Expected Daughters to Take Over

Dear Rhee,

I am pooped and feel like quitting this business. I first started 17 years ago because my two girls needed a ballet studio to go to and there were none in the area. My youngest daughter graduated four years ago and now is graduating college. She shows no interest in taking over the studio and I guess I have lost my love for it because I think she wants to move on and get a job out in the world for the first time.I have been through a lot this past year: a lawsuit with a studio neighbor (which we won); starting a company for the dedicated students; taking a trip to Jamaica with 125 people; presenting the May show in a theater instead of in a high school; and hiring two grads and offering benefits for the first time. I am still teaching 36 classes a week and putting in around 75 hours a week.

It seems the studio is growing faster than I can keep up with, and I am exhausted with trying to keep it organized like my customers are used to. I am seriously considering selling it all and walking away. I am 52 and have been in business for 17 years, and not one year has been calm. This is a really tough job and I am growing weary of it all. Am I getting too old or what? I feel so overwhelmed and down. Help, please, Rhee.—Bonnie

Hi Bonnie,

I’m sorry you feel the way you do. You mentioned that you started the school because you wanted your daughters to have classical ballet training. It sounds like you expected one or both of your daughters to take over the school or become part of the business someday; perhaps part of your frustration is due to the fact that they don’t want to do that. It’s not unusual. I’ve seen many dance teachers lose their steam when their children grow up and move on to find their own niche in the world. I think my mom was frustrated with the same thing at times. My brother, Rennie, and I had our own aspirations, and my mother found herself running a large school alone. I think she always expected that we would take over or become her partners. What’s funny is that Rennie did end up with the school many years later, but first he needed to do what he wanted to with his life.

If you think that this is part of your frustration, then it may be time for a change. You need to do what’s going to make you happy. With all the changes you’ve made and the hours you work, you have a right to be exhausted, frustrated, and insecure about how you’re going to continue to manage it all. You have no choice but to get through this season. Then it may be time to reevaluate. Could it be time to take in a business partner to take on some of the responsibility? Could it be time to cut out some of the activities or put a halt to any new projects? Or, as you said, could it be time to sell the business? You need a clear head to make the right decision. Although I don’t regret selling my business and changing my life, I do wish that I hadn’t been so emotional and I regret that I wasn’t more business minded in my decision. Think it out, and then think it out again before you do anything drastic.

You are not too old—you’re overwhelmed! But the good thing is that your business is growing, which is a sign of a successful leader. Obviously you’ve been doing something right. Now you have to look for the good things in your school and your life while you figure out how to use your success to make your future more enjoyable. Make a list of all the school-related things you love to do, and then make a list of what you don’t like or want to do. Once you know what those things are, you may have a better idea of how to head into the future. Remember, change is a part of life. Sometimes it feels hard (to say the least), but once it happens we often find ourselves wondering why we didn’t do it long ago.

I hope this helps, and I wish you all the best. ~Rhee Gold