I have a chip on my shoulder. I think, in today’s language, that means I have a trigger. And based on some of the posts I’ve seen lately, I’m willing to bet some of you have the same one.
“It must be nice.”
At my very first DanceLife Teacher Conference, my chip was exposed right there in the Phoenician hotel ballroom, and admittedly, I was triggered. Rhee Gold stood on that platform and told me I deserved to make a profit. You know…extra money beyond expenses that I could keep for myself. I was unnerved.
“You can’t hide money.”Rhee was talking to what was probably hundreds of studio owners that day, but I would swear he was talking to me. At the time, my family of four lived in a crackerbox of a house (a little more than 1,200 square feet) and I drove a 13 year old Mercedes (so I had no car payment). I was working at the studio morning, noon, and night, most weekends, and on the eves of every holiday. I got there early, started the coffee, and went to work. I left in the dark during the wee hours struggling to keep my eyes open as I drove home. My brain was garbled from the financial figures, remembering all the names, responding to ridiculous questions with grace, carefully creating and planning the classes and the shows. My knees hurt from having replaced the carpet ourselves. My hands still smelled like bleach from scrubbing the toilet.
Rhee Gold was insistent about profit making, and he was right. Studio owners work hard, and nobody really gets a glimpse of what we actually do every day besides our families. And nobody really understands the physical, mental, and emotional output studio ownership requires besides other studio owners. So if Rhee was right…and he was…why is that hard for us? Why are we triggered when someone says, “It must be nice.”
First, I think it has to do with our being artsy and cerebral. Lord knows if our little brains hashed out a chemical formula for a life-saving medication or invented the next life-changing gadget, we would guard that intellectual property with our lives, lock it down, and expect to be paid handsomely. As studio owners, though, our intellectual property is valuable as well, and it should not be down-played. We create unique pieces of art, we share knowledge we accumulated from years of learning, and we offer wisdom earned by successfully (or not always successfully) navigating the trials of life.
“Oh, that’s how my tuition is spent.”Next, I think we minimize our own worth to children, families, and even the community, because much of our work comes from our hearts. Teachers, particularly dance teachers, are nurturers. Besides teaching plié and arabesque, we help and inspire. Our tendency is to foster and build relationships. We hug away a child’s emotional pain. We make every effort to cultivate confidence and celebrate a child’s successes. We are often a significant, if not THE MOST significant, part of “the village” it takes to raise a child. I often tell my own staff that 80% “people” and 20% “dance” is the breakdown of the job. The work that comes from our hearts has incalculable worth, and we should never fail to recognize that.
“Oh, you live in the Country Club neighborhood?”
Finally, I think we are afraid. We put any money we have left over back into the studio, because we fear we won’t remain competitive in the market. We want everything shiny and up-to-date, fresh and exciting, progressing and improving. We tend to hoard what we do make in case we ever face adversity and must ensure we have enough reserves to keep our studio open, because if not (as evidenced by the cruel force of a global pandemic), we could lose it all. Salaries and wages never stop. Utility bills keep coming. The rent is always due. And, for whatever reason, we are shaken by the implication that we are greedy. We love our house, but we don’t mention it much. We drive a nice car, but we park around back. We post pictures of our cruise, but we feel self-conscious.
“You deserve to make a profit.”
We do deserve to make a profit. You and I must remember that we are artists and businesspeople. Both what we create and what we know have value. We should be assured that our hearts make us immeasurable assets to children, families, and communities. Those of us who proudly and passionately take on the responsibility of teaching, inspiring, and encouraging children are immensely valuable. We need to focus on offering our best without fear, always advancing our business objectives unafraid and with enthusiasm. Our minds should not be clouded by the opinions of others, and we should not make decisions about our own compensation anxious that we will be judged.
Rhee Gold was not wrong that day. Dance studio owners deserve to make a profit. I’ve decided to say those words to myself a little more often, I’m going to work on flicking that chip off my shoulder, and I’m coming up with a clever come back to the “it must be nice” remark so I’m ready next time I hear it. I might even book a trip to the beach.
Amanda Herring LOVES her job! Owner of Center Stage Dance in Hernando, MS, she is passionate about sharing the love of dance while inspiring and encouraging everyone who walks through her door. She loves BIG and has a heart for new dancers joining a class for the first time. She takes pride in offering stellar service to dance families and specializes in efficiency, organization, fair policies, and strong communication. Her shows are HUGE with plenty of lights, effects, and stagecraft. Amanda wants her students to feel like they are a part of something big, and it is always her goal to bring more to class and to the stage than her audience is expecting.