Want to see your studio shine, standing head and shoulders above the competition? Of course you do. You might love dance, relish teaching every day, and adore your staff. But ultimately, you got into this business to make money.
To make money, you have to continually sharpen your skills, refine your offerings, and outdo the competition.
Studio management is about more than just dance. You’re a business owner now.
That requires a complex set of skills you might never have thought about before you went into business. So what’s the real key to successful studio management?
No single strategy will take you from startup to rock star. But the right habits, practiced over time, can and will help you succeed. If you want to take it to the next level, quality studio management is the key.
Organization supports good studio management, and is the one habit that can make a difference at every stage of your business. It’s the only way you’ll ever be able to answer pointed questions about your business, plan for the future, or fully enjoy a vacation.
Here’s how to get more organized, so you can get your business -- and your life -- under control.
Organization: Why it Matters for Studio Management
The load studio managers take on is colossal. Let’s review just a few of the concerns you’ll have to juggle:
- Teaching students.
- Teaching instructors, managing their performance, hiring them, and firing them.
- Managing tax issues, including filing taxes, maintaining records, and saving up enough money to pay local, state, and federal taxes each quarter.
- Profiting. Or getting to profitability if you’ve just opened.
- Managing an advertising or marketing campaign, including using reliable metrics to assess whether and to what extent it is working.
- Addressing legal concerns, including minimizing liability, planning for zoning changes, and dealing with local ordinances.
- Managing student complaints and concerns.
- Providing students with clear, specific, useful feedback.
- Dealing with problem students and their families.
- Getting involved in your local community.
Depending upon where you are in the life of your business, your goals for the business’s future, and the unique demands of running your business, your list might be quite different, and possibly much longer. Neglecting any of these issues can destroy your business, not to mention your life.
Consider how a massive and unexpected tax bill would affect your business, your family, and your finances. Or how it would feel to be sued if you couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer or weren’t sufficiently organized to document that the suit lacked merit.
Remaining organized allows you to keep on top of everything that goes into running your business. No matter how much money you make, how qualified the people you hire are, or how much your students love you, you are going to spend a significant portion of each day stressed beyond belief if you can’t stay organized.
What Does Organization Mean Anyway?
In middle school, you might have taken a class on organization and study skills. Or perhaps your old job sent you to seminars on organization and time management. The end result is viewing organization as largely being about having the right supplies.
Being organized doesn’t require you to invest in file folders, a bulky paper planner, or a filing cabinet.
Organization is instead about finding a way to structure your life that works. That will look a little different for everyone. So what are the hallmarks of a well-organized life and studio?
- You know how you spend your time, and whether you can manage to take on another project.
- You know exactly how much money you need.
- You know how much money each component of your studio brings in now, and how much it can bring in in the future.
- You have a contingency plan for various potential problems: lawsuits, changes in zoning law, etc.
- You have a team you trust, and you know how to effectively manage them.
- You have a strategy for continually evaluating your course offerings, student roster, and other core components of your studio.
- You don’t miss appointments or deadlines.
- You might be stressed or have too little time, but you have a clear idea of how to get back on track, which tasks should be prioritized, or what you need to do next.
This is more than most studio owners can manage to do on their own. That’s why you need the right tools to manage the demands of operating your studio. Consistent planning can help. More so even than consistent planning, you need a way of tracking everything. That’s because your studio requires you to do much more than that which you can keep in your head.
Sure, you could turn to a notebook (or a stack of notebooks) but most studio directors need something that can easily travel with them, and that can quickly be customized. That’s where studio management software comes in.
What Highly Organized Managers Do Differently
So what do highly organized managers do differently? First, they recognize that organization isn’t just a buzzword. It’s critical to successfully running a studio. That means they invest time and resources into getting and staying organized. They understand that organization is its own value-adder. That means that money spent on organization, as long as it pays off, is essentially money earned.
So what do you need to do to become one of these mythical organized managers?
- Identify what needs to be organized. What are the moving parts of your business? What information must you track on an ongoing basis?
- Schedule time to keep things organized. Taking a weekend to get everything under control is a waste of time if everything will fall apart again in a month or two.
- Recruit assistants as needed. It’s nearly impossible to do everything yourself. The right studio management software, an assistant or two, a bookkeeper, accountant, lawyer, or other professionals could all help you keep it together.
- Avoid over committing, no matter how tempting the commitment seems. If you don’t have the time or money for it, you can’t do it.
- Find a system that works for you. Paper planning is great -- unless you hate paper, hate your handwriting, and don’t have time for it.
- Find a studio management tool that works for your needs. Don’t try to adapt your management style to the software. Find software that complements and amplifies what you’re already doing.
In a way, you have to get organized to, well, get organized. Schedule some time to get everything under control. Clear your calendar. Then get to work on reining in the chaos.
Disconnecting Your Emotions From Your Business
Here’s how unsuccessful studio managers make decisions: They see something that the think will improve profits or increase the student roster. They buy it. They hope for the best. Or they hear about a great new class structure that all the trendiest studios are using. So they implement it without a second thought.
After all, when opportunity knocks, you must be ready to answer, right?
Not so fast. These decisions are emotional decisions. Impulsively spending money, changing the way you structure your business, or embarking on an advertising campaign is never a good idea. It all goes back to the same concept we’ve been discussing -- organization.
