We had the wonderful opportunity to visit with Doug Daffron, recently, Fred Astaire Business Trainer/Consultant, based in Durham, N.C..
Doug is a FADS business coach who has been devoted to dance for some time now. Here’s a conversation we had with him about his career with Fred Astaire and his perspective on dance.
I always liked dancing. In school, I was working toward a degree in physical education and I learned there weren’t many male teachers in high schools with dance experience. It was suggested that I get a dance endorsement at the University of Missouri Columbia to have that additional expertise when I looked for a teaching job.
When I graduated, I realized I didn’t really want to be in the school system teaching. I was subbing for a guy that had varicose veins and went from outdoor P.E. to indoor. The only choices were basketball or weightlifting. I had 12 kids choose weightlifting, giving me 52 ninth-graders to teach basketball.
I knew then that I did not want to spend my life that way. I came across a Fred Astaire Dance Studio ad and decided to become a dance instructor, participating in a training class in St. Louis.
Within a year, I was managing a studio, but I eventually returned to teaching, and then became a partner in the FADS studio in Durham.
That’s where I met my life partner, Missy, who is now my wife. We opened four schools and became area franchisers, partners in the southeast region with 22 studios.
We were instrumental in bringing international dancers to teach in our region – in my tenure as a studio owner from 1988 to 2006, we brought 17, and put 30 individuals into their own studios as owners.
What I love about dance is the overall connection that you get. I worked my way through college working data entry. I am a tall guy, and sitting all day at a computer caused back pain, which sent me for chiropractic help.
When I got into dancing, my posture improved and my back problems disappeared. Those benefits anyone can experience dancing. It keeps you young, fit, agile and healthy.
Even though I became more on of the business side of it, whenever I get to teach, I grab the chance. Teachers experience the benefits that students experience: freedom from cares.
Plus, as a teacher, you see students light up when they learn new steps and master them. You see their joy, their confidence, their happiness, and it rubs off on you.
Over the years, I’ve learned what it takes to build a successful studio. First, you must understand your numbers and how to manage the financials.
Then, you must help your staff understand why students come into the studio and what helps them to stay here. They must truly understand how to evolve a short-term student into a long-term student.
The longer you dance, the more beneficial it becomes for you. That’s true for every part of the business.