Attend any type of business event or seminar and you’ll probably hear the word “culture” quite a bit! So what does it mean exactly, and how, exactly, do we build a strong studio culture?
By definition, corporate culture is a collection of values that the organization believes in and follows. They are the values that are exemplified in its people and the work they do each day, and so creating a strong culture means naming those values and breathing life into them. Your business uses them as the lens through which decisions are made, and as a barometer for accountability.
I believe that culture can also be described by the senses. For example, what do people “see” when they walk into your studio? Do they see kindness, inclusivity, excellence … or something else? What do your customers “taste” when they interact with your staff, and how do you develop the “flavor” you want?
In my experience, what is sensed by your culture is created by a ripple effect. It starts with you, the owner, in the middle, and then ripples outward to everyone else. Growing the culture you want takes time, but more importantly, it takes consistency, It can never just be what you say; it has to be what you do. And it has to start with determining what’s important to your mission and naming those values. With the following 5 Steps to Building a Strong Studio Culture, I have confidence that you’ll have the tools you need for doing just that and more!
- Start with yourself and your “why”
Because you are the owner of the business, the culture starts with you. Take a moment to think about why you started (or acquired) the studio in the first place. Was it to nurture young talent? Provide a safe space for learning? Offer a unique perspective in the marketplace? Build confidence and leadership in children? Write down some of the values you hold as a studio owner, that come from your why. Think about what’s important to the vision you have!
- Next, involve your staff
Although building a strong culture starts with you, it isn’t a solo act. You want (and need) your employees to feel strongly about the same values so they can serve your dance families with those qualities in mind. Present your why to your team, and discuss with them which of those values are most important. Listen to their feedback and open up the conversation to understand their “why” too. Use this time to settle on the values that will drive your studio forward in the coming months and years.
- Demonstrate the culture out loud
Reflect your studio’s values everywhere in your actions: claim them in your marketing pieces, display them on the wall, discuss them on social media. Create a buzz around the ideas and then demonstrate your follow-through. For example, if growing leadership is important to your culture, don’t just talk about it … expand your class assistant program or develop an internship course. Make it a normal part of your studio world!
- Use your values in the classroom
Building a strong culture means that your students are exposed to it even from a young age. Incorporate values-driven language and behavior expectations in the classroom, such as agreeing that “we always try our best” because developing a work ethic is an essential value to your studio culture. As younger dancers grow up at your school, this culture will simply become what they already expect of themselves and others.
- Think of it as an ongoing development, not a destination
Business culture isn’t something you build and then it’s just there forever. To me, it’s more like a garden that needs cultivating, and it requires some patience. Sometimes the weeds need to be pulled, and sometimes the blooms are magnificent! But it always needs attention so that it can flourish.
The special care you give your culture will positively impact everyone at your studio, from your staff to your students to their parents. I hope you’ll consider using these steps to establish or renew the values your culture depends on! Ask yourself: if not now, when? There’s no time like the present to prioritize this important work.Tell me in the comments what you love best about your studio’s culture, or what shifts you are making to improve it. I believe we can all learn from each other’s experiences and build our studio’s culture to be stronger than ever!