5 Reasons It’s Great To Have A Child Care Business

child care business

As you know, child care can be very rewarding. Sure, there’s a lot of stress – not to mention poop! – but at the end of the day, you’re making a difference in the lives of children in your community. And that’s an amazing feeling.

But here are a few other reasons it’s great to be in this industry that you may not have considered – factors that actually work in your favor when it comes to the earning potential of your business:

1. Child care is highly recession-resistant. The world is changing daily, and it’s hard to predict the future (as any obsolete travel agent or downsized journalist can tell you). But the bottom line is that parents are always going to have to go to work – and unless they start making infant-sized hard hats and drool-resistant calculators, those parents are always going to need care for their children.

2. You can never be globally outsourced. No matter how advanced the teleconferencing industry becomes, a facility in India will never be able to care for children in Dallas. Texans (and Alaskans, and Brits, and parents all over the world) will always need quality local care for their kids.

3. Your industry enjoys an extremely high Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). Think of each family with kids at your center as a separate customer. Now think about how much money, in total, an average family spends with you over the entire time their kids are in care. Staggering, isn’t it? Even the priciest restaurants and surgeons and lawyers generally can’t boast numbers like these. (For more on CLV, as well as a few other marketing tips, check out my free report.)

4. You get to see – and win over – your customers on a daily basis. Oftentimes twice a day, if the same parent is in charge of both drop-off and pick-up. This, again, is unheard of in nearly all other industries. Your dry cleaner definitely isn’t expecting to see you ten times a week – if so, you may want to invest in a bib and/or more wash-and-wear clothing.

5. Your customers develop an incredibly strong emotional connection with you. People talk all the time about how much they love, say, their Hondas. And they probably do. But that pales in comparison to the feeling they get when they think about the special place they bring their small children almost every single day – and the special people who work there. If you can dazzle parents with the quality of service and care you provide, that devotion is pretty much priceless in almost every sense of the word.

So when the days get long and you get discouraged, take heart – you are in the right business.

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

Do You Run Bad Meetings?

do you run bad meetings?

I have always fervently believed that the best meeting is no meeting at all. Sometimes – very occasionally – meetings are truly necessary, but most of the time they are huge time-wasters for everyone involved.

And, worse still, meetings are the very worst kind of time-waster in that they involve multiple people and give the participants the illusion of “doing work.”

But meetings almost never involve the type of work that truly matters at your child care center (namely, generating new leads, improving the experience for your current kids and parents, increasing revenue, or hammering out systems that save you real time and/or money).

The next time you’re tempted to schedule a meeting, keep the following 8 guidelines in mind:

1. Be mindful of the real time expenditure. If you schedule a one-hour meeting for eight people, you are devoting eight total hours of your center’s time to it – an entire business day. What you’re planning to cover may in fact be worth it – but it may not.

2. Watch out for “but it’s what we’ve always done!” thinking. Just because you’ve always had, say, a one-hour weekly staff meeting doesn’t mean you need to continue to do so.

Is there a solid reason, other than tradition, to continue having it? Would a group email serve just as well? Or could you have the meeting just once a month –  or even once every other month – instead of once a week? Is it possible that maybe the meeting doesn’t need to happen at all?

3. Limit the number of participants. In general, there are just a few key people who truly need to be at any given meeting; the other attendees are there on an FYI basis. If someone can be adequately filled in after the fact, do that instead and let them off the meeting hook.

4. Beware of meeting creep. Meetings, like almost everything else in life, will expand to fill the time allotted. If you schedule a one-hour meeting, it will invariably take an hour and then some. Try cutting it down to half an hour – and get ruthless about both starting and ending on time. You’ll be surprised how much you can fit in when you’re watching the clock.

5. Have a clear, written agenda – and stick to it. It’s amazing how many meetings are scheduled “just because,” with no clear sense of what they’re meant to convey or accomplish. The person calling the meeting should also be in charge of providing a written agenda to all participants in advance, and making sure that people don’t get off topic.

