We often wonder what our legacy will be. What will we leave behind?
Legacies are a touchy subject and are packed full of emotion. For Kirsten McQuat, taking over ownership of Ward School of Dance was an effort in inheriting one legacy and creating her own.
When Kirsten started dancing at the age of three, her family had no idea how dancing would influence the course of her life. Like most students, after spending 8-10 hours a week at Ward School of Dance, the studio became a second home. In the beginning, the school was run by two Joan’s—Joan Ward and Joan Lienau. The two Joan’s taught her the foundation of dance and sparked a passion that burns to this day.
After 13 years, she became an assistant teacher, and later, an instructor.
Kirsten combined her love of dance and passion for youth into an Arts degree. She majored in Psychology and a minored in Sociology. By specializing in child and youth development, she has been able to approach young dancers in a unique way. Teaching dance helped her pay her way through college.
Moving on up
There was no surprise, when the opportunity to take over the ownership of Ward appeared-Kirsten was a natural fit given her passion for dance and the growth of all their students. But taking over a well-established brand is difficult and doing it in this specific community was intimidating. But for Kirsten, it felt natural. After all, this was family. (It can help but be noted, there are two Kirstens now running the school, just as there were two Joans running it previously.)
The first thing Kirsten needed to do, was make a few changes. Ward had been around for over 40 years, and the processes reflected that. Scheduling staff, booking clients and managing the finances were all still managed with pen & paper. Determined to bring everything into a manageable system, Kirsten found the best software available. For four years, they worked with that platform, trying to build the business and create efficiency. Kirsten struggled to find time for all the necessary work from managing the finances, to updating paperwork and still teaching classes.
Change is here to stay
In those four years, many schools have opened in the city. There used to be three studios, now there are 14. While Kirsten wants to grow, she understands how competitive the business must be. Their student levels have been at the same, so it’s imperative that Ward freshens its image and attracts new customers. To do that she’s trying to streamline as much as possible. Anywhere she can make it easier, she frees up time to focus on growing the enrollment.
The move to the Front Desk platform to facilitate ease had been on her mind for quite awhile. The software Ward had at the time was cumbersome. Kirsten spent an extraordinary amount of time handling her employee’s questions and working around features the software didn’t have. These are worries of the past. With Front Desk at her side, she is better equipped to communicate with parents and employees understand the software.
A New Use of Time
“This program is such a fantastic upgrade! We can figure out how to do new things easily.” said Kirsten, “I really appreciate the time I save not having to answer the daily questions from staff.”
With less time spent dealing with the software, Kirsten can repurpose the three to four hours a week and focus on improvements for Ward. She’s focused on increasing the enrollment in classes, which will allow them to make the move into a new, improved space. Although Ward has been around for decades, it’s important that the brand not only stay fresh, but that the school does. They’re investing more in the curriculum and creating continuity so that students have clear expectations on the skills necessary to move up in a dance style. It’s also helped her balance between work and home. With less time spent on the administrative side (and less worries), she finds it easier to leave the office and spend more time with her family.
Making it easier on parents
Ward has also changed some of the ways they handle their business. Because of Front Desk they’ve been able to ease the process for the parents of students. Like the ability to send over details via the software so that parents don’t have to come in to sign up their child. Kirsten especially was surprised by how much she appreciates the purchase request feature “I love that feature! Just absolutely love it!”
Now Kirsten is looking to learn more about online marketing, and how to build relationships and keep her current clients. She looks to Front Desk, who helped her streamline so many activities, to help her understand the best practices of other small businesses.
Confidence in the next steps
In the end, Kirsten is confident about Ward and using Front Desk, “we’re on the right path, we’re making the right choices and we’ve got the right software with Front Desk.” Words that a business owner hopes to say every day.