Transcript 109 – Chris Mallet and Robert Miller on Conservatory Ownership to Practice App Founders

Transcript: 109 – Chris Mallet and Robert Miller on Conservatory Ownership to Practice App Founders

Transcript for 109 – Chris Mallet and Robert Miller on Conservatory Ownership to Practice App Founders


[00:00:00] Andrea: Hey, it’s Andrea with Music Studio Startup. The podcast about the business of teaching music. Learn from the startup stories of music teachers who are doing incredible things with their studios. Be inspired by creating musicians who are branching out and thriving as entrepreneurs. Be empowered by the insights of experts who will help you grow your own studio.


Let’s get started.


Today I’m joined by two guests who have started two businesses together, a thriving multi-location conservatory and a practice app to motivate and inspire students. You’ll get to hear how Chris and Robert manage both businesses and what they’ve learned along the way. Here’s my conversation with Chris and Robert.


Hi Chris and Robert. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here today. Can you each introduce yourselves and tell us about what you do?


[00:01:03] Chris Mallet: Sure, yeah. My name is Chris Mallet, a classical guitarist, and with Robert, we run a music school called the California Conservatory Music, which is in the San Francisco Bay area.


We have a couple of locations out here. and a few years ago we started a practice app called Practice Space, which I’m sure we’ll talk a lot about later.


[00:01:23] Andrea: Excellent. And Robert?


[00:01:25] Robert Miller: Yeah. Nice to be here. Like Chris mentioned, we own a music school in the Bay Area called the California Conservatory Music and Practice Space.


I’m also a classical guitarist and yeah, it’s great to be here.


[00:01:40] Andrea: Yeah, it’s fun having classical guitarists as that being your primary background. Cause I talked to a lot of piano teachers who become multi teacher studio owners and it’s just interesting the different perspectives that different instrumentalists bring to how they approach that. So this’ll be fun to talk about and you’ve got such varied entrepreneurial experiences. Can you take us back and just start at the beginning? How did you two start working together? Cause you’ve done a lot of different things. How did you get started?


[00:02:05] Robert Miller: Chris and I met at a music school that we were both teaching at in the Bay area called the Longue Conservatory of Guitar. We both were just teachers there and we started to play in a duo together. We were both into similar types of music, and that’s where we met. Yeah.


[00:02:24] Andrea: And then how did your teaching at that studio branch into becoming business partners?


[00:02:31] Chris Mallet: So, as Robert mentioned, we were both teachers there. It was a unique program, the Longue Conservatory of Guitar because Frank Longue was one of the developers of the Suzuki method for the guitar with a couple of other people, and they had committees and all of that stuff, but he kind of spearheaded it so, it was kind of a unique experience where we would be teaching and he would observe our teaching. We’d have to observe his teaching, we’d have to write observation reports. So it was very hands on, learning a lot really quickly about teaching young kids. So we taught there for about over a year. Robert was there a little bit longer, so it was going great.


And then one day, you know, we said goodbye to Frank on a Friday night, and it was a week and then we never saw him again. It was very unexpected. He passed away the next week from a lung embolism. And he had been running this school for, I don’t know, 30 years. It wasn’t huge. It was him teaching and me, Robert, and one other teacher.


But when he passed away, it was just kind of up in the air. No one, the students didn’t know what to do. The teachers, you know, we were like, oh my gosh, this is crazy. Just mourning. But then the students all came together, and we’re like, you know, Frank would have wanted you all to continue this school. You know, this is, music was important.


Learning guitar was really important. So then with the support of the parents, we started our own business called the California Conservatory of Guitar. At that time, that was the California Conservatory Music, because we offer several different instruments. But yeah, we moved down the street, you know, formed a corporation and built out a studio space.


Started off with me and Robert as the co-owners, and we had one other teacher working with us at that time, and now we’re at, you know, 37 I think teachers and about 900 students. So it’s grown quite a bit. .


[00:04:22] Andrea: Wow. And I was not familiar with Frank Longue before we talked, but in my preparation for this interview I was reading online about just the legacy of like guitar pedagogy that he left and sounds like an incredible person and sounds like he built a really cool community. Not just for the students, but also mentoring the teachers and things like that. So neat that that was able to continue.


