In a haze of exhaustion, I signed the papers selling the successful dance studio I’d carefully nurtured for the past 11 years. Joy and motivation had collapsed under the weight of total burnout, and I just wanted to return to my dance teacher roots. Imagine my surprise when I woke up seven years later with the insistent idea that I should open another studio.
Signing the lease in my new space, I vowed to avoid the pitfalls that had taken me down the first time. Three-and-a-half years later, with a larger space, 10 employees and 164 students, I’ve embraced studio ownership thoughtfully with a mountain of knowledge and 10 strategies for navigating the tricky waters of studio ownership.
#1. Always be ready to let go of any student, no matter how hurtful the exit.
Take the high road in every way, and let them go as gracefully as possible, even if it’s hard and hurts your feelings.
#2. Make peace with the fact that some people will not be happy with your program.
Stay true to your vision. You’re not going to create a studio that’s right for everyone.
#3. Find ways to create a stronger connection with your dance families.
Small gestures like greeting dancers as they arrive, writing thank you notes, and adding a few lines about a dancer’s progress in a routine email will help build loyalty and relationships.
#4. When you want to grow your studio, advertise.
Carefully targeted Facebook ads and a strong SEO strategy have yielded the best results for my studio. Know your niche in the dance studio community and create a powerful mission statement that comes through in your advertising.
#5. Attack every problem head-on, and do it with as much kindness as possible.
Don’t wait for problems to grow into something out of control. The earlier you address it, the easier it will be to fix.
#6. You have to rise up and be the leader even when it makes you uncomfortable.
Your studio needs someone to be in charge. Dance studios need a strong leader to set the tone, create the culture, hold people accountable and inspire the dancers. No one will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself enough to take the helm with confidence.
#7. Without compromising your principles, take the road of less drama.
The more drama, the more stress you will endure. Create a plan to make decisions like performing company placements as drama-free as possible.
#8. Don’t step out of your role as a dance studio owner/dance teacher/mentor.
I wrote an article where I interviewed a psychiatrist who explained this to me. You are not a therapist, doctor or friend. If a problem comes your way that you are not licensed to deal with, your job is to help that person find real help.
#9. Don’t micromanage teachers and office staff, but step in quickly if there is a problem.
In my experience, people need as much ownership and autonomy as possible to do a great job. Strive to both hold your employees accountable and to offer enough support.
#10. Actively seek ways to avoid burnout.
Invest in a great studio management software to make running the business easier. Hire office help if possible. Put a day aside when you absolutely will not work. Go to a summer conference to stay inspired. Join a Facebook group for studio owners to get ideas from others. Try to do most of your work in the morning or when you have the most mental energy. Most importantly, never lose sight of the fact that you are making a real difference in the world every single day.
By Holly Derville-Teer of Dance Informa.