How To Better Run Your Music Teaching Business | Ep 75

The Only Two Things You Should Do in Your Music Studio

We all start our music studios in the same way.  We do everything in the studio from the billing, the scheduling, the cleaning, the bathroom to the marketing, everything. You’re doing it all, but there are only two things in your music studio that only you can and should do well. Those things are defining the mission to finding the purpose and defining the overall destination of your studio.


It’s Not About Music Lessons

Your studio doesn’t exist to teach music lessons. Instead, it exists to help people achieve an outcome through music lessons. All of your marketing efforts are going to be an expression of your mission. The systems that are going to instruct your music studio, how to run and operate it are going to be part of your marketing strategy.


Delegating Tasks in Your Music Studio

Everything you do outside the domain of strategy and systems is something that can be delegated out to your employees.  Every minute you devote to these different tasks, from billing to scheduling, the hiring and firing and training are taking away from the two things that you need to be doing to grow your business.


With that said, you can’t just drop all those things or give them to somebody else and say, “here, you do all this. Now I’m going to focus on my systems and my strategy.” You can’t effectively delegate until you have a list of instructions that tell the employee how everything is done in your studio. Once those instructions are established, then you can now hire someone and effectively delegate and begin to manage that employee as they implement the systems in your studio.


Your studio doesn’t exist to teach music lessons. Instead, it exists to help people achieve an outcome through music lessons.


How To Better Run Your Music Studio

How do you implement these systems? How do you create them? I want to define systems in two different ways. One is situational things that come up in your business due to some sort of situation. For example, hiring a new employee, firing, or reprimanding an employee, dealing with a customer complaint, or shutting your studio down due to inclement weather. These are things that you’re not dealing with or hopefully not dealing with regularly, but things come up throughout a year. You need instructions detailing how to handle them. The next set of instructions for your studio consists of time-sensitive tasks that reoccur.


Identifying Your Systems

Your first step is to simply identify what all these situational tasks are, and what these reoccurring and time-sensitive tasks are. Just by simply naming them, you can begin to gain control of your business. You then create an outline, a sketch, as to how your business can run all by itself. The key to growth is having systems. Systems will allow you to identify how to better run your music studio.


Think of your music school as a car. What makes a car run is its engine. Within the engine are all these different systems working together. The driver just has to press the pedal to create momentum. It’s the music school owner’s job to develop these systems. Without them, your business sits idle.


You go and you can focus on your destination and how you navigate your car. If you’re completely focused on the operations of the engine, you’re not going to even have a moment to think about what path you’re taking. You’re going to be focused solely on your operations. That’s why you need an operations manual. The first thing to do is get a notepad and make a list of all the things – all the predictable events that occur in your school over the course of a year.


Start with Student Recitals and Events

Let’s start walking through the year with your January events. You know that’s a time where you see an uptick in enrollment. Your focus is going to be on external marketing. Maybe February and March, things are a little slow, you don’t have any immediate deadlines. In April you might run a spring break camp. Also, you begin to start educating your customers on what their options are for the summer. So write down, “summer marketing,” “internal marketing.” You’re just naming things. You’re sitting down and thinking of what are the real issues of that month? Perhaps every June you have a recital. That’s a big event, so you simply name it at this point and deal with the specifics later.


How to Prepare and Market Your Recitals

Once you’ve named some of these tasks, you’re going to go back to that idea of the recital and say, “okay, what are all the steps that I need to do to put on a recital?” What are the logistics and the marketing that I need to do surrounding that recital? List those on a separate sheet. When should you make the program? When should you start gathering information for that program? Maybe you’ve done it two weeks or three weeks before the show in a panic. What if you started working on that program 10 weeks before the show, by mapping out all the details and then setting a timeline as to when you should be working on them?


