If you want to manage or own a thriving yoga studio, it’s essential to build a strong team of teachers–and keep them motivated to perform at a high level over time. Yet, these leadership skills are not frequently taught in the yoga industry. That’s why I’m giving you a peek inside of Truckee Yoga Collective this week! Owner Meghan Ruiz reveals powerful ways to support your staff and create greater satisfaction, loyalty, and teaching quality as a result.
I first encountered Truckee Yoga Collective (TYC) on a weekend getaway at Lake Tahoe, CA. Immediately, I was impressed with the abundant parking, clear signage out front, and welcoming vibe that the studio offered. The class itself was also well-structured, and the teacher–passionate.
And because this incredible studio is only 2 hours away, I decided to make another trip South for a birthday celebration. It was on this second occasion that I met Meghan. She’s straightforward, sparky, and thoughtful–not just in how she prepares and teaches her classes, but in how she runs every aspect of her business.
It’s with great pleasure that I get to introduce her to you today, and share some of her great wisdom as a yoga business owner.
Photo Credit: Ryan Hirschberg Photography
MEET MEGHAN RUIZ
If you visit the Truckee Yoga Collective website (which is beautiful, by the way), you’ll see a very modest description of Meghan. Yes, she highly values the principles of alignment and safety. And she has a depth of knowledge based on her numerous years as a practitioner and 10-plus years as a teacher.
What you might find interesting is that Meghan discovered yoga during a 6-week summer intensive during her college years. She was hooked instantly. Since Megahan had been a gymnast between the ages of 7-14, she could do yoga well. Her body remembered the movements, and it felt very comfortable. And since the class met four days per week, it opened her eyes to how special and transformative a consistent yoga practice could be.
And not just on the physical level. As you know, yoga feeds the body, mind, and spirit. What she loved then–and still does to this day–is that yoga acknowledges our divinity. It’s a philosophy that sees us as complete and simply serves to brush off any dust that has covered our spiritual magnificence along the way.
A leader from the Start
While Meghan dabbled with yoga in college, she became a dedicated practitioner by 2007. In fact, after the birth of her second son, Sage, she was a regular at the local 24-Hr Fitness. Her teacher there led the same sequence week after week, and soon Meghan found herself thinking, “I could totally do this myself (and probably even better!)”
So, she reached out to her friend that also worked at that same location and requested a teaching position herself. It didn’t take long before Meghan wanted to complete a 200-hr training program of her own–not just from the liability standpoint to keep her students safe, but from deep drive to act from integrity.
That Hatha Yoga certification back in 2009 was just the beginning, though. For the past decade, she’s taught multiple classes a week. And when her two colleagues shared their desire to open a studio of their own in 2017, Meghan was fully on board for the ride!
TYC: ESTABLISHED 2017
The idea to start a studio hatched on June 22, 2017, and the doors to the Truckee Yoga Collective opened on Oct 1st that same year!
“There were definitely moments where I felt things were moving too fast–and I instinctively wanted to pump the brakes. Yet the Universe was giving clear messages that the door was wide open for us, and I knew that the time was now.”
Each of the three original partners met regularly, and delegated tasks to be completed. Elle was instrumental in handling many logistical elements, like building a website. Hawley has a background in Human Resources (HR) and organized the employee handbook, hiring process, and payroll. Meghan, being an English Literature major, loves writing. This made it easy for her to create magnetic content for the website and other marketing materials.
Then, just days before TYC opened, Elle announced she was pregnant. This turn of events caused her to back out of her share of ownership in the business. Yet, this level of clear intention and forthright communication only strengthened the bond within TYC. And, it created an amazing foundation from which the studio still operates to this day.
Ways to Support your Staff
The strong partnership between Meghan and Hawley is one huge reason the studio is successful and thriving two years later. Another is that both owners have worked at other studios in the past and learned from the good and bad of such experiences. Here are some of the incredible ways you can learn from them to support your staff, too!
(1) HONOR YOUR AGREEMENT
Truckee Yoga Collective is an S-Corp and each of their teachers is an employee. Once hired, teachers and staff are given an employee handbook. This clarifies expectations for all roles in the studio. This is different than a yoga contract you would sign as an independent contractor. Yet, no matter what type of business you operate, you want to honor the agreement made with your staff.
For example, I’ve known teachers who were required to come in 30-minutes before class to sign-in students and tidy up the space. Sometimes, they are expected to stay an additional 30 minutes after class to clean the floors and bathrooms. While this work is necessary to keep a yoga business running efficiently, it might not be part of the negotiated work agreement.
The bottom line is that one of the best ways to support your staff is to have a clear contract in place from the beginning, and honor that contract to the best of your ability. When you couple those actions with appreciation, you’ll foster high morale and intrinsic motivation across your entire team.
(2) APPRECIATE YOUR TEACHERS
When you support your staff via appreciation, you build a bond of trust between you. Appreciation is where you recognize the good qualities in others. You see their worth and acknowledge their value–not just to your yoga business, but to your life and the world as a whole.
I actually worked for an owner who had a very sick husband and spent much of her time away from the studio to care for him. This left me and the other teaching staff to hold down the fort. When the owner would return, we often didn’t receive a “thank you” for our work. Instead, the owner only complained about minor problems in the studio, such as dust found on the baseboards.
