We’re excited to feature guest author Karen Schwalbe-Jones of Harmony Studios for this post!

I’ve owned and taught at Harmony Studios, a Pilates studio, for almost 18 years, which is almost unheard of in the private training world! Why? Oftentimes, studio owners either become tired or jaded with the fluctuations of the business or their studios become obsolete and can no longer compete.

All owners of studios will tell you that it’s a labor of love. Owning a client-facing business requires nurturing and creative parenting: for your employees, your community, and your individual clients. Finding harmony amongst all three can be the hardest part and I’ve learned so much in my experience through trial and error. Here, I wanted to share my top tips for creating a flourishing community for both clients and employees at your studio.

Function Like a Democracy

From the beginning, I made a very conscious decision to seek out and employ the best teachers and staff possible. I knew that these teachers would have a choice to stay or leave given how I created Harmony’s infrastructure (studio rules, pay extra) and therefore, I knew I would need to ensure their happiness in order to have a mutually-beneficial relationship. Each of my employees abide by the guidelines I’ve set and in turn, I provide support and encourage them to grow and thrive in a non-competitive, nurturing environment. I don’t tell them how to teach but demand they show up and give their best. It’s a safe, respectful space where they are paid well. It works out to be a truly symbiotic relationship. As the boss, all the financial decisions and burdens are mine, but at the same time, we’re also all on the same team and without each other, we would not be successful. Clients notice this too and recognize the love, stability and community that we offer to them.

Create a Community

People like to go where they feel welcomed, nurtured and comfortable—and perhaps most importantly, recognized. This rings true for both clients seeking out a fitness studio and for employees in a work environment. Teachers will stay if they feel respected and appreciated. Clients may come and go, but they will return if they feel they’re a part of a community that looks out for them and accepts them. Many stay or return because they know their favorite teacher is there, too!

Clients may come and go, but they will return if they feel they’re a part of a community that looks out for them and accepts them.

To create this community, we may host free or low-cost workshops for clients and teachers. As well, Harmony supports different charities that Harmony teachers and/or clients choose. Both of these offer teachers and clients an avenue to interact with less barriers.

Personalize the First Impression

A little TLC goes a long way, especially with new clients. Now, more than ever, people want to feel connected. They are more likely to provide a positive/negative review of your service, which means our studio focuses on having them “at hello” to keep them as a client. My secret to this is personally working out every new, private client. Our studio sends new clients (both privates and class participants) a welcome email. I read their online registration profile to ensure that they’re registering for the proper teacher considering any physical limitations. After the first workout, they receive a follow-up email and a profile is created for every client with their specific needs, personalities, and physical issues. Our team adds to the profiles as needed throughout our relationship with them. All teachers have access to these notes so that the client’s workouts are always moving forward, as opposed to having to start over or re-orient to a new class or teacher. With this background, the instructors feel more empowered and comfortable teaching clients and the clients feel this attention and dedication to detail.

Know How to Relate

What works for one client may not work for the other, and even with a solid studio and incredible teacher, it may not be enough. It’s important to recognize and adjust to what your clients needs and preferences are—not just physically, but emotionally as well. We must know when to be encouraging or firm, a motivating cheerleader or a tough-love coach. Part of being a business owner or instructor is embodying all those roles: parent, psychologist, motivational coach, friend, and of course: teacher. Striking the balance between all these roles can be tough, but once you find that connection with someone, it will pay off in the long run.

About the author:

Karen Schwalbe-Jones combines her two Pilates certifications and two BS degrees from UCLA: Kinesiology and Psychology with 17 yrs of weight training and rehabilitation experience to provide friends and clients well-rounded physical, mental and emotional health. Although Karen may still run the day to day business at/in Harmony, she finds the body work her peace of mind; her sanity. “It isn’t simply finding the connection of mind with body but it is the intensity of that connection that is so exciting!” As a Pilates practitioner, Karen has enjoyed fine-tuning her education with researching and learning special populations such as the elderly, pre and post natal, MS and stroke patients. These populations are special in that they are challenged in unique ways to find different neurological pathways that are necessary in order to find their body’s own equilibrium. Karen has been teaching Pilates for 15 years and has taken many women to term practicing Pilates well as doing Pilates herself up until the day before both of her own children were born. Karen believes Pilates is one of the most organic methods for the pregnant body. As the hormone Relaxing surges through the pregnant body, Pilates teaches it control, balance and coordination as well as helping with its postural muscles for the always evolving pregnancy. Karen believes simply: that whichever modality one chooses (Pilates, Yoga, GXS, TXS, weights etc), the work will transform ones mind and body thus transcend (the studio) into one’s personal life in every way, shape and form.