Special #3300

The Pilates Haus

25 min - Special


See how Brett Howard created a positive environment at his studio, The Pilates Haus. He shares how his business operates and how everything is organized so that his staff and clients remain happy. He also explains how their clients hear about the studio and how they keep track of their sessions.
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Jan 10, 2018
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Hi everybody, we are here today with one of my good friends and probably your favorite Pilates Anytime instructors, Brett Howard's The Pilates Haus. And just like him you can see by the sign, it's clear, it's shiny, it's good lookin' inside. I've been in before, I can't wait to show it to you. Just how his studio runs, how he operates, and let's go inside, check out the tour. So, welcome to the studio again.

You've been here before, but we've had a lot of changes in the last month or so. Yeah. So, this is actually our office area, so when the client comes in they can hang their stuff which is very useful in the winter, actually. Very clean, very Brett Howard. (both laugh) We don't like for too many things to track in from outside so in this room, this is the only room that people are allowed to have shoes on.

This is the only room where people are allowed to have liquids, especially liquids that can stain something. Even water? Water they're allowed to bring into the studio but anything else, coffee, any type of other beverages, especially beverages that have sugar or that can stain, they have to stay in here. Is it an aesthetic? Or protection? Or is it... Both.

Okay. So, in the winter it's helpful for them to be able to take their shoes off right away, hang up what they need to hang because New York winters, New Jersey winters, I guess technically we're in New Jersey, I always say New York, but we, you know you track in a lot of mud and sleet and salt and snow and things like that can track in so we always like that done with here. And then we have our desk here where we greet everyone. And there's Ted Suo. So, my studio is kind of like a family business.

I work with my partner and I work with my sister and it's really helpful for me because as you know I do a lot of traveling. So, when I'm away I feel really good that I know that while I'm away I either have my sister or my partner here running things so it's really assuring for me and I actually love working with Ted Suo, my partner and also working with my sister, Tiffany. It's great because you know there's three people who are really invested in it and three people who really care to make sure that the studio is running properly. And what roles do Ted Suo and Tiffany play? We all take a equal role.

We all consider ourselves Studio Directors. Studio Directors. Yeah, so we all teach and Ted Suo is also the studio manager. I find that helpful because for me, like I want to focus a lot, we are also a training center, so I work a lot with apprentices, Ted Suo also works with apprentices and so does Tiffany. But, it's helpful because I have other businesses and other things that I'm focusing on.

But Ted Suo, he takes are of all of the behind the scenes things and he takes care of all of the numbers and so it's a really good balance. And the other businesses, are you talking about teacher training elsewhere and workshops and travel that you do? Exactly, yes. Good. We have the PYO, the Pilates Youth Organization.

We have the United States Pilates Association, which is the training program and then also just the traveling and teaching. It's always helpful to have someone who is making sure everything is balanced and working well. Definitely. So, when a client comes in, first what we have them do if they're new, they will fill out a client form. Just ready to go. Do you get walk-in traffic?

We don't so often but it's so funny because some days it happens. Today, twice it happened. That's rare, actually, but... I saw one earlier. Yeah! (laughs) Two walk-ins today.

We have stuff to do up there. Normally, Jersey City, the city that the studio is in, it's a very small city, not a small city, but it kind of is and it's very neighborhood. Everyone kinda knows everybody, so, which is great, but sometimes it's not great, too. When you're walking outside, you don't have much on, you're just gonna get a cup of coffee or a croissant somewhere you're like, "Oh my God, I don't want this client to see me!" Right now looking like this. We have a term for that in Santa Barbara.

So, it's small and so most of our clients are word of mouth. They're referred from another client who's been here and/or a client has got results and they say, "You know what, you have a back issue, go to the Pilates Haus, they will help you." Or, you know I had a knee issue, I had my knee problem, I went to the Pilates Haus, that helped. Or it's just a fun place to work out and so most of our clients are actually word of mouth then we get a lot of people through internet search as well. So, I would say that would probably be the predominant how way we get clients. Do you advertise that way, I mean internet, trying to?