Organization helps you assess how previous efforts have worked, predict how current strategies might succeed or fail, and then make data-driven decisions. Once you’ve embarked on a new project, organization helps you refine your strategy, and makes it easy to assess whether it’s working. It also helps you remember to assess whether something is working -- a key goal for frazzled studio directors.
This offers you something powerful: the ability to disconnect your emotions from your business. That means you no longer have to feel miserable when your business is struggling, or base your self-esteem on how well your business performs. It also means no more impulsive, emotion-driven decisions. This saves you time, money, and heartache. After all, most business owners are intimately connected to the businesses they’ve built.
The business is part child, part job, and a whole lot of meaning. Rescue yourself from the prison emotional business decisions can build. Get organized now.
The Image You Present to the World
You might find the orderly chaos of your business charming. You walk in every day to see people you love, endearingly cluttered classrooms, and students waiting in the waiting room. Remember, though: you’re running a business, not a place to hang out with your friends or test new ideas. What you find charming, your customers may find chaotic and off-putting.
Organized businesses look and feel more professional. And from whom will students want to take lessons? A professional operation? Or a chaotic studio that can’t get it together (and that keeps losing the deposit or dropping students from classes)?
Students sign up for classes because they want to learn, not because they're being nice. Your students will constantly compare you to your competitors. The winner of this endless comparison is the one with the most streamlined operation. Don’t believe it? Think students are charmed by your slightly eccentric way of doing things?
Think again. Unorganized businesses saddle students with many problems. Those include:
- Inconsistent or unreliable feedback.
- Lost payments.
- Double billing.
- Unreliable course enrollment.
- Unreliable information from support staff.
- Difficulty enrolling in courses, or paying for them.
- Late instructors, late classes, and lots of waiting.
- Unpleasant surprises, such as last minute closures.
- No consistent method for communicating important information, such as weather-related closures, to students.
- Frequent staff turnover.
- An unattractive studio that looks dilapidated or even unsafe.
Branding matters, and remaining organized is a huge part of your brand, and the image you present to the world. Don’t even try to convince yourself otherwise.
Time is Money; Money is Time
How much do you bill for your services per hour? Your time is worth at least that much. Let’s say you bill $50 an hour. If you spend three hours cleaning out your file cabinets, you’ve just lost $150 on a task you could have avoided with a little organization.
Your time is the only resource you have that’s non-renewable. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. So treat it like the precious commodity it is. That means remaining organized by budgeting your time. How do you do this? Simple: a schedule.
Everyone likes to manage their schedule a little differently, but the characteristics of a good schedule are the same:
- Allotting time for the things you have to do each day -- sleeping, eating, showering, driving your kids to school, or cooking dinner. This time should automatically be blocked out.
- Budgeting time for other tasks, such as teaching, budgeting, or marketing.
- Never budgeting your time optimistically. Be realistic about how long each task will take, and consider adding time to this for unanticipated challenges. This means that, even if something comes up, you’ll still remain on schedule.
You have a budget for your money. Why not one for your time? Do it now, and do it every day. It’s the only way to know whether you can take on something new -- and to what extent time wasters like social media eat into the time you could be spending on something more useful.
Knowing What Works -- and What Doesn’t
- How much revenue did your last advertising campaign bring in?
- If your profits increase by 10%, how much will your tax liability increase?
- What will your liability insurance cover?
- What are your biggest areas of liability exposure?
- How long can your business run without being profitable?
- Do you have sufficient income and credit to rent or buy a building? Open a line of credit? Embark on a new project? Open a new location?
- How much can you afford to pay your staff?
- How much income does each new class earn? How much does each new class cost?
- Are there new ordinances being debated in your city that could affect your business?
If you can’t quickly and confidently answer each of these questions, you're not organized enough. That means an unpleasant surprise could send your business and your life crashing into chaos. If you’re avoiding getting organized now because you’re worried about how much time and money it will cost, consider how much a nasty surprise could cost you instead.
Running a business is all about knowing what works and what doesn’t. You need actionable data. Without it, you’re just throwing money into a pit, hoping something works. That’s a stressful way to live, and it’s certainly no way to bring in revenue. You deserve better. Your business deserves better. Keep track of everything, including past trends and future projections, with the right studio management software.
You Can’t Do it All: Working With the Right Partners to Stay Organized
Studio owners tend to be do it yourself types. They're independent, and like going it alone. But you simply can’t do everything on your own, if only because it’s impossible to be in two places at once.
Successful studio management requires you to get organized enough to:
- Identify holes in coverage. Do you need a lawyer? Is there a class for which you must hire an extra teacher?
- Know what you don’t know. Are you a bad accountant? Time to hire someone.
- Value your own time. Perhaps you could organize your files, but should you? Would you actually save money by spending that time teaching and hiring someone else to do it?
- Know which advertising strategies have historically worked—and which have fallen flat.
We get it. Your business is your baby, and it’s hard to hand your baby over to just anyone. It’s also necessary if you want to grow. You need help. And The Studio Director is here to offer you just that. Our comprehensive studio management software is part assistant, part notebook, and all your own. We offer a free trial so you can see what a well-run, well-organized business really looks like.
Want to learn more about optimizing and organizing your studio?