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Make Your Michael Jordan Moment

I want you to have a moment where you feel like Michael Jordan as a Director.  Your center is your court.  You should dominate it!

I am a basketball fan.  I have several heroes from that field, but Michael Jordan is someone everyone knows, or at least they think they do.  Millions of Nike’s Jordan sneakers have been sold over the years.  He still earns over $100 million a year, because he is such a part of the American culture.  He is the what we think of when we think EXCELLENCE.

But how did he get there and how can you emulate him?  He said, “I had to learn the fundamentals of basketball. You can have all the physical ability in the world, but you still have to know the fundamentals.”  Did you take time to learn the fundamentals?  What are the fundamentals of Directing a child care center?

  • Professionalism
  • Marketing
  • Curriculum Development
  • Staff Recruitment & Training
  • Communication

These are the core of the Texas Director’s Director Credentialing courses and most of our ongoing trainings. There are other things you need to know, but these are the core.  If you have these down cold, then the minor crises can be handled.  

If you don’t feel confidence in your fundamentals, reach out to us.  We can help you with training or individual coaching.

A child falls on the playground, breaking an arm.  As a professional who has trained her staff well, you know that first aid will be rendered, the child will be comforted, that then the parens will be communicated with well, and then the paperwork will be completed.


The city cuts off the water to your street while they are upgrading lines or the road, whatever.  It doesn’t matter why they did it, but it happened and now you have a situation.  Go out & use your communication skills to find out how long all this is going to last & help them to understand why this is a huge issue for your children.  If it is going to be more than 5 minutes, lean on marketing, curriculum development & professionalism to determine what you can do that will provide a quality day for your students.  You may have to call the parents to get the children because you can’t provide care, or you might be able to create an impromptu field trip to the neighborhood park, using their plumbing, facilities & picnic tables.  If so, just call, text, email parents to let them know how the plans have changed.

Once we have the fundamentals down we move into proficiency.  

“I’m not out there sweating for three hours every day just to find out what it feels like to sweat. “-Michael Jordan  We have to keep working on things.  Practice.  Drill.  Do it again.  And again.  And Again.  Walk through the program every day.  Talk to parents every morning & afternoon.  Do tours.   When you are done, evaluate how it went.  Do you need to shift something?  Are you making your free throws?  BTW tours are the child care version of the free throw.

Jordan is faithful: “Be true to the game, because the game will be true to you. If you try to shortcut the game, then the game will shortcut you. If you put forth the effort, good things will be bestowed upon you. That’s truly about the game, and in some ways that’s about life too. ” Are you being consistent?  He was. Keep going.  Get better, focus on the fundamentals.  

Some folks have a hard time seeing themselves as Michael Jordan.  OK, fine.  You don’t want to be the icon of excellence.  It can be scary to reach that high.  How about trying to be his coach?  A lot of what you do is coaching the staff, parents & children.  The coach he credits with getting him to excellence was University of North Carolina Coach, Dean Smith.  “Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith. He was more than a coach – he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father. Coach was always there for me whenever I needed him and I loved him for it. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life.”  Can you be Coach Smith?  “I built my talents on the shoulders of someone else’s talent.”  Be the base for your people to reach excellence.

If you need a coach of your own, so that you can get your center court moment, I am here for you.  Coaching & training is what I do.  Get your Michael Jordan Moment!


Focus on the fundamentals.  Get a coach if you need one.  Practice.  Evaluate.  Do it again.  Then when it is game time, you will shoot the game winning shot.  Stand your ground & take your shot.

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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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15 Years of Training Directors

Kate and I (Carrie) have been teaching people how to direct childcare programs for 15 years. Did you ever wonder

Where did you come from, where did you go?
Where did you come from, Cotton-Eye Joe?

Sorry.  My Texas roots are showing.  Every time I tried to just type where did we come from, that song just popped into my head.  Anyway…

Back in 2001 we were both working side gigs with a non-profit organization, focusing on helping women grow their businesses.  I was providing training and support to Registered Family Home providers and small child care centers.  Kate was administering a grant focused on job opportunities for low income  women.

They approached me to write a curriculum for a Director Credentialing course, but said they wanted to have an academic teach it.  That didn’t make sense to us.  Why not have the instructor be someone who has actual experience in the field and an academic write the text?  How could they answer questions that came up in class?  They wanted to ensure that the text hit all the points that a new Director needed to know, and so they wanted a “practitioner” to write it.  OK, I can get behind that.  I decided if I was going to create the materials, I darned well wanted to teach it!  Kate agreed, and we set off to create what is now Texas Director.

