Keeping a Mature Brand Relevant

Regarding owning a business, you can start one, buy into a business, leverage relationships and/or form a partnership.

Franchising is another option.  There are many types of franchise opportunities available across many industries.  We mostly think of restaurants and other retails outlets–but, not necessarily ballroom dancing for franchise opportunities.  When one thinks of ballroom dancing, I’m sure there are many things which come to mind, including classic movies, recent network TV shows and Oscar-nominated movies which have all fueled its recent growth.

But besides entertainment, it’s another form of social interaction and exercise to many.Evan Mountain and his wife, Lada Reschikova Mountain, a Russian native who learned ballroom dancing as a teenager, opened their FredAstaire Dance Studio (FADS), in Bloomfield Hills, in 2005.

FADS is a franchise of 170 ballroom dance studios around the world and currently, their Bloomfield Hills location is ranked #1 among all franchisees worldwide.  The iconic brand is flourishing which raises an interesting question regarding a more mature brand, “How does Mountain keep it fresh?”.  In his eleventh year as the owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studio Bloomfield, Mountain has learned training and having an excellent team of employees is a key to achieving and exceeding business goals.

I recently talked to Mountain about remaining relevant and fresh, benefits of being a franchisee and becoming the number FADS franchisee in the world.

Lee:  Fred Astaire Dance Studio (FADS) has been around for several years.  How has it remained relevant through changing times?

Mountain:  FADS has been around for 70 years and was started by Mr. Astaire in New York. Over the years dancing has gone through many cycles of popularity. For the last 15 years ballroom and social dancing has been growing. The popularity of several dance television shows and movies (Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, Dirty Dancing, Shall We Dance, La La Land) has contributed to this growth. I believe its appeal is based on dancing being safe, fun, physical and a social activity that can be easily learned if taught correctly.

Lee:  Why did you decide to become a franchisee and what are the benefits?

Mountain:  I’ve always owned my own businesses and have learned that with knowledge and good guidance, you will have an easier road to success in business. My wife and I both love dancing yet had no desire to open up an independent dance studio. When I learned that the knowledge and resources for business success were available through a well-established franchise, Fred Astaire, I changed my mind. Fred Astaire is a very recognizable and iconic brand. I felt it would have great appeal to the public and knew I would have the support needed to be successful.

Lee:  With an established and more mature brand, how have you been able to keep your brand fresh locally?

Mountain:  It is interesting that some millennials don’t know who Mr. Astaire was and his influence on dance and the entertainment industry. When they see any of my instructors, who are also millennials, perform and dance, they realize the energy, excitement, and talent associated with the Fred Astaire brand.

Lee:  You recently have become the #1 Fred Astaire franchisee in the country.  What have been the keys to your growth and success? 

Mountain:  Strategic staff selection and training have been keys to the studio’s growth and success. I strongly believe in training and teamwork for my dance instructors. We have dance training and business training every day. I also hold team building activities and exercises. Each of my instructors go through personality assessments, so they understand themselves and their work colleagues better. It’s important to me that my dance instructors are not only great dancers, more importantly great teachers and provide excellent customer service. This only happens with regular training. I have weekly quarterly and yearly goals for each one of my instructors. Everyone knows it and they are rewarded if they work together to achieve those goals.

Lee:  You also take care of your employees.  What are some of the things you do for your team?

Mountain:  I believe in rewarding my employees monetarily and with other outside activities. I hold business retreats for all my employees twice a year. Last summer I took everyone to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a long weekend of team building along Lake Superior’s Pictured Rocks National Forest. This winter we just returned from a long, fun weekend to Universal Studios in Orlando as a reward for such a successful 2016.

Lee:  Have you noticed an increase in ballroom dancing over the last couple of years?  What’s fueling this growth?

Mountain:  Ballroom dancing and social dancing has increased over the last few years. We grew by 52% during 2016. I believe that growth is fueled by people looking for a safe, fun, physical and social activity to do together. Also, with the increased use of social media, I believe people are losing out on making true connections with each other. Ballroom and social dancing allows individuals to work together, communicate and connect in a safe way. Ballroom dancing offers three great health benefits: physical, mental, social. First the physical benefits of a low impact cardio exercise that helps with balance and flexibility. Second, the mental benefit. When dancing, you focus on what you’re doing in the present and forget about all other distractions you may have in life. So many students say they came in for the dance lesson worried and stressed and afterwards had let it all go. There’s also many studies that have shown that ballroom and social dancing is the best way for individuals to keep their mind active and prevent the onset of dementia. Finally, the social benefits are unmatched. Ballroom dancing is a partner activity, so you can’t help but connect with someone. One person is leading, the other person is following, you’re working together.

Lee:  What advice would you give to those considering franchise opportunities?

Mountain:  With many retail or service businesses, franchising is the best way to succeed. The franchise needs to have knowledge and provide  support to the franchisee. In my industry, many dancers want to become dance studio owners. They may have been great dancers or great dance instructors, but they didn’t have the knowledge or skill set to be successful business owners. That’s where a good franchise can help studio owners learn and succeed without the inevitable trial and error that business owners experience. A good franchise allows for networking opportunities throughout its system and for continued support and help with the multitude of issues that may arise for any small business owner.

Other thoughts?

Be sure that the franchise you choose to work with is well-established and supportive to its franchisees. Like any investment, do your research and homework before you invest.