[00:04:46] Chris Mallet: Yeah, he was really into the community aspect of it, and that’s kind of what we wanted to do with our school. But it, you know, obviously it’s at a bigger scale now, but we still really think it’s important to have it feel like a community. Not just a place where students come in, do their lesson leave, you know, it’s just, it’s running for the student. It’s a place where students can come. They learn from teachers. We have group classes and then with the practice space app, you know, we have the leader board, so everyone kind of feels included. And it’s more than just a place where people take lessons.


[00:05:15] Andrea: So talk about from when you first took over the studio and kind of started making it your own, what are some of the changes you made along the way?


[00:05:24] Robert Miller: Yeah, I, I think when we took it over, it was very much the same in a lot of ways. but we quickly realized that just some things, you know, that Frank did at his school just weren’t exactly perfect for us. And I think the really amazing things about Frank was just his, his dedication to pedagogy, and he was unwavering with a lot of things that were beneficial to the student.


And I think that we really wanted to keep a lot of those things in place and just change them in ways that made it more accessible to people. A really good example for me is the parent education that was required at first at DeLonge Conservatory for you to enter the school for a child. They actually even start to take guitar lessons at the school if they were under a certain age. I think the age was maybe 10 or something like that. I could be wrong, but it was around that. , the parent would have to do a 12 week parent education class with Frank in a group. This just really made sure the parents were on the same page as the teacher and the way that the student was going to go through the process of learning lessons.


It weeded out people that maybe weren’t going to take music education serious, but I think it also weeded out a lot of people that are just busy and maybe don’t have the bandwidth for that kind of upfront dedication. So at first, the way we changed it is that we did it for six weeks. You know, that was still successful, but over time what we found kind of is a good balance of seriousness and making sure that parents are prepped.


And this is really just for the Suzuki side of things, is the parent takes the first three sessions with the teacher one-on-one before the kid starts. I think at this point we have a lot of people that are coming in and they’re, they’re not doing that necessarily because we’re not just a Suzuki guitar school at this point.


Right. But I, I do think that that kind of idea of having the parents involved in the lesson when it’s a good fit for the teacher and the student is really key. That’s something that we’ve kept, but we’ve kind of just dimmed it down. I mean, more obvious things that we change is just going outside of just guitar, right?


And after a certain amount of people ask you, Hey, do you guys do piano too? You got to start to look around and ask yourself, why don’t you.


[00:07:53] Chris Mallet: Yeah. I think one other big change that we really made at the school was when we took over after, uh, Frank passed away, we kept doing like a semester system. So we had like a spring semester, a summer, and in the fall then we started experimenting. And then in the summer, you know, students can take as many lessons as they wanted, as long as they take six, you know? So then people would end up taking the minimum. We would lose a lot of money in the summers. Wasn’t very good for the teachers, obviously.


It wasn’t good for us. So then the next kind of step we took was to just charge monthly. But then in the summer, students can do nine lessons, minimum. And then a couple years before Covid hit, we decided just to do year round lessons, month to month. And honestly, I think it’s been a lot better for us, for the teachers, and students don’t look at it as something like, oh, it’s the summer. Now I can take a break. You know, obviously some students are going to still travel and they’re going to take a break. But I think a lot of families now just see it as like this thing that just goes year round and they’re going to stick through in the summer, not take off the summer semester.


So that was one change I think that was really beneficial to the school and also to the teachers as well.


[00:09:07] Andrea: So your students have been through a lot too. From back when you first started the studio, all mourning the loss of Frank and just changes of ownership and all of those things, plus other changes you made along the way. How have you navigated that in your communication with the students?


[00:09:25] Robert Miller: That’s a good question. I think given a lot of the students that are with us today, didn’t experience the transition from Frank’s school to ours. There’s some, there’s definitely still some, but it’s, it’s less and less just cuz that was about 12 years ago.


