Organization and Systems are Key for a Successful Studio

Imagine how much easier your life would be if you had highly organized systems, policies, and schedules in place.  Customers would be impressed and amazed that you are organized enough to have all important dates and policies publicized at the beginning of the dance season. You and your office staff would alway know exactly what to prioritize for each day and what is on the horizon. Imagine your teachers being in the loop with all goings on and notified well in advance of studio events and staff meetings.

I will admit, as much as I try to be organized, I myself am still learning and perfecting my planning and organization from year to year. Of course, there are always things that are beyond my control that keep me from accomplishing things on my ideal schedule (can we say ‘slow to respond’ theater director, or ‘out of stock’ costume company??)

But if you can plan as much in advance as possible, from systems and schedules, to studio breaks, to events, fundraisers, and performances, even staff meetings, your life will be much easier and your customers and staff will be happier. Of course, reminders are always necessary and that is for another post, but they will not feel thrown for a loop and you won’t have to deal with the undesirable consequences.

Let's start with the basics...Clutter is not your friend.  Clear it out and make it easier on the entire staff.  That goes for your home office, too!

Project management and communication between team members is vital to a successful studio.  Everyone needs to know what they are responsible for, have the pertinent details or files, and know the deadline.  Thankfully, there are tons of great apps that can keep your projects and to-do lists organized.  We personally use Google Keep (it's free), but if you need a more robust program, check out Slack, Basecamp, or Asana.  Google Keep is awesome because it appears like virtual "sticky notes" and you can create checklists, add files, set reminders, and assign specific notes and tasks to team members.  One thing that is missing is a conversation component, but we also have a secret Facebook staff group for quick staff communications.  This works well for us because not every teacher and office manager gets to see the rest of the staff on a regular basis.

Systems are the most important component of a super-efficient, highly-organized organization.  To find out if you have systems in place, ask yourself...Would your studio be able to function relatively seamlessly without the presence of the Owner/Director??  Do you have systems in place to manage each of the important tasks or events that occur in your studio?  You should have systems in place for all routine functions like lead follow ups, billing, inventory, hiring, marketing, and parent communications.  Even if it isn't perfect, having A system is better than having NO system.  Figure out the vital tasks that relate to any job (for example, ordering costumes) and build a basic step by step system. Put it in writing so you can remember for next time.  Tweak as necessary.  For computer tasks like printing rosters, inputting payments, and more, use Screenflow to record yourself doing the tasks, then send your team members a video to watch and learn.  Even better, create a folder in Google Drive with all of your training videos so any team member can have easy access to watch and review. 

Scheduling is another important element of having an organized studio.  Reasons for planning super far in advance are two-fold: staff has it on their radar so they can plan accordingly, marketing plans can be developed and executed in plenty of time, and it holds you accountable to follow through with your plans.  If you put 'staff meeting' on the calendar and publish it to your team, you are more likely to actually follow through.  Organizational plans could also be extended to include any maintenance or improvement projects you anticipate for the year. Say you know you will need to paint or replace the lobby flooring within the next year, or even have carpets cleaned…Mark that on your personal and staff calendar so your staff members know not to schedule private lessons during that time frame. It will also help you plan ahead— you can save funds, purchase supplies, interview and hire contractors, etc.

Speaking of maintenance, does your staff know the person and number to call if there is a maintenance emergency, like a water leak or broken furnace? Post the information in a visible spot—the front desk, the staff break room, etc-- so they know how to handle problems in your absence. 

With a little planning ahead and organization, your customers and staff are sure to be happier over the long term and you will benefit from the sense of calm you have created. You will thank yourself!  

Hopefully you have a good start, but if not, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to get your FREE Studio Organization Checklist for a detailed list of systems and schedules you may want to consider implementing.  


10 Ways to Save Your Summer: Strategies to Keep Thriving During the Slow Summer Months

Summer.  The season of dread for us studio owners.  You would think that we should be able to enjoy our summer--the lighter schedule (maybe?), the time with our kids, a well-earned vacation...But for most of us, summer is difficult to enjoy. Most of the students take the summer off and we are just praying to get through on the drastically decreased income from a few classes and camps.

There are a few simple strategies that have helped me have a more a successful summer.  Here are my top 10 ideas for you...

1) Get that schedule out EARLY--the earlier the better.  You want to get those parents when they are in planning mode, ideally January or February, so they book dance FIRST and everything else around that.

2) Have a variety of camps, classes, workshops.  All ages, all schedules.  Not every parent can manage a half or full day camp.  It is nice to throw in a few evening camps.  And make sure the theme is interesting and up-to-the-minute.  

3) Come up with some great incentives...Maybe offer a discount or a special bonus if they register by a certain date?  This is only limited by your imagination but it should obviously be something pretty desirable...front row seats at the spring recital if they enroll and pay for summer by February 1st (or until there are no more seats--this would create more urgency), free leotard or studio logo wear, a private lesson...OR add value by including an extra workshop or super fun studio event (tea party, daddy daughter dance day, etc.)

4) If you have a performing or competitive team, consider requiring those dancers to enroll in summer session.  You can set the terms, whether you require ballet only or more.  But be specific and put it in writing about which summer classes and camps are acceptable and the possible consequences for not attending.  Make sure you tell the parents about this policy in the fall, way before summer, and issue a reminder or two when you distribute the summer schedule.

5) Plan on a few classes and camps that incorporate styles you don't normally have during the school year.  This may bring in some new students, helps your current students broaden their horizons, and if some are very popular it can even give you ideas for what classes may be good to add during the school year. 

6) Register for fall classes starting in the spring to help with cash flow. Again, get the schedule out early (April/May.)  This helps you lock in those students before they commit to other fall or school activities, and gives you some extra money to get through the slim summer months.  Emphasize that they need to enroll to secure their first choice classes and on the days and times that work for them.  Don't forget to send out class recommendations with the schedule, and do it a few weeks prior to registration opening.  The bigger deal you and your staff make the early registration period, the more emphasis the customers will place on it, too.  Plus, it sets you up great for fall classes!

7) Consider renting out your studio space during open hours.  This is a good option year round, but you may have better luck during the summer if the studio has more availability.

8) Host sampler versions of classes and mini-camps.  This may be more appealing to those families who travel a lot and are unable to commit to full week camps or weekly classes.  This is also a great way to appeal to potential families because it gives them an opportunity to try your studio out.

9) Don't slow down on the advertising!  You need to plant the seeds now so that you can "sow" them come fall.  However, since cash tends to be tighter, you have to be more strategic and efficient with your marketing dollars.  A $700 direct mail postcard or booth at a family expo may not be the best use of your money.  I have been getting a lot of mileage out of Facebooks ads and boosted posts, and the budget is flexible which is awesome.

10) MY TOP TIP IS....Survey your customers!  Don't just guess what they will want, ask them!  You can create a very simple survey in Google Forms in about 10 minutes and email the link to your customers.  Set a quick deadline tied to a chance to win a prize.  Evaluate the results and build your schedule based on the feedback.