As most people know, the point of any business is to provide its customers (or in our case, students) with whatever it is that they are seeking. For a yoga studio, this means giving students the experience they are looking for, which can mean a variety of things. For the majority of students, the most important part of their experience will be in the yoga class itself; once the student leaves the lobby and enters the classroom, that experience is placed solely in the hands of your instructors. This is one of the many reasons why it is crucial to dedicate as much care and attention into hiring great instructors as any other part of your business. You may have a beautiful studio, wonderful desk staff, and competitive prices, but none of that will mean a thing without exceptional instructors leading your classes.
When hiring new instructors, a studio invests time, money, and energy bringing them on. When instructors part ways with a studio after a short period of time, it can have a negative impact on its business and leave the owners wondering where they went wrong. After interviewing over a hundred instructors and hiring over sixty of them, I have had many successes as well as many mistakes to learn from—and now I’d like to pass this knowledge along to you.
Get to Know the Person Behind the Instructor
Although an interview class is an essential part of the hiring process, it only tells part of the story. Find out what makes this person unique, so you can have an idea of what will draw students to attend her or his class instead of one at another studio. Get to know instructors’ pasts, because information like how long they have lived in the area and if they’ve relocated recently will give you a hint as to whether they have roots in the community. Knowing their two-year plans (as well as those of their partners!) is also important—pay attention to comments such as “I would love to teach English in Thailand or live in a foreign country”, as these can be little clues that an instructor may not be around for long. Lastly, it’s crucial to ensure that your instructor has realistic expectations of what starting out at your studio will be like. For example, if you know that new instructors often take some time to build their class numbers at your studio, seeing how they react to the possibility of teaching just a few students in each class while starting out is important. Taking the time to see what the instructors know about your studio, while also sharing information that is important in determining a great fit, is a step in the hiring process that you do not want to miss.
Credentials Matter, Integrity Matters More
First off, instructors do not need to have gone through your own training in order for them to be a good fit for your studio—in fact, only hiring your own trainees can be a detriment. If you teach a lot of classes at your own studio and then train all of your own teachers, you run the risk of your teaching staff being perceived as a lesser version of you, since students tend to compare instructors.
Another observation that I have made is that instructors who come out of a robust program that takes place over many months tend to have more time to integrate the information they have learned; courses that are more compact tend to cram in the same amount of information over a shorter period of time, giving instructors less time to fully incorporate the factual knowledge with the practical knowledge. However, while I am hesitant to hire someone out of a 30-day yoga teacher training in Bali, it can still work out. I have hired an instructor straight out of a 28-day teacher training and she was an overnight success—there are always exceptions to every rule, and credentials are not the most important aspect of an instructor’s success.
Teaching yoga is about so much more than having knowledge of poses, anatomy, or a succession of movements. So while it is important to find well-trained instructors, I believe emphasis should be placed on finding instructors who know and respect the vision of the studio. Having instructors who embody the values and mission your studio holds is important, because you want your students to be able to expect the same amazing experience from every class they take, regardless of the instructor. If instructors have taken classes at my studio and taken the time to do their homework on my studio, that shows me that they care about their yoga belief system matching up with the vision of my studio, which is a huge factor in determining a good fit. Lastly, ask about their personal practice. Part of being a great instructor is being grounded enough to lead students through their yoga journeys, and having time on the mat for personal practice helps instructors to achieve that goal.
Assess Willingness to Support the Studio
A yoga studio has a lot of moving parts and a lot of people contributing to its success. It’s important that instructors are able to see that their personal success is closely tied to the success of the studio. Instructors who market their own classes are a huge asset, and those who like to support fellow instructors by helping them market their classes are even more beneficial. Ask instructors how often they take time away for trips, retreats, and trainings, because it is essential that you have instructors who are able to sub classes and work on weekends. Instructors get sick, have emergencies, and need coverage; it’s vital to the success of your business that you are prepared for when life happens. If instructors are only willing to teach one class per week, odds are that they will not be a huge asset, unless they teach a specialty class that few others at your studio can lead.
Stick to Your Guns
I’ve already stressed the importance of having great instructors, so make sure that you don’t compromise on your standards simply because you got a good vibe from an instructor or they were referred by another instructor on your team. Set the bar high and meet it. You want your potential hires to have done their homework on your studio, so do your homework on them by following up on references and getting to know them in as many ways as possible. And don’t forget to cover the basics, such as topics like length of commitment, compensation, subbing policies, and contractor versus employee status. Lastly, follow up on your new instructors to help ensure their success. Find out if they are showing up on time, how often they are in need of a sub, and how their relationships are with their students and other instructors. All of these aspects are critical to their success as instructors, and your success as a studio.
Diane Butera is a studio owner, instructor, and yoga consultant. Her studio, Eugene Yoga, was founded in 2010, and has grown to two locations, with more than 30 instructors. Her studio has recently received three distinguished awards for best studio in Eugene, Orgeon. Diane thanks her community of teachers and students, as well as her husband/co-owner, Lou Butera, for their commitment and support. She is on the staff of Yoni Speaks, a yoga consulting firm. To contact her email firstname.lastname@example.org.