Uh, anyway, you know, I think it’s really just to be like really clear and concise with your communications and not make a big deal out of things. Whether it’s like you’re raising your rates or we’re changing from this system to that system. Just to be really clear, don’t feel the need to over explain. Just try to find a positive side. Like why does it benefit them? You know, like we just raised our rates and we sent a letter to everybody, and mostly it’s around being able to have really good teachers at the school, and that requires rate raises sometimes. Changing from a semester system to a monthly system. I mean, I think most people preferred that because it’s less money upfront that they have to pay. Staying year round, while it’s beneficial, we just kind of upfront that like, you know, it’s beneficial to the students to continue. You know, music is like a language. It’s something that you have to constantly be around to excel at.


It really helps the teachers kind of have a consistent income, and obviously from the business point of view, like our landlords don’t stop collecting rent because it’s July. But I, you know, don’t, don’t, you don’t need to explain that to your clients. So I, I think, yeah, like in general, my advice to people is just to be clear and concise and don’t overexplain.


[00:11:06] Chris Mallet: Yeah. And always include the benefits and, and be excited about the changes. You know, because I think in our case with our customers at the school, you know, they’re pretty excited to see, you know, us from, you know, the ones who have been here since, you know, there are only five guitar teachers to now having almost 40 teachers of all these different instruments and moving into a new location, like a bigger space, you know, having a ribbon cutting ceremony. We’re getting a bigger space in Redwood Cities, so the clients up there are excited. So, you know, just making people really excited and making them feel like they’re a part of this whole change. You know, it’s almost like a big family. Going back to that community aspect.


[00:11:42] Andrea: Can you talk about how, I’m sure there have been lots of conversations between the two of you about like, how have you come to a shared vision for the school as you’ve built it.


[00:11:52] Robert Miller: I do think the way that this was formed was super helpful. To have that, just as far as like seeing what Frank had and then seeing also the community that he had at the school was super informative and inspiring. I think that Chris and I are both performers in practicing musicians, and we really value performance. So that affects things from us wanting kids to do recitals.


We do recitals a couple times a year. We try to find outreach performances for the students to engage with the community, and I think it also affects the way we hire. You know, I, I don’t think that you need to be a great performing musician to be a good teacher of kids, but I don’t think it hurts. I think that just having that kind of shared approach to music and how we want to live our lives in music has helped a lot.


I don’t know if Chris has different thoughts.


[00:12:59] Chris Mallet: Yeah, I mean, it’s along the lines of what Robert said. I think it goes with why we called ourselves the California Conservatory of Music and not like the California Music Lessons Academy or something, is that we were really wanted to create this kind of conservatory atmosphere that was accessible to anybody. Like you don’t have to audition to get in. Young kids could be a part of it. But we do things like we have a concert series. We have guest artists from around the world come in to give master classes, you know. And kids are only going to get that kind of experience at a pre-college, you know? So that’s kind of, I think our shared vision, that’s where the performing kind of aspect comes in as well.


And it’s really been beneficial to the students. You know, we have incredibly high level guitar students winning, you know, the world’s biggest competitions all the time. So I think it’s just being in that environment.


[00:13:55] Andrea: So being aligned in your just philosophies as musicians has translated into business alignment.


[00:14:02] Robert Miller: Yeah, for sure.


[00:14:03] Andrea: How do you share the day-to-day responsibilities?


[00:14:07] Chris Mallet: We’re both, we’re both here most of the time, so we just kind of split things up. We have a great team of office managers here. We have five great office managers between the two locations. So, you know, they take care now of a lot of the, the phone calls and, and emails that happen.


And then we spend time on, on just different aspects, you know. Marketing campaigns that are going out. Right now in the summer, one thing that we’ve both been really busy with is just finding subs for, you know, now that people can travel again, it’s not just students traveling, it’s also teachers traveling. So I feel like the past two months have been just like this insane maze of trying to get subs to come in. Just things like that really, you know, it depends on what time of year and now I’m remembering what summer was like prior to covid with people traveling again.


[00:14:55] Robert Miller: I think a lot of it’s just happened organically too over time. I mean, I think that it’s just what Chris is better at dealing with certain things than I am you know. He’s, uh, grew up in San Diego, so he is a, he’s got a core temper than me. So, you know.


