Taking Care of Business | Five Steps to Stepping Back

by Teri Mangiaratti

“I’m missing too much of my children’s lives.” “I want a more normal life.” “How do I step back?” I hear these questions and complaints from studio owners all the time. Stepping back requires planning and management, but take heart: it is possible to shift roles and have a (somewhat) normal life!


Evaluate your workload. List every role you play, whether it’s accounting, faculty management, or running the competitive program. Write each role on a fresh sheet of paper, then fill the page with every little thing the job requires. On the competitive program page, you might list choreograph for all groups, coordinate solo choreography, choose and order costumes, book rehearsals, register for competitions, etc. Take your time; it may take you a full work week to complete these sheets as you realize just how much you do every day.


Imagine turning one of those pages into a job description. How much would you be willing to pay someone to do that job for the season? Estimate how many hours a week the role takes, decide on an hourly rate, and then come up with an annual budget. Having less on your mind is worth something too, so add in a little something for your sanity! I prefer to create salaried, not hourly, positions. A salary is a known-in-advance quantity you can budget for and adjust revenue goals to meet. Even if you’re not looking for directors for all your roles, jot down a reasonable budget/salary for each role anyway—you never know when the perfect person for the job will pop into your life.


Now it’s time to start handing off roles! Don’t start with the largest role. Choose one that you’ll find easier to part with, or that matches the strengths of someone on your team. Look within your current faculty, and reach out to former faculty, students, and parents. Often, people around you will be willing to step into an exciting new role if expectations and communication are clear. Choose wisely, then honor your director with a new title and ownership of that program.


Here’s where delegation can fall apart. Just because you hand off a role doesn’t mean you can forget about it. Create an official follow-up and management plan. For example, schedule a weekly meeting, make sure you’re copied on all email correspondence with studio families, and/or set up an online task list so you can check if things are staying on track. Hint: when you set task deadlines, give new directors an extra week (you can’t assume they’ll work under pressure as you can). Expect mistakes, and allow your employees time to correct them. Remember, you’re a teacher, so take the time to train your chosen people. Delegating requires management; don’t let this step slip away.


Photo by Gary Antle

I know, trust can be hard. But now it’s time to let go, and trust that your chosen directors will step up and want to do their best for you. I like to tell my staff, “If I’m balanced and happy, the studio thrives. If I’m not, things start to fall apart. I’m trusting you all to do your jobs, so I can do mine, and we can all keep thriving in a successful environment!” The best way to trust others is to be trustworthy. Honor your commitments and your part of the plan, and balance will be yours!


Teri Mangiaratti owns In Sync Center of the Arts in Quincy, Massachusetts, which opened in 1996 and today welcomes more than 1,000 children into its dance, music, and art programs.