Q: My studio is growing quickly. I'd like to bring in someone to take over the majority of teaching and manage the curriculum and performance teams, while I run the business side. What's the best way to do this?
A: Bringing in someone to share the management of your studio is a big decision—one that requires careful vetting of the person before entering into this relationship. There are two ways you could make this happen: by taking on a business partner who has an investment stake, or by hiring an artistic director as an employee.
To take on a business partner would require restructuring your tax and liability responsibilities. We suggest you consult with legal counsel or an accountant for advice. A true partner must be ready to share in both profits and loss and to put their personal assets at risk. And you need to fully reveal the financial health of your studio.
If you don't need a partner to invest capital into the business, we recommend you consider the second approach. If you're generating enough revenue to cover the salary of an artistic director, you can accomplish your goal of teaching less while retaining sole business ownership. Of course, hiring and training an AD isn't completely risk-free—you open the door to a possible studio split in the future; the person could leave at any time—but the benefits may be worth the risk. It's possible, too, that this person will, over time, reveal a commitment and interest in becoming invested, both financially and emotionally, in the overall success of the business.
Kathy Blake (Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, NH) and Suzanne Blake Gerety co-founded DanceStudioOwner.com.