By Paul Henderson.
It’s April and you know what that means. It’s the time of year that jealousy and envy peak at your dance studio due to dance competition results. As studio owners, we find ourselves in some strange situations with our customers.
Here are some things I’ve learned in the past 15 years of owning dance studios:
1. Try not to be “besties” with your customers. There are exceptions, of course, but I’ve learned something over the years. The customers that want need to be my friend are the people who might try to socially engineer their child into a more advanced popular group of dancers. In most cases this will end badly. Parents might not understand that a dance education is an incredibly long pursuit. If a parent’s child is not on the same level as her peers today it’s difficult for them to understand that by the time the dancer is 17 or 18 she’ll be one of the few remaining seniors at the studio, and likely one of the best dancers. No amount of social manipulation along the way is going to speed up the training process resulting in their dancer performing in the “front row”, or with the “advanced group” that always wins “Platinum” and “Overall High Score”. That’s not what dance education is about.
2. Friend your employees at your own risk. This one is a bit more difficult to manage. It’s actually nearly impossible because life as a dance studio owner is literally your entire life. There isn’t much room for anything else and once you’ve signed that lease, you’re in it for the long haul.
It’s up to you to please the customers, the employees, your landlord, the utilities and good ol’ Uncle Sam. You end up hanging out with your staff and customers because those are the only people you know. When the time comes for you to discipline, manage, counsel, control or advise your employee, who is also your “friend”, chaos ensues.
Tension lasts a long time if you are unable to communicate your feelings and desires. Most of us aren’t that great at communicating…especially if we’re conflicted. Hurt feelings result in festering tension. Stress increases and the work environment becomes unbearable to the point where something has to give. If the “release” is your employee running off with 300 of your students to open a studio down the street, don’t be surprised.
Advice: confront hurt feelings and tension immediately. Just express your feelings and let them express theirs. That’s all there is to it. The truth shall set you free, but tension will set half of your students free to run off with their new best friend – your favorite ex-instructor.
3. Eliminate students and families that don’t fit into your program immediately. You know who you are, right? You know what type of program you’re running, right? You know how to teach dance, right? If you’ve explained your program to a student or a parent and they don’t like it, do them and yourself a favor and let them go. Give them a refund (whatever they want) and point them in the direction of the studio down the street. Remember this: It’s okay to lose a student if it makes your life less stressful. You know why? Students are like dolphins. They can sense and feel your stress and tension. If you’re tense, they will feel it. If you’re carefree and happy you’ll attract dozens of other carefree and happy dancers to your studio. What’s that saying? Misery loves company? If you’re miserable you’ll attract other miserable people to your studio. So do everything in your power to rid negativity from your life.
4. Unfriend. Block. Go dark. Despite your best intentions, betrayal will happen to you. Or should I say, what feels like betrayal will happen to you? It’s inevitable like death and taxes. When it becomes obvious that a parent, dancer or employee really is “out to get you”, either because of a misunderstanding or an honest feeling of contempt on their part, it can feel terrible. Furthermore, if they insist on recruiting other parents, dancers or employees to join them in their quest to hurt you, completely ignoring and dismissing them is surely the most divine retribution if you have the strength to pull it off. Here’s how it works in the Internet/Social Media age: Unfriend. Block. Go dark. Do not post ANYTHING on social media for at least a week, until the fury has subsided. Why? Because anything you post can and will be used against you.
“Haters are gonna hate”, and your posts are the only fuel they have. It’s all they need to perpetuate drama. When you post something positive to your Facebook page to make yourself feel better, like…
“Be bold enough to use your voice, brave enough to listen to your heart, and strong enough to live the life you’ve always imagined.”
Your haters are going to immediately post something derogatory aimed at hurting your feelings and damaging your business.
Negative comments on social media are entertainment for the people who read them and comment further and they exacerbate your pain…but only if you read them. It’s important to immediately unfriend, block and ignore these people and their accomplices from all social media. And, I mean immediately. Did I say immediately? Yes. Immediately. Do it within 2 minutes of the “news”, actually.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that you must monitor what is being said about you and your business on social media. No you don’t. The only reason those people are posting is because YOU’RE reading their posts! It’s like the tree falling in the forest. Does it make a sound if nobody is there to hear it? Who knows? Does a post or comment hurt your feelings if you don’t know about it? The definitive answer is, no, it does not.
Resist the urge to keep them in your network because you want to spy on them. Spying on them allows them to spy on you. And, guess what. YOU are the glue that holds that network together in the first place. Once you’re out of it, the influence of the entire network is completely eliminated and if they know you can’t see their posts they stop posting. It takes, on average, 3 days for them to get bored and move on.
Instead of falling into the trap of social media obsession, here is what you do instead.
Go teach a class.
Realize in that moment that the students that are in the class are there because they love you. Picture them in your mind now.
Count them. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12…..
Count them all.
Go to your studio management software system and run the ego boosting “Number of Students Currently Enrolled in at Least One Class” report.
See how many dancers are still enrolled?
Look at the number. What is it? 43? 102? 227? 415? 817?
Those are the dancers and families that still matter. The people that quit or are fired don’t matter anymore, you need to move on.
What the haters say on social media about you doesn’t matter. Trust me. As a marketing expert I will tell you that without spending a small fortune it’s impossible to get more than a handful of people to read your posts anyway. Your business won’t be ruined forever by one or two viscous threads.
What matters is each student that is still enrolled.
Get back in there!
They love you and that is why they are still there.
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.