Is it time to let go so your business can grow?

If you want a job done well, do it yourself. You’d be hard-pressed to find a studio owner who doesn’t voice this opinion—or even adopt it as a mantra. But you’d be just as hard-pressed to find one who isn’t chronically overworked. While it may make sense to bootstrap your business in the beginning—doing your own costume management, competition choreography, booster club organization—eventually all this DIY can hold your business back.

Former Knoxville, Tennessee, studio owner Melanie Baker Niblick found her business growing nicely but still struggled to do her own books. She realized it was time to hire an accountant and instead focus on the aspects of business development that she thrived at, like marketing, public relations and choreography. “It was the best thing I ever did,” she says. “I’d been using my gas on hardcore number-crunching, which I wasn’t good at, and things weren’t getting choreographed.”

Here are just three examples of jobs you’d be smart to outsource because of the extensive and specific knowledge they require: floor installation, specialty genre dance instruction and accounting. But for any task you take on as a studio owner, carefully consider whether your energy would be most profitably spent doing that or something else.

Self-Installation, or Self-Mutilation?

Maybe you’ve done some internet research and think you’ve amassed the know-how to install a brand-new studio floor. Think again: Randy Swartz of Stagestep Flooring Solutions can rattle off enough dance floor pitfalls to make your head spin. Have you accounted for a vapor barrier over concrete slab? Do you know to use deck screws, versus wall screws or nails? Are you aware that you’ll need a hot-wire cutter to cut foam? A studio flooring company’s installation fee (Stagestep charges $3 per square foot) may give studio owners pause, but the potentially disastrous results when you do it yourself can end up costing even more. “I’ve seen floors put in upside down!” says Swartz. “I’ve seen people try to layer a shower curtain liner within the dance floor, to keep water out.”

Swartz cautions against blindly trusting installation tips you find on the web and even the work of professionals who are unfamiliar with dance floor setup. At the very least, “you need to get your materials correct, and you have to understand why you need them,” he explains. “And you’ll need a handyman.”

Even if you go the DIY route, hiring a consultant can get you off on the right foot: Swartz is careful to ask studio owners if they’re leasing the space (which calls for a long-term semi-permanent dance floor that you can install and later remove); what else the space is used for (Is wood or marley a more attractive common space?); and if sound will be a factor (which could require a specialized top floor surface). Such professional queries allow studio owners to invest in a dance floor that is perfectly suited to their unique needs.

Those Who Can’t Teach, Hire Someone Else

Admitting to yourself that you aren’t the most qualified instructor to teach your students a specialized technique can be difficult and humbling, but the benefits your students will reap in return are far-reaching. Meanwhile, your business’ reputation for high-caliber dance training will grow, now that you’ve hired teachers who bring new skills to complement your strengths and fill in the gaps in your own expertise.

When Hannah Power’s Thompson High School dance team members begged her to teach them how to do fouetté turns in second position—a skill she’d never quite mastered herself—she swallowed her pride. She asked another dance team colleague to teach a couple of master classes to go over turn mechanics and signed her team up for nearby workshops with the University of North Dakota’s dance team. Her team members, she is happy to report, are fouetté machines.

If you need to hire an instructor for the long term, Young Dancers in Repertory executive director Craig Gabrian advises choosing someone who not only excels in that particular technique but also can relate to students and add to your business’ brain trust. He seeks teachers who can offer professional dance savvy for his advanced students: “We’re in New York City, and I think there’s a different level of artistry that comes with that,” he says. “Our advanced students need guidance as to what happens when you start working at the professional level.”

Gabrian has brought in other teachers for ballet, hip hop, jazz and theater dance, including a dancer with the Connecticut Ballet who teaches advanced ballet. By seeking top-drawer teachers with professional pedigrees and pedagogy skills, Gabrian has strengthened his business even as he delegates.

