Been Sick? Four Steps to Recover in Your Business
Early November, I started feeling a little punky. Definitely sleep deprived. Feeling like I had a cold "around the edges". Ever felt like that?
Mid-November, that cold was no longer around the edges, it was front and center. After suffering for about a week, I went to the doctor, was told I had a bacterial infection and put on an antibiotic. Had to cancel a week of piano lessons and take sick leave.
The day after Thanksgiving, when we were driving home from a visit to family, I started coughing up blood. Went to the emergency room. Diagnosis? Pneumonia. Started on antibiotics two and three. Cancelled another week of piano lessons and a recital.
Mid-December, still unable to shake this yucky feeling, I ended up getting even sicker and was finally admitted to the hospital. Ended up staying there for four days, diagnosed with pneumonia relapse and the flu. Cue antibiotic number four. Now, missed two weeks of piano lessons.
So, after being sick for most of November and December, cancelling lessons and recitals and special events, I was feeling this sense of dread heading into January. Yeah, I was finally feeling better, but my piano lesson business felt like it had been majorly derailed. I was stressed.
How would I get back into lessons? How much momentum had I lost in my business? Would I lose students? Should I refund or just prorate a month? How many lessons should I refund or prorate? Should I do make-up lessons instead? And how do I make up a recital, or should I even bother?
It was enough to make me want to just crawl back in bed (even though, by January, I was SICK of being sick!).
If you've ever been hit with a series of illnesses yourself, or you have some sort of flu bug partying with all of the members of your family, you know what this feels like. Here are some tips to help you the next time that happens - some tips to get you back on track in your business.
1. Don't panic.
Yes, you missed some lessons (maybe a lot of lessons). Yes, you had to cancel some things and maybe you even had to cancel them last minute. But, you were sick. It happens. Before you start thinking your business is falling apart, remember that you have built a reputation that can withstand a few missed lessons.
And, as my mom reminded me when I was freaking out over the phone with her -- your piano families actually probably appreciated the break in lessons here and there. Their lives are just as hectic as yours and they aren't mad that you were sick. It's ok.
2. Start Communicating (again)
Send out an email telling everyone how much you've missed them. Add a Facebook post with a funny meme about getting out of piano lessons. Text your piano families with a quick "hello" and "can't wait to see you again".
Just let them know you are alive and eager to get back in the piano flow with them. I have found that one of the best ways to keep your families connected to piano lessons is simply to communicate. So, set aside 15 minutes and send out a blast to all of your students.
3. Choose between refunding, rescheduling, or prorating.
Now, I have built in to my policies sick days and random days off, but my students pay tuition at the beginning of the month. Plus, this was at the end of the calendar year, so I could take one or two days off and justify tuition being unchanged. But, three lessons? Four? That was another story.
So, I had to carefully look at my finances, look at my schedule and decide whether to refund, prorate, or reschedule the missed lessons. In my mind, refunding was a bookkeeping headache. Rescheduling that many students would be near impossible for my crazy schedule. I chose to prorate instead. Because I use a simple Paypal invoicing system, it was easy for me to just add that line item to their January invoices and it automatically charged them less for that month, in order to make up for the missed lessons in November and December.
Did I like to make less in January? Um, no. But it was the right thing to do. And it also kept things streamlined for my families. They didn't have to worry about when to figure out a make up lesson. They didn't have to wonder how this all going to work. I just sent out a simple email: "Thank you all for your patience with my sickness these last two months! Per our studio policies, I will be prorating your bill to reflect my missed lessons. Thank you!" And that was that. Pretty simple.
4. Build something exciting into your upcoming lessons.
To reinvigorate your studio (and to reinvigorate you!), come up with something new to get your students excited Perhaps a practicing incentive or a new composer study. Or maybe all of your students have suddenly earned a popcorn party in their next lesson!
Whatever it is, it doesn't have to be big -- remember you've already taken a financial hit -- but it should be invigorating. It's kind of your way to say "I'm still here. I still care about you. I still care about our lessons together."
Remember, you are human and sometimes life happens in a BIG way. Perhaps it isn't sickness that derailed you. Maybe it is a job loss, or a divorce. Maybe you just had a baby or your landlord is kicking you out. Life happens.
Your business can survive these stressful times. The next time you are coming through the other side of something big, try these four steps. You will get back to consistency with your lessons. You will get back to doing what you love. Just be sure to follow these steps to get back on track.
Trust me, you'll be glad you did.