “How do you measure, measure a year?” If you’re like me, many of my minutes in 2020 were measured through processing, applying, and mitigating public health information, applying for grants and funding, and spinning on the hamster wheel of the global pandemic while keeping my small businesses sustainable (hello, anxiety). 

While a light switch isn’t going to make 2021 this immediate, magic wonderland of yesteryear, it gives us the opportunity to move ahead with insight, focus, and control over how we are spending our time and maximizing our productivity to guarantee our success into the next season and beyond! 

INVENTORY YOUR TIME

We are closing out a year unlike any other. Like Elsa says, “the past is in the past—Let it GOOOOOOOO.” Whether you’re guilty of too much doom scrolling or simply feel paralyzed in the unpredictability of each moment, it is important to know how you are spending your time. 

Time is your most valuable resource. 

This is one of my favorite productivity exercises, which can also be shared with your staff and team. 

  • Pick a day and set up a table in 15-minute increments. 
  • Document the way you spend each 15-minute segment. 
  • Review how you’re spending your time and consider ways you may be misusing your time (aka “trim the fat”). 

MAKE A PLAN

It only takes 21 days to form a habit. Once your time inventory is complete, honestly ask yourself:

  • Is this time well-spent
  • Does this make me feel good
  • Could this be delegated
  • Am I using my time in a way that motivates my personal and professional goal forward? 

For items that need to be extracted from your daily routine, take action (this includes micromanaging, which is easy to revert to during a crisis). Lock your phone in a timed jar, set an intentional schedule for multitasking, and set aside time to make sure you are healthily recharging and energizing. Do what needs to be done to get YOU back on track. 

STICK TO IT 

Frequently revisit the way you are spending your minutes. This way, you’ll make sure you aren’t falling prey to former bad habits. If you find yourself feeling guilty that you’ve missed a journal entry or haven’t read as much as you’d like (I’m talking about myself here), make the moves to get it done. 

  • Write it down: Keep your schedule in a planner, digital or electronic, and track your time. 
  • Have an accountability buddy: Pick a team member or friend to help hold you accountable. 
  • Celebrate: When you successfully acknowledge and make small changes, they can have a huge impact. Acknowledge them! 

Remember, more minutes = more you can accomplish! As you move through 2021, this will be important as we continue to regain momentum and rebuild. 


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. Her upcoming seminar on January 17, 2021, Disruption by Design: Meaningful Change to Maximize Impact in Your Dance Studio, is a must-attend for studio owners.

Follow Chasta on Instagram at @chastahamilton or @stagedoordanceproductions or via her website www.chastahamilton.com. TutuTix Logo

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3 Ways to Address Bullying

3 Ways to Address Bullying in Your Dance Studio - Misty Lown & TutuTix

In my experience coaching dance studio owners, the word bullying can paralyze even the most experienced entrepreneur. It’s a word that means there is a serious cause for concern, and it’s a word that is sometimes mistakenly used when conflict would be a better choice. To say the least, knowing how to define and address bullying in the dance studio environment can be a challenge.

As a business owner who serves families and children, your first priority is to keep them safe within your walls. True bullying must be taken seriously and handled swiftly, and it’s important to educate your clientele and your staff about what that means. One such way we are handling this at Misty’s Dance Unlimited is by becoming YPAD (Youth Protection Advocates in Dance) Certified. Our staff has completed the YPAD online education coursework in order to become more knowledgeable about bullying and other harmful behaviors. We have implemented new policies around bullying to show our clients that we are invested in keeping their kids safe, happy, and healthy.

Through this education, and through my own experience over the past two decades, I’ve developed a few clear ways of addressing bullying at my studio. I encourage you to keep reading to learn more about my 3 Ways to Address Bullying and build your confidence in developing a studio culture that minimizes issues with bullying.

Here are my 3 Ways to Address Bullying:


    1. Decide what type of meeting it will be

Clarity is key for successful meetings! Make sure your team knows what type of meeting they are stepping into, and set the expectation that the meeting will be focused on specific outcomes related to that type—off-topic questions or conversations will be saved for another time. Here are some common meeting types you may be using (or will want to implement):

  • Status Check

Use these meetings to brief the team on projects you are working on, or to check in with them on the status of their projects. Status check meetings should serve as task-oriented progress reports, where everyone contributes to discuss their specific responsibilities.