Cousins 2009.jpg

We researched, compiled our knowledge, filled out paperwork, and found a place to teach the first class.  We talked through everything that we wished we had known when we started from marketing tips to insurance to classroom arrangement techniques.  Writing the book was much harder than we thought it would be.  We were literally finishing it while we were teaching that first class.

We tweaked it during each class for the first year.  Sometimes it was just that we noticed a place where we needed to add punctuation, but other times we realized that we had not explained a key point well enough.

We knew that adults retain information better if they have short activities after each topic.  So, we had a quiz or work product that corresponded to each area. When the new Director was done learning about goal setting and all the ways they can use that tool to improve their center, there was a goal setting worksheet to go through to cement the knowledge and give a chance to practice the skill.

Everyone who has ever worked in pre-k knows that to really learn something, you have to actually do it.  You can teach Tommy that his name is spelled T-O-M-M-Y and show him the letters, demonstrate how you write it, but he won’t be able to sign-in in the morning until he holds the pencil and tries.  It will be a mess the first time, but he won’t master it if he hasn’t tried once.  That was the core of our teaching and evaluating philosophy.

It still is today.  A lot has changed in 15 years, but that concept and our commitment to making sure our Directors have what they need to start their careers off strong hasn’t.  If you or a friend is thinking about becoming a Director, let us help you.  You won’t regret it.

My time with Texas Director’s has been life changing! Your company
helped me really take charge of my career and give an amazing 
learning experience to lots of children, including my own daughter.
I have been working with children for over 17 years and obtained my Directors
License about 10 years ago! I have had the privilege of working
in so many different types of centers.
From the credential program and trainings you provide, I have learned the aspects of a great 
Center! – C. Monk



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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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How to Help Someone Who’s Fighting Cancer

I had said about a month ago that I would talk a bit about my mother-in-law’s terminal diagnosis.  She has pancreatic cancer.  We are piling up memories.  Making sure that the younger grandchildren have time with her is a high priority.  Both my husband and I are able to offer support and BE THERE.  Not everyone can.

Cancer, unfortunately, is a fairly common affliction. Chances are good that you’ll eventually know someone who’s fighting their way through the disease. It may be a child at your center, a staff member or a person in your personal life. Avoid being that friend who doesn’t come around or call when someone you know is dealing with serious illness. Step up to be the one your friend or loved one can count on to help.

Consider these ways to help a loved one fight one of the toughest battles of their life:

  1. State, “I’m here to help you.” Then, mean it. Be definite and specific since a person with cancer needs people who will push forward and help them get the daily things done so they can rest and recuperate from chemotherapy and radiation treatments if they are going through treatment.  If they aren’t currently having treatment, they will still need help.
  2. Rather than ask what you can do, say what you will Be specific. “I can pick up your kids from school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays while you’re getting chemotherapy. They can stay at the center and play with my kids until you get home. Will that work for you?”
  3. Cook dinner for your friend and their family every week. Make lasagna and buy a bag of salad and drop it off. Brew a big pot of soup and take it over. Make a Crockpot full of pulled pork, buy coleslaw at your local deli, and drop them off with fresh buns for quick sandwiches.
  • Providing nourishment and pre-made meals for your cancer-fighting friend can be the most loving thing to do for them and their family members. 
  • Be aware that they will probably have a smaller appetite than usual while undergoing treatment.
  1. Take them to therapy. One of the scariest parts of dealing with cancer is undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. It can be a 3- or 4-hour session at the cancer treatment center followed by them getting a contraption strapped on that has an I.V. connected to it that continues to deliver more medication over the next few days.  Don’t feel you have to talk the who time.  Being comfortable sitting with someone in silence is golden.
  • Transporting to and from these sessions can be so helpful for family members that are overloaded with the stress of dealing with the disease on a day-to-day basis. Plus, family members often must continue to work to bring money into the household and can’t be available every day to transport.
  1. Ask when the best time is for them to receive calls. Keep in mind that your loved one who has cancer feels very tired and will be trying to nap and rejuvenate as much as possible. Make arrangements for when you’ll call so it won’t disturb them. You could also ask them to text or call you when they feel like talking.  When you are there pay attention to their cues, and cut the visit short if they are in pain or tired.  I know you miss spending time with them, but they may not be up to it for as long as you are.
  2. Be sensitive and understanding. If you’ve ever needed to be aware of someone’s feelings, it’s when a friend is coping with cancer. Your friend might be feeling cranky and annoyed. Or they might be crying and depressed.
  • Sometimes, if you just listen and acknowledge that their reactions are normal and they’re entitled to their feelings, it’s all that’s necessary to lend support.
  • Find something you can do with them that helps them feel like their old self.  For my mother-in-law it is flowers and gardening.  Is there a way to create a small way to bring that back into their life?
  1. Deal appropriately with your own feelings first. You might be feeling pretty devastated about the news that your loved one has cancer. Allow yourself to cry about it with your spouse or another friend before you talk with your sick friend. The image I used for this blog is the ring theory of grief.  When you are in pain you want to express that pain to others who are affected.  The key element is to share with people in the same circle or those further out.  Don’t go inward, they are dealing with it on more levels than you are.  If the people in the middle want to talk with you- fine.  Otherwise, share outward.
  • Lean on your journal to help you process your feelings and work to accept what’s happening regarding your loved one’s health. Giving yourself a day or two to adjust to the news before speaking to the friend with cancer (if possible) will help you focus more on how they’re feeling and what they’re going through.
  1. Make a consistent effort to take a positive approach. The fact is that many people survive cancer these days. Tell her you’re proud of how she’s handling the whole thing. Acknowledge how she continues to do whatever is necessary to cope with her illness. The more positive energy you can bring to her, the better she’ll fare through her recovery.

