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Stupid Stuff Directors Do

I have done a lot of stupid stuff during the early years of being a Director.

Most of it was because I didn’t have a mentor & a lack of experience/knowledge in how this business was different from most.

The thing about not knowing something is that you usually end up paying for it big time while trying to figure it out.

And I did.

Strategies have gotten better over the years, but I still see Directors making many of the same mistakes I used to make. I’m going to share 4 of those mistakes with you today. I consider them to be pretty big.

Pay close attention because these mistakes cost time, money and energy and have even caused some centers to close their doors for good:

Mistake #1: Not Signing Up Clients for My Waiting List.

Telling parents to go somewhere else sometimes seem like the right thing to do.  Sometimes parent call & want information about your program and over the course of the conversation you find out that the classroom they would need is full.  S you tell them you have no space at this time & suggest other centers for them to call.

Great, but what if they are really a good fit for you?  Do you actually KNOW that all the children in that class room will be with you next week, next month?  The number of times I turned someone away, just to have a spot open up days later is mind boggling!

Go ahead & schedule a tour.  Treat them just like any other potential client.  I now ask everyone at the end of the tour if they would like to fill out an application form.  For $15, and some brief questions, they can secure their spot on your list on your mailing list.

Now you have their contact information and permission to keep in touch with them even if the end up enrolling elsewhere either because you don’t have space or they made a different decision.  The newsletter should be full of useful information: when is the the Watermelon Thump happening & what is it anyway?  What car seat has been recalled?  How do you get a baby to sleep through the night? What dentist can do the whole family?  Is there a local family restaurant that will pay you to print a coupon for $3 off mac& Cheese kids dinners?  Everyone will want to be on your newsletter.

Sending people off to other centers first, puts you at risk. But, that’s exactly what I did when I started my business. I would talk to folks on the phone & then send them on their merry way. What did that do to my income? It caused it to go up and down drastically.

Not only that, it’s also hard to have a center full of happy parents if they don’t really know how much better than everyone else you are. It usually takes least 3 months for a family to be really settled into a center. By signing clients up for the newsletter & waiting list, you’re increasing your chances of enrolling families even after they start somewhere else.

Benefits of Avoiding This Mistake: You get happier families and you remove yourself from financial traps.

 

Mistake #2: Not Having a Clear and Specific Market.

At first I was just any old child development center.  I cared for infants through school age & didn’t have any specific culture.  I would take anyone who seemed interested.  This meant I got a lot of families who needed things I couldn’t provide or who wanted a different type of program. Once I started focusing on who I wanted as clients, it got a lot better.

Which do you think did better, the general CDC of the focused one?  You’re right.  The focused one.  People knew what I was selling. Over the years I’ve had a center that was an adapted Montessori, one that use the Reggio Emilia Methods, one that focused on low income households & one that focused on academic readiness.  I had focus each time.

That’s what I recommend you do too. Get really specific on your market.

Even though you can have success as a general center, I believe you scale faster when you have a clear market that you talk to.

Just take a look at this example…

If you had two centers on the same street, one can care for any children under 12, and the other one helps single parent families, who do you think “newly divorced” women are going to pay attention to? Most likely, the center who helps “newly single” parents.

Benefits of Avoiding This Mistake: The more specific and clear you are about your market, the better your chances are of attracting the kind of people who will stick around and have the greatest success.

 

Mistake #3: Chasing Unhappy Clients. 

There was a time I used to bend my program into all kinds of crazy directions to keep a client.  I increase my hours (for 2 families), installed a camera monitoring system, adding free Spanish classes, and I don’t even know what else.  I would work my heart out during because I just knew that was the only way to keep my center in the black.

Turns out that’s one of the fastest ways to go broke. I eventually realized that when I solved people’s problems that no one else had, I wasn’t giving them a reason to stay.  I was costing myself $$$$ and staff stress.

When a parent is unhappy, see if it something that really needs to be fixed (a hot classroom) or not.  During your conversation with the parent, it’s best to unearth their problems, show them the “light at the end of the tunnel” about this issue and show them how you address their most pressing needs (happy child, quality care, good education, fun play environment & convenience to work/home).  If they want to leave….let them.