  • Problem-Solving

The problem-solving meeting is centered around brainstorming new ideas on how to approach a specific issue, or related issues, the studio is facing. These meetings will probably be centered around finding the best resolution, or at the very least, innovating solutions that can be explored further.

  • Vision-Casting

Setting studio-wide goals and expectations are the two pillars of a visionary type of meeting. This is likely to be a meeting led by you or someone on your leadership team, to set the tone of the season, the semester, or the month ahead. Also, remember that casting the vision for your team means this type of meeting is usually the most motivational!

2. Know who needs to attend and why

Not every meeting is for every staff member. For example, you may have meetings that are better suited for your leadership team only or meetings that are strictly for administrative personnel. Or perhaps your teachers need their own classroom-focused meeting once every quarter. Dial into the needs of your team by making sure each meeting has a defined purpose and no one’s time is wasted.

One great way to do this is by taking the time to personally invite team members to a meeting and giving them advance notice of the topic at hand.  There may be times where you also ask them to bring ideas to share. Explain how much listening, note-taking, or contributing they should expect. Doing this allows meetings to feel less like an obligation, and more of an opportunity to connect.

3. Be prepared—and be prepared to improvise

Go into every meeting with an agenda, and expect to improvise off of it as needed. I’ve learned that when I’m in charge of a meeting, I do my best when I’m clear about the main points that need to be discussed. If I’m not clear, nobody is clear.

If you have members of your team who also lead meetings, talk to them about developing this skill too. Consistency and organization among staff, no matter who is setting the meeting, shows that meetings are not taken lightly and will be used to enhance everyone’s productivity.

Don’t underestimate the value of a great staff meeting! With some fine-tuned planning and a little extra attention to detail, your team can gain a whole new appreciation for what a A+ meeting can be like.

I hope that your studio can benefit from these tips and turn meetings into a source of respectful relationship-building and enhanced focus at work. And if there something else YOU do with your meetings to make them successful, please share your advice in the comments. I’d love to hear what serves you well when it comes to meetings—and maybe try it out myself!

 

Looking for more great ideas to help address bullying in your studio? Check out the following articles:

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

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5 Tips for Taking Action on Your Goals

Goals

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.


  1. 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.
  1. 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.  
  1. 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!
  1. 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:

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

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4 Leadership Skills Every Studio Owner Needs

4 Leadership Skills Every Studio Owner Needs

Leadership is at the heart of everything we do as studio owners. When you chose this journey of entrepreneurship, you chose to stand up in front of others and say, “Here is my vision, and here’s why you want to be a part of it.” When you opened your doors, you did so in part because you wanted to bring your passion for dance and business to others…you wanted to lead them!

To me, leadership at the studio has to do with service, values, and heart. There are business owners out there who think leadership is just about being someone’s boss, but I think that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your calling as a studio owner has more to do with lifting others up and coaching them to success, not bossing them around. Whether it’s your students or your staff, they’re looking to you for education, inspiration, and growth.

As a studio owner, you are in a unique position to influence many different populations, from young children to teens, and from parents to employees. Honing your leadership skills allows you to serve each group with your highest, best work … and allows you to raise up other leaders!

 

Here are the 4 Leadership Skills Every Studio Owner Needs:

 

  1. 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.
           
  1. 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.  
 
  1. 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!
 
  1. 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 tips on building up leadership skills? Check out the following articles:

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6 Best Practices for Interviewing Job Candidates

6 Best Practices for Interviewing Job Candidates

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:


  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 …”

  1. 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.

  1. 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:

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3 Keys to High-Level Customer Service

Customer Service

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:


  1. 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

 

  1. 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.
  1. 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:

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5 Ways to Build a Strong Studio Culture

Studio Culture

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:

  1. Start with yourself and your “why”
Because you are the owner of the business, the culture starts with you. Take a moment to think about why you started (or acquired) the studio in the first place. Was it to nurture young talent? Provide a safe space for learning? Offer a unique perspective in the marketplace?  Build confidence and leadership in children? Write down some of the values you hold as a studio owner, that come from your why. Think about what’s important to the vision you have!
  1. Next, involve your staff
Although building a strong culture starts with you, it isn’t a solo act.  You want (and need) your employees to feel strongly about the same values so they can serve your dance families with those qualities in mind. Present your why to your team, and discuss with them which of those values are most important. Listen to their feedback and open up the conversation to understand their “why” too. Use this time to settle on the values that will drive your studio forward in the coming months and years.

