3.7
June 14, 2011

Successful, ethical yoga studio owners versus crackpots.

One of the biggest incorrect assumptions in the yoga world is the following:

“I love yoga and/or teaching yoga. Therefore, I should open a yoga studio.”

Cuz, being a good teacher and possessing a deep and abiding understanding of the timeless art of yoga — those things have anything to do with running a profitable business?

Sadly, this misperception has proven itself wrong more times than not. I’ve never owned a yoga studio, but over my 10+ years of managing yoga studios that other people owned in San Francisco and beyond (and also teaching and practicing at them), I got a somewhat harrowing look at what goes on behind the scenes. Here are some observations I have made, and most of these examples are based on more than one of the studio owners I’ve met.

Note: I’ve also met a few successful and ethical studio owners. Just a few.

Successful and ethical studio owners:

Run their yoga studio like a business. They start with a little thing called a business plan — which they adhere to as closely as possible — and they base their class prices and teacher pay not just on what the market demands but on what their budget will allow.

Crackpot studio owners:

Rely on something they call “intuition,” which I suspect is actually just laziness. They make up numbers as they go along, try to gouge the competition with their pricing, and then underpay their teachers to make up the difference. Instead of cutting costs by teaching more classes themselves and managing their own studio, they underpay teachers and desk staff and therefore deal with constant turnover.

Successful and ethical studio owners:

Forecast their costs and projected revenue over the course of a year, and then plan accordingly.

Crackpot studio owners:

Sell a whole bunch of crazy-cheap annual unlimited passes when they need a quick influx of cash, and then when that runs out, take primetime classes away from their best and most loyal students and replace them with novice teachers willing to teach 18-20 classes a week for dirt cheap. Guess who suffers? The loyal experienced teachers who worked hard to build those class numbers and then suddenly get their schedules/pay cut in half. And the students who just committed to a yearlong membership so they could practice with their favorite teachers. Suckas!

Successful and ethical studio owners:

Know that they can supplement their revenue by selling ethically-sourced yoga clothes at standard markup. Yogis love their outfits and they are so “present” that they basically live for instant gratification.

Crackpot studio owners:

Fill up their entire boutique (aka the back closet) with some ugly-ass tie-dyed bullshit cuz they struck up a convo at a recent Moedown with the hippie who owns the line. Nobody buys it. It turns into cleaning rags. Then they buy more of the same. See comment above about “intuition.”

Successful and ethical studio owners:

Under dire economic circumstances, will thoughtfully have one-on-ones with teachers and ask them to please give up a class or two to make room for newer teachers willing to be paid less, at least until the studio economics right themselves.

Crackpot studio owners:

Just plunge ahead and change the class schedule on the internet, hoping that word will filter back to the teacher through a student and they won’t show up to teach the class. (I have a yoga teacher friend who this actually happened to recently. He was talking to a student after class on Monday, and she said, “It’s a pity you aren’t teaching that Tuesday morning class anymore.” He was like, “Wah?”)

Successful and ethical studio owners:

Pay their teachers according to a fair and equitable system. Teachers with more experience and consistently higher class numbers get paid more. Duh.

Crackpot studio owners:

Strike random deals with different teachers so that everyone is paranoid about how much everyone else is making, and no one is really getting paid fairly or enough.

Successful and ethical studio owners:

Are always at their studio, taking classes, talking to students, making sure things are running smoothly, pitching in to help when needed. Know how to do everything in the studio — from fixing plumbing to troubleshooting software to actually teaching a class once in a while.

Crackpot studio owners:

Phone it in. Pay the desk girl $12 an hour (no health insurance — who needs it when you have unlimited yoga?) but expect her to be on call 24/7. Never actually practice. Tell everyone they have a chronic illness/injury that keeps them from working fulltime, but are constantly spotted smoking and drinking in public.

Successful and ethical studio owners:

Lead by example.

Crackpot studio owners:

Point fingers and assign blame.

Joslyn Hamilton

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