Removing Stress From Operating a Music Studio

You begin to start taking some stress off your shoulders. You create a game plan and then when you put together your operations manual, you have all of these things planned out. It makes them less stressful. Now, you’re going to create a calendar for your school that you reference every month around these events.  This way, you see in March that you need to schedule a meeting with your office staff to go over the details of the recital. You’ve identified events in reoccurring or repetitive tasks that happen in your business. You just list those, and then you’re going to map out the details later.


Part of those details involves establishing a timeline for more intricate tasks and events like recitals. Of course, you look at July and you realize, “Oh, July is typically when I start working on getting my fall marketing in motion.” Great. So just simply write down for July “fall marketing plan.” In August you go heavy on fall marketing, so note it. Go through each month and just write down a few tasks that you know you always do in those months or that you should be doing in those months.

Write Down Your Daily Routine

The next thing you can do is spend your workday with a notebook.  Every time you do a task, write down the name of that task. Let’s say you get a phone call from a parent and they want to reschedule their lesson. You hang up the phone after taking care of the issue, and then you write down, “reschedule lessons” in your notebook. Another parent calls with some concerns about her new teacher. Customer complaint, write that down. You’re going to systematize this later, but now you’re just naming it. You get a text from a teacher saying they might be 10 minutes late to their lesson. You need a system for that.


You need a set of instructions. Write it down. The teacher calls in late. That might be the name of the task. You check your calendar and realize that at four o’clock you have a family coming by for a tour of your studio. Name it and put it on your list. Write it down as a “studio tour.” You need a set of procedures for that. Right now, you’re just winging it. It’s just something that’s automatic to you. However, to automate your studio, in order for it to truly run by itself, you have to name the task and then later detail how to implement it.


Being Mindful of Your Tasks

But the first step to being able to do this, to create this list, is that you have to be mindful all day long. This is pretty disruptive. You’re trying to note all these things that you’re doing throughout the day that you’re just so automatically used to doing. You’ve got to commit to the project. Ideally, for a week, you need to write down when you do something. I went and I cleaned the bathroom. Write down “cleaning bathroom.” Then you realize that you vacuum every day. I dust every once in a while, although I should probably dust more. I clean the windows when I notice that they’re dirty. But if you systematize it all, every Thursday you’ll clean the windows, so they’ll always look nice. After a week of doing this, this is going to become a part of your routine. You’ll automatically start writing things down.


Organizing Your Tasks

Here’s how my operations manual looks. There are 13 tabs on it. The first tab is a list of situational tasks. Then, there are categories like concerts and events. Customer care for me consists of emails and marketing, human resources, daily operations, sales, scheduling, staff training, and that’s it. Those are the main categories that I could identify for my studio. These are things that are that happen due to a situation. I only have to deal with staff training, such as when I hire a new teacher. With my system, I could schedule meetings over the course of the year. I could map out the whole year for my teacher training and mentoring program. Scheduling is only a situational activity. The daily operations fall easily onto my list of reoccurring tasks.


For example, these are some items that I have listed under human resources and administrative review. Whoever my administrator is, they’re going to get some annual review and admin interview questions. They know how to handle instructor time off requests and other things. I only have to deal with the time off requests when an instructor wants to take a few days off. In addition to those tasks, I also have a new employee checklist. I have an email that I send out to the higher tier instructors that are primarily teaching adults and semi-professional or professional musicians. They become a great resource for instructors. They’re also teaching students in the college music programs in my community. That’s on the list.


The Twelve Tabs

I have 12 tabs in my book. Each tab represents a month and contains specific monthly tasks. At the beginning of the month, I sit down with my business manager and say, okay, here’s all the things that have to happen in March. When do we want to be working on these? Let’s set some deadlines now. This is just a list. It says these are the things that need to get done. It doesn’t say how to do it, but the name of each task is a hyperlink that takes you to a Word document with bullet points on how to complete the task. The first thing you have to do is identify the task itself. When do I want to complete it? This particular one, I want to complete it by the third week of March. Great. So click on that hyperlink and get to work on it. The hyperlink takes you to the Word document and explains what needs to be done.


