Grow Your Studio by Downsizing – Interview with Rhonda Foote
Welcome to our COFFEE BREAK series, where we interview DSOs from around the globe to share with us their experience, insights and lessons learnt during their time as a dance studio owner.
This week we’re chatting with Rhonda Foote from Rhonda’s FooteWorks located in Watertown, New York.
Rhonda’s in her 31st year as a studio owner and have seen her fair share of ups and downs in the industry. Not only that, but she’s learnt a very interesting lesson in growing her studio. Whilst most of us are working on making our studios bigger (more classes, more teachers, more students), she found growth in downsizing her studio!
So grab your coffees, sit back and let’s have a chat with Rhonda…
DSE: Rhonda, please tell us a little about yourself and your studio…
Rhonda: I am entering my 31st season as a studio owner. I grew up in my mother’s studio, which she ran for 38 years before passing to cancer. I never intended to follow in her footsteps, but when Fort Drum expanded, they asked me to return to the area for “a little while” to teach.
31 years later, here I am! We run a combination recreation and competition studio with an emphasis on outreach service in our communities.
DSE: 31 years! Wow! What do you think is the biggest challenge of being a studio owner and how has that changed over the years?
Rhonda: I believe that two things have impacted change in the industry both for the good and the bad:
1. Social media; and
2. Reality television.
Social media has offered great options for advertising, expansion and communication. On the negative end, it means dance parents feel they have a right to contact you anyway at anytime and expect you to respond instantly. Social media may also be used by dance parents to promote drama and nonsense.
Reality television and YouTube have opened so many opportunities to advance study and introduce students to many genres and styles. HOWEVER, some people think they can “teach themselves how to dance” by watching these shows and videos. Um. Yikes.
DSE: I absolutely agree. We often get students trying to tell our teachers what they think a dance style should be, based on what they’ve seen on television!
Now Rhonda, I know you went through a tough period a while back and were actually about to give up on your studio. Tell us a bit about that. Why did you want to throw in the towel?
Rhonda: A few years ago, the drama and nonsense were taking its toll and made me consider walking away from the business. Nastiness on social media, betrayal by long time students and parents, and the hurt they imposed on my own daughter all led me to consider closing my doors.
DSE: Studio drama is often the reason why studio owners leave the industry. I feel it’s one of the biggest issues we face as DSOs because it wears so much on our health mentally.
Obviously, you didn’t end up walking away. Tell us what happened. How did you turn it all around?
Rhonda: After wallowing for a bit, I snapped out of it and realized that this is a BUSINESS and I needed to approach it as such. I removed three families who continued to cause drama and align wit
h those who had already left from the studio. This was successful in two major ways:
1. They were gone and so was their drama; and
2. Other families realized that I would take a stand and ask families to leave if their drama was out of hand.
The past season was the best of my career! I also returned to Old Rules and enforced them; made joining company more difficult; and set time restraints as to when I would answer studio business questions.
DSE: That is fantastic! I love it when studio owners take charge and have the courage to “fire” their bad clients. How is your studio now? What results are you seeing from the steps you took?
And what does the future look like for your studio?
Rhonda: As a result of all my changes, I am seeing nothing but positives. Our enrollment is manageable, I downsized our location and feel totally in control of the studio space and my dance families. This has actually led to a financial BOOM and given me more non-studio time. It has all been a win/win.
I see the next five years as a continued path to security and enjoyment. I’m consciously seeking clients who are a positive fit with our environment and I am more likely to tell someone, “I am sorry, I just don’t think you are a good fit”. I have over 100 recreational dancers and about 40 company dancers. This is the perfect number for me and my “magic formula” will mean not going over 150 total dancers. Since the majority of my dancers take many classes over several days, our classes are bustling and enjoyable.
DSE: What advice would you give to a dance studio owner who’s struggling to find success in their own business?
Rhonda: My advice has been learned the hard way. Bigger is NOT always better. I now have less rent, less insurance fees, less faculty overhead and less stress while making MORE. I’ve downsized from 3 studios and 11 teachers to 1 studio and 5 teachers. I love everything about this!
Thank you so much to Rhonda for taking the time to share her insights with our community.
You can find out more about her studio below.
The Franklin Building
50 Public Square,
Downtown Watertown, NY
Click Here for Website