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[This transcript has been automatically generated by a digital software and will there contain errors and typos. Please therefore take note of this and only rely on the digital transcript for reference.]

Welcome to the Ted Teo business. Show the best place for actionable advice for entrepreneurs. This is Ted your host speaking, and on today’s episode, we have Naomi Tan. Who’ll be sharing with us how she grew her business with kindness as a professionally trained dancer. Now we found her calling and teaching ballet and has close to a decades worth of teaching.

[00:00:17] Despite the COVID pandemic. Now me was able to start a very own desk and tried in her own words, NAMI credits her approach to placing her students’ needs above profits. As a major reason for our success today’s interview is full of valuable advice, and I’m sure you will come away with something as well.

[00:00:32] Now, before we dive in, the show is now available on iTunes, Google podcasts, and Spotify. So, if you enjoyed the show, why not leave a review and share the show with someone who may benefit from it as well. Now let’s dive right in. Now we thank you so much for joining us today. Could you share what you find most fulfilling about your work?

[00:00:47] Firstly, thanks for having me today, really excited to be here. I think for me, the most meaningful part of my job is seeing the growth of the children and the impact I made on their character development. I have some students who’ve been with me, I think for a good 10 years now. And you go like, okay, I must have done some.

[00:01:04] So you really see them growing all the way up and they really grown into good people. And that makes me really fulfilled 10 years. It must’ve really been an honor to really see your students grow and stick with you through all these years. Now, now me, I know you were a freelance ballet teacher before, but what gave you the push during the COVID pandemic itself to actually start your own dance studio and become a full-time business owner?

[00:01:26] From the early days I was renting a shared studio space, but it was only during COVID where I decided, yeah. My own space, because previously we were using a shared space and there’s a lot of human traffic. And most of my students are school going children. And the parents would naturally be concerned that they might be unnecessarily exposed to the virus.

[00:01:46] I guess, after our lockdown, I was just thinking on behalf of my customers, that this will help to protect everyone, including the students, the teachers, and the parents, because we’ll have less exposure. So then I started sourcing for. Spaces and whether I could make it work, I was looking at a map and seeing whether I was at that point yet, but I could afford I own space when I have built up my customer base to a certain point.

[00:02:12] And. Shot off that mark by a little bit. It wasn’t a sure thing that I could make it well. So looking at a budget, it was really tight, but it wasn’t too much off from the break. Even points knew that our student teacher relationship was quite strong. So I decided to take a leap and go with it. No, no me things definitely sounded shaky.

[00:02:34] What is one strategy that you’ve consistently employed that gave you the confidence that this was the right decision moving forward? I would say my main strategy is really considering it from the parents’ perspective, from the customer’s perspective and trying to do what’s best for them, knowing that they will follow you.

[00:02:49] If you think of them. So when COVID hit and everyone was just also afraid of the virus and how it was spreading and all that. So we were taking every single precaution to be extra safe. And because, you know, if it’s not your own space, you have no control of how you clean it up. So I would actually come into the space 45 minutes before the class, and I will spray Clorox all over the floor and get on my hands and knees, like literally.

[00:03:13] Hence and needs to wipe the floor. And then when the parents arrive with their children for the class, they will see me on the floor, wiping the floor like Cinderella, and they’ll all feel so bad. They’ll be like, oh, can I help you miss mommy? Can I please help you? I say, no, it’s okay. I guess when the parents see.

[00:03:29] On my hands and knees wiping the floor. They know that my heart is in the business. All the students and parents who were with me while I was using a shared space naturally came over. It was just a natural transition now to the listeners at home. That is such a good key takeaway to NAMI just shed when you’re harnessed in the right place.

[00:03:45] And you’ve always pleased our customers before you you’ll be surprised how much they will give back to you and your business as well. And it could be the one thing that you need during the tougher times. Now, back to you now. Despite the fact that most of your customers are students of the school going age.

