When customers arrive at your studio does it look inviting? Perhaps you have an older studio that needs some updating or possibly a very new studio that is starting to show signs of wear and tear.
We are constantly amazed at how much damage seems to happen in such a short period of time. Each year we paint and clean and mend and tidy, but when you are dealing with large numbers of children wear and tear, if not some outright damage, is inevitable!
At this time of year we like to assess the damage and make a plan for when and where we will fix it all. I know that many schools have programs running during each month of the year and I’m sure, especially in these economic times, we are happy that we do actually have all those classes. If you do take a break in the summer then obviously that is a good time to make any repairs or to do any special cleaning projects. If not, you will need to assess if you have one evening each week that can be set aside or perhaps a weekend before classes start that can be reserved for these repairs.
Making your studio a visually pleasing environment is extremely important for a number of reasons. First of all, ask yourself what you like to see when you walk into a house or an office. Do you find a lot of clutter appealing or do you prefer to see clean, neat surfaces? Is color important to you? If so, what colors do you feel should symbolize your environment? Narrow down what you find attractive and what your style is after all you will want your studio to reflect who you are.
Check Your Curb Appeal
Once you have decided what works for you, get a pad and pen and take a slow walk around your studio. Start outside and walk toward your building as a potential customer. Is the entry way attractive? Does it make you want to go in and see more? That first step to your building is important and anything you can do to make it appealing from the outside is going to benefit your business.
Is Your Lobby Welcoming?
Next, walk into your lobby and see if the focus is on your front desk. Some studios have a very small lobby and others are much larger. We have found that it is important to have a seating area for parents, especially those of the younger children. But by the same token you don’t really want parents to get too comfortable and spend their time hanging out, as that invariably leads to problems. It seems that if parents get too comfortable there is always one who decides they are dissatisfied with what you are doing and spreads the word. This can have a very negative affect if not diffused quickly. The main function of your lobby should be for people to be able to talk with your front desk person, pay their bills and, for newcomers, to get the information that they need. Keeping it uncluttered, businesslike and at the same time attractive is important. Pictures of your dancers, notices that you want your customers to read, and anything that tells them about your program and why they should enroll at your school are all good marketing tools.
At our studio we have an eating area with a refrigerator and a microwave, where the dancers can have a meal or a snack, either before or in between classes. The dancers are also encouraged to do homework in this area. We enlist the help of the students to keep it tidy and clean by letting them know that they are welcome to eat there, but that it is their responsibility to clean up after themselves. Obviously for this type of area it is important to have flooring that is easy to maintain. We have wooden Pergo floors, but linoleum would be good, too. If you have a similar area check the appliances and make sure they are clean.
Shoring up Studio Space
Look around your studio dance spaces. Are there ways to maintain them better? For instance, we find that below the barres in our studios where we hold the preschool classes, the walls get very marked by shoes scuffing up against them. It seems that small children love to kick against the walls! We decided to put Lucite up over these areas of the walls to protect the paint. By doing this it is also so much easier to keep clean. How is the area around your sound systems? Are CDs all over the place or is there a shelf to keep everything in order and perhaps out of view? I don’t know about you, but it is a constant battle to keep those areas relatively clutter free!
Assess the wear and tear on your floors. If you have wooden floors, they may need to be refinished with a nonslip surface. If you have any one of the composite dance floors available, they may need a good cleaning to remove scuff marks. Most floor companies sell special floor cleaners. Perhaps the seams are starting to come apart slightly with wear and tear. Check also for any tears that may be developing.
We use both regular mirrors and mylar panels for our dance studios. The mylar panels are good for a couple of reasons. First they are safer as they are lightweight and do not shatter. Secondly they can take your insurance down slightly for those very reasons. They come in panels and you simply Velcro them to your walls. The only minus is that they do tear if someone touches them too forcibly. You can repair them with tape and if one panel is badly damaged you can just take it off the wall and replace it with a new panel. We check periodically to see if we need to order any new panels.
Remember the Rooms Behind The Scenes
Yes, the dressing rooms and bathrooms! Get a bunch of girls in a dressing room and it is a recipe for chaos. We are constantly finding the need to reevaluate how to keep the girls dressing room as clutter free as possible. We have a certain amount of lockers and a number of cubbies. The lockers work really well as they keep everything out of sight, and our aim with the cubbies is to keep all the bags and clothes off the floor. Our boys changing room has lockers and they are pretty good at keeping their dancewear and clothes either in the lockers or on the chairs provided. Right now we have carpet on the floor, but we are planning to replace that over the summer with the Pergo flooring as we feel it will be easier to keep clean.
Keeping the bathrooms looking clean and fresh is a must. We have found that the wall dispensers for soap have been a good addition as they keep everything off the sinks and alleviate more mess. We also have paper towel wall dispensers which keep the bathrooms looking tidier. Constant use of air fresheners is a must for both changing areas and bathrooms.
The Office: Are You Clutter Free?
Your office area probably gets a lot of use, but if you plan to have interviews or meet parents in that space it is important that it too is uncluttered and businesslike. Having cupboards with closed doors is a big help because at least you can keep loose paperwork out of sight until you have time to attend to it and with a good file cabinet that locks the students records can safeguarded from eyes that should not be looking at them. Ikea is great for cabinets and storage solutions.
Now that you have taken a good look at every aspect of your studio and made notes, get out your daily planner and make a definite plan as to when each area can be cleaned, fixed, painted or just beautified. Choose days when you have time to get the right people in to help you. A long weekend or break is ideal.
Put a welcome mat outside your front door. Make your clients feel welcomed and pleased by your environment and you will be surprised how many people will tell you how great everything looks. Impress upon your students how important it is to maintain the new look as they also spend a lot of their time there. People will gravitate to a welcoming, attractive space and your business will definitely reap the benefits.