Today we’re going to be talking with Clint Salter about his organization The Dance Studio Owners Association. Although many people think trade associations are different than a regular blue collar business, they would be wrong. Associations have the exact same problems you do. They need customers, they have to market and they have to deliver value. These are all topics that we’re going to talk about today.
Clint has built a great association business where he helps owners of dance studios see their studios as businesses. This is an issue that many of us in the professional services business face. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed (as much as I hate that word) or not getting the results you want in your business this is the podcast episode you must listen to.
Here are some of the things Clint and I talked about:
- How to attract new customers to your business.
- Why you might want to focus on your systems before getting more customers.
- How to understand the difference between customers (children) and clients (parents)
- What you can do to install a predictable sales system that gets consistent results
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.
Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business.
Hey, today, we’ve got Clint Salter with us. Clint owns a kind of an interesting company. It’s called the Dance Studio Owners Association. Now, you wouldn’t think about dance studio owners having businesses that are relatively complicated but frankly they are. You know, to get a business for the dance studio to have about a million dollars in sales, you’ve got 20 to 30 people wondering around, so there’s a bunch there.
Clint is going to talk us through what it takes to make a successful dance studio. And here is what I want you to do, as he’s telling us what it takes to make that successful dance studio, you need to be thinking about what it takes that he’s talking about to be applied to your business. Clint has done a bunch of really interesting things and hopefully we’ll get into a few of them during our conversation. But instead of listening to me talk on, why don’t we bring Clint in?
Hey, Clint. How are you today?
Clint: Hi, Josh. Really great. Thanks so much for having me.
Josh: Well, this is really fun. We’ve been talking for about 40 minutes beforehand. Now, I’ve got to tell you, I really enjoyed our conversation.
Clint: So have I.
Josh: So, tell me. What’s the biggest challenge that your members face?
Clint: What they think is their biggest challenge is attracting new students because for them, their profit, their revenue – how they see it, is tied directly to the amount of students that they have within their studio.
Josh: So, is that what you think their main problem is?
Clint: So, no. I don’t think that’s what their main problem is. I think the main problem is generally around the systems within their business, them creating systems so the business doesn’t rely on them working in the business 24/7, which also relates to bringing the right people into the business to then run those systems so that the studio owner is freed up to do what they should be doing. And generally, that’s creative type of work.
Josh: So, I’m going to assume that all your customers and clients have grown up teaching dance classes?
Clint: I always laugh because I say, studio owners never come to me and said, “Clint, the reason I started my dance studio was because I saw a gap in the market, to make some money.” You’re exactly right. They’ve generally started their studio because they were a dance teacher like me before I had my dance studio. So, I was a dance teacher and then the natural progression was “Well, what else am I going to do? All I know is really how to teach dance. Why don’t I be a dance studio owner?” So they go from – Michael Gerber, which we mentioned, E-myth. They go from their technician role to the entrepreneur role with kind of no tools or resources in their tool belt to really help them thrive as the business owner.
Josh: So, they walk into, they open a dance studio. They know nothing about running a business. And all of a sudden, they’ve got to start making payroll and paying bills.
Clint: And dealing with parents.
Josh: Oh, man. Oh yeah, dealing with parents – those are what you call customers.
Clint: Yeah, don’t forget about them.
Josh: So, you say their biggest challenge is systems. How did they develop the systems in their business? I mean, what’s the road they need to go down to develop systems?
Clint: Well, the first thing is creating consistency in any type of action. So, I’ll give you an example. For a dance studio to be bringing in those customers, which is students and parents, they need an enrollment process. So, for instance, a parent will ring up and say, “Hi, I know you’ve got a dance studio. I want to bring little Susie into dance. She’s 3-1/2 years old and she wants to do ballet.” The studio owner says, “Great.”
Well, they then follow a process, whether it’s coming in for a free trial, for a class, then a follow-up call, then checking in with them to see how they enjoyed the class. Then making them an offer to actually enroll and become a registered dancer in their dance studio for 12 months. There’s an actual process that they need to walk through.
What generally happens though is everything sometimes can stay stuck in their head – the studio owner’s head, and they change their system and process every time. At one point, they’ll get a phone call and they’ll answer them back and then they’ll send them an e-mail. And then they’ll do the same but then they’ll send a text message, then they’ll forget to follow up someone so that lead’s gone. They’ve gone to the studio down the road. And so, creating these systems is really about, I guess, taking a breath, taking a step back and identifying “What did I just do then to get a certain outcome?” I mean, that’s how I think we all start. Systems, is repetition of a certain type of action. It turns into a system and it’s just fluid. You know, it evolves as our company evolves and as we test new ways of doing things.
Josh: So, you just touched on something which I think is a really big deal. And most companies, in my experience, do a really bad job with this which is having a predictable, repeatable sales system. How do you get your members to actually follow the sales system once that it gets developed?
Clint: Obviously, if they’re a part of our association, we have a mapped out process for them. And it’s two versions – the mini version is 11 steps. The more detailed version is 18. And so, we have obviously created that system from years and years of work with studio owners – not just from when I had my dance studio but now working with thousands of dance studio owners.
And that system, they can essentially plug and play. They plug that into their studio and they tick off those boxes in their Google Sheet or in their dance studio software, if they put it into that. And they follow that system.
The most difficult part of that, to answer your question is when that system then needs to be transferred to another staff member, like an office manager or like a receptionist. Someone else has to take ownership or take over that. That’s when challenges can come up if the training’s not adequate. If maybe the staff member doesn’t have the skills or needs further skills around kind of implementing that system in the business.
Josh: Is part of the problem with this, that once they delegate something that the owner forgets to go back and check on what they delegated to?
Clint: Occasionally. Generally, we find that that out when like a bomb hits the studio. So, you know, they might forget to like check in. So, it’s kind of set and forget. And I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes business owners make when it comes to creating systems is they do it once and then they just leave it.
And that’s why I said it’s an ever evolving system. All systems are ever evolving and they’re super fluid, right? Because someone comes in and says, “Hey, I did this but I reckon there’s a better way of doing this, right?” So then the system evolves and it gets better. It gets more efficient.
But you’re totally right, they set it in place. They go, “Off you go, Sandy. It’s your job to look after the enrollment process now.” Six months later, the studio owner goes, “Hey, how’s the spreadsheet going? I want to see how many new student leads that we’ve got over the last six months.” And Sandy goes, “I didn’t [inaudible 00:07:31]. I kind of forgot. I haven’t been doing for it five and a half months.”
And so, that checking point, and I mean that’s when we’re kind of getting into staff checking accountability. Using tools like Asana and Slack. Free online tools that we suggest to all of our studio owners to use to make sure that there’s accountability there. Most importantly, make sure that things don’t fall down the gaps.
Josh: Yeah, my experience is we use something that we call EIA which stands for Expect – Inspect – Accept.
Clint: Oh, I like that.
Josh: And the step that people always fall down on – Inspect. Easy said expectations, really easy to accept, hard to inspect to make sure it gets done. That’s for sure. So, 11 steps and 18 steps in a sales system? That seems to be a lot. How long does it take to run a system like that?
Clint: Not very long at all because it’s set like that–a lot of them are automated as well. So, for instance, if we’ve got a studio owner who is using a Mailchimp, an Infusionsoft, Get Response, Active Campaign – a good e-mail marketing system, they can go into a funnel and a lot of those steps are then looked after for them. But if they’re not as advanced in their technology, well then a lot more of it is manual.
Josh: So you just used a term which many people listening will not know what you mean.
Clint: Aha, which one?
Josh: And that is funnel.
Josh: So can you explain what a funnel is?
Clint: Yes. Well, for our studio owners, a sales funnel is essentially the journey or the process that a perspective customer goes through to become a customer. So, for our dance studio owners, the start of the funnel is maybe putting in their e-mail address to get access to a free class pass, for example. So you come to a free class at our dance studio. The parent puts in their e-mail address on a landing page or a web page and then they go through a process, manual and automated, to get them to come to a class and then to get them enrolled in a class.
And then, essentially, at the end of that process, they sign up. They’re an enrolled student. They have paid their tuition. They’re out of that part of the funnel and then maybe into another funnel.
And the next funnel might be around getting them into another class. So instead of just enrolling them into one class, we want them in two classes or three classes, or we want them to book their birthday party with us. And so, then we can put them into another funnel to essentially get repeat business from a customer that’s already existing inside of our company.
Josh: So, with an 11-step and 18-step process, I bet you’ve had some of your members try to do it in 4 steps or 10 steps.
Clint: Of course, and they will say to me, “But I followed your process and it didn’t work.” And I’m like, “Send me that spreadsheet because it can not work.” And they’ll go, “Oh but, you know, I didn’t do that, you know. Oh, but they’re just kind of like the same so we didn’t do that.”
And this is what everyone’s looking for. Not just our studio owners but I think in business, in general. And I’ve been there as well. You know, early on I’ve had a couple of businesses now so I feel like I’ve learnt some lessons around this.
And there aren’t any shortcuts. And if someone’s created a process or a system and you’re purchasing that system from them or that process, I mean, generally, they’ve done the work and they know that it’s going to work for you as well but if you follow it. Right?
