Do You Hire (and Retain) Sylvies?

poodleI’ve been seeing Sylvie, my hair stylist, for about a year now – ever since my last one disappeared without a trace.

(I suspect she ran off to be with her boyfriend in Hawaii, though I have no firm confirmation of this.)

Over the course of the year that Sylvie’s been cutting my hair, she’s been at three different local salons:

  • The one where I was originally transferred over to her when Hair Stylist #1 disappeared;
  • An odd French/Moroccan-hybrid-themed place, with an in-house poodle, located behind an auto parts store in a desolate corner of town; and
  • The place over the Starbucks where she cuts my hair now.

The current spot is great because it’s in a nice loft space with tons of windows. In the wintertime, looking out over the town, you feel like you’re getting shampooed in the middle of a snow globe. But even if Sylvie decided to go back to Poodle Coifs, I’d go, too.

I wouldn’t bother playing this sort of “Where’s Waldo?” with any other hair stylist I’ve had in the past, but Sylvie’s one of a kind. It’s not even so much that she’s technically skilled at her work – which she is. It’s more that she’s passionate about what she does, and very easy to talk to, and makes me (and everyone else she comes into contact with) feel special and valued.

The reason I bring this all up is that too many child care centers view teachers as interchangeable commodities rather than a key – if not the key – part of the family retention and satisfaction puzzle.

Even if you’re a super-involved owner or director (which is fantastic), your teachers are the people your families interact with day in and day out. They are the ones who plan the curriculum, read the stories, kiss the boo-boos, give the hugs at the start and end of the day, and provide the reports on kids’ behavior, moods, and general well-being.

They are the ones who care for and love the kids at your center when their parents are away at work. Parents love them for this – and rightly so.

All of this means that parents’ bonds with the teachers at a center tend to be even stronger than parents’ bonds with the center itself. Don’t get me wrong – if a single beloved teacher leaves, families are probably not going to leave in droves to follow her to your competitor across town, as I’ve done with Sylvie.

But if you have a lot of turnover, and families start to perceive (rightly or wrongly) that you don’t value your teachers as individuals, well, then you’re going to have problems. Here are 4 steps to help prevent this:

1. Pay your teachers well. Even a little bit more than the other centers in your area are paying can help cement your reputation as a center that values its staff.

2. Invest in their training and development. Not only does this make for better teachers, it makes for teachers who know you believe in them and want them to succeed.

3. Celebrate your teachers. You should do this both publicly (a “Teacher of the Month” bulletin board, for example) and privately (compliment teachers on a job well done and thank them regularly for their efforts).

4. Be transparent about departures. It’s disconcerting for parents, not to mention kids, when familiar faces disappear without a trace or explanation. If you don’t tell them otherwise, they will start to assume something bad is happening at your center.

So when a teacher leaves, for whatever reason, be sure to notify parents and be as open as you can without violating teacher confidentiality:

  • “Miss Maureen has decided to stay home with her new baby, and we’re all excited for her!”
  • “Mr. Brady is going back to school to pursue his degree in Early Childhood Education.”
  • “Miss Janna is leaving to pursue other opportunities, and we all wish her the best.” (This one is a nice, graceful catch-all for even the messiest separations, regardless of whose decision it was to terminate the working relationship.)

It’s nice to have a LEED-certified green building or state-of-the-art playground equipment. But without excellent teachers, none of that other stuff really matters much. Nurture your Sylvies.

Click here to get your copy of our exclusive free report, 6 Easy Ways To Boost Enrollments and Attract the Very Best Staff.

The Art of The Apology

sorry

I always thought the person who came up with that famous line from Love Story – “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” – knew very little about love or apologies.

As John Lennon once put it much more accurately, love means having to say you’re sorry every fifteen minutes.

I’m sorry I hurt you.

I’m sorry I was late picking you up.

I’m sorry I put your freshly poured cup of hot coffee into the fridge and promptly forgot I’d done so. (I actually did this to Eric last Sunday, in a particularly sleepy morning moment.)

For the mere mortals among us, and last I checked that was pretty much everybody, screwing up is a part of life – which means that apologies are a part of life, too.

This is no less true in business. No matter how careful and conscientious you are, you’re going to mess up from time to time; it’s inevitable. Whether it’s losing track of a kid on the playground or losing a parent’s tuition check, mistakes happen.

How you handle what happens next can mean the difference between your mistake being a “hey, we’ve all been there” blip and a relationship-ending rift with a family or employee at your center. And good apologies are particularly critical in a highly trust-dependent business like child care.

Despite how good we all are at making mistakes, and how often we make them, most of us are remarkably bad at apologizing for them. Here are 5 tips for improving your average.

1. Own your mistakes. As Dale Carnegie put it in his classic book, How To Win Friends and Influence People, “If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.” I couldn’t put it any better.

2. Don’t make excuses. Any apology that includes a “but” anywhere in it is no apology worth offering. And, of course, one with “but you…” or “but you should have…” is even worse.

3. Refuse to pass the buck. As a leader at your school, you are ultimately responsible for what happens there. So it’s neither fair nor helpful to publicly throw a teacher or other staff member under the bus when something goes wrong.

Parents will appreciate your ownership of the problem, and teachers will appreciate that you’ve got their back. (If the same staff member keeps screwing up over and over, of course, apologies are no longer the answer – termination is.)

4. Don’t minimze the problem. There are few things more frustrating than dealing with someone who tries to emphasize how insignificant his or her mistake was; only the wronged party can be the judge of that.

5. Offer solutions. This is, perhaps, the most important part of any apology. Even if you can’t put things fully back together again, it’s reassuring to hear the steps that have been taken to be sure the same mistake won’t happen again.

Additionally, if you’re prepared to follow through on what the person says, the following words can be almost magical when it comes to smoothing things over: “How can we make it right?”

Click here for your copy of our exclusive free report, 17 Secrets to Finding – and Keeping – Great Teachers.

Think Like a Realtor

sold signBack in 2007, I was newly divorced and living with my parents when I decided, almost on a whim, to attend a real estate open house here in Portsmouth.

I fell hard, becoming immediately and hopelessly smitten with the place. It was all I could do not to order the other people at the open house off what I was already considering my front porch.

Against my better judgment, I put an offer in (having looked at a grand total of just the one house; who does that?), and a few months later it was mine. I was pretty clueless about the whole process, but the seller’s agent, Brad, was a godsend.

Despite the fact that I wasn’t even Brad’s client, he helped me out with getting the inspection scheduled; walked me through all the paperwork; recommended a local plumber, handyman, and electrician; and sent me a $200 Home Depot gift card after the closing. He even offered, along with his wife, to introduce me to some folks around town so I could start to meet some friends.

The most rash decision I ever made turned out to be a good one – I’m still happily living in the house to this day, accompanied now by my husband and two small children. We’ve added onto the house since I bought it, and as much as we love it we know we’re probably going to have to move to a bigger place sometime in the next few years.

When it comes time to sell, who do you think we’re going to call?

From the get-go, Brad went above and beyond to make both the sale and the move as easy as possible for me. Plus, he’s stayed in touch periodically ever since then with useful, informative articles and emails.

We got something from Brad in the mail yesterday, in fact – a market snapshot of what homes in our neighborhood have been selling for. It was a little spooky, as Eric and I had been talking just the other day about calling Brad when we get ready to sell (maybe that’s his secret: bugging the homes he sells. Illegal, sure, but highly effective).

Brad’s efforts have already paid off in the form of a few referrals I’ve sent him, as well as the lock he’s got on our own house sale in the not-too-distant future.

In the child care business, you won’t have too many families who use your services and then need you again 7+ years later. But satisfied families do have friends, relatives, co-workers, and other connections in the area they will eagerly send your way, even many years after their kids have aged out of your program – assuming they think to do so, which is why staying in touch is so important.

Additionally, like a home purchase, child care is a major investment – so every repeat customer (i.e., multiple kids from the same family) and referral is worth a lot.

This means you can, and should, invest a fair amount of both time and money in the following:

  • Providing superior service – even when it doesn’t seem strictly necessary to do so. (Case in point: Look how Brad won me over – and has already earned money from me via referrals – even though I have not yet actually been a client of his.)
  • Handsomely rewarding staff and parents who send you referrals – you want to encourage this behavior, ideally over and over!
  • Keeping in touch with alumni families and other families in your area on a regular basis. Note that this includes families on your wait list, and even families who have opted for child care elsewhere. If your approach is that of a helpful friend and expert on all things kid-related, they will always be glad to hear from you. And you’ll stay top of mind.

New business can come to you from all kinds of places. It’s your job to make it easy for it to find you.

Click here for your free copy of our exclusive report, 64 Terrific Child Care Marketing Ideas.

To Google or Not To Google?

Google

I firmly believe that if we were required to publicly disclose our Google searches, the company would shut down within a week.

Admit it, you know what I’m talking about: From self-diagnosis of embarrassing medical rashes…to dancing animated cats…to petty peeks at the current world of former loves, there’s a lot we look for online that we wouldn’t want the world to know about.

And that’s completely normal. (Right? If I’m the only one who does this sort of thing, excuse my bright red face while I go duck into the corner of shame.)

There are plenty of legitimate uses for Google, too, of course. With a veritable world of information about any potential job applicant right there at your fingertips, it would be silly not to take advantage of it as soon as that resume comes in, yes?

Actually, no. As common – and tempting – as it is to cyber-stalk job candidates, it’s a temptation you should resist.

The danger, you see, is finding out something you’re really better off not knowing in the event you decide not to hire someone – like her religious affiliation, or the fact that he has a disability. Legally protected reasons, in other words – factors you are not allowed to consider when you decide to hire someone (or not).

Now, that protected information may have no bearing whatsoever on your decision – but it’s hard to prove that if the passed-over applicant claims otherwise.

Lawyers are fond of saying that “you can’t un-ring a bell” – meaning that once you know this potentially sensitive information, there’s no way to un-know it. And the legal risks far outweigh the benefits of, say, knowing that an applicant has 246 friends on Facebook and an inordinate fondness for photographing her meals.

If you are bound and determined to conduct online research on your job applicants, here are some precautions I recommend:

1. Don’t look online until you’ve narrowed the field to a few finalists. If someone is a non-starter right out of the box, there’s no point in investing the time (and risk) on an online search anyway.

2. Decide in advance what you’re looking for. Maybe you’re afraid of hiring a teacher who badmouths former employers online – or one who has the poor judgment to plaster scantily clad photos of herself all over the Web. Whatever it is, clearly articulate it. Don’t start looking with the mindset that you’ll just “see what’s out there.”

3. Have someone else do the searching. Ideally, someone other than the person in charge of hiring should be the one researching the information you’ve identified in Step #2. Then, he or she can report whether or not anything relevant has turned up; anything else that gets unearthed should be disregarded.

4. Tell the finalists that you’ll be looking online. Explain, too, exactly what you’ll be looking for.

You might assume that the applicants will instantly go and delete anything potentially incriminating, but this rarely happens. Generally speaking, people clueless enough to leave a damaging cyber-trail are clueless enough to leave it right where it is, even in the face of imminent exposure (think about how many drunk drivers those sobriety checkpoints net even when they’re publicized in advance).

A little information can be a dangerous thing from a legal standpoint. So put down your virtual spy glass and leave the detective work to Sherlock Holmes.

Click here for your copy of our exclusive free report, 6 Easy Ways To Boost Enrollments and Attract the Very Best Staff.

Are Your Employees This Loyal?

Arthur T. DemoulasThe grocery industry, like the child care industry, has a notoriously high rate of employee turnover. And unlike the child care industry, the rigors of the work aren’t tempered at all by warm baby cuddles and sloppy toddler kisses.

In large part, working at a grocery store consists of physically taxing, mentally draining days full of annoyingly clueless shoppers (like me) who can’t find the horseradish even when it’s six inches in front of them. And nobody’s there for the fantastic pay.

Which is what makes the current saga of our local Market Basket chain of grocery stores so extraordinary.

The gentleman above is Arthur T. Demoulas, the recently ousted CEO of the chain. He was fired by the company’s board, which is controlled by his cousin (making this year’s family holiday gathering a bit awkward at best, one can only assume), and replaced by a pair of geographically distant co-CEOs.

(Co-CEOs, incidentally, are almost always a terrible idea and generally result from nobody wanting to be the person with whom the buck truly stops. But I digress.)

Demoulas is tremendously beloved by his workers – so much so, in fact, that many of them have decided to stop coming to work unless and until he is reinstated as CEO. The workers’ written demand states in no uncertain terms that they want him back with “full authority, non-negotiable…We will not work for anyone but ATD.”

Workers at all levels – none of them unionized – have walked off the job, putting their paychecks at risk, and thousands have attended local rallies. They have been joined both in person and online by tens of thousands of loyal Market Basket customers, all of whom are united with the workers in wanting to “save our store” and bring the popular CEO back.

As of this writing, the local stores are nearly empty; deliveries of fresh groceries have been halted due to the walkouts. We’re all waiting with bated breath to see what happens next.

It’s truly been something to see. While it’s impossible for me, as an outsider to the company, to know exactly what’s going on behind closed doors (the scuttlebutt is that the new leadership is all about maximizing profits for themselves), here’s what seems to be indisputed:

  • Demoulas genuinely cares about his workers and values their contributions, providing them with generous bonuses and profit-sharing packages.
  • His store visits have been known to take hours, as he’s interested in talking with everyone he can and finding out both how they’re doing and what they think about things.
  • He has exhibited extraordinary generosity and compassion when workers (or their family members) encounter personal misfortunes or serious illness.
  • He is committed to providing excellent service at a fair price – as a regular Market Basket shopper, I have seen this in action.
  • In a high-turnover industry, Market Basket is full of workers who have been there 10, 20, or even 30 years or more (everyone’s length of tenure is proudly posted right on their nametags).
  • He has created not just a chain of food stores, but a cherished corporate culture with a life and identity of its own.

Demoulas has been quoted as saying, “We’re in the people business first and the food business second…If we get the first part right, we’re 80 percent there.”

This is one smart man – and someone early childhood educators can learn a lot from.

It can be tempting, watching yet another new teacher flake out or quit without notice, to get discouraged and accept the status quo of the revolving-door culture of ECE staff.

But if you take the time to hire carefully, nurture and train your teachers, steep them in all that makes your child care center special, appreciate and reward them to the best of your ability, and make them a trusted, integral part of the process every day, you may be surprised at how long they start to stick around – and how valuable they become to you.

The bottom line is that great leadership leads to great loyalty and exceptional performance, regardless of what business you’re in.

To grab your copy of our exclusive free report, 17 Secrets to Finding – and Keeping – Great Teachers, click here.

Where Does It Hurt?

band aids

A few weeks back, Lorelei took a nasty tumble on a boat dock. She turned her ankle a little, and had a few scrapes and bruises. She’s a tough kid, though, and by the next day the only lingering problem was a little pain in her “thumb toe.”

The first thing we asked her when she went down, naturally, was “Where does it hurt?”

We all do it with kids, and even the really little guys are good at identifying the precise location of the boo-boo. (This has no relation, of course, to where they want the Band-Aids applied, which is usually everywhere, and as many as possible.)

It’s pretty obvious, really – we can’t effectively treat the pain if we don’t know its exact nature and location. But when it comes to pain in our businesses, many of us are perfectly happy to stay in the dark. Which is a mistake.

Let’s say enrollments are down from last year. A surprising number of child care owners and administrators are content to chalk it up to, say, a new center that opened elsewhere in town, or road construction that’s now detouring traffic away from the center, or even just “the economy” generally.

Now, any or all of these could in fact be factors – or not. There’s only one way to find out the real story, and that’s to do some research.

Are you getting the same number of inquiries as you were this time last year? Are you giving as many tours? Is your percentage of tours-leading-to-enrollments down? Are current families leaving in greater numbers than before? If so, from which classroom(s)? Do you follow up with families who enroll elsewhere to find out why? Are you regularly surveying current parents to get their feedback?

It’s no fun to delve deeply into the cause of a problem at your business – but if you don’t know where you’re going off track, it’s almost impossible to get back on track. And the good news is that once you’ve identified the problem, you’re well on your way to fixing it.

So where does it hurt?

Child Care Marketing: Do What Works for You

american flag

For most of us here in the United States, we wrapped up our July 4th celebrations last week. The hot dogs have been eaten, the fireworks shows are over, and everyone is back to the gentler rhythms of summer.

This is not the case, however, at the American Independence Museum in Exeter, a town not too far from here.

Right at this moment, the museum is gearing up for its flagship American Independence Festival this coming Saturday – which involves over a hundred costumed historical actors and a breathless re-enactment of the horseback delivery of the Declaration of Independence to the people of Exeter back in 1776. (Exeter, apparently, didn’t get the big news until July 16th, which is the reason for the delayed celebrations.)

You might think that people would be all July-4thed-out by now, a week after the main event, but the festival is immensely popular, and it’s the museum’s biggest event of the year. The Exeter town fireworks are even delayed to coincide with the festival.

Because the museum is not competing with everyone else for those prime days right around the 4th, it’s carved out its very own space in which to shine.

Which brings me to the marketing point of today’s post: When it comes to telling the world about your child care center and all the great things you have to offer, it’s okay to do things a little differently than the other centers in your area.

Case in point: Facebook. A lot of parents are on Facebook, to be sure, and a lot of child care centers have found success marketing there – whether they use Facebook’s paid ads or just stay active on the site as a way of keeping in touch.

But if you personally dislike Facebook, or just don’t get it, or feel annoyed and confused every time you log on, Facebook is not the tool for you.

This is not to say you get a free pass with your marketing, of course – you will need to figure out some other way to consistently stay in front of the parents in your area who may need child care in the near future – but don’t feel compelled to do something that’s a poor fit just because it seems like everyone else is doing it.

In my business, I do a lot of blogging because I enjoy it and because it works well for me. I have zero presence on Pinterest at the moment, however, because it’s just not my thing.

I like looking at all the gorgeous photos (until they make me feel bad for not being sufficiently creative and crafty and able to execute ideas like a life-size Santa made entirely of Gummi Bears), but Pinterest just doesn’t resonate with me. So I don’t worry about it.

You have limited time, energy, and mental space – not to mention money. You simply can’t do it all when it comes to your marketing, and you shouldn’t try. Focus on the few things that you enjoy doing, and that work for you, and you’ll be just fine.

And if that means doing Christmas in July, or July 4th on July 12th, more power to you.

How To Throw A Party: Tips From The Masters

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A couple of weeks ago, we received invitations in both Lorelei’s and Nicholas’s mailboxes at school – as far as I could tell, every child at the center got one.

Here are some key excerpts; names and some details changed to protect the revelrous:

 

LET’S PARTY!!!!!

On June 21 for a Summertime Bash at the Crazy Smith House

OUR LITTLE DIVA MORGAN is turning 2 and OUR CRAZY MONKEY BEN is going into kindergarten this year, so please come and join us as we celebrate these two milestones and bring in the beginning of summer in style!!!

There will be outdoor activities and much more for all ages so bring a change of clothes, bathing suits and a towel as well as your running shoes :) This will be a wicked fun event and should not be missed! We will supply food and sugary treats for all.

Time: 2:00 pm to whenever we can’t take it anymore!

Hard to resist, right? You can almost feel the enthusiasm bursting off the page. Despite not knowing either Diva Morgan or Crazy Monkey Ben all that well, the kids and I went to the party and had a great time. It was all that was promised and more.

My only regret is that I had to get Lorelei and Nicholas (by then well-sugared-up and nearly delirious with excitement) home before the piñata came out. Had there also been a marching band and a fire-eater later on, I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised.

This, my friends, is how you do it up right. And this sort of genuine enthusiasm is what rings true for – and attracts – great parents and staff to your center. In your marketing, on your Facebook page, and on your website.

Another terrific example I saw recently: To celebrate its first year in business, Koala Park Daycare in Tuckahoe, New York, decided to give all of the parents at the center a Date Night, providing free child care from 6-8 pm.

But wait – it gets better. Koala Park actually bought dinner for all of the parents, too, hosting a gala event at a local restaurant (community-building) with a cake, cupcakes, and pizzas provided by other local businesses (more community-building).

The parents all liked it so much – and who could blame them? – that Koala Park has decided to make this a quarterly event, as an added perk of the great service they already provide. “This is our way of saying THANK YOU to all the families that believe in us, trust us and support our vision and business,” the center noted in a press release.

Well done, Koala Park! You can check out some photos of the event on their Facebook page.

Those parents are always going to remember and appreciate that evening, talk it up among their friends, and stay fiercely loyal to Koala Park until their kids head off to kindergarten. And the local press picked up the story, too. From a marketing standpoint, that’s a grand slam – it just doesn’t get any better than that.

What can you do to blow people away in a fun, memorable way at your center? Think big.

Of Flannel Shirts and Flapjacks

John McCainGrowing up in New Hampshire, with its cherished first-in-the-nation presidential primary status, you get used to seeing national politicians all over the place every few years.

You can always spot them a mile away, looking visibly uncomfortable in their brand-spanking-new plaid flannel shirts and L.L.Bean gum boots. (Believe it or not, they’re already starting to pop up here and there as they ramp up for 2016.)

When I was in high school, Jerry Brown once spontaneously dropped by my evening dance class, despite the fact that most of us weren’t even old enough to vote. Four years later, I shook Bob Dole’s hand amidst a sea of prom dresses during a New Year’s Eve visit to The Princess Shop in Concord. And Hillary Clinton made headlines right here in Portsmouth back in 2008.

The day before the New Hampshire primary, as the tide was turning inexorably toward Barack Obama, Clinton held a meet-and-greet at local breakfast spot Café Espresso.

Her visit wasn’t noteworthy in itself, but rather the fact that she had an unguarded moment of candor and vulnerability when she talked about how hard the whole process was. She even got a little choked up, which was nearly unheard of for the tough former First Lady.

That moment wasn’t enough to clinch her the nomination, but it did provide her campaign with a late-in-the-game boost of energy. It also prompted my husband and me to start referring to Café Espresso as “Hillary’s Tears.” We called it that for years, until my daughter re-christened it “Ruthie’s Restaurant” after a beloved former teacher started working there.

My friend from New York, on the other hand, who visits us often, refers to Café Espresso as “that place where you can get both sweet and savory for breakfast,” given their extensive array of combo platters. And I can only guess what Clinton herself thinks of the place.

My point (and I do have one) is this: Your brand ultimately exists in the minds of your customers, for better or worse, and everything you do affects their impressions. This means that, to a large extent, your brand is out of your control.

This is actually not as scary as it sounds, but it does mean you need to be paying attention all the time. If a prospective mom’s only experience with your child care business is that harried teacher who quickly tried to hustle her off the phone when she called for info, well, that’s what she’s going to remember.

That mom is not going to know, or care, that three teachers called in sick that day and that the person who answered the phone is actually one of your best, most caring ECE educators. All she has to go on is her own direct experience.

Being a local business – one that’s exceptionally dependent on trust and reputation, no less – means you have to be on your game day in and day out, even when you don’t feel quite up to it.

In a way, however, this simplifies things for you, as it gives you a lens through which to view all business decisions and actions: Will this enhance or detract from our reputation as a trusted, high-quality provider of child care and education in this community? 

Using this as a barometer doesn’t mean that acting on your choices will be easy – far from it – but it does often clarify what the right choice is. And over time, as your reputation grows, it will become your most valuable business asset.

In short, you are in the business of continually reinforcing to current and prospective parents that the right child care choice is you. No flannel shirts or gum boots necessary.

In the Weeds? Here’s How To Get Out.

restaurant kitchenDespite my inordinate fondness for anything having to do with food (buying it, eating it, cooking it, you name it), I’ve never spent any time working in a professional kitchen.

Which is a shame, as I think it would be incredibly interesting – and exhausting, which is why I have no plans to add this particular item to my bucket list.

I do read a lot about food and restaurants, though. I’ve learned that “dupes” are duplicate tickets printed out to keep track of various orders and courses in the kitchen, a “salamander” is a broiler, and “in the weeds” is when you’re completely, totally slammed trying to keep up with everything that’s coming at you.

ECE professionals know a little something about being “in the weeds.”

Overwhelm is a regular – sometimes daily – occurrence at most child care centers. Part of this, of course, is the fact that the business inherently revolves around wildly energetic, unpredictable, loud little people. Not to mention their often equally loud and unpredictable parents.

There’s just plain a lot to get done, all the time, day in and day out. And with an endless stream of tasks and t0-dos, it can be difficult to know what to do first.

Barring a bona fide emergency – the “call 911 immediately” sort – here are the three things you should always be sure to put at the top of your list. If something doesn’t fall into one of these three categories, it’s probably a second-tier task:

1. Generating new leads. Marketing, in other words – the things that bring in new phone calls, emails, and inquiries. Children are always going to be graduating out of your ECE program, so you are always going to need a steady stream of new kids coming in to replace them.

2. Closing new business. Securing new enrollments, in other words. Since most parents make their child care decision only after a center tour, you should be spending a good chunk of your time and energy on getting parents in for tours, making those tours great, and incentivizing parents to enroll at the conclusion of the tour.

3. Enhancing the customer experience. This means doing everything you can to create the best possible experience for the kids and families at your center – including hiring and retaining the very best teachers, as they play a huge role in both kid and parent satisfaction.

These three categories of tasks have the most direct impact on your bottom line, and therefore the biggest impact on the success of your business.

This is not to say that other things don’t have to get done, too (like required paperwork and organizing your office from time to time so the stacks don’t threaten to topple over and crush you), but they need to be slotted in around the big three above. And when those three are tended to, and done well, everything else will largely take care of itself.

When you don’t know what to do first, do one of the big three.