How to Hold Your Dance Studio Growth Back: Part 1

Are you addicted to being needed for everything that happens in your dance studio?

I have a friend that seems to me to be addicted to being needed. When it comes to work she loves to feel that nothing can happen without her attention to it. She is constantly answering every email, text, and call immediately, no matter what else she’s doing or who else she’s with, then puts the phone down and feigns frustration. But it’s clear that, like the yapping chihuahua with a wagging tail, she’s really enjoying being mad about it. When people, whether they are friends, family members, or colleagues don’t clearly need her anymore she ends the relationship with them, because she doesn’t know her place in a relationship without their dependence upon her. I get exhausted just watching her during an hour-long lunch date, much of which she spends more engaged with her phone than her lunch partner. Needless to say, she is exhausted all the time.

Luckily, for my friend, she’s made a good business of making people depend on her. Sadly, for her, though, she only makes money when she’s working, because everyone depends on her.

It’s occurred to me that it’s easy to have that same relationship with any business that you own. It may be especially easy to slip into that dynamic as a dance studio owner, given our natural theatrical flair and the fact that most of us did have to do everything ourselves when we started out.

We may need to step back and look closely at whether we own our business or our business owns us. Maybe, like my friend, you just really need to be needed. But maybe you just haven’t imagined what things might be like if you weren’t, or that it is a possibility to not be needed for every single function of your studio. At first, that really might seem terrible. We actually hear it said often that “everyone needs to be needed”. However, if we are truly serving the people or things that need us, it means nurturing them to the point that they don’t need us anymore. That won’t mean that we won’t enjoy them anymore. On the contrary, that’s where real joy can begin.

Think of all of the different nurturing roles in our lives. Isn’t our job in each to bring that person or thing set before us to independence and autonomy? Think, for example, of your role as a parent, as a teacher, or training your staff. But maybe, sometimes as the administrator of our studio, we get a bit addicted to feeling that we are the only one that can do things, or to having everyone ask us for help, or advice, or you name it.

Stand back and imagine your studio without you. Could it keep going? Do you want it to be able to? Does it have an existence separate from yourself? Would the studio you’ve built be able to continue to serve its students and provide meaningful usefulness and income for its staff? If not, what are steps that you could take to move your studio toward independence, or at least, get certain areas of your business functioning without you, so that you can turn your focus toward new growth goals in other areas?

Here is a simple way I started giving my studio some autonomy, and I continue to use this system. Every time I figure out a new system for any aspect of my studio, I create a document on Google Drive that is easy for my staff to search and find. It doesn’t really take any extra time. I am already documenting the new system for my own memory, and then just making sure it’s available and easy for my staff to find. I also print it and add it to our hard copy “office bible” binder. To let everyone know the new document/ system is in place, I add a note in a “daily office comms spreadsheet” that is also shared in Google Drive and opened by and updated by my staff and myself daily. My staff knows, “in case I get hit by a bus… everything you need to know is here. “

Then, unless it’s just something I really love and am great at, I teach someone else to do it and let it go. Even if it is something that I continue to do, I know the information about how to do it is available for my staff, in the case that I can’t or don’t want to do that particular task anymore. It’s not because I’m lazy. It’s not because I don’t enjoy the work of running my studio. It’s because I want to empower my studio to be strong, with or without me. I want to create room for growth that can’t happen if I’m the only one that can do everything. I want to provide opportunities for others to grow and expand their knowledge and proficiency. I want to create a legacy that lasts long after I’m gone, a dance studio to pass to other generations of teachers and students.

I’m definitely not perfect. It can be so tempting for me to not communicate. It seems so much easier sometimes (ok, a lot of the time) to just do things myself. After all, I know exactly how they need to be done, ( ok, actually other people tend to contribute better ideas in the process of learning a task I’m passing on).

While I am not personally addicted to people needing me, I have at times found myself stunting my own ability to delegate tasks and turn my focus toward studio growth in other ways, namely being a lazy communicator. We will check out how being a lazy communicator can stop your studio in its tracks and some simple fixes to the problem in How to Hold Your Dance Studio Growth Back: Part Deux.

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