Benefits of Avoiding This Mistake: You leave your existing program in good shape & allow those who don’t fit to self-select OUT of your hair.

 

Mistake #4: Providing Childcare For Free.  

The last mistake I want to share with you is caring for children for free. I used to hear all the time in the early years that the best way to keep good staff was to give them childcare for free.

I don’t believe that that’s the best way to get good teachers. You need to be getting paid something for having a child at the center.  This includes 50% of tuition with no cap.  Pay staff well, give them benefits, but nothing should be free.  People don’t value things that they don’t pay for.  Watch a kid with their parent’s IPhone, if you don’t believe me.

Another way Directors give away their services is to not collect tuition.  To let parents slide.  “They will pay next Wednesday, it’s no big deal.” Is what I used to say.  Wednesday became Thursday, then Friday and finally Monday.  That is a lot of service provided without payment.  Would HEB let you have your food for 5 days without paying for it?

When you provide care for free, the parents aren’t as invested in the results. I’ve found that when people pay they appreciate and the more that they pay the more they pay attention.

Benefits of Avoiding This Mistake: You don’t waste your time with people who may not respect you or the work you do.

 

Now that you know 4 of the biggest mistakes coaches make, you can avoid them.

You’ll notice your business becomes much more stable and scales a lot faster.

Leave a comment and share what mistakes you used to make in your program that you no longer do.

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Registered or Licensed Home?

 

Making the decision to care for children in your home is just the beginning.  Whether you have a Registered Family Home Or Licensed Child-care Home can make a huge difference in how much money you earn.

Running a Registered Family Home can be an excellent way to work in childcare & control your earnings.  I suggest it to people all the time.  No extra overhead, you select your students, you don’t have to drive anywhere.  If you have all your slots filled the $$$ is better than as a teacher at a center.  It can be great.

It can also be very limiting.  You are frequently the only person in your program that can property conjugate verbs.  Lack of adult conversation can result in you driving your family members crazy when they come home at the end of the day with the need to have REAL conversation.  I know my husband was not amused by how much I expected him to interact when he got home.  He had already used 950 of his 1000 words for the day at work, and I was wanting way more than he had to give.  (If that reference didn’t make sense to you, grab a copy of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and all will become clear.)

There is also a real cap on how much you can earn.  If you want to care for 2 babies, Texas standards will only let you have 4 other children during most of the day, and 2 school-aged kids in the afternoon.  Not everyone feels comfortable with the same number of children, These numbers are just an example.  If I charge

  • $140/week- infant
  • $140/week- infant
  • $120/ week – toddler
  • $100/ week – preK
  • $100/ week – preK
  • $ 35/ week – after-schooler
  • $ 35/ week – after-schooler
  • free  my after-schooler

then I earn $670/ week, which is not too bad.  If you are only open 40 hours a week you are earning over $16.75/hour.  Many in-home programs are open from 6:30-6:30, which brings your pay down to $11.16/hour.  Still not bad for a job that lets me get paid while staying at home and spend time with my child.

Here is the question: would it be better for me if I could earn more $$$ and have someone else working with me to share the work and increase my job satisfaction?

In most cases the answer is YES.  I don’t really want to work 60 hours a week.  Do you?  You can hire someone to work at your program for part of the day.  In a Registered Family Home (RFH), this does not change you ratios, just your stress level and job satisfaction.  Some of your tuition simply goes to making life better, or reducing your hours.  That is something I invested in, myself.

If you are in a Licensed Child-care Home (LCH), the story is a bit different.  You can enroll more children.  Your total of children can go from 8 to 12.  If we had the same children as before (2 babies, 1 toddlers, 2 preK, 3 schoolers for $670) and a second staff person, you could add 4 more children for a possible $480.  If you paid a person to come in for 8 hours starting at 7:30 for at $8.00, you would have a bit of extra money ($160 before tax).  You may have to hire 2 people and shift the hours around a bit, depending on when your children arrive, but I would take that extra $8000 a year along with less work and someone to talk to and share work with.