[00:15:14] Chris Mallet: It’s just like, no, what to do know, I, or like, I, I can happily be consumed with figuring out how to get a spreadsheet to do something for an hour or two for better or worse. So it’s like just certain things are going to, it’s better for someone to do it than the other. And I just think over time those things. I think luckily for us, just really just sorted themselves out organically. Not been too forced, but you know, you definitely need to sometimes discuss like who’s going to do what and, but I, we don’t have a lot of issues around that.


[00:15:47] Robert Miller: And it is probably also, like Chris said, just having a lot of awesome people around us that that, like, besides the great teaching faculty at the school or for Practice Space, like the, the great people that work on the development side of things. Just having, you know, a team of five amazing individuals that help with everything.


[00:16:10] Andrea: Are there any habits you practice or like, do you have a meeting pulse or something to keep everyone on the same page and to keep things moving along?


[00:16:17] Robert Miller: Yeah, yeah. We have meetings weekly with different people, you know, and I mean our staff, we all have Slack and yeah.


[00:16:24] Chris Mallet: I think slack is what really kind of keeps the, the pulse going. You know, if anyone has a question, is Slack us and can answer it right away or investigate deeper into whatever problem is going on.


[00:16:35] Andrea: So you’ve mentioned Practice Space a few times now, and I wanna get into that. So talk to us about what Practice Space is.


[00:16:42] Chris Mallet: Sure. So Practice Space is a music practice app that is basically organizes lessons for teachers, you know. So kind of the old way, obviously, or just, you know, still a lot of people do it this way.


They have an assignment notebook, they write down what their student has to do, rip it out. They give it to their student, they take it home and there’s a big chance that they’ll lose it. So we were doing that. We have a point system that we were doing at the school for many years that, you know, the teacher will write out an assignment and then if a student goes home and practices it every day, they’ll get a certain amount of points.


If they earn those points, they can redeem ’em for things in the prize basket or like, you know, a Jamba Juice gift card, things like that. But being in Silicon Valley, we really wanted to try to take it to the next level, and we saw apps like Duo Lingo and things like that and how engaged students were with that.


So then, we thought that it would be a great thing to kind of use that model and move it over to music practice. So the Practice Space kind of has really two core components to it. There’s the teacher side of practice space, and teachers can make lessons on their computer. They can make lessons on a mobile device.


And then with students, it’s the same. You know, it used to only be an app, but we listened to some of the teachers who were using it. We did a survey and a lot of teachers really wanted us to get it onto the computer for students as well. Cause a lot of younger ones, you know, they won’t have access to a phone.


So now we have a web version and a mobile version for students as well. It started off with us just using it with our students at the school . And then after Covid hit, we saw that there was a need for other teachers around the world to start using Practice Space and that’s when we kind of did the first big release of Practice Space. I think it was March, 2020, around there.


[00:18:29] Andrea: Okay. So it was just to solve an internal problem at first?


[00:18:33] Chris Mallet: Yeah. I think we always thought about releasing it outside of the school at some point, but yeah, at first it was really just for our students at the school.


[00:18:40] Andrea: Okay. What were the first steps, because neither one of you are developers, right? How did it come to be?


[00:18:45] Robert Miller: Kind of, a lot of it was mapped out in a lot of ways just on paper, you know? And then we had someone that was taking lessons at the school or, well, their, their daughter was rather, who was really intrigued by the idea and he was a developer and he started to help us get it together. And eventually we got more developers involved to kind of get it up off the ground. .


Yeah, it was definitely a steep leaning curve. I mean, I think we both read a lot of books on how to design products like this and how to just create a really engaging, compelling product at first to the student. And you know, this is something I always talk about with Practice Space. I feel like one thing that we got really lucky, In our development processes that we started with the student side of things. So we started with how can we make this an engaging experience for a student and. Then we were able to build the teacher side on top of that. And you know, that’s lucky just because a lot of the customer is the teacher. So a lot of people would start there, but at the end of the day, the student is the one that needs to use it. Right? A teacher isn’t going to care if a student doesn’t use it, right? They’re going to stop quickly. So I think that was huge. You know, that’s been a really very difficult thing about this process is that a company like this is basically business to business to customer.


So you have to be aware of all of the different audiences you’re trying to serve, and it can be tough to control that.


