When (and How) to Go With a Pro

Why establishing relationships with outside professionals is crucial to a dance studio’s success

Dani Rosenberg (left) and Becca Moore founded Rhythm Dance Center in Marietta, GA, 27 years ago. Laurie Sermos

Few dance studios have the resources to bring on full-time legal counsel, accountants or website designers. But these relationships are essential to running a successful dance studio and can help you professionalize your operations, transforming your business from a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants operation to a more stable and profitable enterprise.

Becca Moore and Dani Rosenberg opened their Marietta, GA–based studio, Rhythm Dance Center, in 1993, when Moore was 23 and Rosenberg was 19. They’d both grown up at the same studio and after high school, taught, choreographed and helped out with administrative tasks, so the decision to open one of their own—despite their youth—made sense. “We were really excited and passionate, but we were also very naive,” says Moore. “I didn’t know what a payroll tax was for the first three years we were open,” says Rosenberg. “When we got a letter from the IRS telling us that we hadn’t paid our payroll taxes,” says Moore. “We were like, ‘What are payroll taxes?’”

This emergency wound up being the catalyst to establish their first business relationship with an outside professional: an accountant. “We pulled out the Yellow Pages to find him,” says Moore. “He had the biggest ad,” adds Rosenberg, laughing. The accountant quickly helped them set up a payment plan with the IRS to back-pay their payroll taxes. 

They ended up working with the same accountant for 18 years, switching only when he retired four years ago and passed their account along to another firm. That kind of longevity is something Rosenberg and Moore strive for in all their professional relationships. “We’ve always described ourselves as relationship people—we cultivate long-term relationships with the people we work with,” says Moore.

The Benefits of Working with Outside Professionals

The payroll taxes debacle, of course, wasn’t Moore and Rosenberg’s last crisis—it was just what launched them on a more sustainable approach to their business: relying on various types of professionals, who have brought significant benefits over the years. That’s how Moore and Rosenberg have grown their studio to 1,100 students and launched an additional studio marketing and decor company, Confetti on the Dance Floor, in 2016. Here are four reasons they’ve found to depend on outside professionals to help anchor and grow your small business.

1. They’ll help you deal with crises. 

Quick professional intervention is often crucial, whether you encounter a tax issue, like Moore and Rosenberg, or your e-commerce website stops working on the day your big sales promotion goes out, or revenues suddenly dry up because you have to temporarily close your business as in the current pandemic. When the worst happens, you’ll want an experienced, trained professional to guide you through sticky situations outside of your purview.

2. They’ll take on the role of business advisor in a broader sense.

Moore and Rosenberg were grateful to find someone early on who was willing to walk them through the accounting practices necessary to establish and run a financially successful studio. “That’s what helped our business grow,” says Moore. “We wouldn’t be where we are right now if we hadn’t put our trust in someone who knew what they were doing.” Over the years, their accountant’s advice has helped them weather a recession and map out a path to growth.

3. They’ll help you stay within the law when it comes to complicated business regulations.

Tax and labor laws are complex and change often, making it difficult for a layperson to keep up with them. You need someone to advise you who’s as passionate and up-to-date about their field as you are about dance. A licensed architect can help you manage a studio renovation according to local building codes and inspection requirements. A cybersecurity professional can advise you on a payment system that will keep your customers’ personal information out of the reach of identity thieves.

4. They’ll educate you, as the owner, to become a stronger businessperson.

Odds are that you chose to open a studio because you love dance—but you’re a business owner, too. Moore and Rosenberg knew enough to know what they didn’t know—and why it was important to learn about what they didn’t know, and not just throw the problem at a professional. Think of these relationships as a kind of on-the-job apprenticeship in business ownership. “It’s all about owning up to the fact that if you know nothing about something, you need to find someone you can trust—and make sure they understand they need to help educate you,” says Moore.

Last updated March 31, 2020.

Rachel Rizzuto reports on studio business for Dance Teacher and is a second-year MFA student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.