The other thing to consider is your food program revenue.  Many in-home programs use the USDA food program to increase their income.  If you add 4 more children each month and you would increase your food program check by an average of $300 a month or $3600 a year.

OK, I got a little too into the numbers there, but the point is this:  If you went from a RFH to a LCH, you could make you life better financially, reduce your stress and have more fun doing what you love to do!  

Now your thinking, “But that has got to be hard to do or costs a bunch of money.”  NOPE.  The only real difference is that you, the person who stands to benefit, has to become a licensed Director.  The easiest and quickest way to do that is to take a class with TexasDirector.org.  Classes start at $475 and can be completed in as little as a week.  You can complete the class at home, on-line.  $475 for an increase in income of more than $11,000 per year.  Yes please!

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What is a Mentor Coach and Do You Need One?

Athletes have coaches. Many entrepreneurs and professionals have mentors. They’re really the same thing. A mentor coach is a coach for your growth. Most of us weren’t formally taught how to grow successfully. A mentor coach can help you to figure out what you want to do with your life, set goals, and achieve them. They have experience in helping others to live fulfilling lives.

A mentor coach wears many hats:

  1. A mentor coach is a cheerleader. Life is easier when someone is in your corner. When you know you have support, it’s easier to take risks and chase after big goals. You always have someone on your side when you have a coach. *Your coach will also push you. They’ve seen plenty of clients attempt to avoid hard work and stressful situations. They’ll know when you’re playing games and push you to succeed.
  2. A coach provides guidance. It’s not always easy to make good decisions, especially when you’re stressed or fearful. And let’s face it, some folks just don’t make good decisions, period. A coach can help you to make wise decisions. * A friend can’t always be objective or completely honest, but your coach can. You’ll hear what you need to hear from your coach.
  3. A coach helps you to determine what you want to be when you grow up. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 68. A mentor can help you to determine what the next step of your life should be. If you’re feeling lost, a coach might be the answer.
  4. A coach will help you to find balance. Coaches are aware that there’s more to life than just money or a perfect classroom. They emphasize keeping things in balance. Health, professional success, relationships, finances, spirituality and leisure activities are all part of a well-balanced life.
  5. A coach is not a therapist. Therapists deal with past issues and traumas. Coaches work from the present moment and into the future. A mentor won’t help you get over a past loss or deal with the fact that you were bullied in junior high. A coach can guide you toward building a more desirable future.
  6. A coach isn’t required to have any training. There are organizations that certify coaches, mentors or trainers, but they aren’t necessary to hang out a shingle and make a living in these areas. Be sure to vet anyone you’re considering hiring. Since the barriers to entry are so low, there are plenty of coaches that aren’t good at what they do. * Pay attention to reviews and schedule an introductory session to see if a particular coach is a good fit. Choose carefully.

Do you need a mentor coach? A mentor coach won’t solve your challenges, but they can help you to help yourself. If you need a steady hand to guide you and a cheerleader to support you, a mentor coach can make a big difference. There are good mentor coaches and bad mentor coaches. If you’re looking for a mentor coach, ensure that you find a good one.

Texas Director offers Mentor Coaching services. Schedule your session today.

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How to Save More Money on Your Marketing Budget

Did you know that it typically costs a child care program at least five times more to obtain a new family than it does to retain a family?

And, for each one percent increase in family retention, that transforms into a seven percent increase in profits?

So, what does that really mean for you?

It means customer retention makes a lot more sense (and cents) than customer acquisition.

As a general rule, directors don’t feel comfortable with marketing. You go to all the expense and effort of attracting a new family and having them register and that’s something to be grateful for. But if it stops there and you let the family walk away without some plan in place to keep the relationship going, it’s a real waste. It’s not just one lost customer, it’s lost revenue and referrals that might have been.

A better tactic is for directors to focus more of their time, energy, and resources on nurturing and developing that relationship instead of being content. If you provide continual great service to satisfied customers then they’re going to refer others to you as well.

