by Teri Mangiaratti
When I talk to my fellow studio owners across the country, they tell me that one of their biggest challenges is office organization. Maybe it’s because studio owners are creative, artistic, right-brained people. We don’t want to organize the office! Here’s a suggestion: to get and keep organized, try tackling the job as if it were a giant piece of choreography—and let yourself be inspired by thoughts of labeled bins, three-ring binders, job descriptions, and peaceful waiting rooms.
Start by creating a manual filled with your tried and true office systems. If you don’t have these systems in place yet, this is the year to create them! Put all the information together into a binder, then keep adding to it during the year. Your systems manual could include how to answer the phone; auto-response email language for FAQs; step-by-step instructions on registering and withdrawing a student; the trial class process; the absent student follow-up procedure; due dates for collecting tuition and following up on past-due accounts; a list of daily office duties; an events calendar; a substitute teacher list; important phone numbers, account numbers, and passwords—plus anything else you can think of that would be great to have at your fingertips. When you’re done, you should be able to hand this systems manual to someone and have her run the studio for you.
Create a staff structure with accountability. Whether you have one staff member or 30, every person on your team should have a job description. When you create a clear job description, you are assigning accountability for projects and tasks. Who is in charge when multiple people are working at the studio and you are called away? Assigning an onsite director each day helps the office run smoothly whether you’re there or not. How does your staff communicate—email, Facebook, group texts? Decide on an organized method for communicating daily or weekly task assignments. And consider web-based programs such as Asana or Google Docs, which provide an organized visual space to keep your staff connected.
Create a studio office schedule that supports your organizational efforts. In addition to staffing your front desk during class hours, add a few regular office hours (for you or team members) when no classes are scheduled. Use these “quiet time” office hours to make account management phone calls, meet with parents, or work on projects that take complete attention. Save busywork projects, which can be interrupted without too much consequence, for the studio’s peak hours. Schedule office shifts to overlap by 15 minutes, instead of one shift ending when the next one starts. This overlap gives staffers a chance to communicate about anything going on, which will help prevent issues and tasks from slipping through the cracks. (Keeping an office log of important happenings also helps.) Post all your office hours on your website, studio door, voicemail, and social media.
Bonus tip: Set theme days for tackling certain business areas—Marketing Mondays, Faculty Fridays, etc.—to help you maintain your focus on staying organized throughout the week. If you try this, let us know about the themes you come up with and how they work for you!
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.