When discussing the challenges of running a yoga studio with my colleagues, I’ve noticed that one main issue tends to crop up regularly: managing yoga instructors. The majority of instructors are a pleasure to work with and do not create extra challenges, however that is not always the case. Many yoga teachers come to this profession for some of the same reasons that make studio owners’ lives more difficult: they are drawn to teaching yoga because they like the idea of less structure and more flexibility, they want work they can do on the side, and they see teaching yoga as a job that isn’t really work (it’s a passion). The problem is that they do not always approach their position as an instructor with the same degree of professionalism that they would with other jobs. It can seem that teaching yoga is more of a hobby than a profession. A successful yoga studio requires reliability, and accountability from teachers. Unfortunately, when an instructor is not strong in those areas, it can create some very difficult problems. Here are some of the most common problems and my suggestions for how to deal with them.
It can be surprising how often teachers have asked to cancel a class because they are having trouble finding a sub. Can you imagine your bank closing because there is no staff available? Our students make a lot of effort to show up for a scheduled class, and they expect it to be business as usual. My experience is that it’s often the same teachers who seem to look for subs at the last minute or who tend to have more illnesses, distractions, or crises in their lives. This is why boundaries are necessary. Decide ahead of time what policies you have regarding subbing and no shows. The instructor orientation and independent contractor guidebook (critical for every studio) should spell out your studio’s expectations for in great detail. Outline these rules and expectations in the context of professionalism so your teachers understand their obligations to the studio as a business. Of course there are always exceptions, and no matter what the circumstances, we choose the tone of our response. It can also be helpful to present the larger vision of the studio and ask for their support.
At our studios, instructors are expected to teach 80 percent of their classes. It is always the responsibility of the person who needs a sub to make the necessary arrangements. Because we have over 30 instructors already teaching for us, we don’t have a traditional sub list; first we ask them to work with the established pool of teachers already teaching for us. We have a few formats they can use to obtain their sub: an email google group formatted to easily request a sub, along with a closed Facebook group for our teachers. We ask our teachers to put everyone’s phone number into their phones for easy texting. Additionally, we recommend establishing a relationship with a few teachers who they can rely on in a pinch. If the teacher has exhausted the in studio list of possible subs, only do they go outside the studio’s regular teachers to obtain a sub. Instructors are then required to compensate that teacher on their own, as opposed to our regular teacher submitting an invoice to the studio. It’s useful to remind teachers when we’re approaching a time of the year when obtaining subs can be more difficult: summer vacations, holidays, and big local events (in Eugene, this is the annual country fair). We ask the instructor to contact us for help if there is less than 48 hours before the needed sub date, but they know we will first go through the above checklist to ensure they’ve done their due diligence.
As I mentioned in a previous blog about hiring the best instructors, you want teachers who support your studio. I understand that teachers often have variety in their schedules and teach at other studios, but while at your studio, you feel the support through their words and actions. 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. An awesome instructor who often takes time away for trips, retreats, and trainings may in the long run be more of a problem than a blessing. I suggest having a conversation about the long term ramifications up front. Willingness to step in to sub is also showing support to the studio. I’ve learned the hard way that hiring instructors with very limited schedules will not best serve the studio in the long run. Promoting your studio’s programming while at the studio is not something you can force feed an instructor, but neither is it acceptable for your independent contractors to actively promote for other studios while onsite. Additionally, there are the little things that can make the difference. A teacher who leaves the studio messy, doesn’t submit invoices on time, arrives a minute before class starts, does not make your job any easier. Rather than harp on these problems to your instructors, ask them to reread your guidebook.
Comfort with Technology
Instructors who don’t answer emails, cannot create a syllabus, unable to figure out a conference call, submit an invoice, work with scheduling software, or use social media are not as uncommon as you might think. While none of these needs to be a deal breaker (some of our very best teachers have these challenges) having processes in place to support these teachers, could mean fewer headaches. Solutions can include assigning a work/study person to assist a teacher, focusing on the instructor’s strengths/learning style, along with providing specialized training.
Bottom line- we are running a business. A business guidebook for employees and independent contractors is critical to communicating expectations and policies. The professional integrity of everyone plays a part in defining our business. Be professional with your teachers and staff and expect the same from them.
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, Oregon. 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.