 

  1. Demonstrate the culture out loud
Reflect your studio’s values everywhere in your actions: claim them in your marketing pieces, display them on the wall, discuss them on social media. Create a buzz around the ideas and then demonstrate your follow-through. For example, if growing leadership is important to your culture, don’t just talk about it … expand your class assistant program or develop an internship course. Make it a normal part of your studio world!
  1. Use your values in the classroom
Building a strong culture means that your students are exposed to it even from a young age. Incorporate values-driven language and behavior expectations in the classroom, such as agreeing that “we always try our best” because developing a work ethic is an essential value to your studio culture. As younger dancers grow up at your school, this culture will simply become what they already expect of themselves and others.

 

  1. Think of it as an ongoing development, not a destination
Business culture isn’t something you build and then it’s just there forever. To me, it’s more like a garden that needs cultivating, and it requires some patience. Sometimes the weeds need to be pulled, and sometimes the blooms are magnificent! But it always needs attention so that it can flourish.

The special care you give your culture will positively impact everyone at your studio, from your staff to your students to their parents. I hope you’ll consider using these steps to establish or renew the values your culture depends on! Ask yourself: if not now, when? There’s no time like the present to prioritize this important work.Tell me in the comments what you love best about your studio’s culture, or what shifts you are making to improve it. I believe we can all learn from each other’s experiences and build our studio’s culture to be stronger than ever!

Looking for more great ideas to help you build your studio’s culture? Check out the following articles:

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7 Dos & Don’ts for Staff Performance Reviews

Performance Reviews

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:

 


  1. Do come prepared … and allow your employees to prepare too
When scheduling a performance review, be sure to set aside some time to make some notes for yourself of the main points you want to discuss.  If your process is formal, prepare the ratings/scores and comments to share with your team member. Remind them of the items that you’ll be reviewing together so that they too can spend time preparing to discuss those specific outcomes.

 

  1. Do start with the positives
Lead the meeting by complimenting some of the employee’s strengths.  Refer to behaviors you have personally observed and offer praise for what you specifically noticed.  Don’t offer compliments just because you think you should; really mean what you say!

 

  1. Don’t dominate the conversation
Make a point to really listen when your team member responds to a question you’ve asked or a critique you’ve given.  Take notes if it helps! Active listening will allow you to ensure they feel heard and will give you the space to acknowledge their point of view.  You are building trust with them as you make room for their voice to be heard.

  1. Do offer clear feedback
As you can tell, I think there’s plenty of room in a performance review for high-fives and pats on the back!  But remember that the main goal is to communicate effectively about the areas where your employee can improve their work.  If you’re not specific about what you expect to change, you’re doing a disservice to yourself, the employee, and by association, to everyone on your team.

 

  1. Don’t forget to ask for feedback
While a traditional performance review is designed to give the employee feedback, I encourage you to ask for feedback too.  Find out if your employee has suggestions for an improved experience with team communications, staff meetings, with your leadership practices, or other areas of the business.

 

  1. Don’t take too much time
Performance reviews can be nerve-wracking for your employees and for you, so it’s important to use your time wisely.  Sketch out a simple agenda beforehand but be ready to adjust from it as needed. Being respectful of your employee’s time is another way to build confidence in your trustworthiness as a leader. We shoot for twenty minutes.

 

  1. Do allow for follow-up
It’s not realistic to expect that one personal conversation will be all it takes to move forward from a performance review.  Experience has taught me that although the conversation itself is an extremely valuable tool, the communication doesn’t stop there!  Be willing to circle back to some of the same topics after resetting expectations, offering suggestions, and listening to feedback.

Remember that conducting performance reviews can serve as a critical tool in advancing your team through the season and for this reason, shouldn’t be overlooked.  I encourage you to combine these Dos & Don’ts with your current system to create a winning formula for your studio! I hope you’ll share in the comments below what helps YOU most when preparing and managing your performance reviews, so we can all learn from each other.

Looking for more great ideas to help you manage an awesome team? Check out the following articles:

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

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