The theme of planning for 2020 is at the top of our minds this month, so today I wanted to share some insights from a Dance Studio CEO who plans with intention all year round. Of all the studio owners I work with, Heather Wrubel has the most consistent ability to focus and implement on her vision that stands out.
When Heather has a goal she maps out a project plan, gets the resources she needs and is laser focused on executing on that plan to achieve her results. Heather is the definition of a Dance Studio CEO, and I know you will love this sneak peek into Heather’s success!
What are some of your favorite strategies that you’ve implemented in growing your number so consistently over the past eight years in business?
One of the greatest things that I implemented was our enrollment process. And it’s really the Dance Studio Owners Inner Circle enrollment process that we adopted.. And in implementing that and meshing it with the software system Pipedrive, it really helped us to seal the deal with a lot of our clients and increase our closing ratio.
We get tons of leads and calls for classes, but there was never really any follow up. Enquiries were on sticky notes and then they got tossed out with the trash. And we never knew what happened from one day to the next with someone who had called in about a class.
Formalizing that system was beneficial to us growing and improving on how the customer experience was when they first walked in the door. Being able to treat every single person with the same level of customer service no matter who they are or what they’re interested in at the studio was huge for our growth.
As far as our retention, it’s really our sense of community, and homing in on what it’s like to be a dance community. In our school we do lots of community events, between performances and social events, to involve the entire family. We do lots of things like our annual pancake breakfast that we host to announce our end-of-year show theme.
Our six main local supermarkets donate $25 gift cards each and that covers all the food that we would buy for the pancake breakfast. And our company parents, which is our competitive team, help out, so we divide and conquer in making the pancakes. We set up our studio into a little diner on a Sunday morning and we just rotate.
We have a slide show that we put together with all of the end-of-year show costumes and those who auditioned for character parts get to find out what they have been selected for and whether or not they’ve made the production cast, and the opening and closing dance. We get tons of interest around that, which keeps kids all the way through to the end of the year because it happens in October and then the show is in June. Everyone is excited coming into the season and wanting to stay until the end of the year to finish out that show, which has really been huge in our retention. It’s a lot of fun, and the kids really enjoy it.
Another thing that we do is we have lots of performance opportunities, and we do outside events like going to the zoo and performing at all of our community days.
When I first started, I went to all those community days in our township, and now all our dancers are performing in them. They love it because they love being out in the community and seeing all their friends out and about, which is great.
You’ve got your no-gaps enrollment process running effectively, so once you enroll a new student how do you keep them?
Our onboarding system has been a huge gamechanger. Last year, it was the first year that we had started in September. I went through and really hashed out our onboarding system for our current students and new students coming in. We separated out both. We had an onboarding for current families that were coming back and an onboarding system for our new families coming in that are going to fit into that email campaign every time we get a new enrollment.
I find that that has been extremely helpful in having families feel welcome and feeling that they know what’s going on and that they’re a part of something right away – no matter when they join us in the year. They’re getting a taste of who I am, who the school is, what we’re about, and what we do.
And it’s not just about being with us for one season. We talk about their lifetime journey as a dancer as well as the different paths that their child can take between being in a recreational dance program to all our different services and events we have coming up. They really get to see us as a big picture right from the beginning.
I think the key in keeping the students with us and having them stay long term is because we lay it all out for them in the onboarding system, that it’s not just about taking one class or six classes or being here for three, four or five months. It’s about being with us for eight to ten years.
This concept that we have about our dance studio and our dance programs is about being like a life journey. Because normally when you get someone that starts dancing, if they really love it and are passionate about it, they stay with it throughout their adulthood most of the time. They’ll take adult classes, they’ll teach, or they’ll do something in the arts to be involved in it in some way. And I think that when we talk about that with new parents they don’t understand that. They think it’s a six-week program like they would get at the ‘Y’
They don’t understand the impact dance can have on their children and what benefits it has for them.
It’s one of the reasons why in our re-enrollment packs this year, we introduced a continual enrollment, which means we’re assuming they’re going to be dancing with us until they tell us they’re not not. We’re going to be automatically enrolling dancers into next season unless they tell us that they don’t want to.
We’re not going to be hounding our families every year to re-enroll. We’re going to tell them what we recommend. If they don’t like it, they can change it, and they can opt out. But we’re past constantly asking whether they’re going to come back. We’re just assuming they’re coming back and putting that time we would have spent on re-enrollment to further evolving the studio and improving the customer journey.
What advice would you give to any studio owners who might be struggling with balancing the demands of the studio and family life right now?
One thing that I found early on was that my husband and I were drifting further apart because we were on opposite schedules. He would leave at 4AM and as he was coming back in, I was running out the door.
Or I didn’t see him because when I first started, I was working full time andwe’d leave at about the same time in the morning and I wouldn’t see him until the next morning because he would be asleep when I got home. It’s like we never really saw each other.
We made a plan once a month to set a date night. And we had a babysitter booked every month. We made it consistent to be the second Saturday of each month. We knew that this was the day, and this was what we were going to do. Even if we didn’t have anything planned, we would run out the door and grab something quick.
It was locked-in time where we knew we were going to be together. Very consistent, and it really did help with us communicating and planning our family life.
Being adults and being free of the distractions of kids, work and phones let us focus on each other. Because without that, we probably would not be in the same great place we are today.
Heather Wrubel founded Bowman Dance Company & School in June of 2010 with the goal of providing quality dance educational facility that would engage students in the performing arts. Cultivating a passion for the arts is Heather’s mission. She enjoys watching her students develop into amazing human beings that are passionate about life and excited to pursue their life journey!
She is married and lives with her husband and two children in Sounderon, Pennsylvania. She loves to watch her son play baseball and spend time on the lake with her family.
Check out Heather’s latest studio news at bowmandance.com