Six keys to enforcing an effective studio policy
A good studio policy is only effective if it is enforced. And while it is relatively easy to write a policy, it is certainly much harder to enforce it in a kind but firm manner. Yet enforcement of an effective policy is the key to a running a smooth, profitable studio that benefits everyone. Here are six important tips to help you enforce your policy effectively and avoid major disruptions that can affect your income and stress level.
Remind yourself why your policy exists.
It is paramount to remember that your studio policy exists to benefit you and your piano families in numerous ways. First, your policy exists for your business to ensure that you can make a profit teaching piano and that you can continue to offer quality piano lessons for all the families in your studio. If you cannot make a consistent income or if you become overwhelmed with ineffective policies, you will have to stop teaching at some point. This can be a tragedy for your piano families as well as you! Your policy also exists for you and your family to protect you from being overworked, underpaid, and overstressed. The benefits of this protection are obvious. Finally, your policy exists for your piano families to help define expectations, roles, and procedures to ensure that everyone's needs, including your own, are met in a reasonable and efficient way.
Be confident in your boundaries.
In addition, your policy exists to help you create boundaries in your life that protect your free time, creative time, down time, and time with those who are close to you. Each of us, including your piano parents, is responsible for setting and protecting our own boundaries, so who will set and protect your own boundaries if you do not? Being confident that the boundaries you set will help to secure time for self care and family care is key to enforcing the boundaries when others encroach on them by trying to protect theirs.
Keep on top of policy issues.
It's easy to let a late payment slide, and there is certainly room for a grace period. But the longer and more frequently a family is allowed to be late with a payment, the more money you are potentially losing. Keeping on top of issues like late payments is crucial to ensure that if a family does leave without paying, your loss is as minimal as possible.
Know when to let go.
Even when you have been firm, there may come a time when it is just not worth the time, money, or stress to chase a payment anymore. When a family has not paid and is no longer in your studio, constantly phoning, emailing, or exchanging heated words with them will cost you more than just stress. It will take time away from replacing that student with another student who may happily pay on time. Therefore, weigh your collection options carefully. Sometimes it is better just to let go, possibly turning the matter over to a collection agency, and count the missed income as a "loss" so that you can put your time, energy, and money into something that generates positive cash flow, such as new students. If you have kept on top of your policy, you should have less financial pressure and can more easily walk away when an account does become delinquent. For more information about how to pursue a delinquent account, read "What's Your Agreement to Terms Good for? Court?"1
Stop second-guessing what others think.
Many teachers suffer from a constant barrage of second-guessing their policies. This is a vicious cycle, so learning to stop the second-guessing is critical. It is crucial to replace the second-guessing with positive, true statements about how your policy is helping you, your family, your studio, and even your piano families.
It's easy to think that the bottom line is money, but it's really all about people. Being gracious, understanding, and loving your students and their families is paramount to impacting them positively, even as it relates to music. While many teachers seem to be less business minded and more empathetic to the needs of their piano families, there is a danger that when you move toward better business practices, your pendulum may swing too far and you may become too rigid and forget about the importance of the relationship. Philo of Alexandria once said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." Remember that parents are constantly fighting battles within themselves as they try to live up to expectations, meet the demands of multiple teachers, make impossible schedules work, and give the best resources to their children. Keeping this in mind will give you understanding when dealing with those who try your patience with policy enforcement. While these inner battles are not an excuse for parents being rude or not abiding by your policy, being aware of them can put perspective on how to empathize and still be firm. Enforcing your studio policy with kindness and firmness shows respect to yourself and all who are around you. In addition, abiding by your policy will help ensure an appropriate and consistent income which will minimize negative possibilities and give you greater flexibility.
1 http://www.composecreate.com/whats-youragreement- to-terms-good-for-court/