For many studio owners, it is so easy to get caught up in the dream of owning a studio that the initial planning stages get missed. Once the studio has some momentum, it is like a roller-coaster of ups and downs and it is very difficult to slow down and reflect on your business – What makes it unique? What do you want from your business? What plans did you put in place to ensure your business would success – do they still work or do they need adjusting.It is good to STOP and revise your initial business plan. As you studio grows, so too should your goals and expectations. But where do you start? It can be hard to slow down the rollercoaster just long enough to gather your thoughts and think clearly (and not about the next costume you need to order). Trust me, I’ve been there! Before selling my studio, I had to ensure everything had an answer and a process. Your books can’t lie. Your studio is either organised and financially successful or it is not. I believe it is good for business owners to know how much their business is worth (even if you aren’t thinking of selling).
THE BUSINESS BIBLE
Writing your plan / cheat sheet / business bible can be overwhelming.Damian Cerini says you need your business to almost run itself before you look at growth. “The thing about working for an employer is that the business model is already set, it’s about the execution of the idea, whereas a new business is about testing the idea first and developing the systems.”
If something happened to you today, could your staff run your business efficiently for you tomorrow?
Since selling my studio, I have had time to reflect on what makes a good business. Some things I learnt early on, some I learnt too late but looking back it came down to needing to Stop and evaluate consistently. Writing down my thoughts and implementing them at the right time. Some things you have already heard, but it is always good to reflect on what makes your studio different. Why should a potential customer sign up with you?
Here are some points that I feel are important to take notes on before starting or revising your business plan:
What is your personal touch & how will you deliver a consistent customer experience.
You must be aware that from a potential customer’s’ perspective, everyone is essentially selling the same thing… you just have to do it better.
How are you going to establish a relationship with EVERY customer to make them feel part of your business? Make them feel important and make them remember why they chose to come to you. A studio owner is the ‘face’ of the studio. To ensure success in repeat business, which essentially is the income stream of a studio, studio owners must regularly make time to be in the waiting area / on reception to say a simple hello. If customers are not seeing you regularly, it is difficult to build rapport and ultimately you are making it very easy for them to not feel connected.
Social Media is your Friend
A marketing strategy is essential for not only growing your studio but also maintaining your studio ‘vibe’. Let’s face it, most of your families have access to some form of social media. You will never stop them using Social Media, so you must join them… but be smart. Have a strategy. Invest time into creating a social media calendar. Download apps and programs that schedule your social media for you. Your Social Media presence should include LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.
Whatever you can do to promote your brand awareness is critical and remember to be smart about your time spent on social media.Ensure you remain positive in ALL social media posts – no one likes to hear how bad your day is. Don’t allow these negative vibes to creep into your studio – parents can be negative enough without having ‘ammunition’ for carpark gossip. Keep your personal life SEPERATE. It is so important to have a personal account and a business account. Just like you must think about having a business mobile that you can turn off and a personal mobile.
Your Business Bible
Let’s start this process by writing your ideas and brainstorming in a notebook or a word document – whichever you are most comfortable. Write your ideas over a week as they come to you. Any inspirational quotes or a business article you have read. We will get back to organising this later.
As your business grows, ensure you take time out to think of ways to continue improving. Schedule it into your calendar – one hour each week (you can spread this out over the week). Ask yourself “how is my business better than last week? What would I love to do?
What is your specialty?
You will need this to remain focused. You may be passionate about technique. Your studio will develop from this specialty. Be clear about your specialty and do it better and with focus than anyone else.Stay your own path and your truth. If you begin to worry about others you will loose what makes your business unique.
What can you outsource?
Implementing process (including budgets) can allow you to discover what can be outsourced to a professional. We know you can do everything but you don’t HAVE to! Stick to your specialty and resist offering what you aren’t a specialist in.
A business isn’t for the faint-hearted.
So you have decided to start a business. Amazing! You had the courage to say ‘Yes’ to your passion. Continue to aim high, be persistent and have determination. Without these, you will loose sight of your initial boost of confidence. Keep having self belief in your strengths. Understand your weaknesses. You will be faced with challenges (everyday!) – understand everything has a solution or option. You got this!
Get into good habits.
Schedule everything! Apart from your business calendar, create a schedule for you – from when you clean your house to a bit of “you” time. Put it in the calendar. Don’t wait until 10pm for your downtime. Schedule it into your week so you feel like you have had time to recharge. Example: turn off your mobile data and go for a walk. If it is urgent people can call but there is no distraction of Facebook.Find time to meditate. Some excellent meditations can be found on YouTube and will allow you to reduce tension, stress, improve memory and focus. Be aware that your feelings will be impacting your business. Stay mindful and breathe.
Keep learning from every challenge.
Let’s be honest, a dance studio is one of the hardest businesses to run. Not only do you have to maintain profits, you have to keep your students and their parents happy. You are continually dodging complaints, altering your “rules” to suit individual needs and are required to be available at any given time of the day. (And let’s not mention collecting fees on time!)Every setback is a stepping stone to success.Through everything, you must remember it is important to stay positive wherever possible. See the feedback, not the failure.
Bigger isn’t always better.
You can have a small studio but if priced correctly, you will make more profit than your larger competitor. Simply, less students = less stress. If you are confident you are providing an outstanding service, don’t apologise for your fees. Stop looking at your student numbers and look at your bank statements. You don’t need to keep growing all the time. Define your own version of success.
Know when to work for free – and when you’re being taken advantage of.
Will it lead to something more? Will you be performing to a potential student?If you have a routine already choreographed and costumed, offering a performance at a local shopping centre or fete may lead to another paid job. But know when to stop. Remember it is always good experience for the students but it is time and a lot of effort out of your career.Free doesn’t always mean offering the entire job for free. It could mean this performance is free with the expectation that the next one is paid. Remember you must earn your stripes. Show them how amazing your studio is and what you can offer. How are you different from the next studio?
This leads to the next point – Learn to say no.
Be able to quickly recognise when a client or a customer has unrealistic expectations. Get onto it as soon as you can. Be honest and transparent with what you can offer. Don’t oversell your product. Have a constructive response ready. For example, if a performance opportunity arises but students do not show interest, a constructive response could be “Thank you for the opportunity, but we are so heavily committed at this time of year we are unable to give your performance opportunity the time and attention it needs.”
Be inspired by your competition
Instead of being negative about another studio or teacher, try turning this into a positive way to construct why your studio is unique. Be inspired to continually learn from your competitors – create a professional network with similar values. Ultimately, we all have the same focus of creating a successful studio and if we are honest, most studios have similar issues of parents, staff and finances.
The final thing I found gave me clarity over my business was to write down every single part of the company. Here is an example of the business structure of a studio. Remember this is just an example – every studio is different and so the revenues will look different.BUSINESS STRUCTURE EXAMPLE: https://drive.google.com/a/upagency.com.au/file/d/0BwP9BiY9n_ESSnd0TDNlaGg0V2c/view?usp=sharing