Industry Insights – Putting People First

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Offering a desirable work environment. Providing five-star service. Asking for feedback. Prioritizing respect and inclusivity. Communicating clearly.

When asked, “In what ways do you put people first?” our vendors here at INSight™ offered up these answers and much more. It’s clear how much they value their employees and relationships with studio owners. What’s also clear is their dedication to an industry that influences kids. Beyond the day-to-day operations of their businesses, our vendors have a collective desire to elevate the dance environment. At the core of their comments is an overarching theme: a stronger, healthier industry is possible when everyone is committed to going above and beyond what is expected.

As you explore what it means to take a “people first” approach in your own business, I hope you’ll reference the messages here as inspiration. Integrity, respect, kindness, gratitude—all qualities to give, so we can receive them back.

Kelly Peterson - guiDance experience, director/owner

At guiDANCE, we put people first by focusing on the whole dancer. We are so much more than a competition! When dancers compete on our stage they are doing so with Youth Protection Advocates in Dance® certified judges, and our events include classes with the judges as well. This allows each student to connect with the judges for training, not just with competition feedback. We also accept routines from students with learning differences at no charge. The joy we witness in our attendees is amazing!

Terri Arment - Pumpers Dancewear, president

For my employees, I treat them how I would want to be treated—with respect. I am careful to never micromanage. For my customers, I ask them what they want and then figure out a way to deliver it—and on time too!

Jill Purdy - jackrabbit technologies, marketing and public relations

Even with more than 100 employees throughout the U.S. and Canada, Jackrabbit feels like a close and caring family. From goody boxes to home office IT upgrades to amazing benefits packages, broad consideration for individual productivity, health, and wellness is foremost on the hearts and minds of Jackrabbit’s founding partners. In the community, Jackrabbit supports Ronald McDonald House of Greater Charlotte with a monthly stipend and periodic team projects. Once per quarter Jackrabbit also sends a team to Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina to sort food and household items that are distributed to local charities. Jackrabbit’s founders have led the company through the ups and downs of COVID and prosperous growth, all while offering five-star service to clients, giving back to the community, and keeping a culture as natural as sitting around a cozy fire with a few close friends.

Jeremy Keeton - amplified productions: adrenaline dance, revive dance convention, and national dance honors, president and founder

We put our guests first by providing an inspiring, educational, and motivational experience for all who join us at Adrenaline, Revive, and NDH. We work to demonstrate gratitude and appreciation toward every guest. Whether we are connecting with them through our office, on social media, or at a show, we consider their time, the ease of the experience, and most important, their feedback. We couldn’t continue to do what we love without every guest and team member, so we must listen in order to stride forward. Recognizing where and how we can improve is a vital part of the journey.

Further, we are committed to inspiring dancers to discover their personal power as individuals, artists, and future citizens in a global society. We advocate for respect, equity, and inclusivity through the notion that we are richer and stronger together. This approach has served us well for two decades, and we look forward to fostering new relationships and enriching those that already exist.

joe naftal - penny prima, ceo

People are the lifeblood of any business: that’s why it’s called “human resources,” because our team members are our most valuable resource and asset. At Penny Prima, we put our team first by ensuring they fully know our company’s aims and performance benchmarks. Too often, business leaders keep their dreams close to the vest and don’t share their goals with their employees. It’s important for everyone on the team to know your vision. Not only does it motivate people to work towards a common objective, it allows new ideas to flourish.

Richard Smith - 360 dance festival, owner

There are few times in the performance world that studio owners and teachers get to be considered first. At the 360 Dance Festival, our studio owner and teacher attendees are a major focus. They sit on the adjudication panel with the teachers that have taught their students, and also receive a recording of critiques with valuable feedback. They see their work on stage without worrying about quick changes backstage. And they engage with the 360 Dance Festival teaching staff for further support beyond each event. Perhaps most of all, studio owners and teachers have peace of mind knowing their students are in a healthy, safe, and uplifting environment.

austin roberson - classkid, founder/ceo

Here at ClassKid, we strive to put people first both inside and outside the organization by listening to the needs of employees and clients, being open to feedback, fostering an environment of open communication, and meeting people right where they’re at. We believe that with quality communication and synergetic service, we facilitate a culture that helps make the lives of ClassKid employees and clients more productive and more peaceful.

Our people’s strengths and diverse talents play a crucial role in the success of Acrobatic Arts. We strive to recognize and foster those contributions by creating an awesome culture where our people feel seen, recognized, and fully engaged. By empowering our people with growth opportunities, investing in their ideas, providing them with the tools for success, and encouraging them to work autonomously, together we’ve become the leading acro dance training and certification for dance teachers worldwide. 

darcy post - honeycut/hc brands, inc. (honeycut dancewear), owner

Our biggest people-first belief is using our dancewear brand to give back to the environment that serves us all. Our #savethebees campaign includes donations to the Honeybee Conservancy via our website. This is just one way that we carry through our commitment and invite others to do the same. Some of our dance customers are even beekeepers!

Laila Hardman,-nrg dance project, Studio management consultant

At NRG danceProject convention and competition, we believe in empowering our clients to be successful. We know that when our studio owners are thriving, we are thriving! All directors and teachers attend free. They are given the opportunity to continue their education by attending movement and business-based classes, and our studio management consultant is on site to provide complimentary private business consultation. NRG also believes in giving back to studios by providing a generous loyalty rewards program. We value the relationships we develop with our clients and in turn want to help them build strong relationships with their dance families. With this in mind, NRG maintains reasonable fees and competition hours, free pictures and videos, and awards thousands of dollars in cash overalls and scholarships. We have always provided a high value for our clients and put an emphasis on running an authentic and positive event where everyone can truly thrive!

tracey wozny - taking shape, executive director

Since many people at our non-profit are serving on a volunteer basis, putting the team first is a top priority. We provide clear and efficient communication on everything from meetings to projects to events. We serve our team by taking the time to strategize our season and outline expectations. Our board of directors and team members appreciate this! Also, we recognize our team members and leadership affiliates through social media spotlights. We spread the word about how awesome they are for the contributions they have made to the community. They are making an impact in the world!

Jason neuwirth - 42nd street tours, owner

42nd Street Tours offers completely customizable dance tours, and “customizable” means that we go above and beyond for our clients. It isn’t just a bonus—it’s the norm! We tailor the travel experience for studio owners to offer the best tours possible. Our travel planners take the time to discuss your vision and then take extra steps to bring that vision to life. Whether it is their insightful recommendations or their expertise in the logistical flow of your itinerary, you can rest assured you’re in good hands and the tour will be a positive experience for all. We make ourselves available to studio parents throughout the whole process and we bill them directly. 42nd Street Tours supports the success of our dance studio clients and makes sure your venture includes an opportunity to generate revenue for your studio, as well as awarding you free package credits for your travel. We always put the studio first!

valerie jones - darby's dancers inclusive performing arts, founder and president

Darby’s Dancers is a non-profit organization fully staffed by volunteers encouraging inclusion, acceptance, and kindness for all. We work so that children and young adults with disabilities can be part of the mainstream of their dance studios. In our network of programs, all dancers are paired with teenage volunteers who assist them both physically and socially. Our dancers are first and foremost in this quest to encourage inclusion. We support our studio owners, teachers, liaisons, and volunteers by providing them with the tools and resources needed to offer the very best to families living with disabilities in their communities.

deborah stegmann - amateur athletic union, national dance chair

The purpose of the AAU is to offer amateur sports programs through a volunteer base. We foster the physical, mental, and moral development of amateur athletes and promote good sportsmanship and good citizenship. The sport programs offered bring youth together in a safe and welcoming environment where healthy relationships can be made. These activities help heal, strengthen, and forge positive relationships. This is the heart of our mission.

The AAU is a family of citizenry that extends beyond the walls of our homes to society as a whole. Like sport itself, the AAU tries to transcend boundaries to provide an inclusive environment for our athletes to learn life-changing skills. Our goal is to give all participants the opportunity to become productive members and leaders in the community.

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