Friday, October 22, 2010

"Us And Them"

So, I know I've blogged about this in the past, but I have to again!

I have never bothered to make myself an account on the Dance Mom website, first of all since I'm not a mom, but secondly because I would write some pretty rude comments of these people regarding their ridiculous comments. A few parents at my studio that I know of go on there and email me over links to funny posts, or topics they think I would get a good laugh out of. Now, of course I find most of this hilarious and a big waste of time, however, there is a wide variety of topics on there that really just make me angry as a studio owner.

Besides the fact that they have created their own language and lingo on there, I think the fact that dance parents are getting together to discuss dance is completely relevant. People on there become friends and meet up at competitions, and that is all fine and dandy. It doesn't even bother me that they post how their kids do at competitions or things about their studios that they enjoy. There is minimal studio bashing between the 'moms', however, they have no issue bashing numbers they see at competitions from other studios not present or every studio owner on the planet!

One of my favorite previous topics they have discussed was the 'what type of car does your s.o. drive?' post. Let me translate for you quickly - clearly your studio charges too much money if your studio owner drives a fancy car! I personally drive a Toyota Matrix, but now that I think about it, a BMW convertible would be a nice upgrade! Costume fees have suddenly just increased this year!

Today I decided in my boredom at the chiropractor's office to browse on the community board to see what's "happening" in the dance industry! Clearly these moms are more in the know that I am! I came across a topic in the Competitions board that was titled competition entry fees in Ontario. I actually thought this might have something to do with new HST tax applicable to Ontario based competitions, and I was hoping to find some enlightening information. I should have known better than to assume there was an educated conversation going on about it!

Instead, I come to find posts from many parents about what their studios charge for entry fees, and which studio is obviously banking the most cash off of over charging for these entry fees! One poster even asked 'why don't the competitions post the fees on their website?' I think in posting on this website she kind of answered her own question! Competitions don't post their fees on their website for many reasons. One, being that of course dance studios are going to up the fees. Are you really surprised? We run businesses! I spend many of endless days at competitions, as do my staff, and you think we're going to do this pro-bono? I wonder if the lady who complained about her studio making a few dollar off of each of her kid's group entry fees does her job for free?!?!?!

One trending idea on this board is very clear to me, parents have forgotten that dance studios are also businesses. Sure I can teach dance, but I am also a business owner. I do endless amounts of paper work every day, I pay bills, I pay staff, I maintain my facilities and I manage all of my clients. Then on top of that, I cut music, I design costumes, I plan Recitals, I design advertising, I work on choreography... oh and I eat in between some of those things!

I am honest with all the parents at my studio about costs and fees for all parts of dance and competitions up front. I show them approximate entry fees costs for each event for specific dances and I don't try to hide extra expenses or fees, as that would be a poor business decision. However, it's also not really the business of the parents at my studio to know how much I pay my staff to come to competitions, how much money it takes to get all of the money orders prepared to send to the competitions, and all those types of things associated with the extra money I might be charging. That's part of my business structure that is a personal choice and every studio has a different approach to that. Some studios charge a lot extra per routine to go to competitions, but that's at your studio owner's discretion, and also your choice to dance at that studio. There are no regulations for fees in regards to dance, so we are all flying solo in making the best decisions for our businesses.

What parents really need to understand about the dance studio business is that all of those demands you tend to make come at a price. If parents expect that their studio staff all be present at competitions, then realize that those people need to be paid to do that. My staff don't work for free... and frankly neither do I! As much as I love dance, and teaching dance, my passion does not pay the rent every month. My landlord doesn't care that we won Overalls at our last competition, he wants his cheque to clear! I always say that if I won the lottery I would still continue to teach at my studio. That is of course true, but it doesn't mean dancing at my studio would suddenly be free!

I'd like to challenge all these parents making assumptions and rude comments about their studio owner's making money to think about it in the same relative terms as you do your own job. I'll bet this parent who started this specific topic on the message board is also the same mom who buys her daughter $128.00 sweaters at Lulu Lemon! You're paying that company what they feel their product is worth. At my studio, I feel my product is of a certain value and I will charge accordingly. The dance competitions we attend charge what they think is appropriate for a soloist to compete, and then it is my job to charge my clients that price plus my time.

The same is true when it comes to costumes and Recital tickets, and the list goes on and on. Clearly some parents are under the assumption that running dance studios is just a hobby and our "real" day jobs pay all of our bills.

I would always encourage parents from all studios to talk to other dance parents and have educated discussions about anything dance related. I think message boards are a great way to share information and they can be a great advertising tool as well (that's my business owner side talking there!). However, I don't think the intentions of were to created a place for parents to continually complain about everything their studio owner does or charges for. If you hate your studio that much... then go somewhere else and shut up about it! If you really have concerns about fees or you don't understand what you're being charged for, then go and speak to your studio owner. Highgolddancemom45 doesn't have the answers for you!

So tomorrow when I'm at my "real" job, at the hospital, performing brain surgery, I'll get my personal assistant to create an account for me on so I can help enlighten parents on such topics. I might even start writing a dance mom handbook to help you all out! Anyone know of a publisher who would print it for free? Cause, obviously I couldn't charge for the book!


mommyrocks4 said...

As a studio owner I completely agree! I love how people look at my car and say "well I bought that for her".... Ignorance is bliss! Love your posts, I'm an new follower and can't wait for more! L

Alison said...

I say you go for a jag convertible!

Suzanne Gerety said...

Hi Robin,

Your post brings up many points that are the source of contention for so many studio owners and their customers (ie: parents and students).

Perhaps this is an opportunity to reach out with some educational content for the dance moms.

I meet and consult with far more studio owners who sacrifice month-to-month to just keep their studio doors open becuase of the rising cost of utilities, health insurance (here in the US!), taxes, and business costs associated with accepting credit cards, needing updated softwares, safe equipment (barres, floors, mirrors, etc). The list goes on and on.

Running a dance studio is a business. And to have a healthy, successful business thrive we have to set fees to not only cover expenses but pay the salaries of the talented, capable faculty and staff that work there on top of everything else above.

To offer the best dance training to the dancers, the studio owner and teachers need to be able to access ongoing eduction, training and opportunities to learn and grow.

I'd like to say that the gap in understanding could be solved overnight but I believe it will take some on going conversation and education to do so.

I'm happy to help in any way that I can as I'm here to advocate for studio owners and their students/parents to have a great working relationship.

Suzanne Blake Gerety
Co-Founder, Editor
@SuzanneGerety on Twitter