Studio Business: 3 Ways to Make Your Summer Break Count

By the time your year-end recital is over, you’re likely to be dreaming of a months-long cruise to the Bahamas, without so much as a sequin to remind you of your studio. Yet we all know how important it is to make your summer vacation count. So take a well-deserved break, but after that, consider how you can best use your summer time.

We asked several studio owners for summer project ideas. Here are some changes they made that paid off in the fall. 

 

Bye-Bye, Balances

Who Jennifer Karl, InMotion Dance Studio

Where Tiffin, Ohio

What Switching from cash and check payments to automated billing with studio management software

Why “I was at the point where I was tired of having to call people and say, ‘OK, you owe,’” says Karl. “It felt like it was a good time to do it.”

How Karl was initially nervous to make the switch. “I was worried about how it would go,” she says. The key to a painless changeover, she found, was offering parents options. Besides having a credit card on file, she says, “they can pay through their checking or savings account, and we offer a five percent discount if they pay for the year up front.”

During her fall registration process, Karl had parents fill out a form to provide their checking or savings routing number or credit card information. Then, as she and her staff entered students’ registration into her studio software, she simultaneously entered their automatic payment information.

“We did have a couple of parents who absolutely did not want anything to do with it,” she says. “So I wrote up a contract and had them sign it—if they were one day late on their tuition, then they would have to give me their automatic information. They’ve been on it, so far.”

Karl continues to offer parents the option to pay by cash or check in person, as long as they do so by the fifth of the month. “Once it gets to the seventh, I’m pulling their automatic information and running their card,” she says.

The time she and her staff save by not making weekly phone calls or sending out past-due balance notes makes it a worthy trade-off. “Now the whole process takes just three solid hours of focus,” she says.

Word of advice “Really keep good notes, because once I run the wrong amount, they’re not going to trust me,” says Karl.

#ThatFeelWhen “That first month, after we switched over, I printed off the financial statement, and it was: 0-0-0 owed,” says Karl. “I was blown away.”

 

Get Your Sand On

Who Kacy Voskuil, owner of St. Louis Academy of Dance

Where St. Louis, Missouri

What Stripping and refinishing her wood floors

Why Wood studio floors see a lot of wear and tear, and it’s important to keep your dance surface safe for your students. Voskuil tries to schedule a touch-up job, or recoating, every year during summer break, and a full strip-and-refinish every several years.

How For Voskuil’s two wood-floor studios—40' x 40' and 20' x 35'—the entire process takes about two days. There’s no prep work, other than making sure the floor is free of any tape or freestanding equipment.

Rather than attempting it as a do-it-yourself project, she calls a local company. In order to do an in-house job, an owner would have to take on the cost of materials, training and equipment rental—plus, as Alex Verseman of Missouri Floor Company points out, the risk of getting it right. (At a minimum, he recommends consulting with a floor professional before attempting it on your own.)

Because each facility and floor coating is different, prices can vary from 50 cents to $2 per square foot, according to Verseman, who refinished Voskuil’s floors.

Word of advice Make sure your floor refinishers have dance floor experience, says Randy Swartz of Stagestep Flooring Solutions. It’s important that they realize wood dance floors need to be nonslip and resistant to heavy wear and tear, so an oil or a finish designed for residential or commercial use, or even sports floors, won’t work. “Before committing to any finish or process the professional suggests, try to get a sample and test it,” says Swartz.

#ThatFeelWhen A job well done is a job that lasts: With proper maintenance—no street shoes allowed on the floor—and a solid recoating schedule in place, Verseman says owners can count on eight years between full sand-and-refinishes.

 

Back to (Summer) School

Who Jane Silane and Marilyn Westlake-Nichols, Ballet Arts

Where Emerson, New Jersey

What Completing a continuing education course

Why Silane and Westlake-Nichols wanted to unify their teaching approach and curriculum for the school. Plus, a continuing education course “gives you and your studio credibility,” says Silane.

How They chose to become certified in the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum. ABT offers certification in three different sessions: pre-primary through Level 3; Levels 4 and 5; and Levels 6, 7 and partnering. Sessions, which typically last 6 to 9 days and occur several times throughout the year, in New York City and various other locations. The cost of each session ranges from $1,525 to $1,800. After a straightforward application process, selected trainees spend eight hours each day learning how to teach students to use their bodies correctly, focusing on coordination, anatomy and alignment. At the session’s end, trainees take both a written and an oral exam. Though Westlake-Nichols was nervous about the exams, she felt prepared by the session’s end and passed with flying colors. She’s now certified in pre-primary through Level 3 and will return eventually to become certified up to Level 5. Silane is returning this summer to complete the last session.

Word of advice Clear your schedule. After watching Silane attend classes during the day and return to the studio to teach at night, Westlake-Nichols knew she wouldn’t want distractions during her own training. If your studio isn’t a commutable distance from the training site, invite faculty to accompany you and make a field trip of it.

#ThatFeelWhen Silane and Westlake-Nichols send students to summer programs. They’re gratified to hear other teachers praise their dancers’ knowledge of ballet vocabulary and history. “We know we’re doing something right!” says Westlake-Nichols. DT

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