Monday, May 21, 2018

Signing Non Competes, Competition, and Ethical Practices as a Yoga Teacher.

I am weary of this conversation and it's a constant topic of discussion in the yoga world. I keep hearing that some yoga teachers think that the studios are living in fear of competition and yoga studio owners (who were once teachers out there working often in many locations) are worried about their sub contractors teaching for the competition as they struggle to keep the doors open.

What if everyone started putting themselves in the shoes of the other person? How about the Golden Rule?

We have to get back to thinking about others. Even when it's not easy.

This is my current response to a FB group called  "Yoga Teachers" I am in.
Honestly this kind of negativity I am responding to in this post is one reason I am backing out of the public yoga world to some degree.

Full Disclosure: I owned a studio for 2 years (after many years of working as a teacher and yoga director) , closed it when my building was sold and decided not to move. I traveled and taught for a few years and came back to teach in a shared space I rented to offer classes where I made as much money teaching as when I had my studio without the headaches. I have no stake in my opinions as I now work in the corporate world as a contracted yoga therapist, I'm in charge of me and I like it. I still own a very successful school that has been in business for ten years and has trained over 205 teachers to date. I will retire from school ownership in 2019 by choice to focus on my work as a yoga therapist, writer and presenter. 

Courtney Robinson So I've been in the business nearly 20 years and I've been on all sides of this. I've been the teacher, I've been the administrator, and I've been the studio owner. Legally if you're an independent contractor then they do not have the right to tell you where you can and cannot teach. However, when I was working for the health clubs and a large nonprofit and hiring and firing people as employees, general practice that is not spoken about is to not hire people who work for competing businesses. This is in the corporate world where they aren't really concerned with your feelings, they see business as business.  We were instructed in both places where I was the administrator do not hire yoga teachers that work for the competing business unless we were desperate. When I opened my own studio I had been training teachers for some time so 90% of the teachers in town had been trained by me, and I had actually hired them in the nonprofit and the gym where I had worked. I simply asked them if they came to work for me to please not offer a competing class at the same time. I also talked to them about the circumstances in which I would be okay with, I had a right as a studio owner to run the studio as I felt was best practice for the business.  I requested that they make working for me a priority over taking jobs elsewhere if they decided to take the job. For example if they were already teaching at the local gym on Wednesday morning fine, but if they were looking for another class I requested that they ask me first and give me a chance to offer them something (at the same or better pay) before they go out and offer something down the street. Because I had been in charge at the other places I knew what they were paying and I offered competitive pay with benefits. As a Studio owner it is very difficult to keep the business afloat if the teachers that work for you are teaching for your competitor. There are often jobs in the studio where you're working if you get creative. You can do admin jobs for the studio or you could offer intensives or workshops or work privately with the clients. You simply would pay a percentage to the studio. This is how I became a "yoga director, then a fitness director" where I taught classes. *I have had teachers go out and open competing businesses with mine while working with me or within a short time of leaving and I've heard back that they had no idea how hard it was going to be. One told another teacher if she had to do it again she wouldn't. So think about both parties before you rush to decisions. What a lot of yoga teachers who don't own businesses don't understand is that the yoga studio is paying for marketing to get people into your classes, as well as insurance on the building which is huge (mine was $1250 for a year in a midsize town in  Arkansas), not to mention overhead that you're not seeing like bookkeeping, accounting, rent, toilet paper and supplies, the cost are endless. I am fanatical with numbers and tracked every dollar that came into our studio for two years and I can tell you that 73% on average that comes into a studio for a class goes to cover expenses. I was often paying double to my teachers over what I was taking out to pay myself. After paying all of the expenses and my teachers I was lucky to make $600 a month. My teachers on average where taking home more for classes than I was. I had low overhead with a family-owned building that I had no rent on. I also had built a clientele as I was one of the first teachers in my community. I write about this extensively in my book in the business section. You can find extensive information out there in my book and for free by putting Courtney Butler Robinson yoga in a Google search bar.
I think it's high time we all consider each other's position what the other party is going through. A lot of yoga teachers decide to open a studio and figure out the hard way how incredibly hard it is to compete when you're dealing with a lot of subcontractors. Yoga teachers often don't understand until they get out there and open a brick-and-mortar. It can be done ethically but it takes both parties considering the other person. 
Have conversations with each other. Talk it out. Think of all sides of the equation. 
One last example,  for years I worked in a gym, and I worked at a studio that I helped open, as well as working at a local college for 10 years for the health science division as their yoga teacher. The gym and the studio often shared students. I would not teach a class at the gym or vise versa that was in direct competition with the studio time. This may sound unrealistic but I felt that it was ethical. For instance if the gym had a 10 a.m. Monday morning class I would not teach at 10 a.m. class at the studio. I know this sounds crazy to some people but I always considered if that would cause the owners of both places a hardship if students had to choose between the two. I had a large following and I knew that it impacted both places.

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