I believe it is fair to say that we become studio owners because we are passionate about yoga and have the desire to help others find well-being through its practice. We experience validation of our dreams in the stories our students share about how yoga has changed their lives. We enjoy being part of the yoga community, and that almost makes it all worth it—but not quite. The cost is high, and there is more at risk to lose than just a financial investment. If we aren’t careful, our own well-being can become a casualty of the long hours we work and the intensity of our commitment. The roller coaster ride of owning a small business may come with a high toll, but for most of us the ride is more than worth it.
Recently I posted to Facebook groups of studio owners, asking my peers what was most challenging about owning a studio. I found that the most popular challenges were:
- The need to fulfill multiple roles: teacher, manager, accountant, custodian, social media expert, marketing executive, and customer service representative; as well as the hats worn in one’s personal life
- Lack of professionality by independent contractors and staff
- Difficult or unreasonable student requests
- Day-to-day studio operations
- The demands of teaching after a full day of studio management
- The need to fill classes
- Competition with local gyms
- Long hours
- Feelings of isolation
My first inclination is to offer survival tips to help studio owners stay grounded, remain connected to their vision, and reduce their stress. But going in that direction means writing about how to “fill your cup first” with suggestions like finding a mentor, scheduling down time, connecting to other studio owners, practicing yoga or meditation, and taking walks in nature. In other words, these are all very yogic approaches. Instead I have opted for what I view as the less popular discussion: the business of yoga. More specifically, I want to address the reality of being a small business owner, as owning a yoga studio comes with many of the struggles of owning any small business.
Notice I use the phrase owning a small business, and not running a small business. A manager’s job is to manage how a business is running, but as small business owners our role is even more expansive. We need to hone our managerial and technical skills, while integrating the creativity and vision of an entrepreneur as well. It may seem like one more (huge) hat to don, but I truly believe that we put ourselves at grave risk for burn out, and even failure, if we do not look at the bigger picture of owning a business. Dedicate yourself to becoming educated on the complexities of owning a small business in general; you’ll find that once you have taken some time to learn the ins and outs of growing a sustainable business, the other stresses of owning a yoga studio will be much more easily managed by the more yogic approaches you already know. Educating ourselves about actual business ownership can be difficult for many yogis, as it can feel out of our comfort zones, but it is crucial. It is a paradigm shift. And so the growth begins. You can try to pull it off with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, or you can explore a less traveled path for yogis—the business of yoga. You won’t have to let go of your ideals but you will have to change and grow.
In conclusion, the ideas I am presented here are not original. I’ve gleaned them from some very wise and successful business people. If you are specifically looking for a resource, I highly recommend reading The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. Happy reading! As always, I welcome your responses.