I just returned from a few days in Florida with my family. In “before times,” we traveled there a few times a year, visiting with family and friends who live in different parts of the state. I travel quite a lot, but realized that this time felt a little bit different — my studio was open, but I didn’t think about it for a single second on this trip. I wasn’t checking attendance or refreshing the sales report or answering emails. I have my team to thank for that.
I wrote recently about how my experience as a yoga teacher influenced so much of what I strive to create as a studio owner. I also draw on my experience in the corporate world when considering how I manage others - especially my support team members who make the studio work.
Before I opened my yoga studio, I worked for a home care rehab practice for eight wonderful years. I worked in several different locations: assisted living facilities and patients’ homes, so the nature of the job made it impossible for the company to have a true ‘home base.’ As such, we didn’t really have anyone to answer to. Yes we had managers and higher-ups to lean on when we needed support, but we weren’t micromanaged. In fact, the company touts ‘autonomy’ as one of their brand pillars and they really mean it. They trust their clinicians to make good decisions, and while we had quotas and expectations, it was up to us to complete our work on our own. We made our own schedules, interacted with our own patients, and created our own programs. It was the best job I’ve ever had.
When I bring a new team member on board, I really want to strike the balance between providing them with the tools they need to do a good job and allowing their expertise to shine. After all, I try to hire people who are better than I am at their respective roles. I spend time training new staff, or I have more senior staff train, then shadow them. It’s a slow process; I don’t expect them to ‘figure it out’ on their own, and I want them to feel 100% capable and confident by the first time they’re left alone at the studio.
I’m going to be vulnerable for a moment: this hasn’t always been my strength. I’ve been guilty of hiring to get something off my plate, then feeling so relieved I just let the person fend for themselves and disappeared. That doesn’t work and I’ve seen it in other Studio Owners. They’re so desperate to offload things like sales or marketing, they disappear the moment they bring on a team member - leaving them to tech support and a prayer when things go wrong. Then, predictably, the employee gets fed up, leaves, and YSO is back to square one.
I’ve learned my lesson and these days, of all the things I do for my businesses, I spend the most time interacting with my team. I want to be sure they have what they need and that they’re feeling supported — especially in an environment like a yoga studio where they don’t necessarily have coworkers to connect with. I call them on the phone. I say ‘thank you.’ I let them know when something could have been handled differently. I give them raises when they deserve it.
On the flip side of the coin, I empower my team members to make their own decisions. I sincerely try to keep the number of times a staff member has to say, “let me check with Nicole” to the absolute bare minimum. They can give a free class if it feels like the right thing to do. They can process refunds. They can reach out to our clients. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that I don’t know everything. I respect their ideas and I’m willing to try them.
Managing others is a learned skill, and it can be an incredible challenge. It takes practice, patience, and a lot of trial and error. But when you can truly trust that others can represent your business as well as you do, everything changes. You may just be able to take that vacation.