Wendy Swanson, the owner of Be Yoga and Wellness in Charlotte, North Carolina, has owned her studios for seven years. Over time, her day to day has changed. Here she shares her “day in the life of a yoga studio owner” experience with her business and how her role as the studio owner has evolved over time:
MS: What did your typical day look like when you first opened?
WS: When I first opened Be Yoga, I had a two-year-old daughter and a busy acupuncture practice. The timing was not necessarily ideal, but the circumstances were. We took over the space after a less-than-honest investor stopped paying her staff after only two months of opening the studio. We saw a great opportunity to make things right and start again with wonderful teachers and a fantastic vision. So, I was never a studio owner that tried to teach every class or handle every task. I simply could not with the obligations of my daughter and acupuncture practice. We had a studio director and a business manager who handled much of the day-to-day functions. Since both my husband and I had, and still do have, incomes from other sources besides Be Yoga, we could afford to invest in staff. I have to say, though, I was still doing quite a bit: weekly staff meetings, weekly newsletter, marketing, meeting with teachers, auditioning new teachers, answering lots of questions from a green staff, etc. My husband handled our website, payroll, taxes — no outside accountant for us — and studio maintenance.
MS: How has your typical day evolved?
WS: In Year Two, we opened a second, larger location that allowed us to bring on additional part-time staff. Yes, we were carrying more rent and paying more teachers, but we almost tripled the number of classes. Some efforts are the same whether there is one studio or two: newsletter, magazine ads, running payroll, filing taxes, etc.
The real turning point for me came one year ago when I was nearing burnout. Be Yoga was six years old and many things still looked the same as Year Two or Year Three. I was still practicing acupuncture and handling most of the same things. The only difference was my daughter was now eight years old. My staff that had been around for a long time relied on me in the same predicable ways they always did, and any new staff that came aboard I felt the need to help. I was also caught up, to some extent, in making sure everyone liked me. This was all exhausting. Luckily, I realized I was headed in a not-so-great direction before I arrived someplace ugly. With this realization, I decided to take a sabbatical from Be Yoga. I asked my director of operations to take over or delegate all of my tasks and to basically be me. I stopped going to all staff meetings. I told all of the teachers I would not be responding to emails. I stopped asking anyone at Be Yoga how it was going. I did keep my email active and would simply forward anything that did come through. I disabled my ability to look at the sales numbers. I did this successfully for four and half months.
While on sabbatical I realized many, many things. My two biggest realizations: I was 98 percent of my problems, and I needed to pay our front desk staff — we had been operating with a work trade front desk. When I say I was 98 percent of my problems, I mean that it was my own addiction to checking emails and sales numbers that kept me tied in way more than I needed to be. It was my own desire to be needed that kept my staff checking in with me more than needed. It was my own need to be liked that kept me playing safe and small.
When I came back from sabbatical, I did the following:
- I did NOT take back any of my tasks.
- I stopped going to weekly staff meetings and instead meet with them just one time per month.
- I gave my core team the ability to make most decisions on their own without checking in.
Interestingly, at the same time I decided to come back, my director of operations realized she did NOT want my job, and she had been offered a new position outside of Be Yoga. This was bittersweet as she and I had been together since the beginning. The sweetness was now I had the chance to move someone into this position who could fully embrace this new version of me — this version that trusted my staff enough to let go, that did not need to be liked or needed. Instead of feeling worried with only a few emails per day, I was rejoicing in my newfound freedom. Essentially, I was letting my staff do their jobs without worry or without my own stuff getting in the way.
MS: What makes your support team great and able to run the studios?
WS: I am so lucky to have a smart, competent team that truly loves Be Yoga. As I mentioned, what makes a great team is me getting out of the way so their brilliance can shine. My job is allowing each one of them to be a fantastic leader.
MS: What are the benefits of stepping outside your studio?
WS: Creativity, seeing the big picture and making great decisions.