It’s like when we get a new piece of technology, right? I mean, the new apartment with the washing machine. I have no idea how it works and I flick through the manual and I know that I actually have to read every single step in that manual. I can’t just guess from the screen what to press because it’s super complicated, this washing machine. And I know that if I skip something, my whites are all going to turn pink. And so, you’ve got to be careful. It’s the same with any system is you’ve got to follow it. There are no shortcuts, is my belief anyway.
Josh: So this is something that’s really important for folks who are listening. If your sales system doesn’t have 10 to 20 steps to it, you’re not getting the clients that you should get because you’re trying to do it too fast and cutting corners.
Clint: Yeah and if you’re like jumping onto those webinars – the 4-step sales process, how to get 100 new clients in 10 days in half an hour or something. I mean, those kind of get-rich-quick kind of schemes or simple things. I mean, it’s never that easy. And so, you can have simplified systems but essentially, those simplified systems have come from years of doing a whole lot of different stuff and testing a whole lot of things, and it’s boiled down into something that’s concrete that works. I mean, follow it.
Josh: It makes sense to me. So one of the things you talked about a little bit earlier was that you run your company as a virtual company.
Josh: And you actually have eight or nine people working with you but none of them are in the same place you are?
Clint: No. None of them are in the same place as each other.
Josh: How do you manage that?
Clint: Yeah, look, it’s super interesting. It was so funny. Two years ago, when I got into education, essentially coaching. And now, our businesses predominantly are all online. We do some live events but everything else is online.
I remember talking to a mentor of mine and he was talking about staff and I was like, “No. Just me and an assistant. That’s all I want in this business.” And I quickly realized that I needed to grow a team. That, with me, I travel so much. I’m probably in Australia six months of the year, in the U.S. most of the rest of the time, traveling in the U.K. And so, for me, to have like an office with actually people there – I was like, “That’s not really going to work for me.”
And actually, I hire on skill, culture and fit. I mean, those things are really important for me. And the reason I went virtual firstly is because I was looking for a community manager to help with our association. And like I advertised locally and like I couldn’t find anyone that was good. I was like, “Where are all the cool people that could do this role?” Like in Sydney, I just couldn’t find them so I ended up going virtual. It worked really well. And so, I’ve done that for the rest of our team members as well.
When it comes to managing a virtual team, it has been a real—probably one of the biggest learning curves to me especially over the last 12 months as I focused on team and seen the power of building a great team that empowered themselves to take things on.
And so, a couple of key things that I do is we have a weekly meeting. Every Monday, we’d have like a 45-minute meeting with a really strong agenda that’s broken down. We go through team metrics, numbers, any support that anyone kind of needs from me, from the past week.
It’s super detailed but everyone fills out their sections before we jump to that meeting. So the meeting is never about, “So, update us on that, Mel. Okay, Charice, update us on that.” So we’re not wasting time. We actually all read the agenda beforehand. We know kind of what’s going on and that meeting is really just a go through thing. And it’s 45 minutes. It goes like 5 minutes. It feels super quick but we get through like a whole week’s worth of stuff in that meeting. So that’s really good.
Also, I mentioned Asana and Slack before, we would not have a business without those tools. Every project plan, every task that essentially exists in our business gets put into Asana. So, I delegate tasks to staff through Asana. They delegate me tasks through Asana. We communicate where tasks are at. Like, updates on specific tasks in Asana. And then we use Slack. Both of these tools are free, by the way for a certain amount but it’s plenty for most businesses. And Slack is like an instant messenger kind of tool where you’ve got different channels.
We separate things into projects and we back and forth on different things. We never assign jobs in Slack. It’s a big mistake people making with Slack at the moment is it becomes just a whole lot of noise and nothing productive. Put all of your tasks into Asana or BaseCamp or Trello, whatever you’re using. But use Slack as this tool for those kind of quick little things that you might need.
Look, that’s how I do it. And then I do one-on-one meetings with each of our core staff once a week as well. They go for about half an hour.
Josh: So just to let our listeners know, Asana and BaseCamp and Trello are all project management software. We happen to use BaseCamp in our business and we have used Asana. They’re both good programs. It’s just because of personal preference issue.
Clint: Oh, always. Always. I mean, we have tried everything as well and it’s what fits for the team. Also, for me, we brought a full-time project manager on in January who I just want to hug everyday because she’s amazing and it’s taken so much of my job away from me. And I empowered her to say, “You do the research. We’re using Asana. If that works for you, fantastic. If now, you’ve got to love it. You’ve got to be the driver of it in the business.” And so, that’s kind of her domain now. And she oversees systems and procedures in the business which is great. And I just talk to her directly about it.