6. Establish next steps. The last few minutes of any meeting should be devoted to clarifying next steps:

“So, Janie, we’ve agreed that you will talk to Billy’s parents about your concerns before the end of next week. Emma, you’re going to write up a job ad for our new custodian and have it on my desk for review by Tuesday morning at 9. And, Sam, you’ll start pricing out supplies for the holiday project and email Abby your recommendations by tomorrow. Anybody have any questions?”

7.  Ditch the minutes. Unless you’re required to keep minutes of a given meeting for legal or other reasons, don’t bother. Hold individual participants accountable for writing down the parts of the meeting that directly affect them.

8. Remember that meetings are not bonding time. There’s always a temptation to hold meetings for the purpose of “touching base” or creating a sense of group cohesion. But meetings are simply not the best vehicle for this. Have an occasional staff dinner or fun weekend activity offsite (make these optional, or paid time if they’re mandatory) if you want people to bond; just don’t frame it under the guise of a meeting. Your staff will thank you for it.

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

Looking for Customer Feedback? Don’t Do This.

20160629_050739My family and I moved into a new house about a year ago – well, new to us, anyway; it was built in the 1950s – and the previous owners were very open with us about the fact that a number of applicances were on their last legs.

They weren’t kidding. The washing machine didn’t even make it to the closing date. Its demise was followed closely by that of the dishwasher and the oven (which fortunately hung through the big-cooking Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays). The refrigerator is still with us, but it’s been making this ominous banging noise that suggests its remaining days are numbered.

All of this is to say that we have gotten intimately acquainted with the Sears home appliance delivery team in recent months. For the most part, the guys they’ve sent over have been great. Which is good, because it seems that their continued employment is hanging in the balance of what kind of evaluation I submit online. One told me in so many words that “You give me a 5 [on a scale of 1 to 5], I get to keep my job.”

It’s not just Sears that’s operating this way these days, either. I got the above note stapled to my receipt after a recent shopping expedition. Meaning: We want your feedback…but only if you have great things to say about us.

I know most of us have an unfortunate tendency to complain to the world when an experience is bad and keep things relatively quiet when an experience is good. But the only useful feedback is honest feedback.

You’re not going to learn information that will help you improve if you’re not open to hearing what people really think. You’re also going to have your staff on pins and needles all the time, living in terror of a negative comment. Finally, your customers don’t appreciate having their arms twisted to say things they may not really feel.

This is no way to run a business. Your goal is not fake praise, but genuine excellence.

By all means, solicit feedback from your families (and your staff, for that matter) on a regular basis. Publicize your glowing testimonials to the world. And welcome negative feedback for the true gift it is: The opportunity to correct a problem and make your terrific center even better.

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

Child Care Hiring Interviews: Dos and Don’ts

handshakeLast week, we talked about how to find good prospects for teacher hires. Today, we’ll look at some key interview dos and don’ts:

DON’T interview anyone who didn’t follow your application instructions. I mentioned this last week, but it bears repeating. If you asked for a cover letter, resume, and 3 references, don’t bother following up with the person who sent only a resume.

Job applications are kind of like first dates: At this early stage of the game, everyone is trying their best to make a good impression. If disregarding your explicit instructions is the best they can do, that’s the kind of talent your center can do without – sort of like the guy on that first date who can’t stop picking his teeth and making bitter comments about his ex-wife.

DO pay close attention to applicants’ cover letters. Cover letters are often far more revealing than resumes. Always request them of your applicants, and read them carefully.

DON’T interview everyone who seems promising. Instead, set up a short (15 minutes or so) phone call first to gather additional info and decide if a second, in-person interview is warranted. Always have the applicant call you rather than the other way around. That way, you can weed out anyone who calls you late – or not at all.

DO give the interview your full attention. If it’s impossible to guarantee calm and privacy at your office, schedule the interview for a different location – at a nearby coffee shop, for example. You can then bring the applicant back to your center for a tour at the conclusion of the interview if it’s gone well.

DON’T stray into illegal territory. Sometimes “just making conversation” can lead to legally treacherous territory in terms of an applicant’s marital status, religion, age, ethnicity, disability, or other protected characteristic. Avoid questions of a personal nature, such as “Do you have kids?” or “Are you married?”

If what you’re concerned about is, say, the applicant’s ability to work certain days or hours, go directly there: “Are you available to work on Sunday mornings?” instead of “Do you attend church regularly?”

DO listen carefully to what the applicant has to say. The best applicants are those who focus on what they can bring to you and your center, rather than why the job would be a good thing for them.

DON’T ignore red flags. If the applicant has gaps on her resume that she can’t satisfactorily explain, or is unable to provide references upon request, these are generally very bad signs. And it goes without saying that you should always check an applicant’s references.

DO ask the million-dollar question. “Where do you see yourself in five years?” There is no single right or wrong answer to this one, but the answer is always highly revealing. If you’re looking for someone who will be at your center for a long time to come, “I’ve always wanted to work at a bank” is not the answer you’re looking for. (“I dunno” is, of course, also bad.)

DON’T expect the interview to be a one-way street. Good applicants will always have questions for you about your center and/or the specific position they’re interviewing for. Beware the applicant who does a lot of nodding but little else.

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

How To Hire Great Staff at Your Child Care Center: 5 Tips

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Everyone knows that ECE professionals are in it for the money, right?

But seriously, folks…given that budgets are tight and good teachers are hard to find, how do you tip the odds in your favor? Here are 5 solid ideas:

1. Solicit referrals from current staff. If you have one of those wonderful, one-in-a-million teachers on staff, thank your lucky stars and treat her (or him) like gold. And then get the word out that you’re looking to hire more people just like her. Great people often know other great people who would be an excellent fit for your center.

Even if you have an upcoming opening that isn’t public knowledge yet, make it clear that you’re always interested in hearing about great teachers who might be looking for work. If they’re truly exceptional, you may even be able to create a spot of some sort for them until something more official opens up.

2. Offer referral bonuses. Big ones. How much is a fantastic teacher worth to your center over the long term? A lot. Which is why it makes sense to invest at least $250-$300 as a referral bonus for each new hire who stays with your center a minimum of 6 months. And don’t limit referral bonuses to current staff, either – parents can also be a good source of teacher referrals.

3. Get on LinkedIn and craigslist. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account, set one up ASAP. It’s free and a great way to connect with other ECE professionals around the country (and even around the world). If you’re looking for new staff, chances are good that someone in your network, or someone connected to them, will have some ideas and leads.

And craigslist is great because you can narrowly target your job posting by geography and industry, and it gets a ton of traffic. Also, it ranges from cheap to free to post a job there, depending on where you live.

Other good sources of leads: Your local CCR&R network, as well as area colleges with ECE programs.

4. Be specific about what you’re looking for. If you want someone who’s excited about this field and truly passionate about ECE, then say so. Write an ad that explains why your center is special, what you’re looking for, and what you can offer the right candidate. Be specific. Be genuine. Be funny, if that’s your thing. Just don’t be boring. Ho-hum ads tend to attract ho-hum applicants.

And do be careful not to run astray of the state and federal anti-bias laws. You can specify that you want someone “energetic,” for example, but asking for a “recent college grad” is an invitation to an age discrimination lawsuit.

5. Throw in a few hurdles. By “hurdles,” I mean list a few specific tasks for the people who respond to your ad:

  • “Please include a resume, a detailed cover letter, and the names and contact information for three professional references.”
  • “Please provide answers to the three questions below.”
  • “Please explain why first attracted you to this field, and what you can bring to XYZ Child Care Center.”

While the hurdles are important because they provide valuable info about the job applicants (particularly cover letters), they’re even more important because they act as a screening device.

Anyone who doesn’t follow your directions exactly should be eliminated from contention, period. People who are unwilling or unable to follow directions set forth in a job ad tend to be similarly lax once they actually get hired.

Readers, what strategies do you recommend to find the best teachers? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.

Coming next week: Tips for successful interviews. Stay tuned!

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