By: Christina Grill
It’s a busy weekday afternoon and the lunch hour hiatus is at an all time high. Ian Landers, Studio Manager of Power Pilates in New York City, agreed to set some time aside to be interviewed on his current role as Studio Manager - slash - daily peace keeper. After throwing back a quick sandwich and tending to multiple phone calls, Ian shares what it’s really like behind the scenes at a popular classical Pilates studio in Manhattan and what motivates him to drive the business and stand out among local competitors.
Pilates-Pro: How were you welcomed into your current position as Studio Manager?
Ian: I began working for the Power Pilates studio as a part of the “street team”. My main role was to hand out flyers for free classes as a studio advertiser and promoter. I did this for about 2 months until one day after I just came home from work I received a call from the current General Manager at that time. He asked if I’d like to work alongside him as the full-time Fitness Advisor/Sales Manager, and I jumped at the offer. While in this position for several months, I increased the studio revenue by an impressive amount. When my manager was then given another opportunity he had always dreamed of, he left the company and I was asked to take over as the new General Manager for Power Pilates.
Pilates-Pro: I’m sure you have many, but what are some of the main, daily responsibilities you must tend to? You know, the ones that if you forget, it can be detrimental to the business.
Ian: The most important thing initially is handling any client concerns or questions from the night before or that day. Along with daily deposits, I always have to make sure the scheduling for the day and week is on track.
Pilates-Pro: Everyone has their own way of managing and controlling a business and its team. Describe your management talents – are you more authoritative or receptive when making decisions?
Ian: I am very receptive when managing my staff, and I believe that the willingness to accept opinions and feedback is essential to a successful business. I demonstrate authority when necessary, but overall I am very open with my team and I always say that constant communication is key. It helps me better understand the needs of my team as well as my clients and allows me to identify what expectations I am obligated to meet.
Pilates-Pro: How many teachers are you currently managing?
Ian:I currently manage 30 teachers at this studio.
Pilates-Pro: What is your hiring process like, and what do you look for when increasing your studio staff?
Ian: I will either interview the candidate myself, or occasionally ask a senior trainer to sit in on the interview, that way we can both get a view on the potential new hire. Some of the most important qualities I look for when hiring is someone who exudes energy and is enthusiastic and passionate. I also think it is important for someone to have good eye contact throughout the interview, and I take note of their body language. You can tell a great candidate not only by the questions they answer, but how they present themselves.
Pilates-Pro: When working around a close group of people all day, every day, people become very close friends. Can you share some thoughts on how you balance your professional and personal life while managing?
Ian: I am naturally a friendly person and I get along with everyone, so maintaining my role as an authority figure as well as friend can be tough. Overall, I just always remember to be kind to everyone and know that it is okay to have fun as long as I always maintain that level of professionalism with my staff.
Pilates-Pro: You have a variety of instructors here, some who are new to teaching while others are veterans at their particular modality. What’s the difference between managing an experienced teacher versus a new teacher, and their level of willingness to accept criticism?
Ian: The first thing I think of that stands out is the willingness level to accept criticism really varies. Experienced trainers are sometimes less flexible. I respect their input and knowledge of their training; however, at the same time I must stay true to studio policy when enforcing certain rules and regulations. For newer trainers, I always remind them that I have an open door policy and am sensitive to their needs. From the initial hire, I like to build trust and increase their comfort level so they can perform at their best. With all of my trainers, no matter the issue or concern I am never hostile, nor do I ever show aggression. It’s important to be humble and actively listen and be open to their concerns. Ultimately, I want my trainers to be happy and enjoy coming to work, as their emotion and attitude is a direct reflection of the studio.
Pilates-Pro: Let’s face it – you can’t be at work 24-7, so what are your techniques for managing your staff when you’re not at the studio?
Ian: Again, I have to say communication is the most important factor. When I’m not present, my staff knows that I can be reached anytime. I always tell them to please call or text me anytime an issue or challenging question may arise. Another important technique I stress is teamwork. While my staff knows they can always contact me, I encourage them to work together to figure out a solution before consulting me. Sometimes this is more effective and faster than waiting for me to answer, and I trust their judgment.