Josh: So if I wanted to find some virtual help—
Josh: That’s not sitting in my office, where should I start?
Clint: It depends on what level. If you want to start maybe with like an assistant, so it’s someone that’s doing like admin work for you. So say, you’ve got someone or you’re doing it, hopefully you’re not doing the admin work. But if you’re doing the kind of the lower value tasks, the admin work in your business, you can jump onto—a friend of mine Chris Ducker has a company called Virtual Staff Finder and they find virtual assistants for people.
But if you go to Chris Ducker’s website, you’ll get so much information about virtual assistants. How to work with them? What they can do for you? How to hire the best ones? I mean, Chris is just the master. He’s got a great book – Virtual Freedom. That will give you like everything you need to know about virtual staff. I’ve read it a couple of times.
But to be honest with you, where you get the most learning is when you just jump in and do it. Upwork has been like—it used to be Elance and Odesk. And now, they’ve combined. They’re Upwork now. They have so many different things. You know, you post a brief, so you need someone to do admin work for you, 10 or 15 hours a week. You can post a brief for a part-time virtual assistant, get lots of submissions, interview them. Find the right fit. And so, there’s so many platforms. But Upwork’s a great place to start. And obviously check out all of Chris’ resources because they’re really detailed. He’s just a great guy and he knows what he’s talking about.
Josh: So, when you’re thinking back to, going through your virtual assistant journey—
Clint: I don’t know if I want to re-live my first two assistants but I will with you.
Josh: Well, that’s what I’m about to ask. What was the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Clint: Not getting them to do – like now, we have this three tasks kind of process. So, as we go through, we look at submissions. My team will now shortlist – depending on the role. But if it’s admin, customer help, they’ll shortlist down to a final three. They’ll interview them on Skype before I even interview them because they know kind of how I work and whether or not they’ll die or thrive in our environment. And then we’ll give them three tasks each to do.
And depending on the role, it could be uploading a blog to our website. It could be research. We probably do a lot of different research things. It might be “Research these. Go to these ten dance studio websites. And I want you to put a document together with their top navigation and blah, blah, blah.” Whatever it might be. It might be “Make me a list of the top 10 blogs for entrepreneurs.” Whatever it might be. Whatever business that you’re in. But get them doing tasks that they would be doing inside of the business. We never really did that.
Back in the day, I would just—and this was many years ago, when I had started with Virtual Staff maybe six years ago – six or seven years ago. And it was just diabolical because I’d chat to them and go, “So, can you do this?” “Oh, yeah.” “Great” And then they’d start and it’d be just a nightmare. But I had no idea though. I didn’t know any different. So, it’s taken a long time to kind of learn. But now, I would strongly suggest those kinds of tests to do before they start.
The other thing I do now is I hire both – two people, on a month’s trial in every role. And one of them goes at the end of the month. One of the best things I ever did and I’m super honest with them now I’m like, “It’s a month’s trial. It’s a full-time role. I don’t do any kind of part-time around core functions of the business. It’s a full-time role. I’m going to test you and someone else for a month.” It’s kind of like Hunger Games. And at the end of it, one of them stays and one of them goes.
And in the budget, I have–this is kind of a testing budget. I’ve got money in the budget to put towards that because the last thing I want is to trial someone for a month and then have another month and not like them and for them to not workout, then have another month to finding someone else. And so, I just like to shortcut that and I like to know at the end of the month, I’m going to have someone. It’s never not worked.
Josh: Actually, I did that by mistake with the last hire we did. So you’re right, it is a good way of doing it.
Josh: Hey Clint, we are unfortunately out of time.
Josh: And I am sure that some of our folks might want to get in contact you, who are listening so—
Clint: Yeah, for sure.
Josh: If they wanted to, how would they go about that?
Clint: So just go to dancestudioownersassociation.com. You’ll see all our info there, contact details. You can send us an e-mail through there and my team will pass it on to me. Alternatively, I’m all on social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. I’m not doing much Snap Chat so don’t expect to see many videos from me. But yeah, on all the socials, so you can reach out there. And I’d be happy to help in any way that I can.
Josh: Cool. So the [inaudible 00:20:54] social media is ClintSalter.
Clint, thanks so much for your time today.
Clint: Thanks, Josh.
Josh: We have an offer for you from askjoshpatrick also which is I have put together a think I call the periodic table of business strategies which is a whole bunch of strategies you might want to be considering to help make your business sustainable. So if you want to get it, I have a really easy way for you to do this. All you’ve got to do is text periodic at 44222. And Periodic is P-E-R-I-O-D-I-C. And again, it’s at 44222. Thanks so much and you’re at the Sustainable Business. I hope to see you back here soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.