We don't, actually. We don't advertise at all, actually, That's interesting. Probably we should? But, really most of our clients are just referrals. Okay, how long has The Pilates Haus been here?

We have been here for 13 years, now, going on 14 years. Is this the only location? This is the only location. During hurricane Sandy we were at another location for a couple months, because the ground floor of this building got completely washed out from the tide, but yeah, it was about four feet of water, we were on the second floor, but the building was really messed up. But yeah, 13 years now just that small part we were away.

I wanna know what the secret is. (laughs) To keep it going, can you show me a little bit around? Yeah. So, over here we have teas and things for clients if they want to have a little refreshment and we have a little waiting area where they can read Pilates Style magazine. (chuckles) The newest, latest edition.

All our friends. All my friends and myself. So, I love this cover to because I love the idea of Pilates being for every body. We have two dressing rooms. We have one for women and we have one for men and we don't have bathrooms within the studio, so we share bathrooms, so if someone has to go to the bathroom they just go down the hall.

Used to be ours but then after the hurricane, they reconfigured everything and so they decided to make that communal. That's not a big deal. It's actually quite close. So, this, we have two rooms, this would be our, we call it the Reformer Room. Okay. This is where we do primarily the majority of our one on one sessions.

So, when I worked with Romano, what we did is, we would do Mat reformer, and then for the last lay be like five minutes. We did additional apparatus where you would work with someone with a special need or you're trying to progress them to something else. Then we would do an ending exercise. So, the majority we kinda work with the Mat and Reformer then we do their goodies or their special exercises for maybe the last five-ten minutes or five minutes on the apparatus. So, this room is primarily for that.

We're open seven days a week. Really? Yep. Every single day. We are open Monday through Thursday we are open from actually six in the morning til nine o'clock at night. In the middle of the say do you close?

Who naps? (both laugh) Alright, so like most Pilates studios, in the middle of the day is where it gets quiet. We tend to have about two-three hours in the middle of the day that usually no one is here. Okay. But, up until, I would say about even like two o'clock it gets pretty busy and then we pick up around four o'clock again.

Then we're on Mondays and Fridays, we are open from just in the morning. So, we are open from seven in the morning until about three. And then Saturdays and Sundays, actually those are two of our busiest days. Really? We are open from about seven in the morning to about four o'clock in the afternoon and those days and also at nights and mornings you'll see many people teaching at one time so on our more quiet times there might be just one or two of use teaching.

But in the mornings, nights, weekends there's about four or five people teaching at one time. How do you handle when you're teaching a training on the weekend, I assume, we haven't see the whole thing, so I know there is another room, maybe that's gonna be the answer. Yeah. When there's a training we coordinate and we do this a lot every day, even when there's a lot of people teaching 'cause sometimes there's a class going on and there's privates and there's a duet and there's many things. We have to coordinate with one another and we say okay, I'm gonna spend about half hour in the Reformer then why don't we switch and then that way every client gets a chance to work on something.

We're not in each others way, it's not too loud in one area. And so, we do the same sort of formula when we have trainings that, I might be on the Mat side while privates are going on and if I need the Reformer we can, for that certain point we tend to do the trainings a little bit after hours, too. Really. It's a timing thing. We time everything so everything can work smoothly, we wanna make sure that the apprentices have a really good environment of learning.

We want to make sure that the learning environment is conducive to learning but at the same time we wanna make sure that we're not making the experience for the client different either. So, it's all about timing and coordinating and sometimes we spend an hour or so just to figure out how it's going to work to make sure that everything is gonna work smoothly. How many teachers do you have? So, we have about... It's beautiful, by the way.

Thank you. We have about six teachers and we also have some apprentice teachers as well who after a certain point when I feel that I can trust them to work with a real client, we always have clients who you know, maybe they want to do a group class, they can't afford, I mean they wanna do private, they can't afford the private so they can work with the apprentice. Or they wanna do a group class and we're like, "You're not ready to go to group class, yet." We have the option to give them to an apprentice at a lesser rate, it's good for the apprentice; it's good for the client and they both can get some sort of benefit from it. We actually have two Bosu pieces, I'll show you on the other side but everything in here is Gratz. We wanna make sure we have Mats on this side.

We have the Reformers here. We use this a lot so we decided, for privates, so we decided to keep this in this room. Mmhmm For Swan in the Barrel, Horseback, Short Box, many exercises it's very helpful to have it in here. Yeah. And then we also have the baby armchair in here 'cause I use that also a lot for the privates when I'm trying to progress a client to another exercise that they're not quite ready for.

The baby armchair is very, very helpful. That's good to know. For that, and so I keep that in here, same thing with the electric chair. In both rooms we like to have tools so at any time we need to work with a client, there's some sort of tools or props available in either room. And then we also have our cleaning products here, so we make sure that, one, we wanna make sure that it's a clean environment, but two, we make the clients clean up after themselves.

I was just gonna ask. So, yeah. When they're done with an apparatus, they actually do the cleaning, we make sure everything's set back up. The other half is what we call the Mat Room. And so this is where we do a lot of the...

It's huge! I hadn't seen it in a while. It's huge, I hadn't looked in. Yeah, we have eight mats here. We have four tower units and then we have both Mat Class here and we also have Tower Class here. And the towers we can take up to five, so we use the Cadillac as well.

That's why we have the Cadillac here, so if need be we will put someone who is a little more experienced on the Cadillac and we still have the other four units for Tower. And then for Mat Classes we use all of these and we have some additional Mats. We don't normally do anymore than ten, but sometimes if someone comes in, we have four extra Mats that we can pull out to make space for any additional. You mean from the other room? From the other room, exactly.

I got this form Deborah Lesson, she calls it the Resting Pillow, so it's very helpful. She said this came on the back of Corolla's chair and so it's really good for people, for may things, actually. More for pre-Pilates, I would use this. Okay. And then we have our TV box underneath here, so when Romano worked with pre-Pilates a lot of times a lot of this stuff had to be on the Cadillac, 'cause it's much easier for people to get on and off here and it's also easier for us to work with them.

So if they need to have some sort of grounded, What did you call it? TV box is what Romano called it. But it's a reformer long box, right? Or no? It could be could be a reformer long box or it could be a smaller box that's the same height, just a little bit more or less long. That's what we would call the TV box.

Oh wow. Yeah because a lot of the exercises that were done on it, she wanted on the Cadillac with the TV box, she wanted you to then go home and do these exercises at home again, so easy you could do it in from of your TV. I see. I don't hear, maybe other people do, the word Romano and pre-Pilates together that often, but it's, you do hear modification and so on, but it's interesting where I've never heard of TV box. I like it.

I love this. Thank you. This is like a dream for me. It's not how I'd do it, but this is a dream for me. This actually should not be here.

This should be underneath the Cadillac. I did not do that. You didn't do this one. No. In here we have the different devices.

Not everyone knows what this is. Okay, so this is the neck stretcher. We normally keep it underneath the Cadillac, 'cause that's where we'll use it more, is over there. It's usually used on the Cadillac or the Guillotine. Do you consider it essential?

I think it's very helpful for a studio to have it. For instance I have a client, she requests this every Saturday, Sunday she comes. She comes every Saturday, Sunday, she's big Wall Street type of, we get a lot, most of our clients are actually in the finance industry because Wall Street is right across the river and it's easy for them to take the path or the ferry there. It's a very big banking community, here. But she always asks for this, every time she comes in.

So, I do use it quite often. We have our toe exerciser. We have our sand bag. We have our breath exerciser. So, we have all the different, foot correcter, all the different devices, and then we have all our circles and arms weights and balls.

It doesn't go here, I'm gonna take this with me. (laughs) Just kidding. I know that will hurt to walk away. You know me. It's good, how important do you think it is to stay disciplined like that?

I'll show you something over here that I'm very, very picky about is I like things to have their place and you know that about me. It's comforting actually. For the studio as well. So when my clients come in for instance, if you notice all the springs, there's a place for the arm springs, there's a place for the leg springs, all the hooks are facing the same direction. There's a place of the rollback bar, so that's why I like it because I don't like clutter.

