Q: For 30 years we have always paid hourly rates for our teachers. Currently we are losing them to other studios that offer full-time positions plus benefits. What’s the process for creating full-time teaching positions at my studio?
A: The U.S. Department of Labor does not define full-time or part-time employment and states that benefits are a matter of agreement between employer and employee. We recommend that you consult with a small-business accountant, or a payroll service company such as ADP or Paychex, about the feasibility and possible tax advantages of providing health and disability insurance and setting up a 401(k) plan. You’ll also want to be sure you comply with Internal Revenue Service criteria for determining whether your teachers—either full-time or part-time—should be paid as employees or independent contractors.
Many dance studio owners lack the consistent cash flow to support year-round pay and benefits, but there are creative ways to encourage loyalty. You might consider, for example, paying for outside training, offering discounted classes for family members and providing income opportunities through extra choreography, private lessons, birthday parties or special events. A bonus paid at the holidays or recital season can keep teachers happy, and establishing a commission based on class enrollment (in addition to their regular hourly rate) will inspire them to fill their classes. Stipends for extra time spent at competitions, recitals and rehearsals are another way to show you value the time of your faculty.
For the faculty still with you, we suggest you meet to evaluate both the areas of discontent and satisfaction they may have with your current pay structure. Although you may not be able to accommodate every request, your staff will know that their voices matter. Taking into account their perspectives, you can confidently take action to establish the positions, pay and benefits that work best for your business. For more information:
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: Suzanne Blake Gerety and Kathy Blake (by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety)