Studio Owners

Are You Making These 5 Mistakes With Your Studio? They Could Be Holding You Back

Thinkstock

Running a studio can be a major juggling act. You have to stay on top of the big things, like paying rent on time and chasing after delinquent payments, and track the details, like replacing that blinking lightbulb and sending out a snowstorm alert. No surprise, then, that a few things slip through the cracks—costing you money or students. Here, some savvy studio owners talk about five common but often unnoticed mistakes, and what to do about them. Pay attention to these, and you'll find yourself with more time, clients and revenue on your hands.


1. Letting e-mail become a time sink

Are you this woman when you check your inbox?

Are you checking it constantly? Feel overwhelmed with responding to queries, often from parents, about subjects you've already gone over or regularly update on your studio's website? Just For Kix executive director Cindy Clough has a solution. For the first half of the day, she only checks her e-mail in the early morning and once again before lunch. "Constantly checking it interrupts my creative plans and takes me off in a different direction," she says. She actively encourages parents to be self-sufficient, reminding them to always check the website first for answers, rather than shooting her an e-mail. With the high school dance team she coaches, Clough asks parents to check with their daughters first to find answers, or with fellow parents. "I ask them to save my time for their more important questions—if their child has an injury or illness, or [is dealing with a] divorce," she says. "What time practice is or the bus leaves, they can find out from each other."

Keep in mind: You don't want your e-mail to build up. Clough challenges herself to "touch things once": When she opens an e-mail that requires a decision—making a donation, deciding on a date—she tackles it immediately. "If you open it but don't respond," she says, "you just have to read it again later, and that's wasting time."

2. Using online registration as a crutch

Sometimes people want more than an online interaction—they want real, live people to direct them.

If you offer registration via your studio website, make sure you aren't losing clients by neglecting in-person registration. One day Kathy Morrow, director of Dance Du Coeur in Sugar Land, Texas, overheard a front desk staffer directing a new client to the studio's website to register, rather than offering to do it over the phone. "I thought, 'You had a fish on the hook—why didn't you walk them through it?'" she says. "I felt we'd lost the personal touch we started with. When you register, there are a lot of boxes to check off. Some people want to pay with a check, some to link to a credit card. We can make it easier by answering any questions directly."

Keep in mind: "Customer service is the most important thing we deliver to people," says Morrow. "I want people's first experience with us to be nice and easy, to start a conversation and get to know them." Emphasize to potential clients that your studio offers several ways to register. At Dance Du Coeur, parents can do it over the phone, via the website or even by coming into the studio and using a computer there, which has been set up for clients to create an account and log in.

3. Allowing credit card fees to eat away at profits

Ever wish you could do this to your studio parents' credit cards?

Three years ago, studio owner Misty Lown started noticing that the competitions she registered her students for had begun adding an extra fee if she paid with a credit card. After confirming that this trend existed in several other local businesses—her nail salon, for instance—Lown began adding a 3.5 percent fee to tuition payments if parents paid with a credit card, to cover the bank fees. Since implementing this fee at her Onalaska, Wisconsin, studio, Misty's Dance Unlimited, Lown has seen very little push-back from parents. A bonus: Payment delinquency has virtually disappeared. Now parents like to pay before the due date with cash or a check to avoid the merchant processing fee that would be added if payment went through on their on-file credit card.

Keep in mind: Check your state laws to see if adding a fee is legal where you're located. Currently, 10 states (including California and New York) don't allow merchants to add one. Also, look for ways to address credit card fees that don't feel like punishment to your clients: If these fees are a significant cost for your business, consider folding them into your tuition prices studiowide. And always give clients options. "People can pay with the card we have on file, or we can deduct the amount directly from their bank account at no extra cost," says Lown. "Or they can come in and pay in advance with cash or a check. [Studio owners] who get push-back on changes are the ones who lay it down like law. We come at it with a service approach."

4. Letting leftover recital programs gather dust

Don't be this kid. (And don't let your recital program be this thick, either.)

Do you have boxes of leftover recital programs sitting in your office or basement? Put them to good use. At Create Dance Center in Massapequa, New York, Elizabeth Swansen includes leftover recital books in her studio's recital packets the following year. "That way, people can see what business and personal ads look like," she says. "We keep a few up in the lobby, too, since the kids like to look through them." Last year, Swansen hung old framed recital program covers on a studio wall as a fun, through-the-years display. Studio owner Doreen Rafferty gives her leftover Academy of Dance Arts books to dancewear stores in her Brookfield, Connecticut, area. Shoppers love to thumb through the books while they wait. "It's free advertising," says Rafferty.

Keep in mind: Avoid the issue altogether by ordering an accurate number of program books at recital time. Compare your numbers from previous years. "Knowing an approximate ticket sales number before printing programs," says Rafferty, "can make estimating easier."

