How to Scale and Grow Your Music Studio Like a Pro - Creative Music Education
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How to Scale and Grow Your Music Studio Like a Pro

By Paul Myatt | Business and Marketing

Sep 04

Are you ready to grow your music studio?

If you’re reading this, hopefully, it means that you’re motivated to make a change in how you’re running your teaching practice.

Before we start talking about how you can grow your music studio, I wanted to ask you a few questions about whether you’re really keen to move towards this space.

To orient you towards the scaling up your business here are a few questions to ask yourself before you read any further.

Scaling Up Your Business Continuing with a Teaching Practice
There will be more work. Have you thought about finding premises, working out what you’re going to teach, how you’re going to teach. How much work will be involved and how much time for what reward? Are you content with improvements you’ve made so far? Are you happy with your current teaching status quo?
Is your family on board? Do not plan to build a business and start a family at the same time – it is virtually impossible. Think of your business as being like a child. I have seen people successfully start a family after their business has developed after the first 3-5 years, and businesses go broke when people have started a family and a business at the same time. Like most things in life, your success will be in your planning. If you’re wanting to start a family, this maybe the easiest way to continue your teaching practice as many people are able to work students around having a baby.
More Expenses – expansion costs money, do you have a budget? What can you expect to earn from your investment? Are your expenses minimal in comparison to your teaching income?
More responsibility – you may take on staff or premises, will you be required to charge VAT or GST? Are you happy with the level of responsibility you have now?
Group Teaching – do the numbers make sense for you? If they do, how would you do this? What courses will you offer? What age groups will you cater to? If you have staff, how will you quality control? Do you prefer to stay with one on one lessons or small groups?
More space & instruments – if you go down the group teaching, what instruments? How much space?
Extra marketing & promotion costs – how will you do this? Be part of a group or do this by yourself?
Building a business for sale in the future – with any expansion your end goal should be how you can sell your business. Everything system you implement in your business should be around making your business run smoother and be able to be replicated by someone else.
The ability to touch more lives with music.

I was very honoured when Tim asked me to write and I’m delighted to share my thoughts on running a successful music education business. Gillian Erskine and I co-founded Forte School of Music in 1994. Today it is a network of music schools with more than 5,500 students in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

We have always been passionate music teachers. When we started Forte, we articulated our passion in our philosophy: To nurture a love for and interest in music.

The goal was to grow the musicians of the future through a broad-based music curriculum using the keyboard as the foundation instrument and make learning music fun! Our tagline is “music for life!”. It is our goal that students continue playing for years into adulthood well after they finish lessons.

Last year I met a business coach who helped me articulate my purpose: To continue to learn and educate myself and others to achieve their goals.

Having a clearly defined purpose and philosophy for you and your business gives you the WHY you’re in business. Simon Sinek’s book, “Start with Why” is well worth reading. I am convinced that having a clear statement of philosophy and goals from the beginning contributed to our success.

Everything we do in our business now is guided by our “why”.  Gillian and I both have strong family values and when new school owners join the Forte network, we are very careful to ensure that they also share our “why” and our values as well as being keen to share their successes and challenges as part of the “Forte Family”.

There’s nothing better than to be able to share your successes and disappointments with others who understand and are able to offer their experience. This is why the Inner Circle is so valuable to piano teachers, you have the opportunity to float ideas with like-minded people.

We expanded this idea through the Forte network and encourage all our school owners, when they are employing staff and teachers, to share their “why” so they can find staff that will also share their goals, purpose and values.

Before you embark on expanding your business, work out what your WHY is. Here’s a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What do you actually want?
  • What is it going to give you?
  • Is there something you would you rather have instead?
  • How will you know when you have it?
  • Do you have what it takes to do this?
  • Is this your passion?
  • Am I truly committed to this and be able to give it 100% of my attention?

Before going on to business strategy, I’d just like to add one more point, it’s about mindset.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me”?

This couldn’t be truer when you start to expand your business. You need to have a positive mindset around what you’re trying to achieve. One challenge we all face is the “green with envy” monster.