[00:20:27] Andrea: When you initially decide to take on this project, like how did you fund it? Because when you started the music school, you kind of had an existing student base, so I’m sure there were startup costs involved in that, but you also knew you had some income right away and with the app it wasn’t quite that way.


[00:20:42] Robert Miller: Yeah, well the developer that I’ve been mowing his lawn since, um, . , yeah. No, I mean it’s something like this is not cheap. It, there’s a lot of risk involved in bringing a product like this to market and we’ve had people interested in investing that we’ve turned down in the past just because the way that I think practice space will continue to grow is just for basically to be more like a small business that serves as many teachers and customers as we can. But without having to worry about bringing like, you know, a 30 x return for a tech investor. Because I, I think, and, and the reason is, is that I just think it’s, then it kind of can get diluted.


You start to have to figure out different ways to create revenue and that can kind of be like maybe, okay. Well the network of users is mostly students, right? Like mostly the users of practice space aren’t paying us, right? So someone that works for like a venture cap, like they’ll like look at that as a huge problem, right?


And they’ll start to try to steer you in a direction where you’re serving. And I, I don’t think long term that really works that well for this.


[00:22:05] Chris Mallet: Just to add to that, there’s definitely been a lot of teachers using practice space who are happy that it is just a practice app. You know? Like we don’t have to worry. As Robert said, adding all these other things, we’re like, well, I’m really glad that it’s not a crm. We’re not throwing in the kitchen sink. We’re focusing on a problem that teachers have and that we can really pour everything into that. And that way , you know, when we do have a release of a new feature, it’s pretty stable. You know, it’s not like, you know, we’re not going to have a whole bunch of bugs and then people freaking out and having the, you know, moving to other systems. It’s usually pretty stable and people are really thankful for that .


[00:22:43] Andrea: Yeah, that’s a good point. That you’re, you’re mostly influenced by the users and the feedback that you get from teachers or students, rather than an investor who could say, I want you to use my money this way.


I’ve heard the same feedback even from people considering starting nonprofit music schools and deciding not to because they don’t want the board to influence important, like community decisions or things like that. What have you noticed in going from managing a music school? Like what were priorities that you had for a music school that are not maybe your highest priorities as you manage a tech company? .


[00:23:16] Robert Miller: Yeah, I, I mean, I think the biggest difference is just obviously with the music school, it, it’s so tangible. There’s so many people involved. It’s much easier for you to just rely on intuition with certain things rather than just data.


I mean, I think it’s useful to use with the music school, but I also think that you can feel out that this teacher is awesome because you see their students leave the studio. You see how they interact with staff. You see that they’re on time all the time. Whereas with Practice Space, if you don’t have a way to understand data and have a way to understand what it means, then you don’t have a lot. I mean, of course you get emails from people and you know, but there’s tons of people that use Practice Space that I’ve never talked to in my life. You know, I, I don’t know anything about them except for numbers.


It, it sounds so like dry, but, you know, it’s, it’s just, it’s true. It’s just there’s less interaction with the customer. Sometimes I feel like with Practice Space, it’s like a problem too, but also a good thing that you don’t interact with some of the people as much. Cause you do want to hear from the customers, you know, you want to know how they’re doing. But then, you know, at a music school, obviously you would know too. You know, you get a lot of good things coming from parents, but then you get a lot of complaints as well.


[00:24:48] Chris Mallet: You know, so it’s just, that feels different. You’re not getting as much of that side of it with a technology company like Practice Space.


[00:24:56] Andrea: Yeah. Yeah. You probably get way more of the complaints and less of the, oh, thanks for the great recital.


[00:25:01] Chris Mallet: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. . Yeah. But yeah, definitely it’s, it’s a lot different not interacting with everybody and not knowing everybody and seeing them.


[00:25:09] Robert Miller: So I just think it’s so different. It’s just one thing as a service and one thing is a product. I mean, software as a service is essentially a product that you have complete control over. So I, I think one thing that is definitely different is that whereas like I can only control how someone teaches to a certain degree, you know, I wouldn’t want someone to control how I teach too much. Yeah. It’s just very different, you know?


[00:25:40] Andrea: What’s the thing that surprised you the most about how different it is?