[00:03:58] You seem to mention about the needs of the parents a lot as well. Could you explain yourself a bit more and maybe highlight to the listeners why this is such an important part about your business as well? My industry, you don’t just teach the students. You also teach the parents and when you educate the students, you have to educate the parents as well as to what dancing actually involves in terms of ethical and discipline.

[00:04:22] And all that, but that aside running a business that is focused on children does really mean that you have to deal a lot with the parents. And sometimes that is the more complicated part of the business. But my strategy for dealing with this is to really put myself in the parent’s shoes and think about what is best for the children.

[00:04:41] So if I can craft my business. To be in line with what they believe to be best for the child. Then there will definitely be no problems that mindset, you know, in running a business someplace, it’s not just about dealing with the direct customers in front of us. Sometimes there just are a few more stakeholders in place.

[00:04:58] If you’re in the education niche, it’s not just about the needs of the students, but it needs for the parents as well, because remember it is the parents who are actually paying the school fee. Now me as a teacher and a business owner, what do you do when you first launched your business to help differentiate itself from the competition?

[00:05:13] I think in the market, you will find generally two sorts of dance. Teachers you’ll have those that care and those that don’t. So I think that is the biggest differentiator. If people can feel you’re sincere. In helping them grow as students, then they will definitely like you over another teacher. That’s just there, there are teachers who are just there to fulfill their working hours.

[00:05:35] And it’s so obvious. Like when you’re in class, they could just be playing the music, giving one or two comments here and then, and just moving through the syllabus and you can get by. But that’s not why I believe it because why I’m in this line in the first place is to play a part in each child’s development and your growth.

[00:05:53] And in building each child’s value system. One thing I will do is keeping the parents involved in the development of their child. And I think that parents can see. And we’ve produced results over the years. They have not only reflected their growth in the dance sense, but also their growth as people. So every term, we try to have a parent sharing session where they actually sit in the class and they watch the whole class and they watch.

[00:06:19] Corrections. And it’s also a chance to educate the parents in terms of what dance is about, what we expect to see in a certain movement so that they can compare their child’s development or growth over the last term and the prison itself, or they can compare their child to their peers. And if they’re lagging behind, they can see for themselves.

[00:06:38] It’s needed to bring the child back to the same level as the class. So all this, I think parents appreciate a lot. Being able to be up to date with their child’s progress, knowing that their children are in good hands in class with an attentive teacher that cares enough to give them personalized corrections.

[00:06:55] So I think with that, you build loyalty with your customers, the customers being the parents of the students. And I guess if you develop a close enough relationship with your students, they will give back. In some way or another. So I have a student who’s been with me for a good number of years around eight years or so.

[00:07:11] And she’s currently in university, but she has told me that she would like to start assisting my classes because she has an interest in teaching dance as well. So for the last year and a half, she’s actually been assisting me on Saturday afternoons. And so it has come like a full circle. Yeah. My student has started becoming a teacher.

[00:07:33] Guys that is so powerful by emphasizing the needs of the customers. Now, Amy has shown us that it only helps to retain customers for your business in the long run. You may even find that the talents that you have grew over the years, returning to the business, coming full circle and contributing to this growth.

[00:07:47] So my deal listeners, have you been emphasizing or developing the right relationships in your business? One of the easiest ways we can differentiate ourselves with our competition is to actually provide a better service or product. If your customers can view the sincerity and the quality that you’re providing the whale.

[00:08:02] Come back to you. So back to you now, me, how do you feel now that your students actually an assistant teacher and just helping a business to grow? I guess it’s a really good feeling to know that you’ve created a positive impact on somebody’s life and that they feel good enough about it to want to come.

[00:08:17] The same way to the next generation. Yeah. I guess that’s a really nice thing to know. And it keeps you going to know that it’s so meaningful. So now moving onto another point. Now me with audience, any with the industry last year due to COVID, how did you manage your customers and maybe some of your employees during this uncertain time, that’s been tough.

