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Starting a New Studio? What You Should Know

coach_al2010-07-04 22:14:26 +0000 #1
I get dozens of emails each month from studio owners , teachers and people involved in some other aspect of yoga (about 5000 people are subscribed to this newsletter). I really do read every one, though unfortunately, I don't have the time to respond to them all (I wish I did). Instead, topics that come up often are often the basis for what I write here. This month, I had planned to write about who is supposed to do what when it comes to studio operations, but I felt guided in a different direction by the universe. I've gotten an unusual number of inquiries from people wanting to open a new studio. Some from partners, others from individuals, but all with the passion and excitement that comes from embarking on the dream of opening a new studio. As an aside, I do love to hear from readers. Email me and let me know what you would find useful to learn about.

Responding to inquiries like this is one of the hard parts of what I do. You see, I like to see people happy, and it is really fun to see them excited about creating a successful studio. So, here's the hard part. I've worked with numerous studios over the years and have a pretty good feel for what it takes to make a studio succeed. Unfortunately, many of the excited happy people who come to me for advice don't have some pretty critical pieces of what it will take in place AND they don't believe they need them (In a minute, I'll tell you what I usually share with them, but first the rest of the story).

“My studio will be different!” they say, then go on to explain why they don't need anything other than what they have. If they don't seem open, I usually don't have the heart to tell them that this is exactly what most of the other studio owners in their position who have ended up closing their doors for good once explained. Like I said, this is a hard part of my work. But on the bright side, a lot of them do listen with an open mind. And while they have to work extra and learn new stuff, they get through it and create a studio that really does grow and flourish. Don't get me wrong, it is hard work, but it does truly pay off.

So here is an inquiry I recently got. The email was from three teachers who were so passionate about yoga, they decided that they wanted to open their own studio to share their vision with the world in their own unique way. They talked about the styles of yoga they could teach, years of experience, who they each learned from and what classes their studio would offer.

“If you want to bake cookies, go home to your kitchen and bake.” This is what a wise friend and experienced bakery owner told a woman who loved baking so much she wanted to open her own bakery. You see, running a bakery (or yoga studio for that matter) has very little to do with the product or service you are offering. Most studio owners open a studio for the same reasons the three teachers I just mentioned did – To teach and practice yoga. A noble endeavor to be sure, but not nearly enough to open a studio.

A studio is just a business that happens to offer yoga classes as a service. It is not a collection of yoga classes that happens to need some business stuff going on in the background. If I've offended you with this remark, my apologies. Like I said, this is the hard part of what I do. It's so sad for me to pick up the phone and listen to a studio owner tell how she is $40,000 in debt and can't borrow any more money, and she doesn't think she can even pay rent this month. She goes on to tell how as she walks from her car to her studio each morning, that with every step her heart sinks and her throat tightens. What was once her dream now feels like a prison. She wants to know if I can help. I hear too many of these stories.

I would rather make someone mad and discouraged now than to see them go through this. And what's worse is that yoga is never the same for them after that. Their spark and passion is gone. The good news is, it doesn't have to be this way. If you know the right things, you are so much further along than if you don't.

What do I think it takes to run a successful studio? If you are willing to spend a lot of time doing financial management, marketing, sales, internet marketing, hiring (and firing), managing teachers and staff, calculating price structures, creating ongoing promotions, advertising, dealing with happy students and angry students, working long hours, doing janitorial work, filing papers and eventually marveling at the amazing studio you have created, then starting a studio might be for you. You may include “Teaching yoga” in the list, but it is not required – many successful studio owners teach only the classes they really like, and some none at all.

Over three-quarters of new studios will fail in less than three years. What you don't know can hurt you. It takes more than just passion and a vision to make a studio successful (though these qualities are essential too!) This reminds me of a teenager, who had recently learned to drive, going on a long trip across Nevada . You see, in Nevada , you can easily drive 100 miles without seeing another car, let alone passing a gas station. He's so excited about his first driving trip with a friend – he has been waiting all month and the day has finally arrived. He thinks he just needs to get in the car and go. His mother ask “How much gas do you have?” He says “a quarter tank.” She asks “How far can you go before you need to fill up again?” He says “I'm not sure…if I need gas, I'll stop.” She knows that if his car gets 20 miles to the gallon, the quarter tank he has (about 3 gallons) will get him 60 miles. He needs to go over 100 miles before another chance to fill up comes along.

Notice that he has all the passion in the world , but my guess is that his lack of information (how far a quarter tank of gas will go) is going to leave him stranded in the Mojave desert . The same is true in starting a studio. There are some fundamental things you need to do, like having enough money to operate for months or years before making a profit, or knowing a good deal about marketing and advertising.

Back to the three teachers who called me , I told them this. I also suggested they download the free "Top Ten Things to Consider When Starting a Yoga Studio" ( Business Solutions for Yoga Studio Owners: www.centeredbusiness.com/freestuff.htm ) guide from my website and read it, asking themselves how they have addressed each issue described. Next, I suggested they read a book called “The E-myth revisited” by Michael Gerber. And finally, I asked them to each write down why they wanted to open a yoga studio. If they just wanted to teach yoga, then they would probably be happier as teachers.

If you really want to open a studio, take one for a test-drive. Go to a studio that you like, AND which seems to be reasonably successful, and tell the owner you want to volunteer to help with the business side of things (no teaching yoga!) Deal with processing class cards, calling people who no longer come to the studio, coordinating and advertising promotional events, marketing, advertising and more marketing, dealing with student records and teacher schedules, and whatever else they let you do. Try this for 8-12 hours a week, for 3 months. Do it more often, if you can. Then decide if you want to start your own studio. If you do, then you have probably quadrupled your chances of success. If you can't make that kind of time investment, go through my “Home Study Yoga Studio Success Course” ( see right sidebar or Business Solutions for Yoga Studio Owners: www.centeredbusiness.com/homestudy.htm ) to get a good idea of what you'll need to do on the business side of things. (Or at the very least, get a book from the library on running a small business.) Just do something to get an understanding of what you will really be doing day to day if you open a studio.

I was going to give a list of specific items to consider when opening a studio, but I think I've gone on for long enough already. Honestly, I've covered most of them in the free downloads and the Home Study Studio Success Program. These are great resources regardless of whether you are starting a new studio or already have one open.

I want to see you happy and successful. I am sorry if I disturbed or upset anyone with this somewhat blunt article. However, if running a studio is right for you, then you can probably tell because you are feeling open and interested in learning about the things I've discussed. If this is the case for you, then welcome to the world of studio ownership. It's good to have you aboard. Keep in mind that even if a studio isn't right for you today, someday it might be. Whatever you do, don't give up on your dream!

Namasté,

Coach Al Lipper

P.S. Please let me know what you think of this newsletter. What other topics would you like to learn more about in the future?

About Coach Al:

Al Lipper is a master business coach, business teacher and writer. For free resources on running a yoga studio as a successful and fun business, visit Business Solutions for Yoga Studio Owners: www.CenteredBusiness.com .



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