How dress code can help keep your studio profitable.
By Paul Henderson.
Cash flow is the movement of money in and out of a business and it’s important to understand that even if your business is technically profitable, it can still fail if it is not liquid at critical times of your fiscal year. That’s just a fancy way of saying you need to be able to pay your bills or you will eventually be forced to close.
I’ve spent more than a decade running around the country talking to and working with hundreds and hundreds of studio owners. I’ve also experimented with various business strategies in my own studios. The eight studios that I own and operate with my wife in California are an amazing place to try different things to see what works. Here’s what works really well and won’t cost you a penny or much time.
One thing that I learned early on was that we couldn’t survive on tuition alone and it’s a theme that I always talk about with studio owners because cash flow is absolutely critical to all businesses. I know you’re in it for the love of dance and your students, but if your studio isn’t profitable then you won’t be sharing that love for long.
If you’re a studio owner you might be looking at your business checking account right about now (September) and saying to yourself, “where did all the money go that was in there in April and May?” You might be saying, “Wow, I could really use a few thousand dollars right now to pay rent!”
About 12 years ago, Tiffany and I (that’s my wife) hadn’t learned this lesson yet. Our wedding anniversary is on September 26th. One year we were so broke that we couldn’t afford to do anything at all to celebrate. Tuition revenue wasn’t going to hit the bank for 10 days. Every credit card was beyond maxed out. We were running on fumes, but we loved each other and we wanted to celebrate our anniversary somehow! In the kitchen junk drawer we found a coupon for Black Angus. We ended up splitting a steak and a chocolate brownie sundae that night to celebrate our anniversary. On a side note, while embarrassing, that will always be one of my favorite meals of all time.
So the question is how do you increase the amount of cash coming into your business without increasing your expenses? The obvious way is to register more students who will pay more tuition, but it’s not always possible to get more students in July through September without spending money on marketing. So, what can you do to bring more revenue into your business without spending any money and without working yourself to death?
One simple solution is to create a dress code and ask your existing students to abide by the dress code.
Your students are returning to class right about now and most dance studios already have some sort of dress code or recommended attire listed in their handbook and on their website. I’ve yet to register a student who didn’t immediately ask the question, “What do I wear to class?” So, understanding that the dancer is most definitely going to purchase dancewear, shoes, tights and accessories from someone should make you feel less apprehensive about asking them to purchase the products from a source you recommend.
Technology has made it possible for you to immediately profit on the products that your dancers are going to purchase without you spending a dime, and you can have more control over students buying the appropriate products for their classes, level and age group.
There are a few companies out there that have made this possible. I’ll explain the scenario so you understand the basic idea, and then it’s up to you to take action and begin the process of setting up your online store.
As a studio owner you are entitled to purchase products from costume manufacturers and some specialized online retailers such as Discount Dance Supply. Curtain Call has a program called Curtain Call for Class and Discount Dance Supply has an online program called the Dance Teacher Program. Both of these online systems allow you to add “classes” or “lists” to your account. It’s very much like a gift registry. Just create a list, browse their products online and add products to the lists. Once that is done, steer your dancers to those “lists” so that they may purchase their products online. For this, you will receive a portion of the sale. Sometimes this is cash, sometimes this is in the form of a credit against your future purchases.
Storefront by CostumeManager.com takes it one step further, creating an actual online store specifically for your studio. Storefront provides studio owners with a free account and a catalog of 50,000 products, including a couple dozen costume manufacturer’s products. What’s different with Storefront is that you, the studio owner, get to set the retail price. Therefore, the “commission” that is payable to you is at a rate you decide upon. As Storefront provides the products to you at special wholesale rates you can place a markup on the products, yet provide dancewear to your students at competitive prices – a win, win for everyone.
In less than 15 minutes you can set up all of your dress code lists and publish the link to your new online store on your studio website, Facebook page or Twitter account. It’s also a good idea to email your studio with a link to your online store.
Once your dancer purchases their products online, the above services ensure the products are fulfilled without you having to purchase inventory or pay any fees at all. There are no shipping fees or credit card fees for the studio. That is incredible when you think about it. Try to think of another situation where you have no risk, no cost and guaranteed profit.
Whatever system you choose, do it right now so you’re not splitting a steak on your anniversary (unless you’re just not that hungry). You did the hard work to build your studio, hire and train your teachers, develop your curriculum and attract and retain your students. Your dancers are going to purchase products anyway and you should profit on the transaction to help improve your cash flow at this critical time of the season.
About Paul Henderson
Paul Henderson is an expert on administrative technologies for the dance industry and has been around the business for almost 30 years. His sisters were elite state champion gymnasts and dancers and his mother owned a dance studio and eventually a dancewear store. He managed the dancewear store for a few years before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. He and his wife, Tiffany, currently own and operate Twinkle Star Dance™ – an online choreography and curriculum system for recreational dancers ages 2-11; seven successful dance studios in Northern California (www.tiffanydance.com) and one in Southern California. Tiffany’s Dance Academy’s annual enrollment of over 4,500 students caused Paul to invent ways to automate most of the day-to-day business transactions that take up so much of a studio owner/instructor’s time. Paul’s goal has always been to smooth out the business side of the dance studios so that his wife can spend more time in the studio doing what she loves…teaching. Automating online registration and monthly automatic tuition payments was achieved eight years ago but perhaps the most revolutionary invention is his web-based application – CostumeManager.com.
For the past six years, Paul Henderson has worked tirelessly with most of the major costume and dancewear manufacturers to consolidate their catalogs into one searchable website. Developing relationships with these companies has been crucial to the success of CostumeManager.com and his efforts have paid off for studios all across the United States and Canada. By creating one searchable website, it is possible for a studio owner to browse all catalogs simultaneously, assign items that they like to a dance class, establish their profit margin, create an online store or print a color worksheet for dancers explaining how they can order their required and or/optional items online or via toll free telephone. Dancers purchase their items securely online and CostumeManager.com orders, receives, sorts and ships the individually packaged items to the studio owner. The studio owner or instructor cashes their “commission” check, hands the bags of goods to the dancer and goes back to teaching. CostumeManager.com eliminates 90% of the work and all the worry associated with distributing costumes and dancewear to dancers while preserving all of the profit margin…if not more.
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