In 2008 I opened my 2nd dance studio. I started with 8 students and no backup plan. I had already failed at my first attempt at my lifelong goal to be a studio owner. After the pain and anguish of that failure, I didn’t think I would ever try again.
So, I tried to have a “real job” and found that I hated it. I remember standing in my closet one night looking at my work clothes and I just started crying, thinking, I can’t go back. I told my husband that night that I had to return to teaching dance full time. Even though I had a great job that most people would have loved, without teaching dance I was lost. Without living my purpose, life was not going to be right.
With my husband’s support, I ditched the 9-5, rented a room in an old building and set about gathering my first few students. With one failure under my belt, I was 100% determined to make this incarnation of my studio a success. I studied business, teaching, and marketing like a woman possessed.
I was happy to have a studio, but my personal life wasn’t good. I was too busy, too stressed, too poor. Like so many dance studio owners, I was running every aspect of my budding business, most of which I had little or no education in, with the exception of dance itself. I was not going to throw in the towel a second time. I studied harder. I tried a lot of things that failed. Many of the resources that I reached out to were too time-consuming, too costly, or just didn’t apply to my studio.
I was overwhelmed by the never ending to-do list. I was struggling through summers with no tuition. I was always stressed that I would not have the enrollment that was needed for the coming season.
I’m sure this story is not unique to me. You’ve been there. You fix your cup of coffee, glass of wine, (insert your beverage of choice here). You settle in to make your to-do for the week, and before you know it the panic ensues. Your heart is racing. Your palms are sweating.
There’s the marketing, the team meeting, the costumes, the mom with the ONE HUNDREDTH email to you about why little Suzie didn’t get put in the front row of the dance, the payments that were due weeks ago that you’re still trying to track down, and that all before you have even taken care of yourself or your own kids, let alone the … fill in this blank with whatever gives you your next heart attack.
That was me every week. Looking at an overwhelming to-do list, running a studio, teaching my classes, trying to be a good parent and spouse.
It was only after the years I spent searching and studying and failing, but I finally had the aha moment that changed everything, and it wasn’t “get more students.”
First, I increased yearly profits 25% with zero new students immediately just by restructuring my studio calendar.
Second, I automated an irresistible offer that got new students flowing into my studio all year long and a system to encourage student retention. My enrollment and profit have seen a 30% increase every year since I put that simple system in place.
Then, I created a to-do list around my new calendar structure to continue to increase my profits while DECREASING the hours that I was actually working on or in my studio. I turned my list into a master plan that would organize the most important aspects of my studio and my life all year long.
I don’t know about you, but I love a success story. They remind me we can get anywhere from right where we are now. Studying success stories is how I overcame the hard times early on in my studio ownership. They kept me going and gave me new ideas for how I was going to move my business from surviving to thriving.
Do you know what every successful person that I have studied or met has in common?…
The smartest, richest, most successful people- the people that get to take the best vacations- are masters at leveraging time. They know how to do more in less time. They know how to profit over and over again on work they only do once, how to prioritize, organize and maximize their time. Maybe most importantly, they know how to take advantage of the work other successful people have already done.
I asked myself how I could apply that to running a successful, profitable and joyful dance studio. I thought, what if everything I did to run my studio all year long was in one big master plan that covered all of the important aspects of my studio? And, what if I could arrange my calendar so that I never had to worry about slow money months, and still have breaks to take a vacation with my family?
The results were no more sitting and planning for hours each week just to still have that terrible feeling that I might be forgetting something really important. No more remembering that really important thing a little too late and having to scramble to get it done. No more waking up in the middle of the night wondering if classes in a new session would fill or have to be canceled.
When I changed the way I made my to-do list, I changed everything.
I figured out how to put it all in an easy-to-follow plan. I laid out a master list and followed it for a full year. It included my marketing, admin tasks, team leadership, recital planning, finances, and self care.
It’s been several years now since I rearranged my studio calendar to maximize cash flow, systemized my new student acquisition and retention, and started using my Master Plan Weekly To-Do List. Here is what happened in just the 1st year:
My profits went up 25% when I rearranged my calendar.
My profits increased another 30% because of the effortless way I was able to keep my marketing energy going all year, systemized new student acquisition, and the automated systems to ensure that current families would continue to be in love with my studio.
My team of teachers started meeting deadlines for recitals and working together on a cohesive vision for the studio and the students. My office started running smoothly without me. Those week-before-recital night terrors (you know the ones) are gone, recital profits rose and my recitals became events that even the studio dads love. I gained clarity on my financial picture, and finally started meeting my financial goals.
And… Wait for it…I can take a vacation… (even when the studio is open).
My only regret is how long it took me to put these 3 structures into action. I spent so much time frustrated and overwhelmed. I would love to help other dance studio owners get past that frustration phase much faster, so that they can focus on making a big difference in the lives of their students, have time for their families and take good care of themselves. Dance studio owners work hard. They are passionate about serving their students. They should have time and money to enjoy their lives. They should be able to have a studio and a life.