There’s no doubt about it – the front office at a dance studio is a busy place.
On any given day the desk is covered with messages, notebooks, attendance sheets, clip boards, and the occasional missing tap shoe. Whether the day-to-day swirl of demands are managed by you alone or by a variety of staff and faculty, there will always be a mish-mash of projects in motion and to-do lists that need action.
Below is a list of tools that make managing the office easier and how we use them to priceless advantage at our studio, where an office staff of five helps us serve hundreds of families and manages the details of over 100 weekly classes, taught by a faculty of 20 teachers.
These are tools that have made it possible to manage our office remotely, when our staff are on the run to events and traveling with smart phones or either PC and Mac laptops, improve intercommunication, process tuition, gather feedback, and market our dance studio.
If you use some of these tools already I hope to give you new ideas on how to extend their usefulness.
1. Gathering Feedback with Surveys
Constructive feedback can be your studio’s greatest access to growth. Yet seeking it out is one of the things we resist the most. Hearing how things could get better or where your programs could be improved can be hard, especially since you put your heart and soul into your studio. You can easily, and for free, collect information from a weblink, in email, a post on Facebook, or an embedded form on your website using Survey Monkey. The free version allows you to create 10 questions per survey and gather 100 responses per survey.
Twice a year – in October and March – we ask our current students to provide feedback on how things are going. When a student drops from our studio, we also send a quick exit survey. Here are just a few questions we ask:
- What could we add or provide that would make your participation at our studio even better?
- Was proper guidance for class placement given and is it appropriate for student’s age and ability?
- What do you like most about being a student here?
- How would you rate the value of our dance education in relation to our tuition rates?
- If considering dance in the future, would you return to or recommend our studio?
Once you have data you can download it to easily review and take note of any trends or areas of concern. You may find you get some great testimonials from your students and parents as well!
2. File Sharing and Editing with Google Docs
You can accomplish a lot in less time at your studio with Google docs. Our management team shares information and each of us can edit, add, and update from our home or any web browser. You can:
- Save time and headaches wondering what version of a policy update or website edit is in progress.
- Get important work done without having to always meet in-person.
- If you are traveling you don’t have to worry about a hard drive crash or even having access to a personal computer – everything is stored in the cloud. If you have access to the Internet you can login and access all data and docs.
- No worries if someone on staff doesn’t have Word, Excel or Powerpoint – opening the information as a google doc means there is no excuse not to read the information!
Examples of the types of docs we share: recital debriefing, faculty/staff phone and contact info, newsletter content, press releases in progress, policy updates, to-do lists, and much more. If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated by the limitations of technology or lost time trying to figure out what version of a file was last saved – give Google docs a try.
There were many years when we used to have to go through a webmaster to make even the slightest update to our website. Those days are over!
Thankfully there are many options available to have a nice, professional looking website that requires barely any technical ability to manage. If you can update a word processing document – then you can have an easy-to-update website. No one wants to lose a potential student who visits their website and then leaves due to a lack of up to date information or missing schedule. With an easy to update website your office staff can instantly:
- Add a revised class schedule
- Post photos
- Change text on a class description
- Link to an event
- Announce important news
Your studio website is such a key part of your marketing and communications. It is more important than ever to have the ability to easily update your website. While there are many great services out there for you to explore. You can begin for free with a WordPress or WordPress.com site or ask for a referral from a business owner or colleague.
4. Auto Billing for Tuition
We press a button and voila!, hundreds of credit cards are processed and we have tuition money in our account. Not only is this is a time saver for our accounts receivable staff member but many parents love it too.
One of the most common responses I hear from studio owners when it comes to credit card process is, “but the fees are too high”. I invite you to consider the upside:
- You have instant tuition collected and you don’t have to pay someone to tediously post checks and make lengthy deposits.
- Plus, if you use online registration in conjunction with auto billing, it’s like having an employee working for you while you sleep.
- Shop around for a competitive rate with the banks.
- If you already use a studio management software you can check with them on a preferred merchant account and gateway in terms of compatibility with the program.
If it’s been a while since you raised your tuition rates to reflect the current cost of doing business, this might be the perfect time to do so and start accepting credit cards with the option to auto bill your students.
5. Phone Conference Calls with Faculty and Staff
Have you noticed how it’s nearly impossible to get a group of faculty or staff together for a face to face meeting?
We’ve given up on the idea of getting in person regularly. Yet there is important information that we need to discuss live with our teachers and staff that just can’t be done via email. Phone calls are the next best thing! Our favorite, free tool is FreeConferenceCall.com.
- Simply sign up with your email address and you receive a call-in phone number and access code to send to your group.
- There is also a handy feature to record your call. Send the replay to those who couldn’t make it, and they’re easily caught up on what was discussed.
- Another upside to using this service is that, unlike a three-way call on a cell phone, you eliminate the risk of dropping a call or losing someone’s cell signal.
- If finding a time for everyone to get together is holding you back, consider which face-to-face meeting could be accomplished with a conference call instead. You might be surprised by the efficiency of a 45-minute conference call!
What tools have you found helps your office staff shine?
In what other ways have you used the tools in our list?
Suzanne Blake Gerety is not only the very busy mom of two young children but is the owner and co-founder of DanceStudioOwner.com, and the Vice President of Kathy Blake Dance Studios. She is a regularly featured contributor in various pieces for Dance Teacher Magazine including, “Ask the Experts”, business articles, and has presented live workshops at Dance Media’s Dance Teacher Summit New York City.
Suzanne experiences the ups and downs of studio ownership too, which is what inspires her to help studio owners and teachers keep their passion for dance alive as they grow their business. You can connect with Suzanne on Twitter @SuzanneGerety and at DanceStudioOwner.com.