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.