It just makes sense to focus more effort on marketing and selling to the people who already have given you money at least once. Instead, most directors continually focus their energy on trying to get more new families.

Of course, it takes work to build that relationship and obviously it’s one thing to get them, it’s another thing to keep them, and still another thing to keep them satisfied. How do you do that?

By continually providing them with the information and resources that they need. It’s really as simple as that and it’s a worthwhile use of your energy.

Here are some ideas for building on that relationship whether for an online or offline business:

  • Throw in an unexpected bonus when they sign up for your program.
  • Follow up with a thank you note or phone call. And at the same time see how they’re doing with your program and get feedback on what other services you can provide.
  • Send out a physical newsletter or an autoresponder series of emails and ezines to continue sharing helpful tips.
  • Connect with them on social media and refer them to other beneficial resources.

Successful marketing is all about making your customers feel special and well cared for.

Take advantage of this opportunity to have us set up your first Parent Survey or your Newsletter on MailChimp. Click here to go to our FACEBOOK PAGE and tell us TODAY, why you need our HELP!

Let’s connect,

Kate Young

 

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3 Childcare Enrollment Cycles

Enrollment in childcare is predictable.  When you are sitting in the hot seat it doesn’t feel that way.  I often felt like there was some incomprehensible force moving the families to surge into and dribble out of my centers.  If you have felt this confusion, I am here to help!

Primary Shift

When school is about to start in your area, or has just started is your best chance at a fully enrolled school.  Parents think about enrolling at this time of year.

Many have been planning this for months and toured centers months before honing their search criteria and evaluating the prospects.  They came by in March, toured, and dropped off your radar. Then in August they show back up with the forms you gave them earlier in the year filled out, ready to start.  What?  I don’t have room for another 4 year old girl in Ms. Melissa’s class.  Has this ever happened to you?

Other families seem oblivious to the concept of touring and evaluating and simply show up on a Tuesday ready to fill out paperwork so their child can start school on the first day of school, like big brother in second grade.  Of course there is room for their child.  The school district doesn’t turn anyone away, they just make it work.  It doesn’t matter if the program is a good fit, it is on the way to the elementary school and they have seen your bus during pickup time, so can you get Jimmie in the afternoon, too?

My favorite type of August/September enrollment is the family we have had on the waiting list, who was on the books, has paid the fees, and come by with their child before the school year starts to help the child feel at home in your center.  Sometimes families are enrolled, but don’t come by between the tour and start date, but we have had communication between times, and have solidified their spot in our records.  I am good with them too.  There can also be those who are on your list, have filled out forms, but not paid or responded to emails or phone calls.  They make me nervous, but I have them pencilled in to the class roster.

All of these families are responding to the societal norms that school starts at X time.  That is when their child will start.  I have been baffled by parents of infants waiting until late August to enroll their child, when they returned to work in June, but different strokes for different folks.  I presume they are also the type to not wear white for half of the year. I can live with that.  Most teachers and directors know this enrollment shift.  They plan for it and have events, crafts, or lesson plans adjusted for this period of transition.  By the time October rolls around everyone presumes the classes are pretty solid.  This is what our school will look like this year.  Cool.

Second Shift

But no school has had 100% the same student body at the end of the school year that they had at the beginning.  When we’re in it, it seams like folks just trickle in and out.  From the outside, I can tell you, you are missing something.

Here is the thing, the first 60 days of enrollment are key to cementing a relationship.  It is like dating.  You agreed to be in this thing together and at first you are learning about the other person and it is exciting.  Then you discover they eat tacos like a heathen.  You get to decide if you can live with that.  Will you just stop eating tacos?  Will you talk to them about the different ways to consume this wonderful food without having to take a hose to the area afterwards?  Will you decide this is a deal breaker?  You have choices.  So do the parents.

During those 60 days the parents find out that no sick kids, means they can’t give their son Tylenol and bring him in.  They learned that you were closed on Columbus Day, when else is the school closed?!?  Their child may have gotten sick or injured and you didn’t handle it exactly how they thought it should be handled.  You found out they want texts every time their child eats.  The teacher is concerned that the child came in the same clothes they went home in last night.  The child is super into rough housing and her teacher doesn’t know how to handle it.  So there are thoughts of breaking up.

