So you need to make a change in your piano teaching business?
That happens. Lives and priorities evolve, we find out about new and better ways to do things and we rethink situations.
But there’s a good way to go about making a change like this and a not-so-great way.
Whether your change is going to be to move to a no make-up policy, integrate group classes or change to buddy lessons; there’s a simple process you can follow to make sure it runs smoothly and minimise pushback from your piano parents.
Step 0: Plan it Out
The first step to making any change is to really know exactly how it’s going to work. You can’t go into this with a half-baked idea.
Have you ever heard the phrase “minimum viable product”? It’s the concept of taking something to the market to test it out…and I don’t think that could apply LESS to what we do.
If you’re going to bring something new to your piano parents be that a lesson format, policy change or new workshop idea; you need to feel confident about it. Without that confidence you’re going to crumble at the first objection.
The best way I know to find that confidence is to have a thorough plan. If you’re an over-planner by nature then please skip ahead because this is only going to make you neurotic.
- How this will work ideally
- What obstacles might get in the way and how you’ll deal with them
- What questions parents are likely to ask
- What questions students are likely to ask
- How this will work for new students
- How this will work for returning students…will it be different? Will you make any special exceptions?
I recommend you write this stuff down. Make an outline of your plan and it will be easier to stick to later.
Then pick a start date (normally the start of a new year or term) and let’s start our lead up.
Step 1: Hype it up!
This first step should ideally start about 3 months away. The bigger the change, the longer lead time you should allow.
If your change is relevant to students (e.g. group lessons, change in format, extra lab time) then hype it to them first.
This shouldn’t be some big speech or announcement. You don’t need a poster. You’re simply going to start mentioning it to get them excited.
“Wasn’t it cool when you played that awesome duet with Katie at last year’s recital? I’m hoping to try a new type of lessons next year so that we can do that more often!”
“I wish we could play that game today but we actually need 4 players for that one. We’ll get loads more opportunities to do that when we start having group workshops next term!”
Get the idea? It’s all about little hints and previews. Whet their appetites for what’s coming up.
If your change is purely policy or payment related then you can do this similarly with your piano parents.
Step 2: Focus on THEM
You’ve given some sneak peeks….is it time to make the formal announcement? Not quite.
We need to ramp up the enthusiasm a bit more with some more information, but nothing to sign and none of the nitty gritty details.
My favourite way to do this is in the newsletter which I always bring out before the annual registration forms (where I put any changes into action).
I do this in a section called “What’s coming up next year?” where I make announcements about new fun things I’ll be implementing in my studio and why they’re exciting for my piano parents and students.
When you’re writing something like this always come back to this question:
What’s in it for me?
Always imagine your reader asking this. Have you written anything from your point of view?
It’s very easy to fall into this trap because well, you’re you.
You probably do have reasons you want to make this change to make your own life easier or more fulfilling, but that doesn’t matter right now.
What matters is why this is better for THEM. Don’t forget that.
Step 3: Be Clear
Ok, now we’re going to spill the beans.
If you’re making this change in your piano teaching business around registration time for the new year or new semester, I recommend sending out this info and your forms about 1-2 weeks after your newsletter. That way the parents are primed and ready to find out how this will work and sign on the dotted line.
Now is not the time for overly formal or academic language, hype or walls of text.
Please keep your writing clean, clear and simple. Write short sentences. Be direct. Explain clearly.
This stuff really matters. Pay attention as you’re reading your own emails (especially if you get a lot of it) which ones do you read? Which ones do you just skim?
Once you have a draft of your email written, ask yourself this damning question:
Would your heart sink a little if you got this in your inbox?
If so, start chopping. Put in bulleted lists, shorten your sentences and take away any musician or educator jargon that has accidentally slipped in.
You’re much more likely to be successful with your change if people understand and retain the information.
Step 4: Stick to It
Now comes the trickiest part for most of us: don’t budge.
(I know, I know. You can do this!)
You made a great plan, you know this was the right move to make, so don’t let anyone sway you.
Yes, it’s going to be a little uncomfortable. Yes, some people might quit. But probably far fewer than you think.
If you present the plan well, your piano parents are prepared in advance and they know why it’s valuable or important, it’s very unlikely there will be a mass exodus. I promise.
Just keep fielding those questions and reiterating why this is great and how it’s going to work.
Which bring me to….
Step 5: Be Patient
People don’t really like change. The already knew how the old system worked and it seemed just fine to them.
Plus, they’ve got a million and one things in their week, not just your piano studio.
So you need to be patient and answer in the same way again and again if necessary. You may need to block out more time for your communications for a couple of weeks.
It will all be worth it in the long run.
Are you making a change in your piano teaching business?
Tell me what you’re changing and why in the comments or over in Vibrant Music Studio Teachers group on Facebook.