When a studio owner is swamped with a thousand daily operational details, there’s no time for the job a business owner really needs to be doing—planning for the company’s future. Here’s what to do about that.
Running your own studio often comes with a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. After all, especially at the start, you’re likely the one who teaches class, creates choreography, collects tuition, plans a recital, calls parents, answers e-mails, orders costumes—plus a host of other tasks, some of which you probably don’t even think about. But as your business grows, think of the impact it would have if you could delegate and take certain routine or clerical tasks off your hands. Not only could this free you up to do more of what you love—even more important, you could focus on your principal job as studio owner: keeping an eye on the big picture, improving profitability and building a sustainable enterprise.
Good Reasons to Delegate
Business owners often have a host of reasons that delegating isn’t for them (with “If you want something done right, you’d better do it yourself” topping the list), but here are three to convince you otherwise.
1. Your time is worth it.
Not convinced? Well, decide how much your time is actually worth, says Suzanne Blake Gerety, co-owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, NH. Here’s one formula, suggested by entrepreneur James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, that may help you figure out that number: How many hours a week do you spend working? Multiply that number by 50 to find out how many hours you’re devoting to earning money each year. (This figure will probably be around 2,500 hours.) Then, divide one year’s worth of take-home pay by the number of hours you work in a year. That’s your own hourly rate. (Is that number lower than you were expecting? Remember that you might be underpaying yourself as a business owner. A better question to estimate how much your time is worth could be: “How much would you pay someone else to do what you do?”)
Once you’ve defined for yourself what your own hourly rate is, Gerety says, you should be delegating or outsourcing any of your tasks that you could train someone else to do, freeing yourself up to do what you’re best at or what brings in new money to your business.
Worried about paying a staff member to tackle those tasks? Once you have a clear idea of how much your own time is worth, you might be more inclined to rejigger your finances to make delegating a reality. “Maybe it’s: ‘I’m not going to take as much home in my paycheck, and I’ll allocate that amount to an office manager,’” says Gerety. “What does the freedom of not having to do that task you hate let you do instead?” Consider how you might generate new revenue, for instance: “When was the last time you raised your prices?” she asks. “Do you have a proper registration fee? Create a budget to pay for it.”
2. You have enough to do.
If you think you won’t be able to cobble together enough tasks to pass off to someone else, think again—you might be surprised. Gerety recommends making a list of every task you’re currently doing on your own: not just the obvious ones, like sending and answering e-mails, creating e-mail marketing campaigns and collecting delinquent tuition payments, but stuff like cleaning up the lobby, vacuuming the floors and printing attendance sheets. Once you’ve made your list, review which of these tasks actually bring in revenue and which are more support functions. “Which of these can you train someone else to do?” asks Gerety. Once you delegate those tasks, you’ll have more time to focus on activities that generate revenue.
Take time to identify your staff’s skill sets and interests, too. For example, your office manager may be great at posting tuition payments, but someone else may be better at creating e-mail newsletter content or handling parent concerns. Start small: Delegate administrative, repetitive tasks, such as filing papers, organizing and cleaning, first. “If it’s the same process each time, then someone else most likely can easily learn that,” says Kristen Vitek, human resources director for Revolution Dancewear. “Routine tasks are the easiest to farm off, and, amazingly, they’ll save you a lot of time.” (Later on, you can train staff for the bigger roles.) Vitek also suggests building in checkpoints for the tasks you’ve delegated. “The first time, you might say, ‘I’m going to do this, and you’ll watch. Next time, you’ll do it, and I’ll watch,’” she says. “By the third time, they can do it themselves.”
3. You won’t be the only person who knows how your studio operates.
Abby Odom, owner of Gracefully Yours Dance Academy in Collinsville, IL, likes having another person who knows everything about how her studio runs. “When it’s just you as the owner,” she says, “you’re the only one who knows that every month Sally’s mom pays on the 11th when it’s due on the 10th, and every month you remind her, and every month she complains about the late fee.” Also, looking to the future, if you ever decide to sell your studio, a buyer needs to have the confidence that its operation doesn’t rely solely on what you know and do, but that it could continue successfully after you leave.
The Bottom Line
Delegating can make your business run more smoothly. You may not even be the best person for every job you’re doing. Once you hand off a task to someone else—whether it’s bookkeeping, social-media posts, updating your website or chasing payments—that person might improve the system you’ve had in place. For example, Odom didn’t have a good way to track payment for solo choreography. Her office manager reorganized it using the studio management software system, including reminding parents to pay for the extra cost.
As a studio owner herself, Gerety says she understands owners’ concern over losing control. “The ‘I’ll just do it myself’ feeling is strong,” she says. “But there’s going to be a place where you max out. So why not put some teamwork behind it instead?”
Rachel Rizzuto writes the Business column for Dance Teacher and is a second-year MFA student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.