[00:25:44] Robert Miller: I think they questions so interesting because I never thought about comparing them that much. Mm-hmm. , I mean, I think with, like you were about to ask about marketing, I don’t know if that’s, it’s, I mean, I think there’s certain things with that where it’s like there’s a crossover, right? Like there’s just basic metrics that are important to understand with marketing that are universal. I think it can work differently with different companies and there’s different ways to understand how like long a customer is going to stay with you. So like just, yeah. What are those things like return on investment, like how much does it cost to get a new customer and how long is that customer going to stay and these sort of things.


I mean I think there’s definitely crossover, but I, I think at first, especially with Practice Space, the unit metrics just made no sense. It was just impossible to know because it’s so new you.


[00:26:41] Chris Mallet: Yeah, I think with the marketing one, one huge difference between the school and Practice Space is at, you know, with the school, it’s very targeted and localized.


And then with something like Practice Space, you know, it’s, it’s extremely broad. We’re trying to get people, we have users in Australia, you know, New Zealand, even, you know, California right next to us. So it’s just, it’s, it’s so different in terms of the targeting of the audiences. So yeah, that’s one of the big difference.


[00:27:09] Andrea: Are there any things that you maybe had as a given with the music school marketing that you’ve had to throw out because they’re not relevant to the app marketing?


[00:27:19] Robert Miller: Yeah, I mean, I just think the audiences are different. That’s a given, you know. One is like parents with kids and one is music teachers. And then I, I also think the follow up flow of things is different.


I think you don’t want to be, for me personally, I don’t want to be as severe with a parent, with kids about an email campaign. Whereas honestly with something like Practice Space, you kind of need to be just because it’s just such a big audience. There’s so many people that it’s like you just have to be a little more.


I mean, if you look at your promotions tab in Google, I mean there’s companies emailing you twice, two, three times a week. We don’t do that. That’s not a good look for a music school.


[00:28:04] Andrea: . So the app, you’re talking to studio owners or business owners as opposed to just a parent who this is like one segment of their life. In talking to other app developers, one of the things that can be a struggle is setting prices for apps because there can be such a range. How did you approach that?


[00:28:20] Chris Mallet: I think the first thing we thought about was that we did not want to charge by the student and that we wanted to charge a teacher for several reasons, I think was.


You know, if you have a school that’s the size of ours and we’re charging by the student, it’s going to be insane. You know, even if a teacher has 60 students and you charge $3 per student, it’s just too much money for a independent music teacher to be paying. And if they can’t afford it, they might not hold onto it forever. It’s not like it’s critical to the company as something like a crm. So you know, we were kind of looking at it through the lens of a music teacher with us being music teachers ourselves, and thought that it would be a lot better for us to just charge a rate that was reasonable for a teacher. And we always tell some of the, you know, perspective customers, you know, it’s the price of like a couple of lattes.


So once they hear that, that’s how much practice base is, I think they’re like, oh, it’s not bad. We’ll go ahead and try it. We’re not going to lose much and we’re going to really gain a lot from using it.


[00:29:22] Andrea: What differences have you noticed in your own studio since having the app?


[00:29:27] Robert Miller: I think there’s a few things. There’s a lot of students that just really love using it. They love different aspects of it. There’s something in there for a lot of different people, whether it be kids trying to get a hundred day streak or others just want to kind of get some of the in-Studio awards, you know, so one really cool thing you can do with Practice Space is that you can actually set up custom awards for your studio.


So if you want kids to be able to pick up a sticker from you or a t-shirt or like whatever it is, right? The world’s your oyster, you can set that in there. So there’s kids that love to come stop by the front desk and pick up something that they were awarded or the leader board. So there’s just so many things that kids really find motivational and that’s, so that’s one side of it.


I think from a pedagogical point of view, it’s great for the students to just have a clear agenda of what they’re supposed to practice at home, which of course, they would get from something as simple as a notebook, but on top of that, you can add links to YouTube to an assignment. You can add videos, you can add audio recordings, you can add PDFs, right?


So they have that all centralized. So that’s really great for the student just to have everything there in front of them when they sit down and practice, they don’t have to shuffle around for notes. They don’t have to go sign on for like a link to YouTube. And it also just cuts down on the time the teachers have to spend like texting and sending materials to student.