Pilates-Pro: One thing I know with dealing with the public is you never know who you’re going to meet or what is going to happen, good or bad. Tell me your best advice for resolving an issue with an unhappy or difficult client?
Ian: Personally, I kill ‘em with kindness! If someone is unhappy, I try to dilute their frustration and just listen to what they have to say, and make the best fair judgment I can based on the situation. I always try to accommodate clients so ultimately they leave the studio happy and satisfied with their service. The goal is to keep them coming back, and more often people remember one bad experience than a hundred great ones.
Pilates-Pro: Maintaining a strong presence among competitors can be challenging, especially being located in the heart of Manhattan. How do you compete with large gyms?
Ian: Many gyms offer similar classes as our studio, so finding our edge can be challenging; however, the answer is obvious - find your niche and go with it. For my studio, we all have a certain closeness that is often lost with large gyms that have a constant flow of people. Our clients form close bonds with our instructors and respect their opinions and trust in their training. Even in a class with 15 people, you still stand out. Our instructors are very personable and have close-knit relationships with their clients. Whether someone is struggling with their weight, or just wants to maintain a healthy physique, everyone feels comfortable in the atmosphere of our studio. Along with the cleanliness of our studio and personality of our instructors, how our clients feel after a workout is what matters most to me and to my team.
Pilates-Pro: Have you taken the classes offered at your studio? If so, do you feel like you have benefitted from these?
Ian: I enjoy the private sessions. I have herniated discs in my back and I have tried everything to relieve the pain and pressure – I’ve tried acupuncture, massage therapy and epidurals to name a few. So far, the only proven results I’ve had to alleviate tension and stress of the discs is these private sessions. I recommend them to anyone. Not only will you instantly feel stronger and rejuvenated, with repeat sessions you will experience long lasting results.
Pilates-Pro: Bringing in new clients and retaining current ones is essential to a healthy, thriving business. What is the most effective marketing tool to increase studio traffic?
Ian: What works best is the promotions we offer throughout the year. We have unlimited monthly and yearly memberships at competitive rates. New clients benefit from this as well as repeat clients. Also, we stay on trend with the type of workouts we introduce to our studio. For example, when small group training became popular, we quickly incorporated it into our schedule. It is doing really well for us, people seem to love the individual instruction and attention they receive.
Pilates-Pro: What can be really challenging about your position?
Ian: Sometimes things can happen and a trainer needs to call out due to an illness or personal matter. I will then need to rush to find coverage for their class. When I first become aware that a teacher has called out, I usually send out an email blast to all of the studio instructors to see if they can cover. If it’s a smaller group or a private, I usually ask the client if they are willing to work with a different trainer that day, or I’ll ask one of the apprentices to fill in. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I have to be prepared to fix it and move forward!
Pilates-Pro: What is the most rewarding aspect about managing a studio?
Ian: For me, the most rewarding thing has to be getting to know the clients that visit the studio and witnessing their progress. We have a variety of clientele and each person has a different fitness level from the next. On many occasions I have watched people overcome insecurities and now they have more pride in how they look and feel. Whether it is a student in a teacher training program, or a client, their increase in confidence and self assurance is the first thing I notice. It’s great to know that their connection with our studio made that possible and brought that side of them to life.
Pilates-Pro: If you had to leave someone with one last piece of advice for effectively managing a studio, what would it be?
Ian: Always be open-minded and willing to change depending on the factors that are affecting your business. Change will move you, even if you’re not ready to accept it, so be prepared and have a plan. Above all however, honestly the best advice I can share is to communicate with your team and the people around you. Be aware of what’s going on and tailor the business to the feedback you’re given and apply your own management skills to support these changes. Without communication, you have nothing. Just start talking and get to know everything and everyone in order to become the expert – you owe it to yourself and to the business.
|Stemming from a sales background, Ian began his sales and marketing career in the Pharmaceutical industry. When he realized he was more concerned with promoting health and wellness to his clients, Ian came on board with Power Pilates. Not only does he promote the world of Pilates to his clients, he is also a client!|