Do what you can to be a consistent, strong support to a loved one fighting cancer. You’ll be so glad you did.

Subscribe to this blog, to keep up with what is going on here.  We cover different topics that relate to directing child care centers.

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My First Time

Being a Director almost always also means being the marketing department.  I have just finished my first ever time to run promotions for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, etc.  We have had them before.  I just wasn’t in charge of them.  I am not at all sure I did it well.  But I did it and that is a thing to be proud of.

Being a Director means I have to do things I am not 100% comfortable doing.  I remember the first time I got in front of a tv camera.  I was SWEATING!  But it was free publicity for my business and they wanted to talk to someone with skin in the game.  I was very excited that they called me.  I had been courting the station to some degree for a few months: watching as many news shows as I could and sending in email comments about news items that related to my business.  My childcare center was downtown, so it wasn’t hard to find things that were relevant.  Anything that had to do with downtown, children or families was liable to get a quick note from me.  This was well over a decade ago, so they weren’t as swamped by email as they are now.  I stood out, so I got a call and people heard about my center.

How do we stand out in today’s market?  Sending an email is unlikely to do it.  We all get far too many to count now.  We need clients to know we are here and are relevant.  We can advertise.  Lord knows, I do.  Everybody does.  How much do you believe in the ad copy you read or hear every day?  10%?  You may be conveying 100% true information, but people filter it out.  Marketing is more than buying a well executed google ad.  It is getting in front of people in different settings, so your customers start to know like and trust you.

How do you position your self as a knowledgable and likable person?  Getting on the local news might still be a good way to get noticed, but how do you get the news to notice you?   I have had some success with hand written notes.  They are the rarity now that email was back in the dark ages.  Tweeting images also has some traction.  You have to engage with them, build a relationship.

Texas Director helps a lot of my centers get into the paper.  Local papers need local content to stay relevant.  Having a great event that highlights a worthy cause or brings in dignitaries, is the key strategy there.  The images you send also play a central role.  Make sure you send both portrait and landscape pictures, because you never know what space they need to fill.  Believe me pictures of cute kids sell!  Your write up of the event should be as close to newspaper copy as you can make it.  The less work the editor or beat reporter has to do, the more likely you are to get in the paper.

The other time-tested way to get in front of your audience in a marketing capacity to build rapport is public speaking.  Half of you are shaking your head right now.  That is OK.  If there isn’t anything related to what you do that you can speak passionately about for 15 minutes you are excused.  Everyone else is still in this.  If you would rather poke your own eye out than talk to people you don’t know, then don’t talk to people you don’t know.  Talk to people you do know.  Do you have a book club, mother’s group, gaggle of gals you eat cheese cake with?  Those are your public.  Talk to them about your passion for your work.  Get comfortable with it.  Eventually one of those friends will say, “Hey, my friend Suzie was just talking about her problems in that area.  I need to put you in touch with each other.”  Voila.  Your marketing just worked!  Once you have done that a few times you might be ready to move on to  networking events.  I wrote about those on earlier so check it out if you aren’t sure your up to them.

This type of marketing is much more in my comfort zone than running advertising campaigns.  That is why it was my turn to run one.  I had to stretch my wings.  It may take a while, but I will get the hang of it.  I may never like it, but it is important that I know how it is done so that I can talk intelligently with my team who focus on that area and with clients who have marketing challenges.  Let me know about something new you have tried and how it worked.  I look forward to hearing from you!


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Giving Thanks

I have been blessed to be able to work in early childhood education for more than 25 years.  I started off as an assistant in a lab school and have had pretty much every job available in center.  Amazing!

How many people get to earn their living in something that makes such a difference in the world?  Here at Texas Director we help men and women develop their leadership talents so that they can help hundreds of children.  Hundreds of children touched by each Director, and we have helped thousands of Directors. If you do the math, that means that hundreds of thousands of families have been affected by what I do.   SoI want to thank you for allowing me to help you.  The scope of what we do amazes me.

What you do each day is so important.  You are shaping the populace of tomorrow.  How you run your center affects how the families view their community.  The tenor of your classrooms sets the children up to be the best versions of themselves.  You help your staff be able to do their often stressful jobs with enthusiasm and skill.  You are a resource in your community.  How amazing!

It is difficult to remember to be thankful for what we get to do on a daily basis.  Sometimes, when there is a stomach flu wreaking havoc in the twos class, there doesn’t feel like there is much to be thankful for.  But remember when little Jaime brought you the picture he drew just for you?  Not many engineers have that happen on a Thursday.  What about when a teacher brought you a snack because they thought you could use it?  What a gift to work with such caring people!

Take time today to think about what you are most thankful for in your job.  Writing down one thing you are thankful for on the calendar before you leave for the day, is a great way to catch those moments.  I bet there was one today.   Share it below, to inspire other Directors.

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Creative exploits alleviate stress

Here is an affirmation that I created for when I get stuck and need help reminding myself that creativity is important.  Sometimes that means writing, but most of the time as a director my creativity is tapped in problem solving and lesson planning.  Hope it helps you.

As life throws a challenge my way, I respond positively to avoid feeling stressed.My response to tough situations is to engage my creativity.

When I take a time out to create something new, I feel like I am replacing negative energy with positivity. Inspired activities allow me to dig deep into my soul for a light that brightens the world.

Writing soothes my emotional burdens and releases my tensions.

My words both acknowledge and empower me.Being honest about my feelings is the first step to releasing their weight from my being. I follow up those open and honest words with words of empowerment and resolve. This is my creative process.

Although my singing voice leaves much to be desired, I sing anyway. Expressing myself through song lifts my spirit. The lyrics and melodies that I write are therapeutic.

My creativity pulls me out of the darkness and renews my spirit.

My artistry is a blessing. It builds me from the inside out. It fortifies my core to defend against any challenge in life.

Today, I am blessed because I know the value of my creativity. My difficult situations are more manageable today because I spend time being imaginative. Being transported to another world through inspiration gives me a chance to rebuild.

Self-Reflection Questions:

  • 1.   How else, other than through art, can I exercise my creativity?
  • 2.   In what other ways am I able to alleviate stress?
  • 3.   What value do I place on creativity?

PDF version of this affirmation available


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What do You Want from Me?

What do you want from me?As a Director, you have a hard job managing your child care center.  I know the drill.  It is hard and there is more than any one person can do well.  That is where Texas Director comes in.  We offer you a helping hand where and when you need it.

One of the ways we will be doing that in 2017 is to create new products for you and your center.  We currently offer business coaching, onsite training for your staff, business plan development assistance and substitute directing services.  This is not enough.  We need to do more.  You need more help.  But what areas are your biggest challenges?  Kate and I have theories, and you have answers.

To make sure that we are creating is what you want and need, we have created a short survey.

Please take a moment to ask for what you want.  Each survey is also an entry into a drawing for 15 different prizes.  Prizes include a free message, an MP3 player, 20 free hours of training, and many other prizes.  Enter TODAY.  Survey closes on November 19, 2016.




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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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What Jurassic Park Movies Can Teach You About Conflict Resolution

Jurassic Park sequels are more than just a good time. Along with the amazing beasts and scary chases you can pick up valuable lessons on conflict resolution.

