Transcript Snapshot 014 – Joseph Rocha
Transcript: Snapshot 014 — Joseph Rocha
Transcript for Snapshot 014 – Joseph Rocha
[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.
Welcome back. We are doing a special series on the podcast this summer called Studio Snapshots, rather than the in-depth process-oriented interviews you’re used to hearing. These rapid fire interviews give us a glimpse into a guest studio at a moment in time. They’re part reflection, part anticipation of the future, and fully a celebration of where these teachers are today.
Today I’m talking to Joseph Rocha. Here’s Joseph’s Snapshot.
Hi Joseph. Welcome back to the podcast. Can you introduce yourself and tell us briefly about your studio?
[00:01:08] Joseph Rocha: Yeah. Hi, my name is Joseph Rocha. I am the owner operator of Eager Studios. We’re in central California, Tulare and Visalia respectively. If you, uh, know California at all, we’re like sandwiched between two bigger cities, Fresno and Bakersfield.
We just celebrated five years in business actually in April. So we started in 2018. At the end of last year, we expanded into our second location. We have, total, uh, about 140, 150, between 140, 150 students between both locations. Eight teachers and staff. Between both locations as well. And, uh, yeah, right now I’m kind of living the studio owner dream where, uh, I don’t really teach and I kind of just manage things. I do have one student, but yeah, no, it’s, that’s myself in a nutshell.
[00:01:55] Andrea: Excellent. And you were on the podcast, I looked back, it was way back in episode 0 3 9. So if listeners wanna hear more of your story, which is really interesting, they should go back to that. And that was maybe two years into opening your studio that we talked?
[00:02:09] Joseph Rocha: Something like that. I think I had just gotten my first like big boy commercial space at the time. I remember sitting in the back and doing all that stuff there. So yeah, go back. I might go back and listen to it and see like what things looked like back then, what I was freaking out about and be like, ah, he’s silly boy.
[00:02:28] Andrea: Yeah. Well, it’s neat to see what happens over these years and the kind of goal of these short snapshot interviews is to see, just look back on just the last year and what has happened in your studio. So let’s jump right in. What are you celebrating from the last school year?
[00:02:42] Joseph Rocha: So, I think the biggest thing that I’m celebrating right now is the, actually the opening of our second location.
We acquired a competitor in August of last year. They were in the process of, uh, looking for an exit strategy, uh, for retirement. And the funniest thing is, is because I had that on my vision board for like the longest time, you know, like those big hairy, audacious goals business coaches talk about, I was like, buy out competitor school.
And I had it listed up there and then they called me about it and we were like, yeah, no, that’d be great. And after a couple months of negotiating and we closed on that and we’re actually expanding, I think we’re almost double the size of what it was when I took over, which is fantastic. We’ve changed some things.
But that’s the biggest reason to celebrate, I guess. And then obviously, you know, five years in business is no joke either, so we’ll take that as like a secondary celebration.
[00:03:32] Andrea: Definitely. Had you identified that specific competitor as one you wanted to buy out? Eventually?
[00:03:36] Joseph Rocha: Yes. It was on my board. It’s probably still up there. My whiteboard back there with all this stuff on it. It’s absolutely crazy. It was like my five to 10 year goal is like, buy out this competitor. Yeah, no, now it’s done. And it happened within like a year of me writing it down. So if coaches are telling you to write things down, do it cuz it, it manifests. There’s like a weird energy. Definitely do it.
[00:03:57] Andrea: I hear you. Yeah. When you start looking and you know what you want to go after, you start seeing the ways to get there. It’s weird. On the other side, how were you challenged in the last year?
[00:04:08] Joseph Rocha: Oh, a lot of things. So aside from, you know, purchasing and figuring out how to buy a business, which is not something that, you know, I learned in music education school.
And much like the rest of my studio, I really self-taught in all that. So finding who the right people are to talk to about this and what advice to get and what advice is good advice and, and networking with professionals who have done this before. That was a big challenge. It was a time consuming challenge. It was a monetarily consuming challenge. I, I had to pay lawyers and, and accountants just to make sure the numbers gel, but that’s not, I don’t think that’s like, the biggest challenge that I faced. So in, in June, my wife and I welcomed home to our, our baby girl, Charlotte. She’s 10 months at the time of this recording.
