We got our first private music lesson online registrations of brand-new students in early July of 2019. It was over the holiday weekend when we were closed. We were not answering phones, checking messages or checking emails to help anyone register. It was just the schedule and the families searching for lessons. The customers easily figured it out, and a mom registered her 3 kids. It felt like magic. I felt like Doc Emmet Brown dancing around when he realized his DeLorean time machine actually worked. We did not need to do anything. The family paid the registration fee automatically, the monthly fees were automatically set up and the teachers were even automatically notified that they had new students on their schedules. We literally just had to wait for them to show up. And I did. I made sure I was there at the studio when the mom arrived for their first week of lessons. I asked “how was online registration?” She answered: “It was fine.” Not the chatty type. Clearly the event for her was not as life changing as it was for me. I felt like blurting out: “You’re the first! You got it! Tell me all the details!” and giving her a tearful hug, like I was reuniting with a long-lost friend. Thankfully, I did not do anything too dorky and quietly acknowledged that the future was now here and parents were totally ready for it.
Today studios across the country are doing thousands of online registrations like that each month. Several happen while they are closed.
Fast forward to March 2020. Covid hit. Everything was pushed online. We made a swift decision to permanently merge our 3 locations which were doing almost 2.5 million in revenue between them into just 1 location. We gave the students at the 2 closing locations a travel credit to migrate to the remaining location. Our numbers in the single remaining location spiked. Because our automated system replaced most of our admin staff, we went from spending almost $250,000 on 8 admin staff to spending under $50,000 per year on 1 full timer and 1 part timer who combined were working just 44 hours per week (not overlapping) to manage over 1100 active registrations.
Today because of automation and other efficiencies, we are making the same profit from our 1 location that we used to make from our 3 locations. Pretty unbelievable, even to me.
Since we own all 3 of our studio buildings, we rented out the other 2 unused buildings and we are actually much further ahead because of Covid and the opportunity our technology made possible.
Don’t feel bad for our other admin staff, they are all happily working at other jobs and we have stayed in touch with many of them since then.
In March 2020 my wife and I also made another daring decision. We decided to lay off ALL of our admin staff and do the admin ourselves during covid with StudioAutoPilot. In a time when most music studios were super reliant on their staff to figure out the shift to online lessons, we had no staff at all for 5 months until August 2020. Kind of gutsy.
To be fair, we did have a major advantage in the shift to online video lessons. Since our system already had individual video rooms built into it for every student, the parents just had to do 1 simple click at their lesson time to connect to the teacher. Nothing to download, it just worked. It was the first thing they saw in their account like this:
We never used Zoom at all. Since every student had an individual video room, we never had a problem with students clicking at the wrong time or clicking early and interrupting the lesson of the student before. It was impossible to do that with our system. It was made for individual music lessons, not for group team meetings like Zoom. Parents used it with us being totally hands off. Today we still use our video rooms constantly for parents to take regular lessons at home if their child is mildly sick, for parents to do make-up lessons online instead of driving to the school or to instantly shift all teachers and students online in case there is a power failure or weather-related closure.
I realized that StudioAutoPilot is like giving your staff an Iron Man suit. One person can do the work of 4. So, 2 people, my wife and I, could easily do the work of 8. And we did. It was a little hectic at first but after the initial explanation of online lessons we still had time to sit by the pool and wait out the weird unpredictable year that was the Covid 19 pandemic.
Unbelievably, since everything was online and we were not physically at the studio we did not answer our phones at the studio live for 5 months until August 2020. We did not even forward the phones to our house to take live calls. I figured parents could figure it out on their own like they were figuring out covid everything, from work, to school, to attending weddings on zoom.
Years ago, one of the best pieces of business advice I ever got was:
Back in 2020 I realized that StudioAutoPilot is the ultimate clock. We did not need to tell time anymore. Our admins did not need to be time tellers anymore. We just needed to tell the parents where the clock was. The parent DIY revolution was born.
Our existing studio parents, even the old school, long term, tech challenged ones did everything themselves online using our simple system. Please don’t worry if you are an older studio owner. I’m 53. Half of our beta studio owner users who started using StudioAutoPilot in 2021, when we first opened up our system to other studios, were older than me. Our system is made for studio owners, not tech wizards, you’ll get it pretty quickly. You will not be reliant or held hostage by your staff who actually know the system and then translate a dumbed down version to you. I’ve been that boss before and it’s a terrible position to be in. You will know it better than your staff. And after reading this book, you will know the psychology of why it works better. You will be the captain of your own StudioAutoPilot. Your staff will be the crew. You will have a new level of ownership and control you have never experienced before.
Your admins will still be needed, but their main purpose with StudioAutoPilot will be to show parents how to read the clock, not to tell them the time. All of the airlines in North America did this recently. They had their ticketing staff shift hundreds of millions of passengers to self-check in. The ticketing agents basically trained the customers just once, to do their jobs. Everyone got it. Touch here and follow the screen. Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy. This change saved costs, reduced wait times and made consumer much happier about the first step of the airport experience.
Your families are ready for this. Most families will just get it, like that mom did back in July 2019 when she registered her 3 kids. For the handful who don’t get it right away, your staff will only need to point them in the right direction and they will quickly get it. There’s not much to get. There is no official parent tutorial or help guide, because no studio has ever needed one. We have hundreds of thousands of transactions proving that if you build the clock, your parents will quickly learn to tell the time.