Six foot ice cream sundae. That was the reward.
It seemed like such a great idea. For a certain amount of weeks, every kiddo in my studio earned points. To get a spot at the six foot ice cream sundae party, they had to earn a certain amount of those points. Reach the point threshold, you're in. Miss it? No sundae for you.
Seemed easy enough. The kids got all excited, and I had fun motivating them. We all looked forward to the six foot ice cream sundae.
I think about 24 students made the cut (o.k., who am I kidding? I made sure ALL of them made it!). I realized that a six foot ice cream sundae probably wasn't going to be enough. So, I decided to just fudge it a bit (do you see what I did there?) and make it around 8 feet long.
As the time for the party approached, the kids were on cloud nine. We scheduled the party for a Saturday evening, and the kids all knew there would be games, and little certificates passed out.
As a boost to my studio, I also told all of my students that they could invite a friend. Actually PLEASE, invite a friend. I knew that they all would (which most of them did) and it was a grand time to introduce new kids to my studio, pass out some flyers, and send them all scurrying home to beg their parents to sign them up for my piano lessons.
So, now it turned out, I would need to provide a 10 - 12 foot ice cream sundae. Are you starting to sweat thinking about it?
I was. The week of the actual party, I was super busy and didn't have time to go shopping for all of the ingredients for this giant sundae. Certainly, there was no time for price shopping -- looking around for the best deals in town on ice cream, bananas, and all of the toppings.
Therefore, it wasn't until the day of the party, that I scurried to my local grocery store. Rushing to the ice cream aisle and the toppings aisle, I skidded to a stop at I looked at the price of a single can of chocolate fudge. Um, I was going to need at least 10 cans.
Let me get right to the bottom line: my incentive program? $127.00
For ice cream!!!!!!!
(Side note: I did live in an expensive part of California, but still: $127.00. Gulp.)
That was like, almost 2 students' entire tuition for that month.
Now don't judge me here . . . I'm not an ogre -- I did actually like doing it for my students. We had fun. And, yes, I believe teachers should invest some money back into their businesses from time to time.
But dropping $127 for an incentive program? That was incredibly unwise.
You see, I didn't count the cost beforehand. I just looked at the idea. I was just thinking things like this will be fun!
The IDEA was awesome and it was fun, but the COST was outrageous. That was not a wise business practice for me in any way shape or form.
So, my question for you, dear Piano Teacher Friend, is this: how much are you really spending on special things you do for your studio?
Don't get me wrong: I'm not against incentive programs. I think they are great and just wrapped up one a few weeks ago in my own studio.
But, now I approach them very differently. When my creative brain hatches an idea, I don't just stop at "is it fun?" I move to "what will it actually cost me?"
And in the "what will it actually cost me?", we're not just talking about money. How about your time? I've seen incredibly creative incentive ideas that required the teacher to create a reward gift that takes loads of time to pull off.
A box of piano pencils, a roll of raffia, and some handmade labels are all affordable. But, do you track how long it actually takes you to make those labels and then tie them carefully, with just the right looking bow, on every single pencil? Um, like a million hours (or at least it will feel like it!).
So, my little pearl of wisdom here is to carefully weigh the cost of everything you pull in to your studio. Every great idea, every incentive program, every new piece of music, every little thing you do.
You might find, pleasantly, that it is worth it to you, to do the pencil, raffia, label thing. You enjoy that sort of thing and you'd rather spend time than money.
Or maybe a $127 ice cream sundae is worth it to you. You would rather go all out and pull off the big one. You'd rather spend money than your time.
Or maybe you're like me, and you are aiming for something in the middle. You don't mind spending a little bit of money on something for your studio, but you don't want to spend much, and you certainly don't want to spend a lot of time.
No matter where you land on this spectrum, dear Piano Teacher Friend, count the cost when that idea hatches. Count the cost before you invest in it. Count the cost before you announce it to your studio.
Trust me on this; you don't want to be surprised by $127 ice cream. Count the cost -- you will be so glad you did.