Written by: Suzanne Greer
This year I am celebrating 10 years of being a music studio business owner. In 2002, I opened my studio and had 17 students within the first year. I now carry a load of about 40 private students. My dilemma is that I am completely full, teaching six days per week, but just a little stressed! After some attrition and a drop in enrollment about two years ago, I am once again at full capacity, which means that any prospective students must go on my waiting list.
- Refer students to colleagues: I feel very fortunate and blessed to have this good problem. Even if you are in the process of building your clientele and not in this situation, at some point you will be. So, remember good business practice – refer your prospect to another program that you respect. I once had to scramble to find a boarding kennel for my dog because I had to leave town during the holidays unexpectedly. I made several phone calls that were met with “Sorry we’re full” and left at that, except for one. The owner spent a lot of time on the phone with me listing kennels that might have availability. I was very impressed and kept her business name and information for future reference. The take-away here is to always leave lasting impressions with potential customers!
- Raise rates: Raising rates should of course be done on a regular basis to adhere with the cost of living. If you are full, even more reason to raise your rates. Consider that demand is up and supply is down. Go for it – you’re worth more! For more on raising rates, read Kim Lorimier’s blog on When and How to Change Your Rates.
- Raise standards: If a student is not following through with practice or other policies, do not deny a prospective student that will follow your policies the opportunity to learn. In other words, you have more freedom to be selective about whom you will allow in your program, raising the bar in the process. However, be sure to handle this type of situation tactfully with existing students. Don’t burn bridges. Use the “counsel out” procedure. Explain your policy and that they haven’t met the objective laid out in the policy, therefore they might be better off in a different program.
- Expand your business: Perhaps the most exciting option is to hire another teacher to take on the accumulating waiting list. I’m not ready to do this yet, but perhaps someday!
Recently I was chatting with another teacher who had many long-term students that graduated, leaving large gaps in her studio. She expressed difficulty in finding new students. The lesson here is never to rest on your laurels as a small business owner. Even if you run a thriving, successful studio, continue to market your business through advertising, networking, referrals, speaking engagements, and performing. In addition, keep pace with current trends and continuing education. As another esteemed colleague said, “Keep the pipeline full at all times.”
Above all, it is important to know your limits. We live in a very busy world and can easily get caught up in all of the chaos. I have learned that I must take care of myself and strive to remember what is really important – family, friends, good physical and mental health. It is possible to have “too much of a good thing.” How do you handle being full? What types of solutions do you have when your studio is booming? I would love to hear any thoughts or comments!