Target these small improvements for big impact.

Taking the time to address a few small fixes will help your studio stand out.

Jenny Samuelson-Jangula set up a website for her Bismarck, North Dakota, dance studio eight years ago, and it pretty much ticked along on autopilot—until her students at Let’s Dance Studio started teasing her for still featuring photos of past dancers who were by now married. Oversights like this are common: Dance studio owners typically are spread thin by managing the artistic component of studio ownership. They may be too busy to notice that their business has outgrown the back-of-the-envelope systems that worked fine at launch.

Just like your car, your business needs periodic tune-ups to keep it humming along smoothly. Neglecting business basics—whether it’s the physical space of the studio, day-to-day business operations, marketing materials or vendor contracts—could mean you’re missing out on recent innovations and more efficient or cost-effective ways to run your business. It’s time to attack that “sometime, when there’s time” to-do list. Here are three places to start.

Feng Shui, Studio-Style

The look and feel of your studio affects your reputation—and your bottom line. Your waiting room and lobby are the first exposure clients have to your business—and for parents, this is often the main experience they have of how you treat them. Step outside your studio and walk in as if you’re a first-time visitor. Are you giving the impression you want? “A tidy and inviting waiting room relays the message that I care about the people who have to occupy that space,” says Debbie Apalucci, co-owner of Touch of Class Dance Studio, in Broomall, Pennsylvania.

Low-cost improvements can make a surprising difference. Try: adding a cleverly themed bulletin board; framing new wall art; replacing shabby chairs and tables; giving the walls a fresh coat of paint or a new color scheme; and periodically rearranging the furniture within the space. And don’t forget about the carpeting. Apalucci has gone through three sets of rugs, and Samuelson-Jangula eventually put down laminate tile, after four carpet replacements. “With kids, you’re always going to have spills,” she says, “even with a weekly cleaning company visit.”

Beyond the front door, inspect your space and make a punch list of any neglected repairs or housekeeping. Though some jobs might require professionals, you may be able to check easier items off the list by inviting volunteers (with pizza as a thank-you) or allowing a group of work/study students to earn free classes in exchange for pitching in.

Taking the extra step: To reduce upkeep, Apalucci added easily cleaned laminate to her walls, eliminating repainting expenses. Samuelson-Jangula, who is now in her third space, notes how important it is to think about traffic flow. “You want your customers to have a clean break to the dressing room, with a defined area to mingle,” she says. Keep in mind other logistics, such as where to put your reception desk—people will want to stop and talk, as Apalucci discovered, so it may need its own nook so as not to interrupt traffic flow.

Take the Pill Out of Bills

If you’re not auto-billing tuition yet, you’re missing out on big advantages. It has become almost the norm for dance studios now. Owners find their payment delinquency rate plummets—Apalucci says 10 percent of her clients didn’t pay on time before she went to online payment. You don’t have to manage the risk of handling large amounts of cash in your studio at payment time each month. Auto-billing can be run via in-house software like BillQuick ($180/year), cloud-based programs (accessible on any device, wherever there is an internet connection) like Jackrabbit Dance ($45 to $195/month) or hired-out tuition-billing companies.

Touch of Class has a contract with a tuition-billing company that charges a monthly service fee as well as a percentage, plus a per-transaction fee (15 to 25 cents) for credit-card payments, totaling nearly $22,000 a year. A big number, but Apalucci sees it as a good investment: “I couldn’t possibly hire someone on a comparable annual salary to do all that collection and banking for me!”

Taking the extra step: Review all the business software and outside vendors you use to run your business. Accounting software upgrades may give you a better handle on your cash flow; studio management software offers a leg up on class registration, scheduling and space rental. Vendor contracts, whether for air-conditioning maintenance, phone and internet service, insurance and cleaning service typically roll over from year to year. Take time to review each and do some comparison shopping to make sure you’re getting just the services you need for the right price.

Polishing the Studio’s Image

As Samuelson-Jangula learned, it’s important to keep your promotional materials up-to-date. Look at your business cards, brochures, flyers, recital books, logo, website and social-media pages. Are they fresh and appealing, sending the relevant messages? Is the information current? Apalucci and her team have revamped the Touch of Class website at least three times since the studio opened; the most recent overhaul added more photo galleries and video links.

To cut back on costs while still keeping materials fresh, Samuelson-Jangula stopped reprinting her entire studio brochure and instead added an insert that she can update and reprint with new rates, class schedules and dates. “It’s so easy to call the printing company and just replace the text of the insert,” she says. “This way, we don’t have to keep throwing away perfectly good brochures.”

Taking the extra step: Tap into new technologies to make marketing easier. User-friendly content-management systems like WordPress.com, which Apalucci and her co-owners use, let you update web pages at any time—although the setup of a WordPress website can be challenging. If you’re struggling to stay current with posts to several social-media sites, streamline your updates with a social-media dashboard like HootSuite (free or upwards of $10/month, depending on your plan). HootSuite allows you to manage and schedule posts for Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr and other social profiles. It also reports basic analytics to help you measure your social-media efforts.

Such improved efficiency is the reward for every studio fine-tuning—so hunker down and start checking off that long-neglected list. DT

Photos from top: ©iStockphoto.com; courtesy of Debbie Apalucci

Dance Teachers Trending
Barbara Bashaw in Thompson Hall of Columbia Teachers College. Photo by Kyle Froman

Barbara Bashaw has always been a pioneer. Since kicking off her career in education by building a dance program from the ground up at an elementary school in Brooklyn, she's gone on to become an inspiring force in teacher training. Now, as director of the new doctoral program in dance education at Columbia University's renowned Teachers College and as executive director of the even newer Arnhold Institute for Dance Education Research, Policy & Leadership, she's in a position to effect change nationwide.

"The study of dance education is a young field," Bashaw says. "Music and visual arts are far ahead of us, in terms of the research that has been done, as well as the foothold they have in education. Anywhere education is being discussed, we want to put dance on the table—and that means developing researchers and championing research that will push public policy." In a climate where arts education feels both more endangered and more necessary than ever, Bashaw is ready to blaze a trail.

Keep reading...
Instagram
Karen Hildebrand (center) with 2019 DT Awardee Marisa Hamamoto and members of Infinite Flow. Photo by Joe Toreno

Every year in our summer issue, we honor four dance educators for their outstanding contributions to the field. Recipients have included studio owners, professors, program directors, K–12 teachers and more, whose specialties run the gamut of dance genres.

We need your help to identify this year's best in the profession. Do you have a colleague or mentor who deserves to be recognized as a leader and role model?

Send your nomination by March 1, 2020. You can e-mail us at danceteachereditors@dancemedia.com with the following details:

Keep reading...
Sponsored by Akada Software
Photo by Jenny Studios, courtesy of Utah Dance Artists

Running a dance school used to involve a seemingly endless stream of paperwork. But thanks to the advent of software tailored specifically for dance studios' needs, those hours formerly spent pushing papers can now be put to better use.

"Nobody opens a dance studio because they want to do administrative work," says Brett Stuckey, who leads Akada Software's support team. "It's our job to get you out of the office and back into your classroom."

We talked to Stuckey about how a studio software program can streamline operations, so you can put your energy toward your students.

Keep reading...
Dancer Health
Getty Images

It's time to talk seriously about safety in dance education. As the physical and psychological demands put on student dancers escalates—thanks to competitions, social media and ever-evolving choreography—there is a pressing need to consider how we can successfully safeguard young dancers.

Keep reading...
Dance News
Photo by Melissa Sherwood, courtesy of MGDC

Martha Graham Dance Company created The EVE Project to mark the upcoming 100th anniversary of U.S. women's right to vote. The female-focused initiative includes new works, as well as the company's classic repertoire highlighting Martha Graham's heroines and antiheroines. In April, the company is showing the newly reconstructed Circe, Graham's 1963 interpretation of the Greek myth, at New York City Center. Dancing the role of Circe is company member So Young An. Here, she shares thoughts on The EVE Project and how she's approaching her role in Circe, the 57-year-old work that invites audiences to consider pressing conversations about womanhood.

Keep reading...
Dance News
Instead of letting 1920s stereotypes of black dancers define her, Josephine Baker used her image to propel herself to stardom and eventually challenged social perceptions of black women. Photos courtesy of Dance Magazine archives

In honor of Black History Month, here are some of the most influential and inspiring black dancers who paved the way for future generations.

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: I'm having such a love-hate relationship with mirrors right now. They can be distracting, as well as cause emotional distress for my students. At the same time, they're a really useful tool. I know some teachers remove theirs altogether. Is this something you recommend?

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips

Susan Pilarre has been closely tied to the School of American Ballet for nearly her entire life.

From her first class there at age 11 through her 16-year career with its affiliated company, New York City Ballet, Pilarre learned directly from the great choreographer George Balanchine, absorbing the details of his unique style. Sensing her innate understanding of his principles, Balanchine encouraged her to teach; she joined SAB's permanent faculty in 1986. Since then, she has become recognized as an authority on Balanchine's teachings, instilling SAB and NYCB's distinctive speed, clarity and energy into generations of dancers.

Here, Pilarre shares how the specifics that Balanchine insisted upon in class contribute to the strength, beauty and musicality that define his style—and dispels common misconceptions.

Keep reading...

To celebrate Valentine's Day in the most dance-centric way possible, we sat down with five powerhouse dance-teaching couples to talk about their love stories. What do they admire about each other? What are their couple goals and their teaching philosophies, and how do they make their relationships work, especially when they work together? Get ready to swoon!

Keep reading...
For Parents
Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy of BAE

Watching through the studio windows—or even from the sidelines in a Mommy and Me class—can surely make parents wonder what exactly our little tykes are getting out of weekly ballet lessons. After all, they're repeating the same things class after class. Are they bored? Are they progressing? Why are they doing that again?

Keep reading...
Site Network
Photo by Nina Lokmadzhieva, courtesy of Varna IBC

The oldest ballet competition in the world doesn't have the funds for the show to go on: The 29th edition of the Varna International Ballet Competition, scheduled for July 12–30, 2020, has been postponed indefinitely.

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: I have a 15-year-old student who has problems keeping her heel fully on the ground during a demi-plié. How can I help her?

Keep reading...

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox