What do you get when you add the parents at your dance studio plus the myriad of problems that can arise?
Some people would say headaches!
However, we owe much of our accomplishments and innovation at our dance studio to parent complaints and concerns.
In mathematical terms, parents are constants not variables. They aren’t going anywhere. They are a staple in the dance studio business. They want the best for their children. I’m a mom, I can relate on so many levels. But what a parent wants for their child is not always what works for dance studio owners and teachers. From disagreements on class placement, teaching style, audition results, solo choices, costume picks, music selection, and payment plans to planning rehearsal schedules, the moms and dads will often have an opinion about how it should go.
What I see happening more often than not is that dance studio owners and teachers want to make problems go away. Trust me, I don’t wake up in the morning hoping to get an email or phone call from an irate parent, but it’s in the way you view and handle problems that true growth and success can occur.
Here are three things that you can do that are likely to transform the way you think about problems with parents and make a positive difference at your dance studio:
#1. Regard Every Problem as an Opportunity to Grow
I’m not saying every parent is right! But what I am saying is that when a parent brings up a problem or complaint, it is an opportunity for you to really take a step back and look at the situation and see if their suggestions may actually help you improve.
Dance studio ownership is a very personal business, it’s hard not to get defensive or take complaints and concerns to heart. Trust me, I have shed my fair share of tears over events that have left me asking ‘why bother?’ Here’s where you have to dig down into your commitment to success.
If you are running a business, you will ALWAYS be problem-solving. Trying to make problems go away is an exhausting battle never to be won. Instead, when faced with a problem consider it a wonderful opportunity to improve, add something, try new methods, or entertain a different approach. Be open and grow.
#2. Have a System for Communicating Concerns
When a parent doesn’t have a clear path to direct a concern, they will go and find just about anyone that will listen to them. From the first moment a student registers at our dance studio we let them know that we are more than open to receiving their feedback and we show them where we keep a parent-student concern form that they can fill out and return at anytime. Upon receiving these forms we set up a meeting to discuss the concern.
The ‘no gossip’ rule nips problems right in the bud. Train your faculty and staff to be aware when walking through waiting rooms or around the studio. When they hear gossip or when a concern is mentioned, have them invite the parent to set up a meeting with you or your director to personally address a problem. Encourage everyone to take their concerns to the people that can do something about it at the studio.
Complaints and expressed concerns might also be considered contributions. When you are open to receiving, rather than avoiding, shutting down, or making it wrong to voice a concern, you create the opportunity to be the talk of the town for all the right reasons.
Your students and parents will gladly refer you to others if they know that any complaint or concern large or small will be heard. Again, this does not mean you are changing policies for parents just because they have a concern. People want to be heard, receive their communication, then decide how to proceed.
#3. Give Big Problems and Issues the 24-hour rule
One day you can be dealing with a huge issue and feel like the world is crashing in and everything seems to be going wrong… and then you sleep on it. Have you noticed that more often than not, the next day everything seems in perspective and less daunting?
We made a rule at our dance studio with our faculty and staff that whenever we are about to consider an exception to a rule, a policy change, or send communication to a parent as a result of a meeting or concern that we give it the 24-hour rule. This helps immensely when it comes to taking the emotion out of a situation. In fact, Nichelle mad a similar recommendation in her article for parents on How To Talk To Your Studio Director And Be Heard. It’s easy to get a voice-mail or e-mail and want to reply back with a quick judgment. Instead, at our studio we set up a meeting, hear all sides of the issue with the parent and student, and then after 24 hours make a decision.
However you structure it, adding that time makes a big difference in your ability to see the big picture and make choices and decisions that are best for everyone involved
“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” ~ Bill Cosby
The truth is, you can’t make everyone happy. Nor can you retain 100% of your students from year to year. That’s just not how it works. What you can do is learn and practice being great with people.
When you learn how to handle the angry, irate, mad, frustrated, and completely irrational parent in a way that sets your dance studio up for success you will be positioned for growth. For those parents that you just cannot make happy or arrive at a solution for – graciously suggest a dance studio that might be able to accommodate their needs. Sometimes your studio’s vision and values are just not the right fit for their dancer!
Surround yourself with a supportive team of faculty, staff, family, friends, and colleagues that believe in your dance studio vision and mission. Give big problems and issues the 24-hour rule before making a decisions. Have a system for communicating concerns at your dance studio and most importantly see each problem as an opportunity to grow!
How have your studio parents helped you grow this year?
What are some ways you’ve kept things positive when it comes to parent concerns?
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.