Below are four ideas for problem solving ideas on issues you may face along the way this season. Remember to keep calm and carry on!
1. Pushy Parents
Parents who are determined to push their child ahead at all costs can definitely become a nightmare. They are usually frustrated at themselves for not accomplishing more, and are living vicariously through their son or daughter. They view themselves as experts, and will expect you to do what they want rather than what is best for their child. They can become very jealous of other students and usually spend their time sitting at the studio complaining to anyone who will listen to them about how you are not doing the right things for their child. Does any of that sound familiar? If I hear of these parents, I always try to nip it in the bud and ask them to come in for a meeting. I ask questions about their child and then just let them talk. I believe that if you listen carefully to anyone's complaint, it will be so much easier to come up with the right way to solve the problem and to keep everyone happy. Often, a pushy parent's demands are unreasonable. At the end of the day, if I feel the child won't benefit from the request, I will explain my reasons. I make sure they understand that, unless they trust our judgment, they really should look for another studio for their child. Presumably when they signed their child up to take classes, it was because they trusted us and our faculty to make it a good experience for their child and for them. If the trust is not there, then it is time for them to move on. There is no logical reason for any studio owner to hold a child back. But if that is the perception and you are unable to change it, then it is best for everyone that they go elsewhere. Sometimes a pushy parent may have one of your more-talented students, and it is difficult to let them go when you have invested so much of your time and energy to get them to excel. But again, if the trust is not there, and the child only hears negative comments about you and your studio from the parent, sooner or later it will taint the child's thinking and it will not be a happy situation. When they leave, other talented students will surface to take their place. Most importantly, be secure in your knowledge, and be professional with your confrontation.
2. Star-struck students
Students, generally speaking, do not have "issues" until they become pre-teens or teens. In today's world, with so much access through social media, students can often become embroiled in negative situations with each other. There is always someone suffering from jealousy because they aren't being featured or think they are always put in the back row-whatever reason, real or imaginary. By teaching students to actually sit down and talk with whoever they have a problem with so that they can try to find common ground you are helping them to solve the problem. By acting as a mediator, you can help children learn to work together in a peaceful manner. All children need guidance, and if they see that you are in control and value what they have to say, they will be more likely to take note of what you tell them. Learning to respect one another no matter what the differences is such an important life lesson to teach our students. We need our students to be happy, because if they are not, we will lose them. Making them understand that they are capable of resolving their issues will strengthen their bond with you and make them more loyal.
3. Overinflated expectations
Sometimes both parents and students have expectations about the classes, their training, their position and what they perceive as their rights. Whatever their expectations are, it is important to spell out your expectations to them and then discuss with them what expectations they may have. Again, communication with both customers is key. You can't fix things if you don't know what they are, and you can't automatically assume that your customers will know what is expected of them. In fact, I have learned never to assume anything! With the parents at your studio, it is helpful if things are really spelled out to them when they sign up for the season. On your registration sheets, make sure that everything you want them to know is on there. For example: What the payment plan entails with precise dates. What your policy is if a student drops out. Let them know how you run your shows or recitals, and what they are expected to do. If you enter competitions, make sure the parents understand how you like things to go. In short, communicate by e-mail, letter, verbally-and then try to meet with each parent to go over any questions. This is time-consuming, but if your parents feel that you will take the time to talk to them about their child or your studio, it goes a long way toward building trust and loyalty. They will also feel comfortable about coming to you when there is an issue. On the other side of it, make sure parents understand what your expectations of their child are at the studio, how they should observe the dress code, class attendance, standards of behavior and so on. By thoroughly informing parents and students of how you like things done, you minimize the risk of someone being unhappy. Sometimes the customer's expectations are unrealistic-then it is up to us to help them come to terms with what are reasonable and balanced expectations. If you make students feel that you have a plan to help them succeed in whatever way they can, they are less likely to have unrealistic expectations. What all children and parents want to be assured of is that the child will progress at a certain pace. You can make sure that the pace is set by you and within the capabilities of the child, so that nobody's hopes are dashed. Again, it is your leadership that is going to make everyone feel confident.
4. Teacher problems
If you have a problem with a teacher, it is very often because he or she feels unnoticed, unimportant, and unheard. Let us never forget that teachers are our customers, too! Most of the time, I don't think we really think about it from that angle. Everyone in life wants to be noticed for the right reasons, and it is easy to not acknowledge your teachers if you are on a different schedule or rushing to be on time for classes. Everyone in your business needs nurturing and needs to know that you care. It doesn't always have to be a big gesture. I have found that sometimes, just sitting down with a faculty member over lunch or coffee works wonders. It gives us a chance to talk things over in a relaxed manner and gives me an opportunity to find out what is going on in their lives. It also allows me to come up with ways to help them be more productive and successful. In turn, they often help me with better ways to do things at the studio. I truly do value any input, and I certainly know that, without our tremendous faculty and staff, Steve and I would not be where we are today. Taking a moment with your faculty members, and absorbing their ideas and suggestions, will increase the loyalty that they feel toward you and your studio. If a teacher is behaving inappropriately or not upholding the standards that you have set for your studio, then obviously you need to sit down with that teacher and find out what is going on. If teachers are doing anything detrimental to the studio or your customers, then there is only one decision to be made-and that is to let them go as quickly as possible. If you have discontented teachers, it is better to have them move on, even if it means they open another studio down the street. You will still have the people that are loyal to you, and you will have cut out the poison that might have invaded your studio and customers.
Everything that happens at your business depends upon you, the choices you make and the way you manage and handle the people around you. Keep everyone and everything around you as positive as possible. When you start to feel that negativity creeping in to anything you do, don't let it stick around. Make the choice to live your life in a happy and constructive way. Each day is a challenge, and the way we rise to those occasions will define not only us personally, but our businesses, too. Just as a dancer also has to be an actor or actress, so must we be able to act through those down moments at our studio. Make your environment a place where people feel a sense of empowerment and the sky will really be the limit.
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