So, I mean, I think, yeah, that it’s just a multifaceted difference that we’ve felt and yeah, it’s really great and I think that that’s definitely the feedback from teachers that we’ve received that have gotten, I mean, some people even use it for makeup lessons, which is something we never even thought about, you know?


Yeah. There’s someone, there’s a teacher with a great school in South Carolina that has tons of students. Day of like over 40 teachers on Practice Space and they’re using it for makeup lessons. You know, hopefully if you ask me that question in a year, I’ll tell you that .


[00:31:35] Andrea: Awesome. How about Chris? What have you noticed changed in like your students or the community and your music school? .


[00:31:42] Chris Mallet: I think that with my own personal students using it, a lot of ’em are older in high school, so I wasn’t sure how they would feel about, you know, having the avatars and all that stuff. All of ’em really loved it.


But one thing that really hooked them, and I think are hooking a lot of the students at our school is the leader board. You know, I’ll talk to some parents and the kids are a little bit apprehensive, like, I don’t know, and then I showed ’em the leaderboard. They’re like, oh, I can get on there every week.


And then they start using the app and all of a sudden they’re like, you know, they’re practicing more. They’re trying to earn all these points. The parents are saying like, I’ve never seen so-and-so, you know, so excited to practice every day. So I think the leaderboard has been a great way to have that friendly competition with the students here. You know, that’s the biggest thing that I’ve seen.


[00:32:23] Andrea: And then how about for yourselves? What growth have you had to go through to be able to manage both business? .


[00:32:29] Robert Miller: Yeah. I think it’s just about time management. Knowing how to delegate, knowing what to prioritize. I mean, that’s the only way .


[00:32:37] Andrea: Have there been any particular, uh, routines or habits that you now implement that you didn’t used to, to keep up with everything?


[00:32:45] Chris Mallet: No, I think what I mean, yeah, like to some degree, I think we just have definitely better at delegating certain tasks, prioritizing. It’s not that bad because the school has so many systems in place that we don’t really have to get too involved with many things, to be honest, you know? So that that just allows for a lot of other time for Practice Space or things with the school. I mean, what I mean with not being that involved, I mean like day-to-day, like, you know, scheduling a makeup lesson for Sally or talking to a prospective student.


[00:33:27] Robert Miller: I mean, I don’t spend too much time on those things anymore in nor does Chris.


[00:33:31] Chris Mallet: Yeah. But mentioned earlier we have, you know, killer admin and if we didn’t have them, we literally wouldn’t be able to. We wouldn’t sleep at all. We would just be on the phone and answering emails 24 hours a day, basically.


[00:33:46] Andrea: Admins really keep the world running, I’m pretty sure. Is there a book, a resource that has had a strong impact on you as an entrepreneur?


[00:33:53] Robert Miller: Yeah, I think the Emmys was a good book that I read. The Power of Habit is a really good book. I really like Ray Dalio’s book Principles. . Yeah, those are three solid books. I can’t remember the name of another book that I read that I really liked. For business.


[00:34:10] Chris Mallet: Yeah. Also Emmys here, but also when we started practice based, there was a different Traction book than what you mentioned that we went through and kind of implemented a lot of stuff through that book with practice based thought.


It was really helpful, you know, to kind of walk through all the different aspects of starting a new business and gaining traction. And per our conversation a couple weeks ago, I got the other Traction book that I didn’t know about, so I’ll be checking that out.


[00:34:35] Andrea: So both the Traction books.


[00:34:36] Chris Mallet: Both Tractions.


[00:34:37] Robert Miller: Chris, he, he like, uh, a lot of podcasts.


[00:34:40] Chris Mallet: I love podcasts. Yeah. I listened to, to a ton of podcasts. A lot of business podcasts. You know, I like, I like hearing the stories of the founders and how kind of the business came about. So there’s the one, Reid Hoffman, I forgot.


[00:34:53] Robert Miller: Yeah. Master scale is pretty good. Yeah.


[00:34:56] Chris Mallet: Yeah. And then how I built this, I really like that. I do a lot of driving. Obviously I like this other one called Business Wars. That one’s more of just like an entertainment fun one. But , it would be like, you know, two, like if there was one about music schools, it’d be like, uh, school of Rock versus Bach to Rock or something like that.


