Hiring Someone to Help With Your Retreat
We had an interview with Lynann Politte, who has the amazing (and unusual) title of “Yoga Manager.” Let’s face it, many yoga teachers can benefit from marketing savvy — and that’s just what Lynann brings to the table. With a CV that ranges from working in International Finance in Luxembourg to managing the career of Ana Forrest, Lynann combines her well-honed business acumen with in-depth knowledge of the yoga community. Needless to say, Lynann has a lot of wisdom to offer us in this interview. Particularly, she lets us in on the little-known world of “Retreat Production” and hiring someone to help with your Retreat.
How do you know when, as a yoga teacher (or any other kind of retreat leader), to make a decision to hire someone?
This is the same as any decision in business. It all comes down to the equation of time and money. That’s the crux of any business, and running a yoga business is (let’s face it!) no different. Whether you’re looking to make a profit or just break even, this is an equation you cannot avoid facing. (Yes, I’m talking to all you fair-minded yogi-healers and yogi-artists out there!)
If you organise your retreat from start to finish by yourself, you receive all the money… but you also put in all the time! If you’re just starting out, running your first retreat, chances are that you will need to do that. There might not be a lot of money left at the end of the retreat, so you need to keep your risks low. In contrast, if you are paying someone else, then you are simply more likely to lose money or, at least, earn less of a profit, on a retreat.
My advice: know your break-even point. Add this person’s fee into your costs, and include that in your break-even point. Then ask, how many registrations we need to cover all the costs, including the teacher and/or the assistant and/or the retreat manager? Then, everything is profit after that.
If hiring someone adds to the risk that a teacher won’t break even, or will make less of a profit, on a retreat, then why would a yoga teacher even think about hiring someone?
If you are offering one, small retreat, I would start by doing it all yourself. For sure. But if you expand to the point of offering 3 or 4 retreats in a year (let alone 10 or 20!) it can suddenly become too much for one person to juggle. Of course, this depends a lot on your circumstances. If someone decides to make this their main occupation and their main source of income, then they have a higher threshold in terms of the amount of time they can invest, and the amount of money they need to receive from it.
It’s also a matter of volume. Many teachers offer small retreats of, say, 15 people or less. Most international retreats don’t get bigger than 25. However, I work with a yoga teacher who offers retreats with 40 people. That becomes a lot to manage when you think of all of the communication around registration, payment, dietary preferences, and so on.
Some people might not utter a word to you between registering for the retreat and showing up on Day 1, but other retreat participants can be much more exacting and demanding. That kind of customer service can, at times, be very time-consuming. It helps to have templates set up and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on your website that you can refer people to. Or, there is software like yours that make this whole process much simpler. Communication, customer service, providing templates and FAQs: these are all tasks that someone else can, potentially, take care of. Hiring someone can cut down your time investment hugely.
What are the options out there for a yoga teacher that’s thinking about hiring someone?
At the lower end of the pay scale, you could barter with someone. This person takes care of some aspects of the retreat (whether it’s customer service or registration, and so on) and, in return, they come on the retreat for free. You aren’t paying them a fee because they’re earning what they would have paid for the retreat. It’s not as much of a risk as actually paying someone. This can work wonderfully, especially if you already have a strong relationship with that person.
The high end of the scale is working with a retreat producer. This field has grown exponentially in the past five years. Retreat producers are, typically, teachers who have organized their own retreats and then realised they have a knack for it. They see that their strategy works, and decide to produce other teachers’ retreats by applying the same formula.
Most retreat producers are focused on organising international retreats. This can be invaluable because these producers have established relationships with venues and contacts in the countries they operate in. Retreat producers have already scouted out venues already, and even developed working relations with a few good venues. A retreat producer typically does all of this in person, well ahead of your retreat. Whereas, as a teacher, you only have the option of looking at venues online and hoping for the best. A retreat center can look great online, but photos won’t indicate that it smells terribly of mold! After spending a lot of time organising and promoting a retreat, it can be terrible for the venue to disappoint everyone’s expectations.
Retreat producers will also have existing relationships with the management and staff at the venue. They will also be familiar with the region, and know who to call for the services you need. I’ve literally pulled my hair out trying to sort out problems in a foreign country! A retreat manager smooths out all those processes because they already have a network of people and services that they can share with you.
Wow, that sounds incredibly helpful! But, let’s be honest, it also sounds expensive.
Well, yes, when you have a retreat producer on board, they are making money too. And they’re making more than the friend who you bartered with. As a consequence, you might need to charge more for the retreat and/or you might just earn less! But they’ll typically take care of marketing and filling the retreat, which takes a lot of the stress out of running a retreat.
A retreat producer will usually pay you per participant, plus your expenses. Most of them have a minimum number of participants, but, like I said, they’ll work hard to make sure the retreat fills and goes ahead.
I want in!
The yoga producers are the cream of the crop to me because you have to already have a following. It’s at the top of the pyramid, for sure. But some yoga teachers have a very glamorous image in mind when they think of leading international yoga retreats. “Someone could pay me to go to Bali!?” But it’s not that simple. Typically, a retreat producer will only hire a teacher with experience and, importantly, an existing following. That is the kind of teacher that will add value to the retreat.
If you want to find a retreat producer, just do a Google search! You’ll need to differentiate between retreat listing services and retreat producers. These can look appear to be quite similar. If the retreats are listed as “our retreats,” then it’s likely to be a retreat producer. If the retreats all belong to different businesses, then it’s probably a retreat listing service.
I work mainly with three retreat producers: Yoga Travel Tree, International Yoga, and Yogascapes. I will add that the retreat producers that I know are are mostly small: just a couple of people, and producing a lot of retreats. You need to be persistent in a really good way so that they know that you’re serious. Once you’ve found a retreat producer that you’re interested in working with, then just contact them. You’ll need to be prepared with a pitch for them because they need to be confident that you’re going to fill the retreat. Otherwise, of course, it isn’t going to be worth all of their effort…
Right. And if a retreat producer is not a good fit for someone at this time, then what are our other options?
Well, in terms of hiring someone to help you, you could just find someone who could be your assistant. Again, this could be a friend or a student. If you’re just looking to delegate some tasks, then you can make your own judgement about who to hire. But you want to make sure they’re good at coordinating a lot of different tasks, have good communication / customer service skills, and also have good follow-through skills. Those are the most important qualities to look for.
Lynann Politte’s unique approach, years of experience, drive, and vibrant enthusiasm provides the guidance and tools for wellness experts to manifest their revolutionary ideas into a real world reality. Lynann works with yoga teachers and authors to form strategies that integrate and expand the reach of their message, taking their business to the next level. Her support, management, and connections are the catalyst for the potential held in the wisdom and skills of each client. She is founder of Yoni Speaks and creator of Balancing the Elephant online business course for yoga professionals.
Find more info about Lynann on her website: yonispeaks.com.