Running and growing a business can be challenging for any entrepreneur. Developing a competitive advantage, customer loyalty, and superior customer service can be the lifeline of any business enterprise. Therefore, an entrepreneur must research the target market, competition, and innovative ideas regularly while running the business (Cusumano et al., 2019). Significantly, a dance school is a challenging business to run because customer experience on the first or subsequent visit will inform their decision to return. Additionally, it is critical to maintaining existing customers while recruiting more. An interview with different stakeholders in the industry revealed an informative insight into the dance school market.
The name and type of a dance school is the initial step in starting the business. An entrepreneur must use a name that identifies with the community that it seeks to serve. For instance, a new dance institution in a Muslim neighborhood must have a name that conforms to the Muslim faith. Alternatively, an owner can consider buying into an existing franchise to save the entrepreneur from the risks of starting a business. The proprietor of an established company has a wealth of knowledge on a tried and tested formula for running the entity. Many startups consider franchising because it allows an owner to acquire the mother company’s business skills in a matter of days through a training process.
Understanding the requirement of a community will be achieved through market research. Notably, an entrepreneur should avoid making assumptions about the appropriate classes for a community. An area with a high-income household can look brilliant on paper as a perfect location for a dance school but offer unsatisfactory results. Therefore, studying competitors in a market and conducting surveys will provide critical information on where to open the school and what activities to offer. An informed decision will guide the business owner there is a market for the school and an opportunity for healthy competition with other dance institutions. Studying the competitor will also assist the entrepreneur in developing a unique competitive advantage.
The fee structure is a critical feature to attract new students and keep existing ones. Depending on the market, each activity’s charge should be competitive and designed to conform to the community’s financial status. A new school should charge a lower fee to attract more students to its programs. Building a brand can mean starting with lower revenues while showing superior services to the clients. Businesses with franchise names can charge higher costs because they would be riding on the brand’s popularity. Notably, the fee should be low enough to attract new students but sufficient to maintain the school. Creating a delicate balance between charging enough to keep the business profitable with attractive prices for potential customers is critical to the growth of a new startup.
Additionally, an established business will implement back-office systems and procedures, saving the new business funds in initial startup costs. Most franchises have established database systems eliminating the need for paperwork in the daily operating procedures. The franchise will eliminate specific requirements because the business will operate under the name of an already existing licensed company. Furthermore, using an established name eliminates the need for extensive marketing as the brand is well known and trusted. The franchise provides other documentation such as employee contract templates, health and safety templates, and marketing procedures and codes. In essence, choosing to franchise eliminates much of the strenuous work that would otherwise force a new entrant to streamline after months or years of operation.
An entrepreneur should understand the rules and regulations guiding the launch of a dance school. Although there are few restrictions in starting a dance school, an entrepreneur must understand all the regulatory requirements governing the premises of the school and hiring dance teachers. Insurance will protect the business against unforeseen outcomes. For instance, a public liability cover is critical to cover the company against accidents or injuries during lessons. The school should draft policies conforming to the state requirements guiding health and safety checks on the school premises. Furthermore, if an institution plans to offer minors classes, the required state, and federal requirements when hiring dance teachers should be followed.
The highest startup costs in running a dance school are lease and wages. The location of the business and the classes offered will determine the rent and the salary of teachers. Other costs include printing newsletters and posters, building a website, and marketing. If the business is considering sending out newsletters, then postage costs should be included in the initial startup cost. Ongoing expenses are salaries, taxes, and lease or mortgage payments for an owner who opted to acquire instead of rent a building. Business owners can keep the initial expenses low by hiring an optimum number of employees and developing more with students’ growth. Additionally, the business should lease part of the building it needs before the school becomes busy.
Keeping constant communication with existing clients is critical in maintaining high customer retention numbers and improving revenue. Emails, newsletters, customer events, and surveys are important ways of communicating with onboarded customers. Without constant communication, the students will feel neglected and forgotten. Prioritizing a short happy birthday message to clients will make them feel appreciated and emotionally connected to the school. Regular newsletters will provide them with news about the dance industry and keep them informed on the school’s special offers. Surveys are critical in getting feedback from customers. The data from the customers will guide the business owner on the areas that require improvement or change.
It is easier to cross-sell to an existing customer than to onboard a new client. Since the dance school has multiple disciplines, continuous marketing to the current students to join new activities will increase school revenue. Additionally, customers engaged in more than one exercise with the school will develop loyalty and are more likely to remain clients despite any future challenges. A customer engaged in more than one activity will form a bond with the institution. Furthermore, developing programs beyond the regular dance routine will create an environment of excitement. Consequently, the students will look forward to the next day at school to create new memories.
Creating unforgettable moments for the customers will build a sense of belonging to the dance school. Planning special school events such as visiting an orphanage or contributing to the less fortunate in society will give the institution a human face. Organizing wow moments, where students invite their family members for fun activities, will create loyalty not only for the learner but the guests as well. Furthermore, entrepreneurs engaging in random acts of kindness for the employees will develop a sense of ownership for the business. The workers will treat the customers as if they own the institution. Developing employee loyalty improves customer service and commitment. However, entrepreneurs should be quick to let go of unproductive or destructive staff before creating a wrong work environment in the school.
Preschool programs for younger students’ unique routines for each niche of customers will help the business attract a larger group of customers from every background. Short shows exclusive to a younger audience can provide interested individuals a preview of what to expect. The preschool programs are designed to entice the students to join or continue with the school. Additionally, special programs for each age group and activity level will eliminate strenuous programs for the old or physically challenged individuals. For instance, a teenager should not have the same schedule as a 50-year-old or a young man with a heart condition. Furthermore, the same age group should have separate shows for vigorous activity and a slow routine for the students to choose either.
It is critical to separate the business from family activities or influences. The school should be an enterprise with clear objectives of professionalism and growth. Involving the family in the company can interfere with the vision and mission, turning the institution into a family affair instead of a professional entity. Alternatively, if a family member does well in running the school, it will become challenging for the owner to regain control of the business. Of importance, an entrepreneur should listen to the customers and tailor-make activities and policies that satisfy customer needs, and shun family complaints or insinuations.
Creating additional income streams can help the business stay afloat during tough times. Schools have to close, but expenses such as rent and salaries will have to be paid. The off-season can be challenging for an institution with minimal liquidity, but engaging in income-generating activities will provide the much-needed funds. For instance, if the school has a large play area, the management can rent it out for weddings, birthdays, and any outdoor occasion. Subletting a studio space to yoga or an aerobics class during school closures will generate revenue. Additionally, offering the school other activities market the school to the public. Placing strategic posters for people visiting the school during the holidays will persuade more clients.
Creating networks will assist in getting more competent staff and learning new ways of running a business. Meeting other business people and professionals in dancing is essential in providing insights into best practices. Establishing contacts can help create additional income streams for the school as well. Building relationships outside the school will provide connections that can form a base for marketing the school. The business owner proactively engaging in fundraising activities and other community events will create a sense of belonging for the school and the community. The neighborhood people will prefer the school to any other competitor because they will feel a sense of school ownership.
Outlining clear set targets for the business and having straightforward ways of measuring achievement will improve performance. The owner should be aware of the optimum number of students that will adequately pay the expenses. Having measurable key performance deliverables for the employees will eliminate lazy and non-performing workers. The business should have yearly targets on revenue and profits. Outlining yearly deliverables will determine the mind of the entrepreneur to the subordinates. For instance, if the owner is focused on survival, they would not expect his employees to increase the number of students or provide superior service. If the business is focused on growth, the workers will each have figures to achieve that can be measured monthly, quarterly and yearly.
The front desk is the first contact for every customer or potential client and is the company’s face. Therefore, the front desk should be handled by happy and customer-friendly employees. If the school’s first contact is memorable, there is a high chance that the customer will recommend a referral to the school. Additionally, the school should have a robust referral system by creating wow moments for customers and staff. Memorable moments will build conversations beyond the school, which will bring in more students. Initiating a referral program for staff, students, and parents where they get a token either in fee refund or cash for employees for every onboarded customer provides an opportunity for the school to grow the number of students.
Notably, a marketing plan on how to reach more customers will provide the business with an opportunity to grow. The available budget for advertising the company will determine the outlets to use. For instance, print media and television might be expensive for a moderate budget but sufficient for digital marketing. It is critical to keep track of all the marketing efforts, note the successful ideas, and abandon less impactful ones. Notably, advertising strategies should target existing customers and potential clients. The messages to already onboarded clients should be tailored to cultivate them to join other activities or refer friends and family.
The dance school must keep up with the dynamic nature of popular culture. A dance style can be common today but unpopular after a few months. The school should be ready to get trainers who keep up with the younger generation’s pop culture. Incorporating trending dance classes will make the school look savvy to teenagers, which is a good target market. However, the school should include contemporary dance classes in the programs to attract professional students. Additionally, the school’s location will determine the incorporated dance styles in the curriculum. For instance, an institution in a predominantly African American neighborhood should design a dance program that identifies with the community.
Cusumano, M. A., Gawer, A., & Yoffie, D. B. (2019). The business of platforms: Strategy in the age of digital competition, innovation, and power. Harper Business.
Consultation Questions for Customers
- Why do you attend your current dance school?
- How did you learn about the school?
- How would you describe the experience in the school in terms of customer service?
- Does the school meet your expectations in the dance routines? Kindly provide details on why or why not.
- Have you ever referred a friend, family, or colleague to the school? What informed your decision to recommend the school?
- Have you ever thought of changing the dance school? What were your reasons for staying or wanting to move?
- What are some of the memorable moments about the school?
- Which activity do you engage in the dance school? How much do you pay for the service? Is the charge exorbitant or sufficient?
- What do you love about the school and what would you prefer to change in the school?
- Do you feel the school is part of the community? Why?
Consultation Questions for Entrepreneurs
- What informed your decision to start a dance school?
- Why did you pick the particular name for your school or is there a particular dance school name that you feel is relevant? Why do you find the name effective?
- How did you choose the location for your dance school? Do you think location matters for the business?
- What guided your dance programs or routines? Did the clients inform your decision to provide the specific routines? How?
- What was your source of funds for starting the school? Were the funds sufficient?
- How did you settle on what to charge your students? How did you balance between the students push for lower fees and the having an amount that can sustain the school?
- What is the biggest startup cost when initiating a dance school?
- What do you think about buying into a franchise? What are the advantages of using a franchise name? Would you recommend it to another startup?
- What are some of the regulatory requirements when starting a dance school?
- How did you acquire you first clients? How have you managed to maintain the customers in the school? How do you create customer loyalty? What is the biggest challenge to customer management?
These are the details of an interview with the proprietor of Razzmatazz dance school.
- I have always loved dancing from a young age. After 15 years in the industry I decided to make money from it. I started Razzmatazz dance school and it has grown over the years.
- Razzmatazz means exciting and a colourful way of doing things. It is catchy name that sticks to the mind of any person who reads it. That is why I chose the name.
- Location is perhaps the most important aspect of a dance school. My dance school is located next to a musical theatre. I targeted students from the theatre because they did not have a reliable place to train their routines. The other schools prioritized ballet to other activities.
- The programs were designed over time with the input of the clients. I mostly listened to the customers on what they would love incorporated in specific dance routines. Teachers also helped much with the creativity.
- I used my savings. The funds were not enough but I used the little amount and built the business one step at time.
- The most significant startup cost is the deposit on the lease. I think it exhausted more than half of my funds.
- I began my school with very fair rates. My aim was to attract as many clients as possible. As I added more value to my programs I raised the prices on the incoming students.
- Buying into a franchise is a brilliant idea. It allows a new entrant into the industry to learn everything about the business without putting much money at risk. A franchise allows a new business to charge a higher rate hence more revenues.
- Regulatory requirements differ in every state. However, starting a dance school does not require acquiring of many licences.
- Finding my initial clients was not a complicated task for me because I have been in the industry for a while. I used my contacts to refer their relatives and friends. The opening party that involved the whole community assisted in announcing the entry of my dance school. The opening ceremony I think gave me 20 or 30 clients. I have managed to keep my customers by keeping a strong personal relationship with them. I make an attempt to know them by name since my school is not big. A population of 60 students is easy to maintain and keep tabs on. My biggest challenge in customer management is having committed employees.