Teaching young music students takes a special set of skills: patience, unflagging enthusiasm and clear communication are among them. But what about when teaching is your business? Not only do you have to manage the needs and talents of your students, you also have to manage day-to-day operations of your school. As a longtime music teacher, Laura Lee Crandall knows all about that balance.
Crandall and her husband, Matt, found themselves at a career transition in the spring of 2013. Both graduates of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, they’ve taught privately and in school settings; so they picked up a few students.
“We often talked about starting a music school that would teach private music lessons,” Crandall said. She thought that students could work alongside organized bands, be matched with complementary instruments and learn to work as a team.
So, the couple created KC Rock Band & Guitar School of Music, a music school that focuses on the instruments of a typical modern rock band. Soon, they were teaching more than a dozen students out of their home, but with little business background to set up their music school for growth and long-term success.
“The first year of opening the KCRB was a crash course in business management,” Crandall recalls. “I read every business book I could get my hands on.” She says she enjoyed working on the business in its early days, but was overwhelmed by “all the things I didn’t know.”
Crandell realized she needed more help than what books could offer, so she headed to her SCORE chapter.
Referrals: Not just for sales
“Knowing I had no business training, I needed someone with real experience to run ideas by and get their wisdom and input,” Crandall says. She attended a Start Up Basics class hosted by her chapter and attended online webinars on advertising, social media and finances.
Crandall began meeting with volunteer mentor Ann Whitty. “She helped coach me through the hiring process of my first additional teachers, how to best serve customers, and countless other issues that came up,” Crandall says. Whitty referred Crandall to Tracy Enos for additional guidance regarding advertising and social media; she also arranged a meeting with mentor Joel Resnick, who provided advice on commercial real-estate considerations.
“Having Ann as my mentor is one of the best things that happened to KCRB,” Crandall says. “She has also given me confidence that I can do this and helped me think out the steps to achieve the goals I have. It’s so easy to second guess oneself, and having Ann just tell me I’m on the right track is huge.”
“We have gradually grown by word of mouth, our website and other advertising,” Crandall explains. “After one year, we added additional teachers, teaching times and group classes as well.”
Crandall reports, “We’ve continued to add clients every month, have added additional teachers and developed a marketing plan that is workable and working for us.”
Time management is a moving target
As KCRB grows, Crandall is still figuring out the best way to manage her time. Day-to-day tasks can quickly get in the way of larger goals and growth plans — and they can also get in the way of time spent away from work.
“Since I never ‘clock out,’ I don’t have a cut-and-dry time of when I’m off work. I’m learning that balance, and it’s a work in progress,” Crandall admits.
Want support from amazing volunteer mentors like Crandall’s team? Find a SCORE chapter near you to meet with a mentor!