It’s because of experiences like these that I realize important it is to appreciate your staff. Meghan understands this, too! Just as you want to appreciate your clients for your business growth, you want to thank your staff, too! Acknowledge the contribution each team member brings to your studio. Tell them how much they mean to you. And verbally compliment them on a job-well-done! This praise goes a long way to increase team morale!
Other ways to Appreciate your Teachers:
- Host a company-paid teacher gathering
- Send a thank-you card (especially at unexpected times of the year)
- Keep an open line of communication with your teachers for feedback and input.
Photo Credit: Whitby B Photography
(3) SIMPLIFY THE SUBSTITUTION PROCESS
Life is full for everyone these days, including yoga teachers. Thus, you can support your staff as TYC does by simplifying the process of getting a sub. Here’s how they operate:
- Teachers notify an owner if a substitute is needed
- TYC owners find a sub
- TYC owners reach out to the staff if multiple sub requests occur
Meghan and Hawley want to lighten the load of their teachers. That’s why Steps 1 and 2 are in place. This not only gives them more control over the schedule, but they can maintain a clear line of communication with their staff.
This is especially important when Step 3 comes into play. Meghan explains more;
“Recently, we had a teacher whose husband incurred a bad snowboarding accident at the very same time she landed a full-time job offer. We knew she wanted to keep teaching, but we also understood she just didn’t have the bandwidth in her life to do so. To offer this teacher support, we took the class off of her shoulders. And instead of punishing her for leaving (by giving her time slots away to another eager teacher), us owners stepped in to cover. This gave her the security to take care of the immediate elements of her life without stress or fear.”
A Side-Note about Subs
If you take the route of holding a class temporarily for a teacher, I highly recommend you give this trial period a timeline. Maybe you hold the class for one month or even a quarter. Then, you can meet with that teacher again and decide what the best step forward for all involved will be.
(4) ALLOW TEACHERS TO SPECIALIZE
It’s true that running a yoga business involves managing many moving parts. In order to operate efficiently, Meghan says,
“We want to lighten the load for our teachers. We want them to be able to be present and shine in their role as a teacher.”
To do this, TYC has simple logistics in place. This includes:
- Front desk support. This way teachers are not scrambling with last-minute registrations or Mind-Body technicalities. Teachers can then use their energy instead to have real conversations with their students before class. This further builds a bond of trust in the TYC community
- Designated Cleaning Staff. Teachers at TYC are required to put away props and leave the studio neat prior to the next class. Then, another team is responsible to clean the studio. The roles are clear and separate.
- Additional Marketing Support. Marketing is essentially the act of making change happen. In the case of your yoga studio, you might want to increase class sizes and student retention. You also want to support your teaching staff. So, when you create marketing material that highlights them, you add momentum to the good work they’re doing both inside and outside of your yoga space.
Photo Credit: Whitby B Photography
(5) INCENTIVIZE CONTINUING EDUCATION
Meghan and I totally agree that ongoing professional growth is important for yoga teachers. And we both understand that a continuing education plan looks different for each person. To support their teachers, TYC incentivizes such learning
How do they do this?
First, the owners set an example themselves. Meghan is currently enrolled in a 500-hour training program, and Hawley, too, remains a student under teachers like Noah Maze.
Second, TYC will financially support teachers to take other programs. Sometimes they will pay half workshop cost. Or, TYC will front the entire cost and allow teachers to work off the balance.
“For example, right now one of our teachers is enrolled in a yoga program for children. We help our teacher by paying for her education, and the studio wins because we will add more value to our community with a kid’s yoga program.”
In what other ways might you support the ongoing learning for teachers and staff at your yoga business?
OTHER GREAT IDEAS TO SUPPORT YOUR STAFF
In addition to the top 5 ways to support your staff above, TYC incorporates the following into their business model:
- Teachers receive a free membership to the studio and are encouraged to practice often
Significant others of each staff member also receive a free membership… because, you know, people who spend time on their mat build many skills for positive relationships.
- Negotiate pay increases. TYC evaluates the rate of each teacher twice per year. Teachers who are dedicated, engaged, and making an effort to promote their classes are eligible for a raise.
- Rent studio space to your teachers at a reasonable rate. A steady private client base can increase revenue for many teachers. To support their individual growth, you can rent your studio space to them at a discounted, or reasonable, rate. Teachers win because their pay increases and owners win because their studio gets more exposure.
- Name the classes at your studio to embrace the diversity of your teachers. For Truckee Yoga Collective, this looks like TYC Method, TYC Slow, and TYC Fusion.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
It takes time and practice to build leadership skills. Thanks to her decade of teaching and multiple years as a studio owner, Meghan has refined her craft as an influential guide at Truckee Yoga Collective. And the many ways she uplifts her teachers on a daily basis can also be used by you to support your staff. The choice to lead well is up to you!
Take Action Now:
- Make a list of the ways in which you lead others around you right now (whether in the yoga industry or any other realm).
- Take note of ways you are leading your team well (clear communication, honesty, collaboration, appreciation, service to others, and ongoing growth). Then List 5-10 ways in which you could make improvements, starting now! Then tell someone about your ideas and observe just how easy it might be to put them into action!
- Tell us how you support your staff! Leave a comment in the section below, and let us all benefit from the wisdom of your leadership!