My Monthly Tasks

Every March, my studio manager and I discuss the spring concert program layout. It’s simply a discussion. Do we want to do it the same layout as the last one? Or try something different? It’s just a conversation we’re going to have in one of our weekly meetings. We also call kids from the last session that didn’t enroll. What are we going to say during those phone calls? I don’t have to make that call. I can train someone to do that. Click the hyperlink and it’s going to have a few different phone messages that a person could say.


An Example of a System

The next thing in the book says “kid’s rock concert marketing plan.” That’s all it says. There’s a hyperlink, click it and everything is mapped out. How do you set up the marketing before the concert? Put a poster in the room. The kid’s rock instructors have to remind the parents at the end of each class at the concert is in three weeks.


Then we have to follow up, check-in with the teachers. We ask, “did you tell all your kids rock classes yesterday about the concert in three weeks?” “Oh, I forgot. Okay. Listen, it’s really important. This is expected of you. You have a class tomorrow. Be sure to do it.” Then you check the next day. “Did you tell your class about the kids rock instructor, the kid’s rock concert?” “Yes, I did.” “Great. I really appreciate it.” That’s all a part of the system. Whenever you give your staff a directive, there has to be some type of accountability and management system in place as well.


Other Tasks and Relieving Stress

My system talks about scheduling the clocks for daylight savings. Now you put it on your calendar, you set it and forget it. It says here in March to set up the fall concert for the rock bands. It’s nine months away from March, but by having an operations manual with a set list of instructions, things can not only get done in a timely fashion, but they are done in a way that is going to eliminate stress from your life.


Why Your Music Studio Needs an Operations Manual

An operations manual means you no longer have to rely on your memory. Your brain is already jam-packed with information. Setting up a system all begins with being mindful of how you engage with your studio throughout the course of a day. If you are a one-person operation at the moment and have no employees, now is the time to start working on your operations manual.


Start developing your marketing strategies that will be nestled into your operations manual. Turn them into a set of instructions, because those set of instructions and those marketing strategies, are for you too. If you’re a one-person operation, there is so much pressure on you to be efficient with your time and to be focused on the things that really matter in your studio. A marketing strategy with detailed instructions will allow you to be much more productive and efficient and focused while you’re at this stage in your business. Then, when you’re finally ready to hire that first administrator or that first instructor, you’ll have everything mapped out. The ultimate goal is for your music studio to run with you completely removed from it.


Choose a Day as a Test

Start testing your systems to see if they work for your employees. Pick one day and say that you’re going to work from home. You’re not going to go into the studio at all. If your set of instructions is well documented, your office staff won’t need to call you.


Part of your systems involves empowering your staff to be able to make decisions on their own. With this, you’re saying to them, “I trust you. I trust your ability to make the right decision here. And even if I don’t love it, I’m going to back you up.” For example, in the operations manual, it said that when a teacher’s calling in late, here’s how you handle it. “You handled it properly, but you made one little adjustment because you felt like the customer was deserving of a refund. Okay, that’s not the decision I would’ve made. I get why you made it and I support it next time. Here’s how you should have handled it.” Then you tighten up your operations manual as a result. That set of instructions doesn’t mean anything if you’re not constantly referencing them or working with your staff on how to use them.


The Ultimate Test

Can you go on vacation and not check your email, not answer the phone, and be confident that your operations manual is guiding your staff? That’s the real test. It means that not only can you step away from your studio, but you can look at new business endeavors. You can explore a second location. You can start an online business for yourself. I started licensing my music programs because I had the systems in place that allowed me to pull myself out of my studio. This is key to learning how to better run your music teaching business


I went a good six or eight months of pretty much never going into the studio. Maybe I’d go in for a day or two for a few hours, but I was an absent owner for a good six to eight months. A lot of the stress in your life and a lot of the pressure that you feel is due to a lack of systems. Without them, you always have to think of how to put out fires. The fires that you’re putting out today are ones that you’ve probably dealt with before. Teach your staff how to put out fires and how to handle situations. Hold them accountable and your music studio will run by itself.

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