By Paul Henderson.
A little while ago I was the front seat passenger in a car driving along the highway on my way home from a bike race. It was a spectacular California day. Orange, yellow and magenta flowers were blooming in the median. Trees were lush and vibrant along the roadside and despite my throbbing thighs (one of which had been stung by a bee during the race) I was enjoying the view out of the windshield.
I was with a couple of my teammates and as we drove we traded stories about the race and talked about training for our next race the following weekend. Traffic flowed smoothly. It was nice. Pleasant. Peaceful.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a giant flying insect of some sort slammed into my side of the windshield, splattering red and yellow gunk and generally making a disgusting mess that pretty much ruined my view. This is not an uncommon occurrence, right? We’ve all had our windshield splattered by bugs, of course, but I’ve noticed that we have a couple choices in this circumstance. After we’ve taken some quick measures to clear the bug with the windshield wipers, we can focus only on the mess in front of us or we can choose to look past the splattered bug at the infinitely more interesting and more important road ahead.
Men that I know are not very dramatic; particularly men who just completed a grueling bike race where actual bugs were slamming into their actual faces and stinging their actual legs. In fact, nobody in the car really said anything about the bug’s mess on the windshield except, maybe a mumbled “bummer” by Dave who was stretched out on the back seat. Victor, who was driving the vehicle, thoughtfully tried to use the windshield wiper to clear the bug so I could see out the window. It smeared a larger streak because Victor was out of windshield wiper fluid.
I chose to look past the mess on the windshield, preferring to enjoy the colorful flowers and the clear blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds. Did you know our eyes and brain have an incredible ability to choose what to actually “see”? We can change our focal length as if by magic. We can look through and past things if we just choose to do so.
Instead of looking at the splattered bug, I preferred to listen to Victor explain how he could have won the race had he not gotten “boxed in” during the sprint finish, and the laughter coming from Dave in the back seat at this startling news that Victor could have beaten him. And I looked at the road ahead.
What does this have to do with dance and owning a dance studio? Most customer complaints and “problems” are like splattered bugs on a windshield. When a customer complains or there is a “problem” you, as the studio owner, have a choice. You can take the complaint as a personal attack on your character and let it ruin your day, your night, your week or your weekend, your marriage, your life; or you can acknowledge the complaint, fix it and move on, staying focused on your ultimate destination.
Think of your dance studio business as a bus and you are the bus driver. The bus is moving forward. The bus won’t stop. The bus can’t stop. Your bus is full of children, their parents, dance instructors and administrators who are depending on you to get them to their destination no matter what. There will be detours, distractions and splattered bugs along the way. Yes, the occasional dancer will quit unexpectedly for no reason. Yes, an instructor of yours might quit suddenly and leave a mess for you to deal with. Yes, enrollment might not be what you expected. Yes, you will have problems choreographing something. Yes, you will receive High Silver when you know for a fact “that dance was a Platinum”! Yes, all these things will happen and all these things are just splattered bugs on your windshield. Acknowledge them, fix them swiftly and move on or you’ll run your bus right into a ditch.
On your way home from the studio tonight, or the next time you get into your car, try this experiment. Before you actually start driving, stare at that smashed bug on your windshield. Imagine trying to drive anywhere when 100% of your focus is directed at a spec of debris in your field of vision and not on the road ahead. This is the same attitude you must take in your business. Focus on where you’re going and not on insignificant distractions.
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.