The Director starts getting calls from parents who are, “just getting information for a friend.”  Children disappear for half a day with no explanation (they are trying out another school).  Dads drop in unannounced on lunch breaks, both enrolled and touring.  Moms come by at 4pm to just hang out.  Parents bring friends and family members with them at pick up or drop off.  These are signs of shopping.  Some are signs that they love your program and want to make sure they aren’t missing anything before referring you to their friends who are unhappy at their school, and others are signs that they are unhappy with you, and looking to move.

So if a child enrolls on August 22, 2016 (first day of school in the district I grew up in), 2 months later is October 22nd.  Do you think the parents want to change schools right before Halloween?  Then come Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Families generally wait to actually make the change until January.  Some move sooner, but most wait.  But they are shopping in October, November and December.  Are you marketing to them?

The Third Shift

Some folks held out thought the January shift thinking things would get better after all the holidays and excitement of the new school year were over, and are still unhappy and move in the spring, but not many.  Those have a  lot of loyalty and will be a great addition to your school if you are a good match.

The last large shift happens at the end of the school year.  This is not a surprise to any teacher or director.  We have seen it many times.  Families pull out in June to have Cousin Susie watch the kids.  They shift to part-time because that works better over the summer.  New families enroll for summer activities. Three year olds are enrolled so they will be settled in for their pre-school school year.

The spring is spent in planning summer programs, going to the area schools, and talking to your existing clients about all the fun stuff you will be doing over the summer, if you stay open.  For many centers this is a period of dormancy, where they close or reduce staff for the summer, so the spring is the time to nail down enrollment for the coming year.  Because a mass exodus can be such a blow to the budget, few Directors fail to plan for this shift more than once.  One lean summer is a powerful reminder of the need to get ready for the summer enrollment change.  On the other hand a super full summer with a budget cushion built is a fabulous way to go into the fall.

So, How do I prepare?

I though you would never ask.  You start marketing 2-3 months before the shift is expected.  If you aren’t marketing your summer program before Spring Break, you are behind.  Many programs know that, but almost no one is marketing their school in October, November and December.  That means you will have less competition.

Step 1 Start with checking in with all of your newly enrolled families.  Schedule a time with each of them to visit.  See how they are liking the school.  What questions do they have?  Is there a way to get them involved on a project?  If you can get them involved in planning the Halloween festivities, you might cement the relationship.  Having them survey the parents in their class about what day would be best for a parent’s night out in November and December is a way to get them involved and remind them of your additional services to help busy families.

Step 2 Once you have confidence that you have strengthened your relationships with the new families, take what you learned from them about what they particularly like about your center, and figure out what you should highlight for prospects.  Knowing what is resonating with your ideal client right now is important.

Step 3 Develop a marketing plan.  Assess your most recent marketing plan.  Does it take advantage of the social media networks that you ideal client uses?  Are you sending newsletters out to parents who have toured and/or inquired over the past 12 months?  If blogging is more your style, set up a blog on your website and use that as the basis for your social media and/or newsletter.

Step 4 Set up a system to track all calls and tours and make sure that you follow up with them to get the desired 6-12 contacts with each client.

Step 4 Enroll.

Enrollment Surge 2016

If you want help putting all this together, I have good news!  We will be working with Directors to develop customized marketing plans to take advantage of the second surge in enrollment.  Together we will make 2017 the year of the full classroom!!!

The Enrollment Surge Class starts October 28th.  You can use Halloween as your kick off event for your second surge.  Set up your marketing, events and program to bring in the RIGHT families for the new year without breaking a sweat!

Join us for a four week intensive to maximize the upcoming enrollment period. 

You will learn from Kate and Carrie, who have been in your shoes and worked to get full programs with waiting list following this program.  When we have offered this class in the past all the programs met their enrollment goals.  Click the link below and join us for this 4 week class.

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