Right. And I think, you know Romano always said that the studio should be safe and when things have a place, and they're where they should be, then it's a safe, functioning studio and so when a client comes in, actually he's new who hasn't taken a Tower Class, I don't have to say anything actually, it's the clients go, "By the way, he likes it a certain way." And so, then that way they all learn that, I don't even have to teach it to them, the other clients teach them the rules of the studio, actually. And when they're done they go, "Oh the spray bottle's over there, you have to make sure you clean up your Mat." So it becomes an environment and it becomes a culture. But, sounds bad but at the same time it's also a very friendly culture. People, we try to create a very positive environment here, we also create a sense of community and people know each other from outside of the studio but then a lot of people meet each other through the studio.

And then they start to create play dates for their children. They create times to go out and hang out with each other and that's what I love about the studio and it being in a smaller city, and they have many small neighborhoods that you create an environment where people do get to know each other and it does become essential for the community. What's the hardest thing about renting a place? This is large. When you hear of New York City, or New Jersey, really it does feel like New York.

For a New York studio space this is actually quite large. We were looking for a new space actually, just to change and the going rate is quite expensive. So, it's hard to get a larger space. But this is the space that I really have grown to feel very comfortable in. When I travel, I'm always so excited to get back to my own space because I know where everything is.

Anything I need to grab real quick, I know where to go to get it to work with my clients. But I am happy to have enough space where there's a sense of expansiveness and that's why I also picked lighter colors. Colors that would be calm because we're here a lot of the time during the day and I want to make sure that I'm always in a space that I can feel relaxed. So, it's not just for the client, it's for you. It's for both, yeah.

I want the clients to feel relaxed, a place that's positive, that's easy. But at the same time I need to also feel comfortable since I'm gonna be here all day. (laughs) Yeah. What I find is that you become a family in a good running studio, actually, should function that way and course there's gonna be some times that you get on each others nerves a little bit. But, all family members are like that and so what I do is, we do something called family dinner, that's what we call it, that at least a couple...

Beyond Ted Suo and Tiffany, you're actual family? Yeah, beyond my actual family, all the other teachers, we plan times to go out outside of the studio or I have them over to my house for dinner and that's what we call 'family dinner.' So that way, you know, it keeps a close knit working relationship. We are co-workers, but in a way we're family. We care about each other. If we need to pick up the pieces for someone, you know something is happening in somebody's lives, we are more than happy to jump in and try to help.

I think it's very important to have your teachers happy. So, anyone who works more than a certain an hours, then there's healthcare. Nice. You do that? We do. We want to make sure that they're happy with their hours, happy with their pay.

We wanna make sure they're happy 'cause I feel like if the teachers are happy, it's gonna be a more well-functioning studio. It's when a teacher's not happy is when dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-dit starts and it starts to then spread, so it's very important to make sure that the people who are work for you are happy because then they care about the studio as well. And I think that's partly why we do have teachers who have been with us for many years because we care about them and wanna make sure they're comfortable. That's a great philosophy. What do you do when it doesn't happen?

Have you ever needed to correct someone who's just not quite following the family rules, shall we say? One benefit in terms of teachers is that pretty much every teacher who works for me also was once my student. So, I do have a benefit, if I feel something the teaching needs to be addressed, I can address it and there's less of a push because there's that ... You've been the mentor all along. Exactly.

So, that definitely helps. I bet. And then there are teachers who have gone on and done their own and we're, I'm happy for them to go on and then start something else by themselves. So, I really haven't had much problem in that way. In terms of clients, when we want to create a good environment, if a client, sometimes you have a client who's not in a good mood or there's something that's going on that's not related to the studio we do address it because we don't want it to then affect other people.

We're not gonna be, "you need to" right in front, but we want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and also that there's always a positive vibe not just coming from us. There has to be a certain amount of respect to each other and tolerance towards each other. There's people working in a space, we wanna make sure that everyone's comfortable. So, we do make sure that, it's not normally a problem, but we do want to make sure that clients know that there's a certain environment and certain culture in the studio; that culture has to be followed. And everyone pretty much is more than happy to, for the most part follow the culture of how the studio is run.

It sounds, what I'm getting out of all of this is that the culture is really the key on every level, how it's set up, how it's... We know all of our clients, we say we're kinda like old school mom and pop shop. I have to actually show you something. You, please. Afterwards, it's in the other room, can we?

Yeah, absolutely. I have to show this. Oh, don't. (laughter) Oh, no that's great! That's just like Corolla. Now-a-days, there's Mindbody but we don't do all of that.

Possibly more efficient. We actually do everything through these cards and this is how we track, actually peoples sessions and it's funny because this little box works for us and of course we have a schedule on the computer as well but this tracking system is like an old school way of doing it. But, it works, actually. It's classic. It's classic, 'cause it's like, "No, no, you only came this amount of times." This one actually, I'll have to make sure I put this one in the back.

(laughter) So, it's kind of old school and maybe someone might not think that it's so efficient, but for us, actually it's very efficient and I don't feel the need, I think it's an amazing program and actually at some point we probably will go to that, but right now we don't feel the need to. This works for us and we know all of our clients names. We know what their issues are. If they have an injury, we know all of that and we can see their progress. Do you check the exercises, too, or just the times that they come in?

Actually we don't check exercises. Pretty much we do everything... 'Cause you know them, it sounds like. Yeah. Everything by memory. And so, when someone does work with another instructor we say, "Okay, this is what they do, they do this, they do this, they do this" and then we share a lot of clients as well because everyone has a different schedule.

Sometimes someone has to take a vacation or something has come up, I'm away. So, clients are used to also working with other instructors. Also, because we're in this space together, we know what other people's clients are doing and if we don't we just ask them and it's actually quite easy that way. Do you do Mat Group Vlasses and Reformer or Tower? We only do Mat and Tower Group Classes.

I myself, this is just my thing, I'm not very, I don't believe in Reformer Classes and I just think there is a lot that can go wrong. Mmhmm. I don't think Romano was so big into reformer classes I don't know. I haven't gone to Reformer Class yet. And I don't really feel the need to at the moment.

Yeah. Yeah. But not that it's wrong if someone else does it, it's just that it's- I'm afraid to put a lot of people who on something, Moving pieces. Moving pieces and the level of danger of maybe something happening. Yeah.

I would be okay, but I don't wanna put one of my instructors who doesn't feel like maybe, so comfortable in a position where they feel uncomfortable. Makes sense. Makes sense. It's impressive. Just like everything that you do and are.

Thank you for letting us in. No problem, thank you for coming. Love being here, yeah. Absolutely. The Pilates Haus. Love this man.


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1 person likes this.
In addition to Brett just generally being awesome, what a beautiful studio!
1 person likes this.
Great! Especially when Brett showed how his booking system works. I always find those hints very useful. At the end it should work and should be effective. I would appreciate another tutorial about the business side : how do new clients sign up, what are the requirements, 1st session, how do they need to commit, how do you handle cancellations...he spoke about memorizing the exercises - how do other teachers do it? What is effective and what works best? He also spoke about the satisfaction of the teachers . Do the teachers get paid more if there classes are fuller or if they recruit clients? Is it best to pay according to experience of the teacher or commitment? Thanks in advance!
1 person likes this.
Very useful, very interesting. A nice place to work as a teacher and as a client. I like his point of view concerning the reformer classes. Thank you:)
Beautiful space! Loved hearing you talk about group reformer classes. Very early on in my Pilates career I taught group reformer for a very short time and it was very frustrating to me. Something I don’t care to do. And... OMG I love your tracking system! Very similar to mine and Yep, it works! Thank you this was really fun to watch.
Thank you for sharing! Would love to see more of these!
Patty Hafen
Beautiful, bright, clean, organized studio Brett. I also use the card system and a manual calendar. I am on "that" booking system, but I am considering canceling it, because the "old fashioned" system works for me (and the monthly rate just went up, again!). Thank you for sharing your space with all of us.
2 people like this.
Thanks for your comment about reformer classes. I agree! Love your emphasis on creating a positive culture for clients and staff! So important.
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