Footsteps is a dance school with a difference. When husband and wife team Stephen and Fiona Evans decided to set up Footsteps in 1995, the idea was to give students in schools a positive experience with dance, and to create a stable income. Major success followed, and results have been impressive on all counts – the business has grown to 50 employees and six offices.
‘Passion’ is an overused word in business, but dance education was unquestionably a passion for Stephen and Fiona when they began providing movement programs for a range of different students in 1995.
The wider potential soon became clear, and in 2005 they decided to expand the business to offer additional locations and new types of class. The challenge was a big one. Stephen said that they didn’t appreciate how much turnover would be needed to break even when opening in Sydney, the first location outside of South Australia:
“We had major cash flow problems in the beginning. What saved us was dependable business advice and also some great people. When we find someone who is exceptional, we do everything we can to hang on to them, which often means leading by example and taking the time needed to support them.”
An enviable track record
Footsteps has now been running for longer than any other Australian dance educator, and has shown an outstanding ability to grow in a controlled way. In less than ten years, profits have grown by 10x (with a 4x increase in turnover). 50 employees and 6 offices are now delivering many different classes in Australia and New Zealand – covering everything from an activity based Social Emotional Learning program through to parties, discos, formals, vacation care and concerts. Stephen says that the aim is to offer different types of movement programs for students, which support learning areas across other curriculum areas. He wants to help develop active and creative risk takers.
Many factors lie behind the business’s success, which has been achieved without franchising or licensing. Footsteps has been able to safeguard its margins while it has been expanding, and there has always been a focus on marketing effectively to customers and maintaining the quality of classes. The website has been pivotal as both a source of leads and a booking system. Establishing the right levels of automation has also been important. Footsteps has developed an in-house administration system that makes things simple and can show daily progress against clear sales KPIs. The result is that Stephen and Fiona can focus on business priorities rather than day-to-day operations.
In 2015, a Management Board was established. They meet quarterly to focus on operational elements like margins and pricing, and KPIs such as cashflow and sales.
Stephen said he has really enjoyed working with Accru Harris Orchard: “Chris keeps my head clear and goals focused. He’s always encouraging and continuously looking for analytical ways to improve company outcomes.”
And the secret to success? Stephen said there is no secret: “What matters is great people, a quality product, hard work, resilience and – probably most importantly – at the beginning of your journey, ‘Love what you do” because it won’t be successful if you don’t!”
Footsteps is now looking at the viability of opening in the USA and Singapore, and developing a third movement program it can offer to schools.