Q: I want to make an opening speech at my recital to encourage studio spirit and pride, since it's definitely lacking at my studio. What can I say without making it sound like a commercial?

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Q: Can you share the best way to word tuition policy? I charge monthly, but when December comes, parents don't want to pay for the weeks we're off. I want to make it clear they're paying for X amount of total lessons divided by 10 months.

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Q: How do you attract students age 8 and up? Ours are mainly homegrown. A few trickle in from other studios, but it's just not enough.

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Q: What's your follow-up process for enrolling potential new students? I need an efficient system so that I can easily see where we're at and determine who needs a further follow-up.

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Q: Do you use a referral program? How do you structure it?

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Q: I recently added a requirement in my dance team contract for parents to help out with one act of a recital performance. Some are upset. They say, "We pay so much money, all year long, to finally see our kids dance in the recital." How do I respond? Without their help, I'll have to cut competition dances from the shows.

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Q: How can I build my studio up if the location where I started my business is not a good one?

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Business

How do you deal with parents who owe you a significant amount of money but won’t communicate? I never see them, since they just drop their child off. I don’t want to embarrass my student.

When a parent or guardian of a minor child registers their dancer—whether online or in person—they should be required to accept your payment policy terms. This should include details about late charges or consequences, such as: “After 60 days, the student will not be allowed in class, unless payment arrangements have been made.”

The longer a balance is left unpaid, the harder it is to collect—especially when a student has been allowed to participate in classes past the time limit in your stated policy for accounts overdue. The parents’ unwillingness to communicate requires that you take a different course of action. If multiple phone calls and e-mails go unacknowledged, send your communication by mail—certified mail, to confirm receipt.

While refusing to allow a student into class can seem drastic, it is often what elicits a response from the parents. If parents are having financial issues, they may be embarrassed, frustrated or unsure how to approach you with this concern. In this case, you may want to discuss a payment plan option with the family.

Accepting debit/credit cards as a payment method has significantly reduced our past-due accounts. In the future, require all students to provide a backup method of payment.

Our personal connection to our students can make these types of conversations uncomfortable, but learning to run a business and hold people accountable financially is important for the future success of your studio.

Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.

Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety

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