Chip Hartranft is the proud owner and founder of The Arlington Center, a yoga studio in Arlington, Massachusetts. Chip first opened the studio in 2002 and has been teaching yoga for over 40 years, with some of the other teachers of the center teaching since the 1980s. Offering yoga, meditation, movement, dance, and wellness for almost 20 years, Chip's studio like many others was forced to temporarily shut down in the spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the pandemic and lockdown created a significant change, prior to the pandemic Chip had already begun to rethink and develop just how he would improve and update the ways he ran and operated the studio. Here's the thing...for years Chip was a completely cash-only business, and he knew that if he wanted to grow his business, this would have to change. So when he shut the doors to the studio, he began searching for the solution to help him achieve his goals and get started. Chip has been a TeamUp customer since September 2020 and after five months with us, he is sharing what lead him to finally sign up for studio management software, and what tools helped him change his studio for the better. Here is the story of what Chip refers to as The Arlington Center's TeamUp Transformation.
Pre-COVID: a paper, cash-only business
Before COVID, our studio was a venerable institution that had offered yoga, meditation, movement, dance, and wellness practitioners for almost 20 years and featured some teachers and presenters who have been doing this work since the 1980s. In some ways, though, the center was behind the times even when it began in 2002. We were a cash business, accepting no credit cards, and featured an only moderately interactive website that already seemed dated back then.
We used paper sign-in sheets for each class and workshop, to be completed by the teacher and then transferred later to an enormous, complicated spreadsheet in order to keep track of attendance and calculate each teacher's share. If students wanted to pre-register for a workshop or training, they had to fill out a form and mail it to us with a check, or drop it off in our mailbox, unless the presenter had a website that accepted payments. I had been resisting debit or credit for years, so we only accepted cash or check. 20 years ago there was pressure to accept credit cards, and at times our customers even thought it was inconvenient, but I had no interest in it until the pandemic hit.
Start of the pandemic
When the pandemic hit last March we were one of the first studios to close our doors. I have a background in medicine and had an idea of how the virus might spread fast, so knew we would probably be closed for a while. We were completely unequipped to continue.
Over the next week or so I jury-rigged a makeshift system whereby students could sign up for a Zoom class via a PayPal donation, but it had a major flaw: when students got disconnected from Zoom - a frequent occurrence at first - they had to re-donate at least $1 to get back in unless they knew how to recover the encrypted URL PayPal had routed them to on their browser. Many of our students were hesitant to use PayPal, and we ran into issues.
Why we chose TeamUp
Before signing up with TeamUp in September 2020, I demoed a dozen different studio management software suites including the one so many US yoga studios use. It took months to go through all the demos. I chose TeamUp because as soon as I was in it because the moment I went in it felt so good and so natural. Everything in the dashboard and the tools and the way you can go through everything it's all really comprehensive and flexible.
What made TeamUp stand out to me was how well-designed it was. The interface was really user-friendly and delivered nicely on the very features I felt were most important. Here is a breakdown of each of those:
Calendar and customers:
A good, flexible layout with the right customizations and connection routes to any given class or teacher. The customer relationship management has the perfect array of information, features and routes for inquiry through the sign-up forms, waivers, and documents.
The reporting tools have just the items we need and are so easy to filter, e.g., customer, class, teacher, venue, date range, multi-pass. I really like how I can take the long view to see everything from the past months as well. The reports have helped me feel like I really know what is going on in my business and has completely removed the need for cumbersome spreadsheets.
Multi-class passes and membership plans:
The TeamUp platform was the easiest for us to use to convert our old class card system and its credits to live streaming class passes and memberships. Prior to using software, our customers would purchase paper cards that they could redeem for classes when they check-in. As things moved online they had nothing they could show so they were able to tell me how many they had left and I could now convert that to a class pack with the number of classes they had left.
Being able to transfer our unlimited cards to monthly memberships and then offer a little discount to encourage people to sign up for those was really great. We ended up being able to offer the memberships for less money than the paper cards were for.
They've worked great, except for that glitch when students used up all 10 credits on their 10 Class pass with 6 months expiration date. When they bought a new 10 Class pass, its start date was the first pass's expiration date. I've since eliminated expiry for our passes because they get used up so quickly.
COVID-19 tools and online classes:
Using the Zoom integration for online classes I am able to have a class from my living room and it makes us think about the future. We are going to be able to open our doors again later this year and when we do that we will continue to have many of our classes be hybrid classes where we teach in the studio and live-stream to those who aren't ready to come to class or live farther away. In our online classes now we have had people from New Jersey, North Carolina, California, Arkansas, Western Massachusetts, and these are people who I either know or people who lived in our community but moved away.
We had to do bulk edits and cancellations due to COVID and I was nervous about making changes, but it was so easy. Now people can just hop onto the live-stream and take classes from home if they feel they need to cancel.
Payments and finances:
TeamUp has also helped us to corral our financials, not just with its fair pricing and excellent invoice and activity reporting but also by freeing up our part-time office manager from the cumbersome old spreadsheet and sign-in sheet routine. The new platform has enabled me to make a long-expected change to our teacher reimbursement system, too. Since many of our students are now 'members', our old percentage pay basis no longer is workable, and I've been able to enact a fairer scale, using a base pay plus per capita formula that provides a bit more guaranteed teacher reimbursement for smaller groups and a bit less for larger ones. This has made it easier for our teachers to find subs when needed, resulting in somewhat better continuity, and generally made the distribution fairer to the center.
The main takeaways
TeamUp radically transformed my sense of how my business was doing. Even with my spreadsheets and the little bit of analysis I had before, I really didn't know precisely how things were going and I do now. It enabled me to create a new relationship with my teachers. I am a teacher who runs a yoga studio, not a business owner who runs a studio. I've appreciated the friendly, effective support the Arlington Center has received from TeamUp since the beginning. As far as the Center is concerned, we made the right choice.
Thank you for sharing with us Chip!