If you’re like most dance studio owners, you thrive in the competitive world of dance. You probably spent years honing your own dance skills, getting up early, studying your craft, and tweaking the finest details of each movement. Running a dance studio requires the same commitment dancers show to their art. Owning a business, however, is a far cry from mastering dance. You can’t dance your way to success, and your reputation as an enviable dancer will not be enough to propel your business to success.
Dance studio management is a skill, not something you can master overnight. The good news is that the dedication and hard work that helped you succeed as a dancer can also help you master the complexities of life as a business owner. The right software can fills your toolbox with everything you need to build a successful studio from the ground up. Without a keen business sense, though, studio management software isn’t enough. Here’s what you need to know.
A dream is just a dream. Success demands hard work.
We live in a culture that gives a lot of credit to dreams. We’ve all heard stories about the dreamer whom no one believed, the person who pushed on in spite of the odds, the business owner who somehow found a way to make it all work. Your dreams do matter. But don’t fall prey to the myth that a dream is enough.
Some business owners think that if they want something badly enough, it will happen. “I’m deserving. I love dance. I’m a good person,” the thinking goes. Wanting something isn’t enough. Having a good vision isn’t enough. Success takes hard work -- and not just a short-term burst of work, but sustained work over the course of months, years, and decades. There's never a point at which you can rest on your laurels.
You might be nodding your head at the obviousness of this all, but when you’re in the thick of running a business, it’s not so obvious. You might feel like, solely because you’re running (or planning to run) a good business, you deserve success. Ditch that self-defeating thought right now. Successful business owners are experts at:
- Identifying problems before they become crises.
- Accepting critiques, even when they’re hurtful.
- Listening to experts.
- Tackling problems head on, rather than hiding from them.
Give up your ego and get to work. It doesn’t matter how long you've wanted this or how much you love dance. Dreams don’t build success.
Business owners wear many hats.
Most newly minted dance studio owners are stunned by the sheer volume of work they have to do. But the stress doesn't begin and end with hard work. Dance studio owners must fill a wide range of specific roles if their business is to succeed. Few people have the skills necessary to successfully fill each role. This means you’ll either need to outsource some tasks, or quickly get a crash course in each job. Don’t even think about winging it, or you could find your business collapsing in on itself. Find a way to fill each of the following roles.
Running a business, any business, means managing other people. For most dance studio owners, this means:
- Recruiting, hiring, and firing a staff, including instructors, a receptionist, and other key roles.
- Managing the daily operations of your business.
- Addressing employee concerns, including personal conflicts, scheduling, continuing education, and pay.
- Taking responsibility for your employees’ behavior. Hiring people means you trust them, which means you’ll have to be prepared to take the fall when they make mistakes.
You’re in this business to make money, right? Turning a profit is more complicated than you might think. Many businesses take years to become profitable. That means you’ll need to be very good with your money -- both to expedite the time line to profitability and to ensure you’re able to navigate the challenges of life before you turn a profit.
You’ll need to keep track of expenses and income, know when to pay and whom to pay it to, save for unanticipated expenses, and of course plan for tax time. A good accountant is part magician, part therapist, and worth their weight in gold. It’s also a role few business owners are prepared to fill on their own.
Think the law doesn’t matter unless you get sued or have legal trouble? Business ownership will soon correct that misbelief. You’ll need clear contracts with staffers and students. You'll have to understand local zoning rules, take steps to minimize your liability if a student is injured, and ensure you comply with various safety and building regulations.
The law might seem simple to a layperson, but that simplicity is deceptive. Law school takes three years for a reason. Don’t think you understand the law just because you’ve spent a few minutes on Legal Zoom. Work with a real lawyer to craft contracts, agreements, and an understanding of how the law affects your business.
No business is an island. The political milieu in which your studio exists can and will affect its operations -- like it or not. Some of the many ways political meanderings can affect your business include:
- Zoning laws that change how your building must be constructed or where it must be located.
- Insurance regulations that determine how much insurance you must carry, or what insurance can cover.
- Changes in court-established legal precedent that address which injuries you might be liable for, or what strategies you must adopt to mitigate risk.
- Wage and hour law changes, particularly on the state level, since states often change minimum wage and other laws before the federal government does.
You’ll need to be attuned to local and national politics, and how they might affect your business. You also must navigate thorny political issues. That may mean being nice to people you don’t like, establishing a strong reputation in your community, and knowing how to gain the support of local neighborhoods.
It doesn’t matter how great your studio is. If no one knows about it, they won’t patronize it. Every dance studio needs a marketing strategy -- one that identifies the target student, crafts a plan for reaching that student, and crafts ads for the web, the radio, television where appropriate, print, and numerous other outlets.
Successful business owners either educate themselves about marketing, or work with a marketing team that knows how to get results. It’s not enough to throw money at advertising. If that money isn’t coming back to you in the form of new business, you might as well light it on fire. Marketing is a process of trial and error. Neglect it at your peril.
Most studio owners spend at least some time teaching. Teaching dance, however, is a far cry from being a dancer. It doesn’t matter how good you are. You have to help your students be good, too. That means breaking things down as simply as possible, and finding ways to encourage students when things get tough. Everyone has natural talents. Good teachers know how to harness them. They don’t let their egos get in the way of finding a style that works for each student -- and tailoring their own teaching style to the needs of each individual.
Your teaching demands will likely extend beyond the walls of the classroom. You’ll have to educate new teachers about your preferred teaching style, instruct new students on why your studio is different, and craft marketing materials that educate about the benefits of your studio. Studio owners never really shrug off the role of teacher, even when they're no longer providing direct instruction.
Emotions run high in the world of dance. You’ll be privy to every drama and dispute imaginable, from students with hurt feelings to instructors who can’t get along. Don’t think you can discipline students into getting along, threaten employees, or just ignore emotional issues and watch them disappear.
Skilled dance studio owners are also expert counselors. They know how to talk to their students about their problems -- and how to identify students who may need additional support. They intervene in employee conflicts because they know these conflicts can take down a business. And they understand that being a caring person isn’t just the right thing. It’s also a liability issue. Tell a student with an eating disorder to go on a diet, for example, and watch that student waste away into nothing as your reputation is destroyed.
Master the art of caring for others, identifying their needs, and navigating conflicts now. And if you can’t do it, consider hiring a mediator who can.
Sure, you’ll have to fulfill many practical roles. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your dreamer’s spirit. One of the reasons you’re successful is your willingness to consider the impossible. So keep dreaming and developing improbable plans. You can only implement that which you can dream up. This means dedicating time to self-care, so that you can get the creative juices flowing and come up with the next big thing.
Self-care is more than just a buzzword.
Just about every guide to owning a business mentions self-care. This is more than just a trendy buzzword. It’s a non-negotiable if you want to run a successful business.
So what is self-care? It’s tending to your own needs, so that you have the energy and brain space to tend to the needs of your business, your staff, your students, and your community. Hard work matters, yes, but you can’t work hard if you don’t carve out time for yourself. Get good at self-care. You might be surprised by how much easier it makes the daily grind.
Skills are learned, not innate.
No one is born knowing how to run a business. So don’t think you can learn on the job. And don’t allow your inexperience to deter you from trying to master the skills you need to succeed. Running a business is a skill. That means it’s something you can get better at. If you’re floundering now, this can be particularly reassuring. You deserve success, and you can have it if you’re willing to put in some work.
Expertise matters -- in dance and in business.
If you’re reading this and thinking there’s no way you can possibly fill all of these roles, you’re right. That might feel frustrating if you’re already low on cash. But it can also be freeing. When you can’t do it all yourself, it’s easier to justify the expense of hiring someone who can do it. With that decision comes more time -- and time, more than even money, is the most valuable commodity you can preserve when running a business.
Take some time to think about what you can reasonably do on your own—and what you need to outsource. Maybe you’re an expert negotiator who has little legal knowledge. Then find affordable ways to outsource vital functions. You might hire a lawyer for a monthly consultation, for example, or ask an accountant to go over your books on a quarterly basis. Hiring someone doesn’t have to mean bringing them on as full time staff—or even taking on the myriad obligations managers tackle.
Hard work can bridge the gap between your dreams and your success.
In case it’s not already clear, hard work -- and a willingness to keep working even in the face of resistance, and even when the going gets tough -- will ultimately be what sets you apart from your competition.
Some novice business owners think that opening a business is a way to minimize their work. They won’t have a boss breathing down their neck, they reason, and therefore life will get easier. Disabuse yourself of this notion. There may be a time when you can sit back and relax. But that time will be short, because eventually something will come up. Moreover, it takes lots of hard work to get there. So if you’re not willing to put in the work now, there’s no shame. Just know that running a dance studio is probably not the right business venture for you.
No one can do it all.
You know that you need to hire some experts, and that you’ll need to continually re-evaluate your business strategy. What you may not realize is that, even when you delegate to yourself only that which you are good at or don’t want to outsource, you can’t do it all. There’s only so much time in the day and space in your brain. Every business owner deserves a break, and you’ll never get one if you decide to take on multiple roles yourself.
So what’s a busy dance studio owner to do? Invest in a good place to store all the information that’s cluttering your brain. Get the data you need to understand what’s happening in your studio, and how those events change over time. Get some perspective. How?
With dance studio management software. Your studio management program really can revolutionize the way you run your business, turning your to-do list (and your brain) from a cluttered mess to a well-oiled machine. Start crossing things off of that ever-growing to-do list.
The Studio Director can automate much of what you do. Our program goes anywhere, so you’re never again chained to a desk. And because you’ll never forget key information again, our program empowers you to keep growing, keep impressing business partners, and keep surpassing goals that once seemed impossible.
Want to know more about what it takes to successfully open, manage, and grow a dance studio? Check out our ebook, The 10 Commandments of Running a Dance Studio.