The Process of Opening a New Studio

We’re inviting people to inquire and start the process of partnering with us to open more ballroom dance studios in Michigan. If you’re interested, it might help to know how the process will unfold.

Usually, it starts with a person contacting me for a conversation. We then provide an FDD, or franchise disclosure document, which outlines the costs and details of running a studio.

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While the person evaluates those important details, I assess if they are knowledgeable enough to own and run a studio. If we both agree that the partnership looks promising, we move on to the Franchise Agreement.

Once that is signed, we are moving! Next comes the location search. I assist future franchisees with the timely process of finding an optimal location, and then we look for staff.

There are three primary areas to any business: sales and marketing, operations (which is the actual product or service) and finances. It’s my job to educate our franchisees in these primary areas of business. To have a successful business, you need all three.

Most dance studios know how to teach dance, so they’ve got operations, but they don’t know how to do marketing, which is getting people through the door. They might be weak on selling lessons and programs. Many are not well-educated on the financial side of business.

No matter what industry you’re in, it’s essential to know your numbers! Expenses, revenue streams, accounts receivable, accounts payable. It may start out as a foreign language, but you must become fluent if you want to succeed.

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It takes anywhere from three to 12 months to open a franchise. We discuss so many elements of business ownership including where the startup money is coming from, how to structure the organization as a legal entity (corporation, LLC, etc.). Once we find a location, there may be a build-out process, which goes into structure, design, aesthetic and more.

Hiring staff includes hiring dance instructors as well as back-office folks, and everyone needs training. As a Fred Astaire Dance Studios franchise, you’ll get our systems, but they are systems you’ll have to learn how to use – computer systems to track schedules, students and data, as well as websites and more.

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While the traditional Fred Astaire Dance Studios model has always been to take teachers and put them into studios as owners, we’re thinking a little bit outside the box in Michigan. We want great business owners. They can learn the dance part just like dance instructors can learn the business part.

Look at modern-day franchise successes – Goldfish Swim, Orangetheory, Cycle Bar. These are companies that have grown rapidly because the model works – not because the franchisees are experts in fitness or swim lessons.

They’re investors who hire people to run operations. For FADS Michigan to grow faster, we’re looking for business people we can partner with those who understand the dance side, so they can grow rapidly and well.

The process of opening a franchise is a bit like dating. You have to find the right chemistry to make a good match.

At least that’s how we are going about it. In the past, franchises would sign up someone to own a franchise, no questions asked, no search for compatibility.

As the Area Developer for Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Michigan, I want to make sure there is a connection. I have to trust the people we bring on. Some people might express interest in owning a studio with us, but I might tell them no because it’s just not going to work, not a fit.

In a way, the stars must align to make this endeavor work. We must build a connection in order to help them grow. I have to believe they have the tools and desire to be successful.