These days, Chantelle Bruinsma of Studio Expansion helps studio owners around the world find unprecedented freedom in running their businesses. But once upon a time, she was a choral conductor who guided young singers to sound their very best (in venues like the Sydney Opera House, no less).
So it makes perfect sense that Bruinsma calls on the metaphor of an orchestra to explain how Studio Expansion’s Studio Evolution program has changed the outlook of hundreds of studios and counting. Studio Evolution is a two-year, part-time professional-development program that coaches studio owners on optimizing their business and management processes—all so they can stress less and be more profitable than ever before. “In many studios, the studio owner is playing all the parts,” Bruinsma explains. “They play the violin better than anyone else, right? And everyone wants them to play the trumpet. And, oh, hang on, we need a flute, as well!”
Everything changes, Bruinsma says, when smart studio owners decide to instead step into a conductor-like role: “There’s a big difference between trying to play all the parts for other people, as opposed to simply standing there calmly and gracefully allowing the business to run.” Want to become the calm and collected conductor of your own dance-studio orchestra? Read on.
Get More Hours in the Day
If you’re like many studio owners, simply getting through the next quarter is enough of a tall order. So why add a business-development program to your endless to-do list? That’s what Hayley Barker (artistic director of Cowra Ballet School in Australia, a new mom, and a recent grad of Studio Evolution) wondered before taking the plunge in order to invest in her studio business. Now, “My working hours have dropped from 60-plus (six days a week) to 15 per week (two afternoons and a full day),” she says.
Thanks to the systems she started learning and putting into practice right from the beginning of the program, Barker has gained the freedom to stay home with her kids five nights out of the week. “I’m not acting on impulse or making reactive decisions anymore,” she says. “I have time to think, plan and implement.”
Bruinsma says that major time-management turnaround is baked into the design of Studio Evolution: “Instead of keeping you stuck in the lower-level operational activity of keeping your studio going day to day, we share the higher-level strategy that’ll really move the needle on your business’ growth.” Gone is the feeling of just barely keeping your head above water, both with your time and your studio’s finances. Here to stay is a sustainable plan for managing the future of your business—a plan that you can start executing even in the “20 minutes here, an hour or two there” daily schedule of a busy studio owner.
Get Dramatic Financial Improvements
The unpredictability of this pandemic has left many a dance studio on shaky financial footing. But thanks to the concentrated and approachable regimen of financial know-how provided by Studio Evolution, current and recent SE members have largely evaded that fate. JoAnn Tresco, CEO of PA DanceSport in Hummelstown, PA, is one of them.
“I’m one year into the program, and I can tell you from the heart that the financial-management information alone is worth the entire cost of Studio Evolution,” she says. For the six years before she joined Studio Evolution—and even before the existential threat of the coronavirus—Tresco had been working 14 hours a day, seven days a week, between PA DanceSport and a secondary full-time job. “My profit and loss statements informed me that I was not making any money,” she recalls. “My bills were sky-high.”
Tresco says that she’s now on firmer financial ground, even when you take into consideration the impact of the pandemic: “I’ve eliminated $6,000 in annual operating expenses. I’ve also doubled my profits by creating additional income sources that I’ve learned how to monitor for profit and success.” Tresco’s now paying herself a regular salary, too.
Get Your Happiness Back
We don’t have to tell you that studio owners are absolute rock stars. Whether you’re a self-taught one-woman show or proudly carrying on the traditions of a multigenerational family business, the people behind dance studios work harder than anyone because they love dance and they love kids.
But as Bruinsma likes to say, it can get really lonely at the top. You can’t just unburden business worries onto members of your faculty. Even the most patient spouse sometimes gets tired of hearing about that one teacher who drives you nuts. And it’s not exactly easy to swap best practices with competitors in your area.
That’s why the multipronged, consistent support you’ll find through Studio Evolution is priceless. First, there’s the worldwide community of studio owners eager to exchange tips and tricks. “There are six studio owners in my pod,” Barker says, “and we call each other our ‘business besties.’ We’ve been in contact every day of the past two years, backing each other up.” It’s a whole new world of camaraderie for Barker, who’s located in a small town, far from any potential studio-owner peers.
Then there’s the constant encouragement from the SE team to actually care for yourself so that you can care for your business. “I can’t tell you how much of a load has been lifted off my shoulders,” says Tresco. “I’ve discharged a lot of emotion that I didn’t even know was holding me back. And Chantelle and her crew are very sensitive to the emotions of studio owners as we’re going through this process.”
Change is tough! But so are studio owners. “We find that people come into our program and feel like they can exhale for the first time in decades,” Bruinsma says. “Running a business is so isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. We can take you from enduring to enjoying running your studio.”