You’re bound to see other people be successful around you or see other people having fun while you’re working hard. Learn not be jealous of people’s success, be inspired to go and get that for yourself.

Once you’ve really thought about what you want, and you’re serious about building a business in music education, then you’ll need to plan and work out a budget.

This post is a snippet of the Piano Studio Growth Roadmap, the one resource you need to create the music studio and business you dream for. Click here to read more about this resource.

Here are some initial planning strategies

Customer

Who is your customer/client? This is vital as you need to know how you can help them. When you have identified how you meet the needs of your client you’ll be able to market to them effectively. At Forte we’ve had 25 years to identify our client, from this we built our website based on our client avatars. In 2017 we had 3,825 trial lesson requests, which was up 5% from the previous year.

This sort of information will become a vital statistic in your business. You will read in any business text: “if you can’t measure it, how can you improve it.”. See more info in the Business Management section regarding KPIs.

Products and Services

What are you going to provide to your customer that will help him/her? What age groups are you going to teach? Are you going to specialise? Will you have group tuition as well as private lessons?

What instruments do you want to teach? Start with the end in mind. What would you like you students to have learned with you? Work towards offering the products and services that will help them attain that goal.

Once you have decided on your products and services, you’ll need to work out how you’ll be able to train other people in the products and services you offer. Feel free to have a look at the Forte School of Music Teacher training site to get some ideas of areas we help our teachers with.

Related: How to Sell Your Creative Piano Teaching Product

Human Resources

In a business, it is difficult to find and of course replace extraordinary people. With effective training and HR strategies you can hire ordinary people and get them to extraordinary things.

To take your business to the next level you’re going to need some help. Expanding your service offering is going to require more teachers.

There is a definite art to teaching and it requires experience. An apprenticeship training model is often a great way to start your expansion. Co-teaching with an inexperienced teacher will help give them the confidence to continue teaching when you’re not in attendance. Once your new teacher starts working independently, regularly check on students’ progress and with the students’ parents. This will ensure everyone stays on track. By feeding this information back to your new teacher you’ll help build their confidence.

Whilst this strategy can be time-consuming in the early days you’ll be reaping the rewards when they are successfully teaching for you, retaining the students and their parents are recommending your services.

Premises

Where are you going to host all your services, students and staff? Hiring or leasing premises can be a minefield. I’ve helped so many Forte school owners find premises in Australia, NZ and the UK. I know it can be challenging and frustrating as well as incredibly rewarding when you find that location you can grow your business from.

Once you have identified how much you can afford, then you can work on finding your premises. As a rule of thumb you wouldn’t want to be paying any more than around 10% of your income (when operating at 80% capacity) on premises. Here is a Leasing Cheat Sheet that you can download that may provide some assistance for you.

Streamline your business payments through monthly billing. This free download will help you today!

Marketing and Promotions

When you’ve decided on your courses and offerings, teachers and premises then it’s time to get some students! I have seen marketing strategies for music lessons change enormously across the past 25 years.

There are many blogs on improving your marketing promotions – Tim has some great ideas on here. Utilise some of these ideas and plan them out across your academic year. Remember it usually takes three or more times for people to see you before they do anything about calling or visiting your website.

One of your best marketing assets is your current students. They will have friends and family who also might like to learn. Offer their friends to come and try a lesson or bring a friend along to the lesson. At Forte, we have a babies and toddlers program, so we regularly offer families free places for their younger siblings for a term.

Rapport building with your families will make them feel special and a genuine part of your music education business. They are more likely to speak highly of you to their friends and family. At Forte we have found that our most successful music schools have at least 35% of their enquiries come via word of mouth.

Read more: Tim’s heartfelt open letter to parents of piano students about the realities of modern education

Student Retention

Now you’ve got your students, how are you going to keep them? There are many ideas in this area, the most important is to work with your students and their parents on a learning plan for the future.

Parents are your greatest resource as they see their children every day, you only see them once a week. Check out Tim’s recent podcast on motivating students for some ideas.

