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Spring is almost here and that can mean only one thing to studio owners and teachers - getting the fall schedule together.  In these times of economic uncertainty, planning and cost management can mean the difference between profit and shutting the doors.  Here are some ideas to think about while you have time to plan changes that can help your bottom line:
 
Website - does your website reflect the atmosphere and personality of your studio?  Is it professional in appearance, free from typos and up to date with information?  Does it rely on Flash?  If so, you might not be visible on iphones and other hand held data devices. A quick way to test the usability of your site is to find a friend who is not really familiar with your business, and possibly not really computer savvy and ask them to find different information on your site and see how long it takes them.  Remember to include things like your location (including city and state) and phone number (with area code).  For the protection of your students, limit the amount of information (including names, nicknames and class / levels/ ages of anyone pictured. 
 
Added bonus - save manpower hours by keeping your site up to date and training studio families to use it as their information source.  Look into a members only feature that allows content to only be viewed by people with a valid access code.  You can also add ecommerce functionality which would allow families to view and pay their account balances on line, order dance wear, pay for costume and competition fees etc....If you're thinking to yourself that you handle all of that so you aren't paying someone to do it for you, you are in the mentality that you don't deserve to get paid for what you do.
 
Phone Book - are you still paying for a display ad in your local yellow pages?  When was the last time you went to the yellow pages as your FIRST way of looking up information on a business (hours, location, phone number, services)?  If you are using your phone book more as a footstool, booster seat, or door stop then as your first source of information, chances are your customers are doing the same.  Maybe take that display ad money and either save it or invest it into your website development, update or online marketing efforts.
 
Combining Classes - I'm not referring to combo classes where multiple dance forms are taught in a single class, but instead as a creative way to stretch studio space and hours.  I know we love all of our students and find positives to work with every level and ability, but often we have a special place in our heart for our advanced dancers.  Generally, they've been with us longer, work hard and are at a level where we can get re-energized working with them.  I know that's what I told myself every time I kept a class open for them that I was losing money on. One thing to think about, if you don't have the income coming in to keep the studio open and functioning, you aren't going to be doing any of your dancers a favor.
 
Do some number crunching (past counting to 8) and figure out what you need to make a profit (yes, the P word).  Not just break even.  Figure out what you would be paying a teacher at your level to work with these students and factor that in as part of your expense (go and re-read the section above if you've just factored in that you will be teaching the class so there is no salary to take into account).  Next, decide how many students you need in this class to make your expenses - don't forget to factor in any discounts or unlimited tuition rates if you are offering them.  Once you've figured out how many students you need, take an honest look at how many you will probably have.  If what you've got out numbers what you need, stop reading now - you're good.  If it doesn't or is really close think about Plan B. 
 
Combine your advanced students with those of the next level down for at least part of their classes.  In ballet, encourage them to take class a level down for some of their classes, and keep a class for them alone.  Have them do the lower class en pointe (if appropriate) or as a center barre class (with the lower group at the barre) and then give them variations of the center and across the floor work to make things more challenging.  If the lower class is only an hour, tack on an additional half hour just for them.  For jazz, tap and modern, have the groups warm up together, going across the floor it is easy enough to have 2 sets of progressions or have the advanced group do the same basic combination faster, with more turns, in heels, etc to increase the challenge.  Add a half hour on for the advanced students to challenge their endurance, work on more challenging choreography and still "have their own class".
 
You will find that the lower level students push themselves harder to try to "catch up" and the advanced dancers tend to "perform" in class since they have an audience.   

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