A Procedure To Freedom

By DSOA Studio Growth Coach, Jane Grech.

Procedures – not really the most inspiring word is it? Policies? Nope, not much better…. especially when you place it up against more creative words like dance, costumes, choreography, or improvisation.

There is power within procedures though. They are your pathway to FREEDOM!

Yes, it’s a big call, but stay with me. One of the frequent roadblocks (read excuse) I hear from Dance Studio Owners is that they are ‘self confessed control freaks’ and that no one can do things as well as they can.

This isn’t a blog about how to delegate (perhaps we can chat about that another time) but rather about implementing a systematic approach to policies and procedures can impact your business, and your life, whilst retaining a sense of control, and even better, a sense of calm.

Not sold on the idea just yet? Let’s look at the benefits:

Policies or Procedures are an investment

It can take time to document the steps you take to achieve a certain outcome, however if you spend the time and ensure that the steps in your procedure are accurate, think then of all the future time you have saved. While I do not enjoy writing procedures I often motivate myself with the reminder of ‘short term pain for long term gain’. You can regain that control you so dearly yearn for, and have someone else do the task. Now that’s win win!

Procedures grant you freedom    

Once you have made the initial investment, you can enjoy the rewards. That time you used to spend formatting the newsletter, you can use that time on something that only you can do. For me that is visioning the future, creating new products and services and leading my team. Procedures allow you the freedom and time to spend times on the tasks that light you up.  

Not only that, you can have a vacation.

Yes! Time off! I’d recommend it.

You can walk away knowing that the studio can run without you, or at least some of it can. I love that I can be away from my studio for days, even weeks at a time, and I know exactly how it will be operating, and to what standard.

Let me drill down the advantages of the procedures even further with a detailed example. At my studio we have an open plan office, and it is no one’s set job to order printer toner. If you find yourself printing a document and the warning light is flashing, that’s your cue to order more.

Prior to me writing out the process, the flashing light was actually the cue to send me an email and say “we need more printer toner!” There I was, the Director of the company, and I was ordering toner and basically being everyone’s PA, just because I was the only one who knew how to do it!

Often, I’d be too busy, and a couple of days would go by before I would get to complete the task, by which time the toner had finished entirely, thus interrupting the effectiveness and output of the workplace.  Nobody got time for that!

Procedures help you set and maintain a high standard

Consistency of service is one of the most valuable areas that a growing business can focus on. It should not matter who picks up the dance school phone, it should always be answered in the same professional way, and with the same script. It should not matter which pre school dance class a child trials in, her welcome, her experience and the content should be consistent.

Having documented procedures ensures this occurs. In addition, a procedure makes it very clear what your standards are, and how your team members should behave to reach, or better yet, exceed that standard.  

Procedures allow you to have a sick day, or two.

A final benefit from spending time on documenting processes is contingency. Procedures are all well and good when things are going well – that new found time? You choose how to use it.  When procedures really come into their own though is when you are unable to do the work even if you wanted too. I don’t wish ill on anyone, but life happens, as does illness and accidents.

Remember the adage, the show must go on!?

I imagine that as show biz people, we would make sure the show, or the class, DOES go on, but consider how much anxiety or stress doing that would cause you. Consider if you weren’t actually contactable.

Consider if you really became so unwell that you couldn’t communicate or think. It is at this time a written process becomes your best friend. You could mutter to your husband “call Jess, ask if she can teach at Venue XYZ tomorrow. All the alarm codes and how to get in are in the procedure.” Done.

I’ve tested this theory too.

Not by choice mind you.   

My team delivered two performances, to an audience of over 1000, with 300 performers all while I recovered in hospital from emergency surgery. I wasn’t there the entire week leading up to the performance, and I wasn’t there on the day either. Everyone knew what needed to be done, and while my absence was noted by our audience on the day, it was only out of care to me, and not because their or their child’s experience had been compromised in any way.

Don’t think it won’t happen (I didn’t think it would either!) but I was ever so grateful to my team, our procedures and our contingency plan.  

Procedures give you something to sell

You may or may not have an exit plan for your business. Either way, know this: businesses that have solid systems and procedures in place will attract a higher sales figure. So, if I haven’t converted you yet, hopefully that last little nugget of information will be enough to get you across the line.

Where to start?

It can be overwhelming if you are starting from scratch. Why not make a list of everything you do each week, as you do it. From here, prioritise the activities that you foresee giving away in the future. Start there.  

How to do it?

Procedures can be written, or you can video them as well. Currently my team use a written format as we find it is easy to update as we continuously improve on them.

For each activity think of what the required objective is, who is responsible for the procedure, who the stakeholders are and what the step by step approach is. Be methodical in your approach and do not be tempted to skimp on the detail.

Ideally, you want someone to test the procedure to ensure that it is watertight and actually works. Over time my studio has developed its procedure for procedures (oh yes indeed!) and now has a way to catalogue and sort the information that is consistent across the business. Examples of procedures you may consider documenting are:

  • Office procedures – how to process a new enrolment, how to unenrol a student, how to invoice a student
  • Production procedures – how to size a costume, how to organise tickets, how to organise Performance t Shirts
  • Assessment or examination procedures – how to set up the examination room, how to enrol students into exams, how to present students for exams
  • Teacher related procedures – how to set up the studio, how to safely close the studio, how to greet a new student

Document control

Creating the document is one thing, but finding them is entirely another. Create a predictable way of storing and finding your documents. You could do this in a shared drop box, google docs or on a google site.    

Document control is key so that updates and who completed them are recorded each time a change is made to ensure your team has access to the most recent version. We do this by including this information in the footer of each procedure as well as at the top of the procedure.

Keeping Procedures current

One of the most frustrating (and exciting) things about running an innovative and growing dance studio is the rate of change. If you are continuously improving, then your procedures are going to require a continual update. When we update a procedure we schedule a future date as to when an update may be required.

This is particularly useful for annual events where you can update the procedure before releasing the information to your team. Empowering your team to update procedures is also integral to their ongoing success.

If someone finds they are using a procedure that is no longer current they should certainly take the initiative and set about making the procedure relevant once more.

There are also times that procedures become redundant through better automation or technological improvements.  As much as possible work to delete these in real time and update any other procedures that may be affected.

There you have it!

Not the most exciting part of owning or running a dance studio, but definitely one of the most effective if you want to grow and innovate whilst maintaining a level of control AND having a life!

Join Jane and our team of industry-leading experts for the first ever Dance Studio Growth Marathon. That’s right – 24 non-stop hours of studio growth training on June 11 – 12, 2018. Click here to secure your place in this free world class event!


Jane Grech is the author of Dance Studio Success as well as the owner of the Jane Grech Dance Centre in Adelaide. She is also a loving wife, mother of 3 gorgeous children and our DSOA resident expert when it comes to studio culture and leadership.

Join Jane and our vibrant community of Dance Studio Owners inside the Dance Studio Owners Association for exclusive training, coaching and resources to help you grow your studio and get your life back.





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