Paul Myatt is one of the Inner Circle’s expert teachers, happy to help you with your development. Read more about the Inner Circle community here.

Concerts, eisteddfods, festivals and even exams are a great way to engage students in performance practice. Remember after putting in hard work and participating in an event, students will often have “post-Olympic depression”.

This is a common time for students to take a break or worse, give up. At this stage guide students through this by helping them reset goals for the future.

As you come up with ideas, write them down and plan your year to incorporate student retention activities. Give each parent a reason to share his/her child’s success whatever it may be. Again planning is the key to success. If you have staff you’ll need to keep them abreast of your ideas as well.

Image and Culture

Imagine you were arriving to your first ever music lesson. What do you think would be important?

In my business, we have a hash tag that we often use, #crispandclean. We want everyone of our Forte schools to look crisp, as if it’s just had a new coat of paint and clean so that anyone would feel comfortable to sit on the floor. 

In a nutshell, this means clean instruments, vacuumed floors, wiped walls, lovely posters in frames and a current occupational health and safety statement document. Organise a daily, weekly, monthly, termly plan for your cleaning.

Have specific rules about what you allow in a studio, ie no food or drinks and stick to it. If you need to enforce your rules, explain why you have them rather than just saying, “no”. I have a no drinks except a water bottle which has a non-spill cap on it. I explain that due to all the electrical devices it is very dangerous to have liquids around these devices. No parents ever complain about making their child’s safety your priority!

Administration Systems

As your business grows you’ll need an administration system that grows with you. There are several online music teacher CRM (customer relationship module) systems that you could use. Try out a few to see what works best for you before you start to expand. See if the system will cater for you expansion. As technology progresses you’ll probably want to find one that has plug in options for your website.

Once you have your business systems, write them down and follow them, adjust them when you need to keep your business well organised. A systematised business will set you up for the future especially if you want to sell your business. And this brings me to my final point:

Business and Financial Management

You’re never going to be good at everything, so get help when you need it. A business coach is often a great way to help you on your way.

Avoid asking the Facebook tribe as you’ll get so many answers, it’s often too hard to sift through them all. Ask someone who has some experience in business, even better, the business you’re in! A coach will help you define and measure your KPI (key performance indicators) to help you stay on track in your business. Some of the KPI we measure through our CRM module, at Forte, include:

  1. Students Numbers (Group and private lessons)
  2. Enquiries
  3. Trial Lessons
  4. Enrolment Conversions
  5. Cancellations

Financial Management is a legal requirement. You’re going to have to file a tax return for your business entity. An accountant is an expert that can help you save money through legitimate tax minimisation strategies.

You’ve probably heard about things like depreciation and amortisation. Your accountant will actually know how to do this and advise you on how this may benefit your business. Avoid the accountants that your mate recommended, you know the one that, lets him “get away” with amazing (read: fictitious) deductions.

Before you start on this journey, I urge you again to think about why you want to do this and how will you know when you have achieved it.

Conclusion

From the ideas here and all the deep thinking you’ve done on your way through this course, are you ready to build a business? One that offers you the intrinsic rewards of teaching and making the world a better place through teaching music AND one that gives you the financial rewards to take your life to where you’d like it to be?

Leave your thoughts on this topic below.

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About the Author

Paul Myatt is a Director of Forte School of Music and a passionate piano teacher. He believes strongly in professional development for piano teachers and regularly participates in conferences and workshops to improve his skill. Paul along with Gillian Erksine has written and created the teaching materials which are incorporated into Forte's education system which has over 4,000 students. Together they also write easiLEARN® Fundamentals Theory and Piano (available through all good music shops and Hal Leonard Australia, previous published by Warner Bros & Alfred Pub) which have been best sellers with many piano teachers. The AMEB has included their arrangements in examination books. As a performer, Paul sings Bass in the Sydney Symphony Chorus and plays piano in a Cabaret show called 2Pauls. As part of his own professional improvement he is currently studying his A.Mus.A in Classical Singing. Paul has his own blog at www.paulmyatt.com.au

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