She’s almost a year old. It’s absolutely insane. But leading up to June, so January through May, my biggest intent for that period of time in the studio was. I wanna be able to take the summer completely off. My wife had maternity leave and I wanted to take a little brief paternity leave as well. And at that time I still had, I think I taught maybe 20, 30 students.
I was teaching Monday to Friday for about two hours, two and a half hours a day and had a bunch of teachers and I had to figure out how I was going to remove myself from the teaching and you know, figuring out administrative positions and what that looks like and handing over my students to someone else and making sure that my teachers were up to snuff on what it is my standards are cuz my standards are ridiculously high.
Standardizing everything from like curriculum to how we do meet and greets to how we answer the phone calls. All that stuff that was really challenging. I hired an administrator in January and that didn’t work out, and she quit in March and I was like, wow, now I need to figure something else out. My Glee club teacher quit and we hired two more vocal instructors and getting them up to speed.
It was like the end of May, we had just finished the recital and I’m like, okay, cool. We had a long, long staff meeting. I’m like, this is your responsibilities now. I’m not gonna be answering my phone calls, like when my wife is in delivery, like at least a week, no contact. And then from there on very minimal contact.
And then this summer was like one of the worst summers for music studio owners. I feel like it’s not just me, but a lot of studio owners that I know, experienced a huge plummet of students this summer. And I attribute it to the Covid effect, like we’ve been shut down for two years, and last summer was the first time that in two years that things were opening up and people were wanting to take those vacations.
So everyone took those vacations. So as I took my paternity leave, we lost 25% in revenue. So I’m no longer teaching my students, which means I have to pay payroll to those teachers who are taking those over. So my income dropped. We barely held on by a thread because I, I follow the Profit First system, which I talked about in the first episode that we recorded. So go back and check that out. Which helped mitigate all that. So it, it was a challenging year, that, that was the first half of the year, and then the second half of the year was figuring out the new business stuff. So it was very, a very educational year for me last year and, and in my professional life.
[00:07:12] Andrea: Well, I’m glad you mentioned that drop off of students last year because sometimes that’s not something people wanna share. I’ve talked to two teachers today about that same experience in the last summer into fall time period. And when we’re isolated as music teachers, it’s, you don’t always realize like, oh, it’s a thing that’s happening. All over. This is New York, to California, to Oklahoma, and yeah, so I appreciate you sharing that challenge too.
[00:07:39] Joseph Rocha: Of course. And like you said, like, yeah, a lot of us business owners, we are isolated from this and we, we feel like we’re the only ones going through it. So I definitely recommend if you’re not already involved in a community of other like-minded business owners to definitely hop on. There’s tons on Facebook that are fantastic. I’m not gonna name drop any of them because I don’t wanna seem biased, but definitely join a community, whether it’s on Facebook or in your local area with other music studio owners or other business owners as well, because it’s good to see that it’s not just our industry that has been suffering through these, uh, you know, covid tribulations.
Every industry has been going through it. So it’s nice to not feel alone and you can learn from other people on how they navigated their situation and it makes you feel a little bit more confident going in through it. So highly, highly recommend that.
[00:08:25] Andrea: Mm, mm-hmm. Yeah. And the timing of these things has been weird. Like, who would’ve anticipated that last summer and fall would’ve been the weird, weird time.
[00:08:32] Joseph Rocha: Yeah. Crazy.
[00:08:33] Andrea: So, Piggybacking on that, did you take any risks or go outside your comfort zone last year?
[00:08:38] Joseph Rocha: Yeah.
[00:08:38] Andrea: What wasn’t your risk?
[00:08:40] Joseph Rocha: Yeah, everything was a risk, uh, uh, handing off all my students cuz I did lose some that were on just because they wanted me. I had a little bit of pushback on that, like, I don’t want that teacher. I want you. I’m like, oh, I’m sorry I’m having a baby. Like I can’t. I’ll be back in the fall. Don’t worry about it. And then lo and behold, I didn’t come back in the fall cause we purchased the business, which was huge huge comfort zone stepping situation, comfort zone, stepping out of situation. I don’t know how to phrase that, but we had just welcomed the baby home and three days, I think after we brought her home. And that’s when I got the phone call for the acquisition that they were selling. And I had to talk with my wife and be like, Hey, we just, we have this baby.
She’s, she’s gonna be in expense and we’re still figuring this thing out. Are you cool with also letting me figure out this other thing? And she’s like, yeah. And I couldn’t have done it without her support on both ends of things, especially with an infant at home. And even my staff, like they really held down the fort at my primary location while I was gone. And it gave me the confidence to be able to step into that role because I knew I was gonna be a little bit more absentee. And I never just, I, I never went back into teaching. I just said, this is how things are gonna be from now on. And my entire staff was on board. A lot of the students that I had were on board.
Yeah, that was a big risk financially speaking cause we did have to take out a sizeable loan for that. And then, you know, the risk of what if this location isn’t gonna turn out like the way I envision it and now I have a baby to support. There’s just so much more pressure on me as a dad now. And just if I was a single guy doing that, like no, no big deal. Like, yeah, I’ll take the risk and I’ll take the blows. A huge, huge risk. Now what did I learn from it? Yeah, no, just to, just to take those risks and to not be afraid of it. It’s a similar thing to how we started our studios. It’s a little bit of a risk and some stepping into the unknown, but it makes you better in the end.
And I definitely feel like a more confident business owner, more confident leader, more confident husband now that I have taken those risks.
[00:10:40] Andrea: What do summers look like in your studio when you’re not acquiring a business and having a baby?
[00:10:44] Joseph Rocha: Yeah. Summers in the past have been pretty, you know, straightforward. We’re a year round studio, so you sign up when you sign up and you just keep going with the same routine and, and that was pretty much due to the size of my old building. We didn’t have like a big area for like camps or group classes, but we just moved in April to a bigger location, bigger rooms, and we have like this garage warehouse kind of attachment.
One of the things I’m doing this summer is doing a lot more summer camps. We’re gonna start a rock band camp for the first time. I ran a poll with my students and anybody else that was on my mailing list, like, Hey, if we offered a summer camp, which of these options would you like? Rock Band Camp was the number one, like 75% of the votes. Then glee clubs, ukulele classes, piano labs, songwriting courses, stuff like that. So we’re gonna hash out a couple of those, not all of them. For sure the rock band one. And that’ll be a new endeavor for this summer. And we’ll see how it works. And if it works, we’ll do it again next summer. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll back to the drawing board and we’ll continue with the, the same program of students are maintaining their track over the summer. It helps with the drop off rates and helps the studio have some consistent income during those times, even if it might be a little less, but at least it’s better than nothing.
[00:11:58] Andrea: Mm-hmm. For sure. And what are you working on this summer to prep for next school year?
[00:12:02] Joseph Rocha: So if these specialty classes of what I’m calling them, these camps hit off big, we may continue them on in the fall. If we launch a rock band camp and it’s very, very popular and the kids are having fun and they’re doing well in it, I’d like to see that continue. And I think that’s the biggest thing is just kind of stepping back a little bit and evaluating what’s working with those new specialty classes and then how can we fit that into our regular curriculum and our regular offerings to make it not so much a once a year kind of thing, but a maybe a quarterly thing or a semesterly thing.
[00:12:34] Andrea: All right. What’s one app or tool that has made the biggest impact on your studio life or even personal life management this past year?
[00:12:41] Joseph Rocha: One tool? Can I give two?
[00:12:44] Andrea: I’ll allow it.
[00:12:45] Joseph Rocha: Number one, I’m always gonna go My Music Staff. I know a lot of people have their preferred software for customer management finances.
I started using my music staff since day one and it, it’s really helped with the automation of billing and the expense and revenue tracking of it. So I don’t need to get a separate app like QuickBooks or anything else to do it. I can just do it all in house. Which is really, really nice and it saves me a ton of time on billing and invoicing and all that.