5. Not delegating

Have you heard yourself say, once too often, "If I want it done right, I have to do it myself"? Overextending yourself because of perfectionism or a misguided need to control can be counterproductive. By creating choreography, teaching, bookkeeping, cleaning, making phone calls, typesetting, doing payroll, mailings and ordering, you could be leaving no time for the very things that will create your best business. Lown decided to delegate all the teaching at her studio. "Giving up teaching was super-hard," she says, "but it's the best decision I ever made. Whenever I was teaching, it meant I never saw the other five classrooms that were operating during that time. Now I can rotate my time checking on classrooms and interacting with students."

Keep in mind: Take the time to honestly assess what you're best at and what you struggle with. Lown knew she was a good teacher and a competent choreographer, but she really shined when it came to business strategy, coaching teachers and creating programs. "If I don't delegate most of the teaching and choreography," she says, "I won't have any time for the things I am uniquely gifted to do."

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Kyle Froman

Darla Hoover was at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet's studios running a rehearsal in 2014 with director Marcia Dale Weary. Hoover had just returned the day before from staging a ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Jet-lagged, she mixed up her words when giving a correction.

Weary took Hoover's hand and gently said, "Honey, you work too hard."

Hoover, and the students, had a good laugh.

"Are you kidding me?" Hoover replied. "You're the one who made this monster. There is no off switch!"

Weary founded CPYB in 1955, and it quickly became an internationally known school that has produced countless principal dancers. Famous for her high standards and tough work ethic, Weary instilled those qualities in Hoover, who served as associate artistic director at CPYB under Weary, as artistic director at Ballet Academy East's pre-professional division in New York City and as a répétiteur for the Balanchine Trust.

Hoover took over as artistic director at CPYB in the spring this year after Weary died suddenly, and while she's committed to continuing Weary's legacy, students have begun to see some of Hoover's vision as well.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix, has been called the Queen of Fundraising by colleagues. A studio owner and high school dance coach with over four decades of experience, Clough is known for her smart and successful fundraising ideas.

Now, Just For Kix has created a new online tool to help everyone tackle their fundraising goals, whether you're raising money for uniforms, extra classes, or to cover the cost of travel for your dance team's next convention.

Clough shared a few of her best fundraising tips, including everything you need to know about the new tool:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Professions across the globe hold yearly conferences, and the dance industry is certainly no exception. Annual conferences exist for dance teachers, dance medicine professionals, dance educators and more. Taking the time out to attend them can be well worth your while for a number of different reasons. Let's take a closer look at four of them.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Father-daughter dance. Photo by Lisa Lee, courtesy of Dance Academy USA

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: How do you approach gender when teaching in 2019? When I was training, male dancers were encouraged to make their movement masculine, while female dancers were encouraged to keep their movement feminine. Today, gender has become much more fluid, and the line between masculine and feminine performance has blurred. How does that impact the way we should be teaching?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Photo courtesy of Z Artists Group

New York City–based pre-professional training troupe Z Artists Group, along with dancers from eight professional companies in the city, are joining together to combat gun violence with, "DANCERS DEMAND ACTION," a performance aligning art with activism at The Joyce Theater, this Monday, November 11, at 7:30 pm.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Infinite Flow

Last week, 2019 DT Awardee Marisa Hamamoto and her partner Piotr Iwanicki brought their boundary-breaking work to the "Good Morning America" stage in a segment highlighting her inclusive dance company Infinite Flow.

Infinite Flow is a Los Angeles–based wheelchair ballroom dance company (the first of its kind in the U.S.) that incorporates an equal number of disabled and nondisabled dancers, as well as a range of styles like hip hop, contemporary and other partner dances.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending

Since she was hired in 2006 to create a dance program at Washington & Lee University in Virginia, Jenefer Davies has operated as, essentially, a one-woman show. She's the only full-time faculty member (with regular adjunct support). Over the last 13 years, she has created a thriving program along with a performance company—at a school with fewer than 2,500 students—by drawing on her admittedly rare strength: aerial dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network

Savion Glover is one of the biggest names in the dance world, and perhaps the biggest in the tap world. The trailblazing hoofer's hard-hitting, rhythmically intricate style has fundamentally altered the tap landscape.

Glover is also a master teacher. But during his many years on the scene, he's never appeared regularly at a major dance convention. That is, until this season: Glover is now teaching at JUMP Dance Convention, scheduled to appear at approximately 15 more cities on its 2019–2020 tour.

We talked with JUMP director Mike Minery, himself a gifted hoofer, about working with a living legend—and how Glover is already changing the convention class game.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Though she loved choreographing, the high school student showcase wasn't quite enough for Julie Deleger, a recent graduate of The College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. The answer for her was an independent-study project during her last semester there. "Choreography is so personal that sometimes you need to take more or less time with it," she says. "Doing it on my own was really helpful. I let the project guide me rather than having to adhere to a specific set of rules."

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Getty Images

Q: My 5-year-old daughter is pigeon-toed. Do you have any suggestions to help her correct this?

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox