Now that we are at the end of our season, this is when we start to do the most work on our business for next year and beyond. The best place to begin is to do an evaluation of everything you do. Look at all aspects of your business with the goal in mind of, how can we do it better? It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what you are doing is working and applying the principal of, if it isnt broken, dont fix it! I recommend just the opposite. Perhaps you are doing something that is successful but that by just changing one thing or adding another could make it even better.

Now that we are at the end of our season, this is when we start to do the most work on our business for next year and beyond. The best place to begin is to do an evaluation of everything you do. Look at all aspects of your business with the goal in mind of, how can we do it better? It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what you are doing is working and applying the principal of, if it isnt broken, dont fix it! I recommend just the opposite. Perhaps you are doing something that is successful but that by just changing one thing or adding another could make it even better.

Every year we have meetings with our staff, talk to our customers and take a long hard look at the way we do things. Each year we have found that we can do something better. Sometimes it is something that is a simple change other adjustments need to be implemented over time. We have broken it down into three parts, Evaluation, Profits and Vision. So here is our Plan to make our business better every year.

Evaluation

This is where it all begins. This part can sometimes be slightly painful! When you realize that you have been doing something for years and years that is just not that effective or customer friendly, it can be a real eye opener! Sometimes the right thing to do is so clear that you cant believe that you didnt realize it before. Here is the list of how you can begin the process of evaluation.

Look At Yourself First! This could be the most painful of all! Sometimes, as business owners we just get in the way of our own success. We can always do it better, have the right answer and do it just right! Does this sound a bit familiar? Evaluate how you manage your staff, students and parents. When we first started we thought that the only thing that mattered was being good teachers and training the students. The reality is, that it is not enough. As you may know the parents want more. More service, more of your time and they want the best deal in town. Oh and then there is the issue of their child being the best and that they want to them to be in the front row of the dance and they want and they want, it goes on and on! If you are being consumed by everyone needing you, then you need to see how you can change that.

One way is to promote someone to manager and give them specific duties that will free you up. You cannot run a successful business if you spend your time running around putting out fires. You do not have to be the one that decides all of the unimportant issues of your business. Create a manual for your manager this summer and then get out of the way! One way we have found to address this issue is to develop a hand book that will spell out to parents how our program runs and how their child will benefit from the program. If you can create a student and parent hand book over the summer explaining exactly what the experience at your studio will be, than you can begin to build a solid base of clients who like what you have to offer and understand how you operate.

Another issue we face as business owners is how to keep all of the staff happy and in line with our vision. This part of the evaluation is, again, about you. If you just dont like or cant get along with one of your staff or faculty members you should try to figure out why. If there is no way to fix it then I would strongly recommend that you consider making a change. Nothing is more stressful than having an employee that just irritates you. It may be that you just dont get along. It may be as simple to resolve as planning a get together in down time so that you are able to get to know each other better. One way or the other, you need a staff that you really like! I do not believe in keeping someone just because they are a good teacher or because the clients like them. If you are not happy with them then that is all that counts.

The other thing we need to look at is how we handle problems. What was the final outcome? How would we do things differently? Write down the way you handled those issues for future reference.

The next thing on the agenda is to ask ourselves how we ran our business. Did we have a plan for marketing, budget, staff development and client retention? I told you it would be a bit painful! If not, dont worry, after 21 years in business we are still a work in progress! But that is the point here, how can you do it better? I know of no business that is successful that has things so set that they never change. Our business after all starts and ends with us. If we do not embrace evaluation and change, how will our businesses ever grow and become better? Now I am not advocating change for the sake of change but an honest look at the how and why of what we do will provide us with a chance to make our businesses better.

Look At Your Business. Now that you have graded yourself you can now look at how your business runs. How did registration go? Is the form easy and efficient? Next, how is your schedule arranged? Are there back to back classes that students of one particular level can take? This is the easiest way to get students to take more classes. Where do you need to build? How is your preschool program enrollment? If you want to grow your studio this is where a good portion of your marketing dollars need to go. Do you have manuals? If not I highly recommend you spend sometime this summer developing a front desk, teacher and manager manual. If you have a front desk person that has been with you for a while, have them help you build the front desk one. Spell out every detail that you want them to document. This way no matter who is working the front desk for you they will answer the phone the same way, handle problems the same way and make the overall experience at you studio consistent.

If your business is successful then you may need just a few tweaks here and there. Here are a few ideas to think about. How do you deal with costume handout for your year end show? For years we would hand out costumes after each class in the bags they came in. Then the parents would come in with their costume issues. It was an irritant for everyone. Now we have a costume fitting in class before they are handed out. Our costume designer makes the necessary adjustments and all costumes for each student are put into a garment bag that has our logo and the students name on and we have a week of costume handouts. If you dont have a costume person get a seamstress to come in. It will be worth every penny. The parents love it and there is an added value when a costume comes in a garment bag with your logo on it. You can get them at www.thepackagingteam.com or call 978-652-8237. The cost of about $1.80 each. This little change that we made creates such a buzz and WOW moment for our clients that every year there is a lot of excitement over this one event.

Look at your business from every angle and I am sure you to will find a way to do things better. Next month we will focus on the part 2.Your Profit and how you can increase your bottom line. This is the one issue that is vital to the success of your business. We will look to see if you should consider increasing your fees and how to position this increase with your clients. For this month I recommend that you do the evaluation process while the year is still fresh in your mind.