Skip the clichéd New Year’s resolutions and consider these expert recommendations for dance business owners of all kinds.
This year will probably be better than 2020 no matter what you do. But just because the bar is low doesn’t mean you can’t take decisive steps toward a successful business year.
We talked to expert lawyers, marketers, bookkeepers and more about the resolutions they’d like to see more business owners make this year.
- Commit to inclusive and accessible content.
“It should not be a trend, but there is a positive movement toward this now: alt text, adding captions to videos, images that are representative of the community you serve in terms of race, gender, disability. Things like this should represent what happens in the business, not just be performative.” —brand consultant Maria Montanez of Other Space Innovation
- Know your customers—and sell what they want.
“Businesses need to be disciplined about their inventory. Too many stores jam their shelves full of merchandise, hoping to sell the latest shiny object. You have to sell what you’ve got and be realistic. Dance-shop owners might say ‘I need this,’ when really it’s ‘I want this.’
“What you offer has to match who you’re serving. Focus on knowing the people who come to your business. This can be through polling people on social media or in face-to-face interactions. Understand who is walking through the door, ask why they shop there, why they take classes there, why they started and why they come back.” —Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor
- Get organized—and don’t cut corners.
“Organizing isn’t just about keeping a space tidy, it’s keeping the systems of a business efficient. That starts with troubleshooting, but a lot of people skip the analysis and just rush into a solution they want to try. Then they say ‘I tried this and it didn’t work.’ Well, did you take an honest look at your business first? When you hire a professional organizer, the first thing they will do is analyze and observe, look at financials, interview staff. If you’re not in the position to hire someone to help with that, take the time to do that yourself as much as possible.” —Dan Loya, founder of Spaces Transformed
- Separate your finances—and take them seriously.
“Keep business and personal spending very separate: different bank accounts, PayPals, Venmos, everything—even if you have to go through line by line and separate personal coffee, etc. If you’ve commingled, the new tax year is an opportunity to open a new account, a new credit card.
“Remember that you are a serious business. You can’t offer your art and services if your financials aren’t sustainable. Artists don’t always want to think about the financial side, but take yourself seriously and know it’s vital to being able to offer your art for the long term.” —Elana Roberts, bookkeeping professional
- Lead with your values.
“How many hits have you gotten lately with ‘Buy my class, it’s 25% off’? Separate yourself by selling your brand and values, what you’re trying to achieve in the world. People want to feel part of a community, like taking a class is part of something greater. Have ambassadors or influencers be able to talk about your story, show the impact, and offer a way your community can get involved. People want inspiration and escape right now; so much advertising is ‘In these tough times.’ But advertisements can be there to entertain or be a distraction. There’s nothing wrong with that.” —Matthew Rednor, founder and CEO of Decoded Advertising
- Put it in writing.
“Correct and clear contracts are so important. A lot of times it’s a handshake, which later creates misunderstanding. Do you have the rights to put online the choreography you commissioned for live performance? Did you put in the business contract that you have the right to look at the books of the other business? These are just some details people often don’t iron out in writing in advance. Plan things out; don’t just rely on a handshake. It helps you sleep at night.” —Elissa D. Hecker, entertainment and business lawyer
- Don’t be afraid of “no.”
“There are a lot of studio owners who love to say yes to any request from a teacher or parent: to doing things that don’t align with vision, to the one parent who wants something that doesn’t work, or to a pay increase for a teacher who didn’t earn it. Saying yes to all these can pull you in too many directions. Say no honestly, while referring back to your core values, why you have the studio, what your vision and needs are. People will understand your decisions better. It’s hard to argue with core values.” —Clint Salter, dance-studio growth expert
Avichai Scher is a freelance journalist who has written for The New York Times and NBC News.