[00:08:36] I’m going to share it across many industries. They come across the same difficulties before. COVID nobody. That you can actually dance remotely. So this has been quite a pleasant surprise to the entire dance world. That actually it is possible to dance at home to take a dance class in your house.

[00:08:54] Obviously it’s not ideal, but the good thing was that everyone was quite adaptable and willing to try. And along the way, we actually managed to achieve quite a few things. We managed to compete our syllabus. Yeah. So there was not so much disruption actually, during our lockdown last year. After we all got the hang of it, I actually managed to teach new routines.

[00:09:15] And then when you hop back into a studio, we just carry on as if there was no interruption. And we took our exams as planned last year in November. So one of the things I try my best to do is to be very clear, efficient, and timely with my communication to the students’ parents. Because especially in uncertain times, everyone appreciates some certain directions on my end.

[00:09:37] I tried to be creative. Yeah. Dance is a creative art, right. And I try not to lose that just because I’m not performing anymore. Doesn’t mean I have to stop being creative. So I tried to come up with creative activities that our students can do online and still keep them engaged. So actually last year during lock down, my studio had our one and only zoom competition competition.

[00:10:01] And I tasked all the students who wanted to participate with creating their own routines. Putting together their own costume with whatever they could find at home, choosing their own music, choosing how they want the video themselves, how they want to set up their so-called stage at home. And everyone was just using zoom to watch each other’s routines.

[00:10:20] And then I’ve gathered all my teachers. And also, because during this time we had no emphasis. So usually in normal times when we are in the studio, it will be me and possibly an assistant teacher in the studio as well. But with zoom, there wasn’t a need for assistant teacher anymore because you can actually touch the students and correct the alignment and stuff.

[00:10:40] So the teachers were shot on income at that time also. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to direct some of the income towards the teachers who had their hours lesson during the first lockdown. And I make sure that. I take care of. My teachers as well. Dad is such a great idea. Now me with some creativity, you find a way to get the teachers, the parents, and the students involved.

[00:11:03] Now, how did that turn out? So then we had a zoom competition and all my teachers were the judging committee and they would judge the students and give them notes and scores. And then we had our little own price presentation on zoom. And so this was just organized in that very short spin on time. And I think at the end of the day, we did get some.

[00:11:23] Really good feedback from the parents saying that it’s a good platform for, especially the students who have never done a competition before for them to have sort of a taste in what dance competitions is like. Although it is not in-person, but it still gives them a little bit of a taster. And then this year I have tasked the students with doing a dance photo challenge during the June holidays.

[00:11:45] So I was issued a challenge us on the. Group chats with instructions to what particular photo I would want for this particular week. So every week I issue two or three challenges, and if they could successfully complete all the challenges throughout the holidays, then they get the photos compiled nicely in a little digital photo book for themselves to keep.

[00:12:08] So this is absolutely free for our students. So obviously it means more work for me. If they do successfully complete all my dance photo challenges that I issue, it would, it definitely would mean quite a few more hours of me sitting in the computer, compiling their photos into their, for the books. But I am happy to do it.

[00:12:25] If they see something, you know, meaningful in it, as well as he has a chance for them to create something, to be creative, to spend their time wisely, not just watching videos at home, but more, you know, getting them off their feet. And I’ve already gotten some feedback from the parents that they actually appreciate it.

[00:12:43] Not because of the product, but because of the bonding opportunity that you’ve seen with the children, because if the children are dancing, who needs to press the shutter on the camera is the parents, right? So the parents have to be the ones being a photographer for the dance challenge and with challenges like.

[00:12:59] Shot, which is also a jump shot. You know, you have to do multiple takes and this, I guess, gives them a good opportunity to bond with their children as well now, to our listeners. That is such great advice. If we’re able to actually think out of the box and use some creativity, you may just be able to create a better product that serves your customers better, to keep them happy and in the business for a longer period.

