Running a studio is an enormous undertaking that requires you to wear many hats at once (and with expertise): pedagogy, customer service, business management and beyond. Some owners find they're better off doing the work with a trusted partner by their side—someone to share both the responsibilities and the rewards. But finding the right person to work with isn't easy. You need someone whose personality, strengths and weaknesses complement your own. Here, three sets of successful partners get to the heart of how they make it work.
The Family Business
Off Broadway Dance Studio
Years in business: 34
Jeanne G. Pecot ran her small studio successfully for nearly 25 years, but when her daughter Jeannette P. Van Haverbeke returned to her hometown after graduating with a dance degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, Pecot decided it was time to pull her into the business. Van Haverbeke started out as a teacher, but over the past decade, she's taken on more. She updated processes for registration and tuition and launched a revenue-driving performance company. Today, the business is nearly twice the size it was when Van Haverbeke came aboard. While Pecot maintains full ownership, Van Haverbeke says that she, her mother and her sister, Suzanne P. Hirstius—who joined a few years after Van Haverbeke—run the thriving business as a team.
Responsibility divide: While all three partners serve as teachers, they also have clearly defined management roles. Pecot is artistic director, and the three of them finalize creative decisions like recital themes, music and costumes. Van Haverbeke is company director, but she also handles logistics and sets and enforces studio rules (ensuring dancers have their hair in a bun, for example). Hirstius is business manager, and she focuses on billing and other financial management concerns.
Communication style: The team uses different mediums for different kinds messages—business is conducted via e-mail, and texting is reserved for personal and family issues. The trio also meet in person at least one Friday per month to discuss big-picture issues.
Success secret: "We actually let one another do our jobs," says Van Haverbeke. "We don't step on toes or second-guess each other's decisions."
Partnering perk: "Every problem I've had, my mom has dealt with at some point, so she can 100 percent empathize," says Van Haverbeke.
Words of wisdom: To ensure they'd handle all issues as a united front, Van Haverbeke says she, her sister and her mother developed a written protocol with standard responses for a variety of situations, such as how to respond to an angry e-mail from a parent. "It doesn't sound fun, but it's so important—especially when you're dealing with emotional situations, and you can go back and review what you wrote with a clear head," she says.