[00:35:11] Andrea: Yeah. All right. Thank you for those recommendations. And what is next for you guys? What’s one of the goals you’re working towards for this upcoming year?


[00:35:18] Robert Miller: I mean, we’re going to record this beautiful piece that was written for us called Reborn, which is written by Javier Furius, and it’s based on a mural by Diego Rivera that’s at the SFM O m. and they’re going to let us record a video in front of it. . I think that’s honestly first and foremost on our, I know this has nothing to do with what we’re talk , but I think we’re like, you know, that’s the first thing we worked on today. So, I think to be honest, doing a good job was that, but then, you know, I, I think with the school there’s certain things that I, I think we could, it was so stressful, reopening.


We have a new lo so I think now it’s just like maybe getting some certain things, like what are some paths for students that are more solidified than just like we have great motivational tools. So like what are some paths for students to get from beginning levels? Like to, to like maybe doing adjudications or things like that, or like what, what are like the milestones in between that? Figuring that out. We’re opening a new location in Redwood City. We’re moving to a bigger site, so getting that, I’m having a baby in September, so.


[00:36:43] Andrea: So you’ve basically got a ton of free time, it sounds like. Well, those sound like great goals. Chris, was there anything you wanted to add to that?


[00:36:50] Chris Mallet: Yeah, I think one of the goals with the school is to, you know, start just taking advantage of things to opening back up, you know, and kind of creating that community atmosphere again. So we’re going to plan a faculty recital, which we’ve never done an actual faculty recital, so that’s one thing we’re really excited to try out, you know, get the teachers excited and have the students come get motivated by watching their teachers play. I think a lot of performance goals this year for both the school and you know, we have a nonprofit called the Peninsula Guitar Series.


So we have students from our school, some of the more advanced guitar students who have been with us for a really long time, teach guitar lessons for free to kids in the community who can’t afford guitar lessons. So planning some in-person events for that. So yeah, really excited about things like that starting to open back up. And of course, as Robert said, the new location, which is going to be awesome. And, you know, such an upgrade of what we currently have in Redwood City is going to be great.


[00:37:47] Andrea: Very cool. Okay. And where can listeners get in touch with you?


[00:37:51] Robert Miller:


[00:37:53] Chris Mallet: Yep. Or they can find practice space on, uh, Facebook and Instagram as well, and for the school, they can find us on the Also on Instagram, Facebook. Easy to find, so yeah.


[00:38:08] Andrea: Excellent. All right. Thank you so much.


[00:38:10] Robert Miller: Yeah, thanks for having us, Andrea.


[00:38:18] Andrea: We covered a lot of ground in this episode, but since it’s the last episode of the year, I want to highlight just one thing Chris and Robert said near the beginning when they were talking about how they introduced changes to their studio. This is a time of year where a lot of teachers are considering making changes, both big and small.


Everything from raising rates to trying out a new lesson book. And often there’s some anxiety over making these changes. We may wonder, how will my students take it? Will my favorite family quit? Will this idea or method even work? I think it’s easy for teachers to unintentionally take an almost defensive stance when announcing these change.


We’ve given the ideas a lot of thought and have conviction about them, and maybe we’re just afraid that if we let our guard down, someone will question the change, and we want to avoid that at all costs. So we put up an overly strong front. This is why I thought what Chris said about introducing changes was so good. Chris’s reminder was simple. Be excited about the changes you’re making and share that excitement with the students. I’m going to say that again, to let it sink in. Be excited about the changes you’re making and share that excitement with the students. When teachers come to me nervous about a change they want to implement, these changes are always coming from a place of wanting to serve students better.


They’re not greedy or selfish. But when we forget that we’re making these changes for the benefit of our students, we lose that enthusiasm and passion that naturally makes people want to get on board. So in this new year, I urge you to boldly go where no teacher has gone before. Make that change in your studio. Try that new curriculum. Launch that new business. As I prepare to sign off for the holiday break, I have two reminders. Enrollment for our new business finance course for music teachers is open. So head on over to to claim your spot. Second. As always, links to all the resources mentioned in this episode can be found at


That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back in 2023.


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