Q: Our three-year-old studio has grown very quickly, and we just had to let our office manager go because we have outgrown her skills. She was making critical mistakes on our student accounts. We really need a business manager. Do you have any suggestions on how to find the right person with the right skills to manage our studio and what to pay them?
A: One of the most common mistakes a studio owner can make is to put people into the wrong roles. We suggest that you make a specific list of the tasks and responsibilities and examine where you need help the most. With a clear understanding of the skills and experience necessary, you will be more effective in searching for, screening and hiring the right office/business manager.
At some studios, for instance, the office manager has a clear bookkeeping focus and handles all accounts receivable and payable. Others are also required to have dance knowledge, maintain customer service and deliver studio communications. While it's rare to find a person who can master both scenarios, proficiency in word processing, attention to detail and strong computer/technical skills are paramount.
A good place to begin is to ask for a referral from current parents, teachers or alumni. If through networking you don't find the right person, you could place an ad in your local paper or for free on Craigslist. An employment agency can be useful to pre-screen candidates for secretarial or office management skills, and it can give you the freedom to bring someone in on a trial basis or temp to hire.
Be prepared to pay up to $25 per hour for qualified help, and understand that this will vary based on experience and your location. You may be able to negotiate pay rates if there are benefits or bonuses available.
You may want to consider outsourcing some of the professional services. Your local chamber of commerce has a business directory of members who offer bookkeeping, accounting and small-business services. If you need bookkeeping help specifically, search for a certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor in your area.
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.