Q: A student has started taking a ballet class at another local studio because our schedule doesn’t work for her. She is still taking her other classes at my studio, but I am afraid of losing her completely. I’ve heard of other studios forbidding students to train elsewhere. What should I do?
A: While it can be upsetting to hear that a student has started taking additional classes at another studio, it’s important to remember that people have the freedom to do business with you or not. It is reasonable to establish guidelines for participation in elite programs where dancers represent your studio at performances or competitions. So, you may have a requirement in your dance team agreement or contract stating that dancers must train exclusively, or at least for the majority of their classes, at your studio in order to participate in events. But requiring them to agree upon registration to not take classes at any other studio, in our opinion, does more to harm your reputation than secure student loyalty. In most cases, this is a poor business practice. Noncompete agreements are generally enforceable only in an employee/employer relationship.
Instead, strive to expand class offerings, yet understand that it is nearly impossible to fulfill every dancer’s needs. You can satisfy concerns regarding levels offered and scheduling conflicts by hosting master classes with guest teachers or hiring adjunct faculty members for specialty classes or private lessons. Expand students’ training by bringing them to workshops or conventions that both inspire and educate them in ways that go beyond your weekly classes.
Kathy Blake owns Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, NH. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.