When I left Cihangir Yoga, for a few months I documented in terms of management, what I did right, and where I went wrong. The idea was to publish these notes in a small booklet. It might still happen.
I prefer to write about yoga and meditaiton, not the business side of yoga, but I feel it is important to share some of this information, quickly, because I know how difficult it is to keep the doors of a yoga studio open.
I hope this blog and following blogs helps some studio owners who are struggling, and inspires some of you to open a studio.
Over the coming weeks I am going to write a series of blogs sharing my experience.
THE MOST IMPORTANT advice I give to any studio owner is to manage your student database in an online system, in the most professional way. This is through a software called Mind Body Online.
This software is what all the biggest and most successful studios in the world use to manage their student records.
It might seem expensive at fist, but it is money well spent.
(many people who recommend mind body online are sales reps, I am in no way profiting from MBO)
When I first opened the studio, all the students details were stored on small business card size pieces of paper. They looked similar to a coffee shop loyalty card. On one side was written the students name, on the other side the number of classes they had purchased. If a student purchased 10 classes then it had 10 boxes. Each time the student took a class a box was ticked.
Initially we gave the card to the students to bring home, but that was a disaster as many of the students lost their cards, and we weren’t strict enough to tell them, they had to buy a new one.
Then we tried keeping all the cards in reception, which was ok when student numbers were low, but as the studio grew, the secretary couldn’t process the students quickly enough. We lost money. Because the system was inefficient, students took classes for free, the secretaries missed people, or they weren’t efficient at selling students a new membership when the old one had expired.
It wasn’t a good system for the studio or the students. The studio was losing money from mismanagement, and students never knew how many classes they had left.
The reception was a big fat mess!
After a few months I became aware of the online yoga studio software called Mind Body Online. But Mind Body Online’s monthly subscription model frightened us. At the time we were quoted around $75 per month, which seemed a lot of money.
Instead we purchased a different studio software, that was a one-off payment, but it was a disaster. Too complicated and not efficient, and with limited website integration.
We persevered with this software for some months, but our student records got worse and worse. Eventually we subscribed to Mind Body Online.
MIND BODY ONLINE (MBO) – https://www.mindbodyonline.com
MBO does everything, from organising studio schedules, publishing schedules online, booking massage appointments, managing workshops, alerting staff when a students membership is almost finished, monitoring teacher performance, to calculating end of month teacher payments for classes and workshops.
One of my favourite features are the key cards, the little barcode cards that students can carry on their keyring, for scanning in and out of classes. They are great advertising.
Some studios even have their teachers scan all the students classes with their iPhones as they come into class. This is great for the early morning classes when your reception is closed.
Mindbody Online is a very important part of your marketing stategy, as you will know who to contact and when. (more details in another blog).
WHERE STUDIOS GO WRONG WITH STUDENT RECORDS
One of the biggest mistakes I made in Cihangir Yoga was not installing Mind Body Online much earlier.
Very often new studio owners ask me for advice. My first piece of advice is always to install Mind Body Online. To allow $500 in your first year budget, and to have it set up before the studio opens. That $500 will become $5000. If you open your studio and you still don’t have students, that is a different problem. Don’t cut MBO.
Often it happens that some months later, after studio owners first asked my advice, they send me an email informing me that their studio is struggling, and they might close. I ask them if they took my advice and installed MBO, and they say NO.
You cannot run a successful studio and not manage your student records efficiently. You cannot run a studio on small pieces of paper. In a yoga studio, if your classes are busy, you have 20 plus students all arriving at reception at the same time. You need a system that can deal with that number of students as quickly as possible, so the students can sign in easily, clear the front desk, and the secretary can easily sell memberships.
MBO PROBLEMS AND SUPPORT
MBO is not an easy program to use, hopefully it is getting more intuitive.
For non english speakers it is more difficult, as much of the site is set up for native English speakers. But you can translate much of the software and MBO have comprehensive telephone support to help you during the initial setup and to answer any questions.
When you contact MBO, you should ask them to waive the introductory setup fee. Try to negotiate, a few months free, you might get it.
Mind Body University
Every year MBO run their ‘university’ in London and in different cities in the US. It is worth enrolling to learn how to use MBO more efficiently. It is a huge program, and most studios are only utilising it’s most basic functions.
It is also a good opportunity to meet and learn from other people who are dynamic in their studio management.
For around an extra $25 a month I STRONGLY ADVISE you to subscribe to MBO’s sister company called Healcode. It works together wth MBO. You buy a set of ‘widgets’ that make it super easy to connect MBO with your website.
You can embed your studio class schedule, online massage and therapy booking forms, online workshop booking forms, and the ability for students to sign into and pay for classes in advance.
Many people embed the MBO schedule directly into their site, but this is a problem, because when students visit this page they leave the studio’s website.
Web developers will tell you this is big mistake. You want to keep people on your site as long as possible. This is why Healcode is important.
MAIL CHIMP – for Newsletters
MBO also syncs with Mail Chimp, putting all your students emails in Mailchimp for when you need to send newsletters.
Mailcimp offers a free account for up to your first 1000 contacts. You cannot send newsletters from your email account, they just end up in spam.
Later I will write a full blog on newsletters.