Bookkeeping: For the Birds—or Maybe Just Your Accountant

With the array of accounting software out there for studio owners, doing your own bookkeeping is certainly within reach. But you might be surprised to learn how much valuable business intelligence you’re missing out on by not hiring an accountant to go over your books, even if it’s only once a quarter.

Certified public accountant Sean Dever has more than 50 dance studio clients at his Massachusetts-based firm, to whom he offers specific advice in pricing and discounting as needed—often alerting studio owners to financial issues they’re unaware of. “I did an evaluation for a dance school and showed the owner that she was offering 12 different discounts,” he says. “Eight of those already put her in the negative. She was literally paying to put other people’s kids through dance.”

An accountant can help you determine issues such as how much of your gross revenue should be going toward payroll expenses (so you can figure out how much to pay your teachers) and rent (so you can determine if your current facility is the right fit). It’s not cheap—Dever generally charges $100 an hour for consultation, although his bookkeeping services are just $40 an hour—but the recommendations you’ll receive on how to handle tricky items like marketing expenses, costume markups and setting up scholarships will save you money in the long run.

But the biggest benefit of having someone else in charge of your books may be the one that brings you the least monetary gain: You’ll no longer have to deal with sob-story parents who’ll try to get you to OK their payment delinquency. Niblick exchanged bookkeeping services for free tuition for one parent’s kids, and she has no regrets: “Because my bookkeeper knew how great my emotional attachments were to those families, and how much it would affect me, she wouldn’t even tell me who was causing financial problems,” she says.

Niblick admits that when she did her own books, she spent too much time and energy focusing on who owed her money. Once she’d handed the task over, her quality of life went through the roof: “After all,” she says, “you can’t put a price on peace of mind.” DT

©Thinkstock (3)

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Mitchell Button, courtesy of the artist

Dusty Button prefers music with a range. "There needs to be a beginning, a climax and a strong ending. Like a movie," she says. The award-winning dancer, who joined American Ballet Theatre's second company, ABT II, at 18, has always been drawn to lyric-free tracks filled with dynamic phrasing, rhythms and composition. "Whether it's the violin, piano or cello, instrumental music gives me more inspiration. I want the dancers and the audience to feel something new," she adds.

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

As a teacher or studio owner, customer service is a major part of the job. It's easy to dread the difficult sides of it, like being questioned or criticized by an unhappy parent. "In the early years, parent issues could have been the one thing that got me to give up teaching," says Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a teacher and studio owner with over 43 years of experience. "Hang in there—it does get easier."

We asked Clough her top tips for dealing with difficult parents:

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network

When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (OK, maybe more excited.)

This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Photo via Claudia Dean World on YouTube

Most parents start off pretty clueless when it comes to doing their dancer's hair. If you don't want your students coming in with elastic-wrapped bird's nests on their heads, you may want to give them some guidance. But who has time to teach each individual parent how to do their child's hair? Not you! So, we have a solution: YouTube hair tutorials.

These three classical hairdo vids are exactly what your dancers need to look fabulous and ready to work every time they step in your studio.

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Via @madisongoodman_ on Instagram

Nationals season is behind us, but we just aren't quite over it yet. We've been thinking a lot about the freakishly talented winners of these competitions, and want to know a bit more about the people who got them to where they are. So, we asked three current national title holders to tell us the most powerful piece of advice their dance teacher ever gave them. What they have to say will melt your heart.

Way to go, dance teachers! Your'e doing amazing things for the rising generation!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Enrollment is an issue that plagues brand-new and veteran studio owners alike. Without a steady stream of revenue from new students coming through your doors, your studio won't survive—no matter how crisp your dancers' technique is or how well-produced your recitals are.

Enrollment—in biz speak, customer acquisition and retention—depends on your business' investment in marketing. How effectively you get the word out about your studio will directly influence the number of people who register. Successful businesses typically use certain tried-and-true marketing strategies to recruit and retain clients or customers. These four studio owners' tricks for kicking enrollment into high gear are modeled after classic marketing techniques.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox