You Can Batch That

Batch tasks at your dance studio! It is the perfect way to increase efficiency!

Have you ever heard of batching? If not, it is something that could completely change the way you do business. I’m not even exaggerating! If consistently done, it can dramatically increase your efficiency. Better yet, it can improve the chances that those extra things on your plate actually get done. Sounds good right!? Batching is basically lumping similar tasks together and doing them all at the same time.

For instance, instead of doing your social media posts one by one every day you will do ALL of your social media posts for the month in one day. Instead of doing a little bit of everything every day and all day, you are going to tackle things with a more systematic approach.

Now, you may be asking why the heck this matters at your dance studio. If you start working faster and smarter at your studio, you will instantly free up some of your valuable time. With that extra time, you could spend it doing the things that never get done on your list or take some time off (whoo hoo!). Becoming a more efficient worker will not only affect you but also your team members. With your new found knowledge, you will be able to pass along this valuable information to your staff members. They will learn a new skill and also get faster at doing their job. Which means, they have more time to tackle MORE on your list(double bonus).

With that, I am instantly taken back to my bakery days. In case you have forgotten, in my past life, I made thousands of cupcakes each and every day (yes, I am for real). Those were the days where my team and I didn’t go home until the order was complete and we were paying our workers until they left the building. Quite literally, time was money. My boss at the time was obsessed with always working faster and trying new techniques to help this along. He taught me a very valuable lesson that I will always remember and try to apply to ANY job I have.

The more you have to do, the faster you work.

Wait, WHAT?! Yea, read that again if you need to. I was instantly like “NO WAY… That makes no sense!” But after months and months at the bakery, I finally understood that that statement was completely true. Essentially, my boss was talking about batching. When you lump together a lot of things that are the same, you do them faster and more efficiently. The larger that lump is, the faster you get at doing it.

At the bakery, we started out with 1 store that we made cupcakes for. We were making and decorating around 30 flavors of cupcakes each and every day for that one store. When you broke it down, that meant we were making really small amounts of each flavor. Within 1 year, we increased the number of stores we serviced. So NOW, instead of making 3 cupcakes of a particular flavor, we were at least making 24. You may be thinking that we needed to hire more employees or stay longer hours and trust me, I thought that too. BUT after a lot of nagging on my part, my boss assured me of his rule time and time again. Although it seems impossible and to my disbelief, my team put in around the same number of hours that they did earlier that year when we just had 1 store.

How is this possible you ask? That is the magic of batching. When starting any task (whether it is making cupcakes or starting work at your dance studio), you have an initial set up time. That could be getting your computer out, firing up the correct program, looking for your address book, skimming through emails to find the right one, etc. There is also the transition period where you need to direct your full attention onto the task at hand. How many times have you gone to check your work email and been sidetracked by a sale going on at Wayfair.com?

With batching you are reducing the amount of time spent on the setup and clean up of the task because you are just doing it once versus 5 times a day/week. You are also able to hold your focus on that one task much better without the setup/clean up. When doing a task over and over again, you naturally start to figure out ways to make it go faster. That is the same whether you are frosting 50 cupcakes in a row or scheduling a whole month worth of social media posts. The bonus?? It feels AMAZING to get something done for the whole month all at once (much faster than you normally would) and not have to worry about it again until next month.

Here are a few ways you can give batching a try at your dance studio:

  • Check your emails once a day. Know that it is perfectly reasonable to get back to customers within 24 hours. If there is something urgent, they will call.
  • Calling people back should be done once a day. Sit down, pour yourself a cup of coffee and make all your returned calls once a day (unless it is urgent of course).
  • Checking your social media page can be minimized to once a day. This one can be a HUGE time suck! Try to resist and engage with your audience once a day.
  • Schedule your social media once a month. Yes, that is right. Once a month! You can use the Facebook scheduler or an application like HootSuite or Buffer to schedule posts out. Look at your calendar to know what is coming and just go for it! This is one of my most favorite ways to batch.
  • Recital tasks and company stuff can be batched as well. Pick one day a week (or just an hour) to knock out some recital stuff, if there is nothing on the list right now maybe you can get ahead!?
  • Choreography/class planning can be batched once a month. This is another one that I LOVE to knock out all at once. I plan all my classes in one or two sittings for the month. It also allows me to be really conscious about the progression of my classes.

As a dance studio owner, you probably get paid either a salary or whatever is left over in the bank after payroll. You may not have that hourly, worker mentality but nevertheless, your time is valuable. You need to make sure you are working to your full capacity. Batching is a GREAT way to get started working smarter and faster so you can spend more time growing your business.

Does this sound really awesome but you have NO idea where to start? Don’t worry, we can help! Send us a message and we can walk you through how to get started, create an annual calendar for you, or get you all set up on Trello.

We would LOVE to help you get to a better place within your studio.

Great post as an introduction to batching, perfect for dance studio owners who want to become more efficient!

 

Being Compassionate Is Different Than Being A Pushover

Studio owners should remain compassionate with customers

Did you catch that title? Yes, I know it is a little bolder than we normally go here at Resourceful Dance. But I think it is time to take a stand about something. Meg and I frequent the dance boards on social media from time to time. Most of the time we find them to be extremely supportive and helpful resources. Every once and awhile we see a thread that makes Meg and I cringe.  You know, those posts where studio owners ask for advice about a sensitive issue (mostly regarding late invoices, a student leaving, or studio policies) and overwhelmingly the comments suggest reminding customers of the contract they signed, your no-refund policy, or taking your customers to court.  We see so much fear of being taken advantage of!

Now before you stop reading, I know that these comments aren’t a direct reflection of who is saying them. I know that we have all been burned (maybe a few times) and that it REALLY sucks when we do. I have to say this now and I will say it again, not every situation warrants leniency. You definitely need to make sure you are communicating your policies clearly. You need systems in place for collecting on overdue balances. With that disclaimer out there, I have to confidently remind all the studio owners and future studio owners out there that being compassionate is different than being a pushover.

When a customer approaches a studio owner about bending the rules slightly or making exceptions for a particular reason, the walls immediately go up. Are they telling the truth about what is going on? Will they tell everyone else how to get the same treatment? Are they ever going to pay their balance? These are completely valid concerns. I mean come on, your business is your livelihood. If you didn’t think through these questions, you wouldn’t be safe guarding your business and would be leaving yourself to be taken advantage of. This is where those comments are coming from. They all ring the tone of “if you bend now, they will tell their friends and EVERYONE will want a discount.”

It can be really difficult to know when you should allow for exceptions. BUT there are situations that warrant them. Honesty is something Meg and I would look for first and foremost when dealing with a difficult situation. When a parent would come to us about something BEFORE a bill was late or a rehearsal was missed, we knew we needed to listen. This parent is trying to be proactive- and respects you enough to bring it to your attention. Of course, there were times where stories kept changing, phone calls were being ignored, etc. Those situations are different. Use your gut, if something seems fishy, ask for more information. Often times the truth will come out or you will get a firm sense of what is going on in order to make the right decision.

Although it seems easy, simply saying “we don’t break policy for any reason, EVER,” should not be the answer. In this business, we work with families and our customers are around for YEARS. Odds are that within those years, life is going to throw some curve balls at your customers. Parents lose jobs, family members become sick, marriages will crumble to divorce. Life happens. Not everyone will need your help during these hard times but some will. Sometimes dance will be the only thing to keep children sane while the rest of their universe is crashing down. There is NO WAY you should deny those children of their safe space just because you are afraid of people taking advantage of your kindness.

In our years of running the studio, when a parent approached us about a personal struggle, we would always try to figure out a solution that worked for everyone. Whether it was to create a payment plan, arrange work in exchange for tuition, or to forgive their balance, there was always SOMETHING that we could do to help. Not a single person in 8 years of business has ever come up to us complaining that so and so got special treatment and they would like the same. Not once.

There have been many families, on the other hand, to thank us for being compassionate and understanding when things happen. Instead of taking away value and trying to cheat us out of our money, most of those families went out of their way to spread the word of how amazing our studio was. They brought in referrals year after year and would be more understanding with us when we messed up.

We also tried to also be reasonable when someone approached us about wanting to quit or switch studios mid-season. This one is more difficult- it is SO hard not to take it personally. Listen first. Why are they leaving? Can you do anything to change their minds? Maybe the child really dislikes dance. Maybe they need something you can’t (or don’t want to!) provide. Again, taking the time to come to a reasonable solution is worth it! I have never issued refunds for classes that were taken or costumes that were already ordered- but I have given refunds for tuition paid in advance. I would rather leave things on a positive note and leave that door open for the future.

I often hear people compare dance tuition to a gym. They use the logic that a gym wouldn’t let you out of contract. First, most gyms DO have a 30-day cancellation policy. Second, we are dealing with children, not adults. Finally, I just don’t want to run a business like that! If someone doesn’t like what I am bringing to the table I would MUCH rather send them on their way.  Again, I can count on one hand the number of refunds I issued in 8 years. It did not become something that spread or happened frequently.

I recently listened to a podcast about compassion that gave me that extra push to speak my truth this last week. You can listen to the episode from The Joy Factor right here if you like. Basically, the guest on the show, Dr. Jennifer Sippel, was speaking about compassion as a skill instead of an inherent trait. Instead of either having it or not, it is something you can improve with practice. Isn’t that good news? If you have been a hard-rule kind of studio owner up until now, maybe have a listen and see what you can do to strengthen this skill.

Growing up, our mom made us SO mad when we were angry at our friends. She would almost always stick up for the other person instead of us. She encouraged us to put ourselves in their situation and see things from their perspective.  Although as a teenager, there is nothing more infuriating, as an adult it has served us well. It has been engraved in us to reflect on what someone else is experiencing and to always look at things from both sides. When we were running a dance studio, she would frequently remind us that families are complicated. Dance classes are ONE part of that family’s life even though it is is the center of our lives.

The next time someone comes to you with a problem, put yourself in their shoes. You may see that it takes guts to even speak with you about whatever is happening. You may also see that dance could help their child get through this rough time. If you find yourself in a similar situation someday, wouldn’t you want someone out there to help you and your kids get through it?

As a studio owner, you are beyond lucky to have the power to make these decisions. You have the chance to really help someone in their time of need and make a HUGE positive impact on someone’s life. Remember what I said in the beginning about not every situation warrants those exceptions to your policies. BUT I hope the next time you see a social media post going negative, you speak up for compassion. I am a firm believer that you get what you give in life. I 100% know that if you can find a way to show some compassion the next time someone comes to you with a real, genuine problem, you will not regret it.

being compassionate for dance studio owners is hard but well worth it!

Start a Dance Studio Blog

Why your dance studio needs a blog! Make sure your dance studio owner knows how important it is on so many levels to get started!

I recently came across a conversation in one of the dance Facebook groups I am in. A dance teacher was asking dance studio owners if they had gotten additional students because of their dance studio blog. A perfectly valid question:) The feedback was mixed. Most people that responded said they did not have a blog. The few people that DID have blogs said they were not actively bringing in students or they were not actively posting. I wanted to clear up a few misconceptions about blogs and explain WHY you should have one.

  1. Blogs are great for your SEO or Search Engine Optimization. Google takes a lot of information into consideration when they are ranking websites. One of the things they consider is how often you are updating your website or adding new content. If you have a dance studio blog, you are consistently adding new content. Which is going to contribute to how you are ranking in google. The difference between a 1st-page ranking and a 2nd-page ranking could have a  HUGE impact on the number of new inquiries your studio gets. So even if a new studio family doesn’t reference your blog, it may be the reason they called you instead of a competitor.
  2. It helps to establish you and your staff as experts. Blogs give you an opportunity to show what you know and also showcase your studio. An ideal customer is most likely going to comb through every page of your website. A blog can help them to connect with you and your studio. If your blog is updated and current it also sends a message about the care and attention to detail you put into ALL the things at your dance studio.
  3. You are creating content that is easy to share. It is pretty straightforward to add simple “share” buttons at the bottom of each post. When you share this content on social media you are creating links back to your website. Even better when customers share your posts! Links back to your website are another great way to improve your Google ranking. People appreciate when you add value… rather than just always posting back to your schedule and encouraging them to add an additional class. Have a question come up in classes? Write a blog post then share it with your families via Facebook!

Now let’s break down some simple ideas for blogging. It doesn’t have to be complex! It is all about creating new content… it should be relevant to your business, but you don’t have to agonize over it. Even if no one reads your dance studio blog, it could still be helping your business!  This is counter-intuitive… but it is so important to remember this when you are not seeing any engagement or when you feel like no one is reading.

When you are getting started I encourage you to start with things you are already doing in your business. Could you break up your newsletter into several posts? Do you already feature a student or staff member of the month? Can you highlight a class that is new? You can also use your blog to share last minute performance details, upcoming workshops, or weather closures.

Try to come up with a simple blogging schedule you can stick to. Even twice a month could be beneficial! All posts should be at least 300 words and contain at least one image. Your blog should be on your website and not on another website. You want all the benefits of blogging to extend to your main studio website. Have questions? Let us know on Facebook or in the comments. We think a dance studio blog would be a great project for you to tackle before your fall session starts 🙂

PS. If you need help… this is something we do for clients!! Delegate your studio blog and know that you are actively working on your google page rank:) Send us a message! We love to chat!

Why you Need a Dance Studio Blog

Creating Recital Packages

How to get started creating recital packages for dance studio owners

You may be a little nauseous reading the title of this post and we get it! You JUST finished recital and you probably don’t want to think about another recital for at least a couple months! Sadly, we cannot let you do that! Fall is JUST around the corner and if you are hoping to re-vamp your recital stuff, you should have it set before the start of the session. If you are going to make a change, it is better to do so upfront. Most people are not huge fans of surprises (or changes) especially when it comes to money.  Although it sounds unbearable, spend an hour or so creating your recital package right now so customers won’t be angry with you later.

Even if you have done things differently in the past, recital packages are an idea worth exploring! If you have had a hard time covering your costs in years past, a package may save the day. Packages may also eliminate the need to sell all the “extras.” Bundle your offerings together and avoid getting stuck with the items that didn’t sell.

My thoughts about recital packages have shifted over the years. Recital “fees” used to make me feel a little slimy. I didn’t like that there wasn’t a clear exchange between what people were paying for and what they were getting in return. When I opened my own studio, I wanted everything to be very transparent. Parents paid for tickets. Parents bought costumes and tights. Everything was a la carte.

What this meant was that I was ALWAYS nervous about making enough money to cover recital expenses and I didn’t know if we were going to make a profit until after the performance. It also meant that during recital season, parents were writing lots of checks. I suspect that feeling of being asked to buy things throughout the month of June may have made them hesitant to purchase the t-shirt or DVD.

Charging a recital fee and creating a recital package for parents could have enabled me to set a budget for recital and anticipate my income from the event. It could have eliminated a lot of stress about ticket sales! I could have also made life easier for parents. It is NOT slimy at all. It is a way to cover your expenses (heck maybe even MAKE some money!), deliver value to your studio families, and be able to plan much better.

If I were to open a studio today- I would 100% go with a recital package. It would be clearly communicated to all studio families when they register. Today we put together a few ideas to get your wheels turning so you have all this information in place when families start to register for the school year.

  1. Consider the cost of putting on the performance. Don’t forget the theater rental, back drop, tickets, programs, gifts, and staffing needs. Divide this number by the number of students you have. This is your “base” fee amount.
  2. Do parents get tickets in exchange for their fee? How many? Or are you going to make your performance “free” since parents paid a fee? I am a fan of tickets. I think parents perceive this as a better value- and you are leaving room to sell additional tickets. Set that price now along with when those extra tickets will be available for purchase.
  3. Start to think about the extras. What else could you add in to make life easier for parents? Some ideas are DVDs, recital pictures, and t-shirts. Add the cost of these items plus a markup.
  4. Consider how you want to handle costumes. What I would recommend is setting a price table based on your classes. Maybe all combo classes have one set amount and levels 1-4 a different amount. Typically, younger kid’s costumes are less expensive than older kid’s. The amount you pass on to your customers should cover your costume expenses plus a markup.
  5. When the time comes, remember to pass on your costume budget to teachers. 
  6. You will need to figure out what happens for students in multiple classes. 
  7. Include the tights! It is always a struggle for parents to understand that yes, they really do need pink tights that match their classmates. Throw in a pair of tights with every costume.
  8. How are you going to handle siblings? 

Once you have arrived at a price it is time to start thinking about what value this provides to parents. Your marketing should not only list the items they receive but focus on how it makes THEIR life easier. In a perfect world, you will have collected their fees in November so you have plenty of time to plan and think about fun ideas to make your recital even more memorable. How awesome would it be to know that your recital is going to MAKE money several months out? I can be on board with that.

I am curious, are you already packaging your recital items together? Did we leave anything out? Are parents on board? Let us know in our Facebook community!

Creating recital packages can be way to plan better and make life for parents easier at your dance studio.

How To Get Teachers On Board With Your Vision

Hiring teachers comes with the territory of running a dance studio. Even if you are teaching all your classes currently, you most likely WILL have to hire a teacher in the future.  A while back we went over a few tips to hiring new teachers. Before you get too deep into this post, hop over and get caught up on the basics! We even threw in a free interview questionnaire for you over there…OK, are we ready now? Perfect! So now that you have hired some AMAZING teacher that your students will love, you now have the fun job of making sure they are completely on board with your vision.

The first step is to know exactly what your vision is for your dance studio. What is the vibe? What sort of programs do you offer? Who is your ideal customer? What are your teaching values? Having a very clear focus and direction is going to make it MUCH easier to both hire teachers that align with that vision and communicate your ideas to your staff.

The next step is to write an employee handbook. Putting your expectations in writing gives you some leverage. If there is a problem you can say “in the employee handbook, it states…”.  Makes dealing with potential issues a little easier! Hopefully, you already have something in place for your teachers but here are a few ideas to consider:

  • For starters, list your key values. Including this information in your handbook makes it more official, gives your teachers something to reference, and lets your teachers know how important these things are to you.
  • List the contact information for the studio and yourself. Indicate your preferred communication method. It may be helpful to include a staff directory and a list of approved subs if you have that available.
  • You also need to include the logistics of working at your studio. Think through a typical night. What information do they need? Will they need to open or close the studio? How should they communicate with you and parents at the studio? What should they do when they need a sub? What is the procedure when they are late? How do they fill out a time card?  Although some things may seem obvious to you, it may not be obvious to a new teacher.
  • Incorporate what YOU provide for THEM. Let them know what kinds of support you can offer. Include if you pay for their time outside of teaching (attending performances, competitions, office work) and what that pay rate is. Include the payday schedule, the calendar for the session, what to do when there is a problem with a student or parent, what to do in case of injury during class, etc. This will help your teachers feel like you respect them and their time. They need to feel like you have their back!
  • Every studio’s situation is unique, but you will also want to include your non-compete and non-solicitation policy. You may need to consult a lawyer for this portion.  I’d also include a social media policy and your policy on sharing video and photos of your students.
  • Include a basic outline of their responsibilities. Try to think beyond teaching and include EVERYTHING you need from them. Ideas are talking with parents, taking attendance, choreography for performances, selecting costumes, filling out evaluations, communicating with you via email, sending music… and anything else you can think of! Again, you are just trying to minimize surprises and be extremely clear about what you expect. Most teachers appreciate a clear outline of the year.

Now that you have EVERYTHING written down in an employee handbook, you have to have an annual teacher meeting and go through all of it. Although it may seem like overkill, it sends the message that “Yes! All of this stuff REALLY matters!” It also gives your teachers a chance to ask questions. I have never regretted taking the time to go through these things in person. This would also be a great time to go through any relevant syllabus information and do a little recital planning. Once the year gets rolling it gets harder to get everyone in one spot!

It doesn’t hurt to provide lunch, dinner or snacks, and some fun during your meeting:) A little team bonding is good for everyone. Small gestures like food and fun let your teachers know how much you value their time, ideas, and talent. Teachers that feel appreciated are much more likely to follow your path wholeheartedly and return year after year.

After you have gone through the information, have your teachers sign that they have received the employee handbook and understand the policies included.

Finally, the last thing we like to do is schedule a time to observe our new teachers. You could definitely do this annually for ALL your teachers if you’d like! We recommend doing this a month or so into the school year after teachers have had a chance to get to know their students. It is a great way to build in some accountability and provide a way to give feedback and address any concerns in a non-threatening way. Always keep things positive and constructive. You want to make sure you are coming from a nurturing place.  A teacher that is open to feedback and willing to ask for support is a great asset to your studio!


Today, we have put together a worksheet for you to use as you observe your teachers and provide feedback. You could provide a copy for your teacher and keep one on file. There are some prompts to think about while you are observing and a place to jot down notes. I would use this as a guideline when you sit down to talk about your observations. Make sure to ask them to assess their own teaching and ask what you can do to help support them! Is there a class they are struggling with? Do they need some fresh ideas for teaching a certain step or concept? Listening goes a long way in terms of building trust and respect.

This IS a lot of leg work. But taking the time to set up your staff for success is worth it! Less turnover, less conflict, and happier teachers. For you, this means a better experience for your studio families and less stress. Who doesn’t want that? Please let us know in our Facebook Community if there is anything we forgot to include! Happy planning!

Building in Time to RELAX and Rejuvenate as a Dance Studio Owner

One of the hardest things about being a dance studio owner is that you are always “on”. Your job doesn’t end when you leave the studio.  It is almost impossible to leave work at work. The mental load that entrepreneurs carry around is pretty intense. Besides the day-to-day operations, you are thinking about the “big picture” vision, the marketing, filling your classes… the list goes on and on. Not to mention the stress and pressure that comes with keeping your studio families happy!

I personally struggled with this as a dance studio owner. I STILL struggle with this as a business owner. Even on my honeymoon (out of the country I should add) I was sneaking into the business center to check my email. I like to say “yes” and I like to take care of things instantly. When I know there is an issue, I can’t relax until I feel I have done my job to fix it.  This means I routinely take on more than I can handle and set unrealistic expectations for myself.

It’s a cycle. I take on too much. I freak out. I get it done. I relax for 24 hours. I start looking for new things to take on. HA! Can anyone else relate?? This past week is a perfect example. I had just wrapped up teaching for the school year. I had a FULL weekend of dress rehearsals and performances. I am in the midst of moving (like in a week across the country).  We are busy at Resourceful Dance… and have a full list of projects we would like to knock out. So, what do I do? I sign my daughter up for a swim camp that meets every day. Did I really NEED to add that to the list? Nope. But I can’t help myself!

I am still a work in progress:) Today I want to encourage my fellow type A, “people pleasing” dance studio owners to make sure you are prioritizing time to relax, rest, and rejuvenate.  I want you to establish boundaries and set realistic expectations. If this isn’t natural to you, I think you have to be really proactive about making it happen.  When I find myself starting to freak out, it is usually because I have been pushing too hard and trying to get an unrealistic amount of work done. MOST of the time, these are time frames and deadlines I have created!

Breaks are healthy and necessary.  I always am more productive after stepping away. You have to make space for creativity. You can’t be your best if you are pushed to your limits. Your dance studio needs a healthy, energetic, leader with fresh ideas!

Below are a few suggestions for incorporating rest into your life as a dance studio owner:

  1. Close her down! One of the perks of being a business owner is that YOU call the shots. You know yourself- if you are really not going to be able to relax if the studio is open I completely support closing for 1-2 weeks. Put it on the calendar and make it happen. After recital is a great time. Make sure it is communicated and design your schedule accordingly.
  2. Set office hours. Regardless of when you are in the studio, I want you to set office hours and some rules about when you are available. Maybe you only reply to emails during normal business hours or you only meet with parents one night of the week. Whatever it is- if you respect the boundaries, your people will adjust. Almost everything can wait.
  3. Take mini mental breaks. I am trying to do more of this. Take a quick walk, read a few chapters of a book, or go get a coffee. I have been playing with leaving my phone at home more when I am with my family. Technology makes is REALLY hard to resist the urge to constantly check-in.
  4. Double check your deadlines. Make sure your time frames are realistic. I am hopelessly optimistic when it comes to checking things off the list. My sister knows that when I give her a time estimate she can safely add on a day or so. It is also important to know who is holding you to the deadlines you set. Is anything going to happen if the schedule gets done on Friday instead of Wednesday? Also, make sure you are communicating realistic deadlines. Don’t promise a parent a response in a few minutes if you don’t have a few minutes! They can wait a day.
  5. Make sure you are taking at least one day a week 100% off. I don’t always do this. In this season of life, with two small children and limited childcare, I work all sorts of odd hours! My perfect schedule would be three days a week 9am-3pm (with childcare!) with NO work on the weekends. I am putting that out into the universe:) Pre-kids, I never worked Fridays. I love having one set day a week reserved for your personal life.
  6. Where can you delegate? Who else can put out fires? There are SO many emails that come into dance studios that are urgent but not important. When does the session start? When does my daughter move up? Why is Susan in front? YOU do not need to answer these emails. One of the best things I did at my studio was to create an office email. The front desk was able to handle most of the questions and concerns that came in and pass on anything that needed my attention. I also handed over checking voicemail. What else consumes your time at the studio? What truly can only be done by you and what could you pass on? Learning to delegate and trust your team is crucial to being able to step away from time to time!

OK. If you haven’t done so already- take a break (even a small one!) this summer. Enjoy time with family, and practice turning your “work brain” off.  You will be more productive because of it! I’ll be trying to take my own advice. I’d love to know how you feel about your current work/ life balance. Are you able to step away from your studio from time to time? Have any suggestions to offer other dance studio owners? Leave a comment here or in our Facebook community!  

PS. I realize this jumping picture of us isn’t the most flattering… jumping photos are hard! But don’t we looked relaxed and like we are having fun?? Also, Colleen’s feet look great. LOL I want more of that!

taking breaks as a dance studio owner

Recital Recap Time

All dance studio owners need to take a couple minutes to reflect on recital, this is why! Includes a recital recap printable!

Recital season is coming to a close and although it is great to see your students flourish on stage, it sure does feel good when it is over! Have you thought about next year's big show yet? Ha! Did that make you laugh? Well, although you don't have to think too much about next year's recital, you should take a couple minutes to really reflect on what happened at this year's recital. It is important to keep a recital recap of all the numbers from year to year along with details on how the event went down.

Back in my bakery days, our big "recital" was Valentines Day. We are talking 3 days straight of 15-17 hour shifts, making SO. MANY. CUPCAKES. Although that sounds magical, it is actually really hard work. There is lots of heavy lifting and definitely no sitting down on the production floor. During those 3 days, my team and I found ourselves in the bakery at 1:00 AM missing cupcakes. We would have to get out the mixers, fire up the oven, and make more after a full day of production. This was my first year at the bakery so there was really no way to predict what we were going to need. But trust me, the feeling of not being prepared when you are dead tired is not one I wanted to repeat.

After my first Valentines Day at the bakery, I wanted to make sure we did better the next year, I wanted to remember EVERYTHING. How much inventory we ordered ahead of time, how much we actually went through, how many cupcakes we sold, etc. All because the feeling of having to make ANOTHER batch of cupcakes at 1 o'clock in the morning was beyond awful. Relying on myself to remember all the details was not going to work when I was a sleep-deprived zombie for the weekend. My answer was to keep ALL documents (orders, inventory, etc.) and write a love letter to my future self. Along with the numbers, I included some reflection. I talked about what went well, what didn't, and what I think could have made a positive difference.

Isn't that story a familiar one? Doesn't it sound a lot like putting on a successful production? Lots of details, late nights, being delirious... all things you are very familiar with, right?! In any role, learning how to be better at what you do should be a constant goal. A big part of that is learning how to become more efficient and make fewer mistakes. Your recital is your big ticket event that will happen year after year. Why not do what you can, so you can do it better next year?!

Like I said, even though it feels like you will remember all the details from this year's recital, you actually won't. I don't know how many times Meg and I have said: "I don't remember how many we ordered last year but..." Luckily for you, I have created a recital recap sheet that you can print, fill out, and file it away for next year along with any other recital related documents. It will take about 5 minutes. At the start of recital season next year, pull it out and read it. Make some changes as necessary and that is it, that is all you have to do. You will make fewer mistakes, become more efficient, and produce a better show for your customers. Get it done today!

 

 

All dance studio owners need to take a couple minutes to reflect on recital, this is why! Includes a recital recap printable!

Creating an EXPERIENCE at Registration

For dance studio owners, it is really important to create a magical customer experience at registration.

 

One of my earliest dance memories is watching my sister, Meagan, take her first dance class. I remember trying to do EVERYTHING she was doing from the viewing area and BEGGING my mom to let me take a class too. My mom was a stickler and said that I couldn't start dance classes until I was 5 (I was only 3 or 4 at the time). Although it was torture week after week going to watch my sister, the suspense did make my first class EXTRA special. Because my mom knew how much I had wanted to be there, I assume it was special for her too. As far as the registration process and overall experience goes, I honestly have NO idea if that was as magical as it could have been. Hehe, I was 5 so, I guess we will have to ask my mom!

So what the heck am I getting at?! I mean to say that no matter how amazing your dancer's first class is or how excited they are to be there, it isn't just about that first class. We didn't stay at that first studio but we DID find a studio shortly after that we danced with until we graduated high school. My family became those 15+ year customers that all studios want! Our favorite teachers came and went and we stayed there regardless because that studio and our dancer friends were everything for my sister and I. For my parents, it was a safe space for their kids that was organized and had great communication.

Do NOT undervalue the customer experience at your studio. No matter how great your teachers are or your company program is, if the experience sucks, people will leave. So what should your customer experience be like? What do your customers want? This, of course, varies from studio to studio. You need to identify who your IDEAL customer is and create the perfect experience based on that customer. I think it is safe to assume that every parent wants to know that their child is safe and happy. Most parents are also looking for a program with clear communication, professionalism, and organization.

An easy way to start re-vamping your customer experience is to start from the beginning, from registration. After you have sold your programs to new customers, the work is not over. You have to then take the next step and WOW them with how great your studio is and how amazing it feels to be apart of it! You want to make it really hard for students to leave.  Parents and dancers should be emotionally invested in your studio.

Go step by step in your registration process and think about all the ways where you can make the experience more enjoyable for the customer. Maybe that means setting up online registration or offering tree trial classes. Taking a look at your billing options is another way to improve the experience, maybe something needs to be adjusted to make statements clearer or easier to pay. What sort of handouts do these new customers receive? What is their first class like? All of these are great places to get started.

When you are ready to take it up a notch, check out our favorite ways to enrich the registration process. Following these 4 steps will make every parent and child feel like they are joining something amazing right from the beginning. It takes some work to get these processes in place but use automation when possible and make it a habit starting this summer. Your new customers will thank you for welcoming them with open arms and you will feel great knowing you are creating that experience for them, a WIN WIN!

Creating the customer experience at registration for your dance studio is SO important. Studio Owners will love the FREE upgrade with ways to improve it!

When Students Leave Your Studio

3 reasons why its ok for students to leave your dance studio and what to do when students leave your dance studio

It is REALLY hard when students leave your dance studio.From the bottom of my heart, I hope that every single student who walks in your dance studio will be there for a LONG time. As dance studio owners and educators, we want what is best for our students and we form really great connections with them. We want to be able to give them the best dance education out there and we want our students to love every minute of it. Trying to create the best possible customer experience is a top priority and it is all to ensure that our students won’t leave. Sadly, no matter what we do and no matter how amazing our programs are, some students will leave. Not everyone will be happy. Some students will not love what we are offering, and not everyone will be able to afford dance classes. That is just the truth. It is part of running a dance studio. It is impossible to please everyone.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck losing students. I get so sad about students leaving. It was and still is, hard not to take it personally when it was MY values they were deserting. The only way you can stop yourself from going down the rabbit hole of self-pity is to realize that it truly IS part of running a business and that sometimes, it is for the best.

With recitals coming to a close and new sessions starting up, you may have some students who have chosen not to come back or are trying out other studios this summer. Do NOT panic. Things will be OK! Be objective here and think about why they are leaving. During my time at my sister’s studio, we too had students leave over the summer to try other studios. Like I said, it SUCKS! A lot of times, they came back in the fall and other times they didn’t. Either way, we found ourselves placing kids into various categories and it really took the sting out of all of it. When clearly laying out the reasons for the departure, we were able to either improve our program or be able to say with confidence- “Well, it is for the best.” With only a few exceptions, most kids fell into one of these 3 reasons:

  • Other Interests– Sometimes kids want to try other things. After all, they are kids. This is when they are SUPPOSE to figure out what they love doing. Don’t beat yourself up if a student wants to try basketball or gymnastics. Stay positive and understanding about it all and always leave the door open for them to come back. We had a lot of kids who ended up coming back after a break because they liked dance better.
  • Financial Issues– Dance can be expensive, especially as a dancer gets more and more involved with a studio. Parents will make sacrifices to keep their child in an activity they love but sometimes it is still not enough. Try to keep the door open by allowing kids to cut back on classes instead of quitting altogether or offer a work-study program if you have one at your studio. Also, be understanding if they just need to take a break from it all. Again, by leaving it in a positive light, you are leaving the door open if they are able to return one day.
  • They Want Something Different Than What You Offer– Say you have a student that LOVES ballet but you have a more diverse program. If she decides to attend a ballet school instead, that is OK! If you have a recreational program and you have a dancer that LOVES to compete, let her go somewhere that does a lot of competitions. Although it stinks losing a student, if they are looking for something you don’t offer, it is going to be miserable for everyone. They are going to push you to offer more of what they want and you are going to push back. Instead, just take a breath and say, OK. Encourage the dancer to stay in touch. You never know- they may fall into “the grass is always greener” camp and be back next session.

Give our sorting method a try this year and see how it goes. IF you can’t figure out why a student left on your own, simply ask in a respectful, constructive way. “I see you didn’t sign up for Fall classes yet, may I ask if there is a reason you aren’t coming back this Fall? I would love to know how I can better my programs for the future.” Most of the time parents are more than happy to give an explanation. Yes, it will still be difficult when you students leave your dance studio but hopefully, this will ease the pain just a little!

Students will leave your dance studio, here is when you shouldn't feel bad about it!

Dance Studio Marketing: An Introduction to SEO

Dance Studio Marketing is very important. SEO can play a huge role in getting new students to your dance studio.

Even though many of you are still finishing up your school year and spring recitals, as a small business owner you don’t really get the luxury of taking a break from your marketing. The spring performance leads right into summer, which leads right into fall, which leads right into auditions… and so it continues! You need more students and families to fill your programs. You HAVE to keep your eye on the prize and stay diligent with your marketing.

Over the next few weeks, we are diving into marketing topics that should be on your radar this summer and some actionable steps you can take to make improvements. Summer is a great time to take inventory of what is working and lay the groundwork for the coming school year. First up- SEO. Search Engine Optimization. According to Wikipedia:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results.

Google uses information from your website and cues from outside sources to determine the BEST match for what the user is looking for. It then “ranks” these sites for the user. Where you rank can have a huge effect on your bottom line. I love this article by Neil Patel. It’s a great overview and contains a ton of resources for learning more. He throws this nugget out there- 67% of clicks go to the first 5 listings. Yikes.

Confession time. I started learning more about websites and online marketing three years ago. At the time, I had a pretty nice website (and studio!), but I wasn’t pulling any students from the surrounding areas beyond the city where my studio was located. One conversation with a family friend changed everything! My friend Todd is in the SEO industry and encouraged me to look into my google ranking. I googled the communities I was trying to attract and “dance studio” and I wasn’t in the first 4 pages of results! Even though I was less than a mile away from some of these areas, perspective studio families were given more than a dozen other options before they would see my studio’s listing. I was shocked. At the time when I thought about dance studio marketing, I thought about flyers and direct mail. Google rankings weren’t really on my radar. I knew that my website was important, but was more focused on how it looked rather than how it functioned.

Todd was nice enough to give me a watered down version of SEO and tell me what I could do to start improving it. I got to work. Within a few months, I saw dramatic improvements and was in the first 10 results. Not awesome- but much better! Because I sold my business about a year after I started to make improvements, I don’t have an exciting conclusion for you. I do feel confident that getting to the first page of results would have made a HUGE difference in the number of students and trials I saw coming in from those communities I targeted.  Today I am going to share what he shared with me and what you can do today to start making improvements.

SEO Lessons from Todd

  1. SEO can be divided into two parts, on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page SEO is all the information coming from your site including how fast your website loads, how you’ve used titles and meta-descriptions,  and how much content your site contains. Off-page SEO is all the information coming from outside sources. If someone shares your website on social media it would affect your off-page SEO. Any directory listings and social media profiles for your studio would be off-page SEO. Google looks at off-page SEO like a vote for your business. Both off-page and on-page SEO contribute to how your site ranks.
  2. Start thinking like a customer looking for a dance studio! This was a big light bulb moment for me. The writing and titles should reflect how your customer searches for you. If I were to look for a dance studio for my daughter, I would start by typing in the city we live in and “dance studio”. Other options might be “ballet classes in Columbus” or “competition studio in Bartlett”. Make sure the language you are using on your website reflects these searches. If you want to start ranking for some of these things, that language needs to be on your site. I referred to my dance studio as a “dance center”. Well, guess what, NO one is going to type “dance center” into google! Ha! I went in and made a lot of little changes to better reflect what my customers were looking for. I also made sure to include the communities I wanted to attract.
  3. Content is KING! Have you heard this before? When you make updates to your site and add content, Google takes this as a cue that you are legit. This is where blogging can make a huge difference. By blogging, you are routinely adding new content and working in those keywords.
  4. It is all about those links! Everywhere you are online needs to be updated and contain links (that work!) to your website. Take a few minutes and complete your profile on Yelp, Google+, Angie’s list, and wherever else your studio is online. Make sure that your studio has a YouTube Channel that links back to your website. Every social media platform needs to lead back to your website. You are not just making it easy on customers to get to your site, you are helping Google to understand what you do and who your ideal customers are.

Just like social media, SEO guidelines and recommendations are ALWAYS changing. I am not an expert- but I am trying to keep my finger on the pulse! Todd’s recommendations were mostly related to content. Which is a great place to start! All of the things he taught me are still relevant today. I wanted to share a few more technical things to consider before we get into our action steps.

  1. Speed matters. Our own site was loading VERY slow a few months ago. We learned that the ideal load speed for a site is under 3 seconds. You can test your site using Pingdom by just typing in your address. We got rid of some plugins and optimized our images and got it down below 3 seconds pretty easily. This does require some tech knowledge- we are happy to help guide you in the right direction!
  2. Your site NEEDS to be mobile friendly. Mobile friendly means it automatically changes when someone views your site on their phone. The menu will most likely appear differently and your content may be arranged vertically. Most themes do this automatically. If your site does not appear to be mobile friendly- it is time for an upgrade. Think about your experience online- how often are you on your phone vs. on your desktop? Don’t annoy your people before they even set foot in your studio! Hehe!

Are your wheels turning yet?? I hope so! Lets’ get into what you can do today to start making improvements:

  • Figure out where you are at. Start typing in various combination of search terms in Google and see where you rank. Take notes of which combinations you are not ranking for. Start a running list of keywords that are relevant to your studio. Test your site speed and make sure your site is mobile friendly! If there is work to be done on the technical side, start to figure out if you will be able to make improvements yourself or if you need a little help.
  • Use a tool, our favorite is Yoast, to start making sure your pages on your website are SEO optimized. This plugin gives you a green light when you are good to go. It has spaces to fill in your page title, SEO title, meta descriptions, and keywords. The best part is it gives you descriptions of what each of those things MEAN and what should go there. It also gives you recommendations about word count, links, and images. When everything looks good you are rewarded with a glorious green light. If you were only to do one thing to improve your SEO, this would be my recommendation!
  • Add alt text to all of your images on your site. Google needs words to understand your images. Most dance studio websites contain a lot of images! Add a couple short sentences that describe that photo and include the keywords for the page that image appears on.
  • Take a quick inventory of all the other places your studio appears online. Complete your profiles, add images and be sure to include links to your studio website.
  • With your list of keywords in mind, start working through your existing content on your site. What small tweaks can you make that might better attract the people you are looking for?

I hope this has been helpful! SEO can be very overwhelming. The first step to battling overwhelm is getting your feet a little wet and getting a basic understanding of what SEO is. The good news is that no one (even giant corporations!) REALLY know exactly how Google does what it does. We are all trying to do the best we can- really no harm in trying! The second thing to keep in mind is that most dance studios are not actively trying to improve their SEO. If this is on your radar and you consistently work to make improvements you could have a pretty large advantage over your competitors! Finally, if you are feeling lost- ask for help! Join our Facebook community for dance studio owners or send us an email! We are happy to talk you off the ledge and help you make a game plan.

Understanding SEO is KEY to getting new students inside your dance studio. It needs to be a part of your dance studio marketing strategy. We break it down and try to keep it simple!