The second tool, and this is one that I’ve like dabbled with in the past, but really now that I have two locations, it’s just a lifesaver. Trello. I use it between both locations for administrative purposes. So that way I know exactly what each of our admins are doing at all times. And I can plug in and put in my comments on like, Hey, follow up on this person, or move the cards around in a specific way.
But also our teaching staff uses it so I can track student progress. So we have, and I wish I could show you guys, all of our curriculum is broken down into these level sheets. So the students get a sheet to take home so they can track their progress and so that they know what to practice every single week when they leave, it helps parents track it.
And then I integrated that into Trello. So that way our teachers track our students’ progress as well. And it’s really neat because if we ever have to sub in for a teacher, since our curriculum is standardized, you can just pull up the Trello app and see where the student is on that check sheet on Trello and know exactly where they’re at and jump straight into the lesson. You don’t have to waste five, 10 minutes going, okay, what did you learn last week? Because it’s all there. It’s all documented. You can take notes. It’s fantastic.
[00:14:20] Andrea: That sounds really interesting. If you can share a screenshot, if that would be helpful, we could drop that in the show notes, a little glimpse of what that looks like.
[00:14:27] Joseph Rocha: Yeah, for sure.
[00:14:29] Andrea: I know I’m talking to a fellow nerd here, so I expect a good answer from you for this one. What’s one area of your business where you tend to get carried away or could go overboard?
[00:14:38] Joseph Rocha: Again, I, I wanna give two answers. One is finances, and I know I talked about this on the last one, but Profit First.
Making sure that my finances are on track, especially now with two businesses, is super important. I have spreadsheets on spreadsheets of like what’s coming in, how much I’m allocating the growth trajectory of all that. It’s great to see like the numbers grow, like especially the longer I’ve been doing Profit First, that profit account keeps getting bigger and the profit distributions keep getting bigger.
So I, I nerd out completely on that. And then now I’m looking at a lot more data and statistics on pretty much everything else in the business like number of phone calls that we’re getting, number of meet and greets that are coming through, scheduling, where they’re coming from, if they’re actually showing up to the meet and greet, if they’re not showing up to the meet and greet. What are we doing? Percentage of conversions between myself and my administrator, how long students are enrolled for how long it takes ’em to pass certain curriculum. All of it, like I have, again, spreadsheets, and spreadsheets on all sorts of data and, and analytics just so I can gauge the health of my business and how to make small. Cause at this stage, it’s not about like big improvements. I don’t need an influx of like 30 or 40 students. I’d rather maintain what we have. It’s more about retention. And it’s like, okay, how can we better the customer experience of small me, but meaningful ways that’s going to make a bigger impact over a longer period of time than a quick fix.
And, and that’s a lot of fun. And I, I love numbers and I, I could stare at numbers and projections and manipulate those all sorts of ways. So that’s where I nerd out the most.
[00:16:14] Andrea: And where can listeners get in touch with you and follow along with what you’re up to?
[00:16:17] Joseph Rocha: Yeah, so, uh, if you wanna check out the studio website, that’s www.eagerstudios.com. My contact information’s on there somewhere. You can reach out to me on Facebook. I think my personal handle is Joseph Rocha 42, Facebook and Instagram. If you want to email me with any questions, comments, or like if you’re buying a business and you don’t know where to start, feel free to gimme a call or a email. That’s jo****@ea**********.com.
[00:16:42] Andrea: All right, Joseph. Thank you so much.
[00:16:44] Joseph Rocha: Thanks so much, Andrea, for having me on. It’s always a pleasure to sit and talk with you. Appreciate you and what you do for the Music Studio community and your podcast. It’s fantastic.
[00:16:52] Andrea: Thank you so much.
Thank you for taking the time to be with us, Joseph. We’ll include a transcript and all the links mentioned in this episode at musicstudiostartup.com/snapshot014. The Music Studio Startup website is also filled with lots of other resources for music teachers just like you who wanna set up their studios for success this summer, including our popular self-paced Business Building 101 course.
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back next week.