October 2014 | On My Mind


Words from the publisher

In today’s business world, there’s plenty of talk about mission statements and branding and logos, and most of us accept that those are desirable and necessary components of a business’ identity—and even of its success. Sometimes, instead of a formal mission statement, a tag line suffices—a succinct, often catchy description of what’s most essential about the business. It might not be in print anywhere, but it’s in the business owner’s head; in the case of a school owner, it usually sums up why that person has chosen dance education for a career. Dance Studio Life has a tag line too: “dedicated to quality dance education.” If you asked me to tell you what that means to me, you’d probably get quite a speech.

That’s why I was surprised to find out that not all business owners have thought through what their schools represent.

Photo by Mim Adkins

Photo by Mim Adkins

I made this discovery during a session at the DanceLife Retreat Center. I asked the attendees, “What is a characteristic or ideal that makes your school stand out from the rest?” One school owner jumped right in. “We are a family-friendly school,” she said. I asked her to describe what “family friendly” meant to her, and she was stumped. While she was thinking, I asked someone else the same question. She said, “My school is about quality dance education.” Of course I asked her to define “quality dance education,” and in response, I got silence. I know both of these women were sincere in their replies, but it was obvious that they had not spent much time thinking about what these important aspects of their schools mean to them.

And that got me thinking.

School owners spend hours on end teaching, rehearsing, creating choreography, producing shows, costuming—and you know the rest. Each of these obligations takes time, expertise, and an awareness of what you want to accomplish.

Why is this—at least, in the case of these two women—not true for the intangible aspects of school ownership? If you’re like these women, ask yourself why you’re not putting time and effort into determining why you do what you do. If you do have a written philosophy, when was the last time you read it to decide if it’s still true, and if your business practices are on track? When was the last time you thought about new and better ways to live up to your philosophy? And if you don’t have a philosophy, isn’t it time you did?

Imagine if you shut down all the machines, grabbed a notepad, and went outside—someplace quiet where you could be alone—and you sat, and thought, and wrote down what’s important to you, and why you chose to devote yourself to dance education. One thing is certain: you would gain confidence simply by knowing yourself better.

If you do this, you’ll be able to explain what phrases like “family friendly” and “quality dance education” mean to you. And if you want to achieve success, you’ll start to live by the words that describe your school, your goals, and your values.

DSL publisher Rhee Gold has owned a dance competition, presided over national dance teaching organizations, and founded Project Motivate. His book, The Complete Guide to Teaching Dance, is in its second printing.