Suggestions for Operating Your Business

Weekly Teaching Tip – Sep. 18, 2018
by William DiCrosta

Many of you have shared on the IVTOM facebook page your frustration on the business side of teaching. That is something I feel I can help with. Many of my peers tend to struggle with the business side of being a teacher. I can’t encourage you enough to put just as much into studying the business side as you do learning about voice.

So my first tip for you is how to keep the “drama” on the stage only!

Dealing With Difficult Clients
Many of you have expressed your struggles with dealing with difficult clients, stage parents, and a generation who think they are perfect! I must admit there is a real learning curve here. A lot of this is trial and error. When I first embarked in my teaching journey it was just me teaching in the front room of my home. It was quite lovely, but I always knew that I wanted more, but with growth comes growing pains.

Flash forward 7 years and that small vocal studio has grown into a thriving “academy” that has 6 staff members, sees over 250 students a week and is growing every year by leaps and bounds. Many of my families have stayed with me from the very beginning and have gone along for the ride. With growth must come change, especially with how we run our daily business.

There is much less flexibility I can offer now than I could when it was just me. There were entitled clients that did not like our changes. At first I used to worry if we lost someone. Then as we grew I realized that negative people leaving was a positive thing for us. Their places were filled with higher paying and lower maintenance clients who actually treat us in a much more respectful manner.

So what does it take to go from small studio owner to running an academy of this size and not allowing the nay sayers and drama queens to cause drama and pull you down?

Strong Policies and Procedures
I have learned that the more black and white we keep things and not make exceptions for the grey, the more we grow. When was the last time you re-did your policies? Are you sticking to them or letting people get one over on you?

Before teaching I had an extensive career in the hospitality industry and was brainwashed by Corporate America that the customer is always right! Well my friends when I stopped falling for that and realizing that customers are human like me and just think they are always right is when our academy truly took off! Now there are many successful peers of mine who would disagree with me but this has worked majorly for us. Our academy has been voted number one year after year and many of our staff have waiting lists to take lessons with them!

Reassess Annually
Every summer we re-asses our current policies and see what worked for us and what did not. We also shop all of our major competition to see what they offer and how much they charge. Pretty much every year we go up in price.

Now I know many area teachers who are fearful of going up in price. They fear people “can’t afford it” or that they will leave. I promise it is just the opposite and I will talk about why you must give yourself a raise and stop giving it away for free in another teaching tip.

We also tighten our belt on our payment policies as well each year. Then before back to school arrives we update everything for our families. My office manager usually FREAKS OUT thinking that everyone will quit, fearful of the moms who will cause drama. I calmly tell her each year this is our company and the inmates don’t get to run the cell. Should our clients no longer wish to be with us they are under no obligation to stay and I wish them well. We truly love our families and pride ourselves on being a family environment but that doesn’t mean we allow people to abuse us either. Much to my office manager’s surprise we continue to grow. Believe it or not people actually crave structure!

ZERO Make Up Policy
One thing that has changed majorly since our inception has been our make up policy and the length of our contracts. I know so many of you have complained about dealing with make ups and people don’t want to pay for something they don’t get. For a long time we bent over backwards giving endless makeups to people who gave a 24hr cancellation. When it was just me on the schedule this was a much easier task. With growth must come change. Many of my teaching staff work other jobs and can not come in on another day to teach just because little Susie decided she wants to go to the beach that day with her friends. I have heard EVERY excuse possible. Many students in our academy take a multitude of different private lessons so it can truly get overwhelming. We even tried the group make up policy which only caused more headache than it was worth.

Last year while shopping the market I realized we were going crazy for no reason. So many of the major academies that we are competing with offer zero, yes ZERO make ups and demand upfront payments. So if they can do that and grow to be so huge then why couldn’t we.

I thought it would help if we were totally transparent and shared our current policies and payment plans. I hope this will shed some light on this for you. Please feel free to visit the following links on our website:

Be Happy By Respecting Yourself and Others
At the end of the day you must reach a point in your journey where you realize you don’t want or need people who will cause problems in your business. In the end when they are gone you will have a much happier place to work everyday. Many of us work more than we are home, so why wouldn’t we want to be happy and surround ourselves with people who believe in what we do.

I wish you all a very successful 2018/19 teaching season. Please feel free to I.M. me anytime on facebook should any of you have any business questions on how to implement and or handle any of this.

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