[00:13:21] Now, now me, it sounded that you had no problem in transiting from your physical classes in-person to online classes on zoom, but how did this affect your business in terms of the price structure? Was this the same or do you have to actually adjust? Yeah. Especially when this whole zoom distance learning thing was brand new to the entire world and nobody knew how to price a zoom class, because for sure it’s not the same as in-person class.

[00:13:46] You don’t have a teacher right there to give you a corrections. So, how do we price it? What you charge the exact same amount. Would you value your zoom class at the same amount as an in-person class? And I think this question was one big question last year, when we went to lockdown to make sure that I don’t devalue myself and devalue my classes as well.

[00:14:07] I don’t want to put a 50% off a 50% price tag on my zoom classes because I still need to spend the same amount. Crafting their process. And I still spend the same amount of time online with the kids life on zoom. So if I put a 50% off the price, it’s like saying it’s worth half the amount, which I didn’t want to do also.

[00:14:30] And then also thought. I’m probably quite one of the lucky ones. I didn’t lose my job last year. And I’m sure there were many people out there who did, and who knows. Some of my customers may have lost their jobs as well. So I didn’t want to price it exactly the same as an in-person class as well. Also, knowing that probably the kids do.

[00:14:52] Focus a bit less on zoom. So you can’t, you can’t really get the same amount of focus out of them. So in the end, I went with a pay as you wish system. So what I did last year during our lockdown was I did continue the zoom classes, but I told them. The all these classes on zoom during the lockdown were on a PSU wish basis.

[00:15:13] So they can just pay me after each class or after the end of the month, because it’s pay as you wish. And if they were not able to afford any classes during this period, I told them it’s okay. It’s pay as you wish. Anyway, you don’t have to pay it. Yeah, because I wanted the students to have continuity in the dance training.

[00:15:36] I want everyone to be able to keep coming for dance class on zoom, no matter what kind of financial situation they were in. And last year, it was a really uncertain time for a lot of the FMB service retail industries. And I had no idea who was in what industry. So I wanted to be discreet and still tell people that they could come for class, even if they can’t pay.

[00:15:59] Yeah. So that was what I did last year. And then, and then the first few weeks of zoom, I did have students missing from the zoom. So after class, I went to check in with them and there were parents who felt bad that that child was still attending the zoom class, even though they know they couldn’t afford it at the time.

[00:16:14] The worry is pay, as you wish just don’t pay me anything. And it’s okay. I’d rather that the child comes for zoom class so that when we come back to in-person class, she is not two months behind her friends now. And that is truly a brilliant idea. On the one hand, you didn’t want to bring on the value of a services, but on the other hand, you wanted to look out for the customers who weren’t doing so well financially as well.

[00:16:34] So what was the outcome of this PSU? Right? It wasn’t so bad. It was really, it turned out better than I expected because I did expect. Maybe a 50% loss of income for that period. But the parents who are really generous and are not in a difficult position at all, financially who are giving the full amount for the zoom classes.

[00:16:53] So it pretty much nearly matched up. Naomi, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing with us your story. Can you leave us with one key takeaway for listeners at home? My one key takeaway would probably be being sincere. When you’re dealing with your customers. So when you’re sincere with your customers and they know that you have their best interests at heart, they will in turn, take care of it.

[00:17:19] And how will we be able to get in touch with you from here? Well, you can find my school on Instagram. So my school’s name is lighthouse Dan’s and our handle is lighthouse. Dan’s SG. My dear listeners. I hope you benefited from today’s masterclass. Now me has shown us that when you take care of our customers, they will take care of you and your business as well.

[00:17:39] So why not have a thought about this at any measures you can initially implemented your business that actually could help your customer solve it as well? If you do, I’m sure you also be able to boot your loyal base of customers in the law. Thank you so much for joining me today. Today’s interview and show notes can be found on tatio.com.

[00:17:55] That’s T E D T E o.com. If you want to hear more episodes like this, or if you want to support the show and don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and Google. There’s also the day. Thank you for joining me. I’ll see you next time.


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