After all, some negotiating principles are the same whether you’re trying to agree on how to outrun a pack of raptors or hammer out a good staffing schedule. Try these tips that have been helping to settle differences since the last ice age.

Gain Trust

When will InGen learn? They keep bringing in meaner soldiers and larger weapons after dinosaurs rebel against being paraded and put on display like Barbie dolls. Treating others with dignity helps to prevent conflicts.

  1. Listen closely. Start by paying attention to what others have to say. Trying to understand their position will help you find common ground with each other. Ask relevant questions and restate what the other person said to ensure you’re on the same page.
  2. Share information. Show the person you are working with that you’re willing to trust them by being transparent. Disclose as much as you can about pertinent facts and your motivation.
  3. Offer compromises. You’ll have more satisfaction and create more stability if you search for solutions that both of you can feel good about. Be willing to let go of some things you want if it helps the group.
  4. Stay calm. Anger and blame interfere with progress. Take a break if you need to cool off. You can assert your needs while being civil and tactful. Staying cool helps you to look more confident and capable.

Reach Out for Help

When you’re having a friendly argument with an Indominus Rex, you might need to call in someone with more teeth. With a little luck, you’ll be able to find team members who are less unruly than a T-Rex.

  1. Collaborate with others. Cooperating is more productive than choosing sides. Think about the good qualities of others even when you disagree with them.
  2. Consult experts. Impartial observers and skilled negotiators may help you uncover new options if you’re at an impasse. A fresh set of eyes can remind you that there are usually many solutions to a challenge if you’re flexible and creative.
  3. Express gratitude. Think of conflicts as opportunities to grow instead of feeling threatened. Thank the other participants for their efforts to help move things forward.

Accept Reality

Conflicts often start when we care more about getting what we want instead of facing the truth or considering the welfare of others. If you can’t control ordinary dinosaurs, you’re probably going to run into trouble if you genetically modify them to become bigger and scarier.

  1. Delay gratification. Having the patience to work for your future self and the greater good is the key to happiness and success. Shrug off temporary disappointments and setbacks as long as you stay true to your major objectives.
  2. Aim for realistic goals. Ambitious targets can be inspiring as long as they’re still within reach. Make the most of your resources by sticking to projects that allow you to deliver results. Others will be more likely to support you if they see that you have an impressive track record.
  3. Set priorities. Even when you have a valid case, you need to pick your battles. Keep your eye on the big picture. Ask yourself if you’d rather prove you’re right or hold onto an important relationship.

Dinosaurs ruled the earth for a lot longer than humans have been around, so it makes sense that they might know something about how to live peacefully with each other. Face conflicts head on, and work together to develop agreements that stand up to the test of time.

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Afraid of networking events? We’ve got your back with these simple steps

Maybe you feel confident tweaking your bio for the school open house, but your palms sweat when you think about going out to a networking event and  building connections face to face. With a little advance planning and positive thinking, you can be just as poised at networking events as you are behind your computer screen  or at your center. Try these suggestions for working a room.

Steps to Take Before Your Networking Events 

  1. Do your research. Advance research is a great solution whenever you want to calm your nerves and make a strong impression. Browse online for details about the event, venue, and expected crowd.

  2. Clarify your purpose. Focus on your goals instead of the butterflies in your stomach. Maybe you want to invite two new acquaintances out for coffee. Perhaps you are looking for a potential mentor.  Maybe you want to consult with experts about the impact of recent legislation on your industry.
  3. Bring a friend. While you eventually want to be able to muster the courage to fly solo, companionship can help while you’re still in training. Just be sure to split up frequently so you can mingle with others.
  4. Volunteer your services. Transform yourself into an instant insider. Call the hosts and offer to help with registration or escorting speakers. You’ll probably meet more participants, and your role provides an instant icebreaker as guests come to you for information.

  5. Prepare small talk. Are you stumped for something to say? Read up on breaking industry news. Write down questions you want to discuss with other guests.

  6. Dress the part. Appearances count too. Convey that you have a lot in common by going along with the dress code for jeans and t-shirts, or blouses and khakis. You’ll feel more at ease and start to build rapport.

  7. Bring mints. Smell as good as you look. Fresh breath makes it easier to wow others with what you have to say.

  8. Bring your business cards. Having your business cards gives you a simple way to indicate that you want to get to know the person you are talking with better.  It also is a great way to get their contact information. If you don’t have any, head over to vistaprint and order a small box for less than $10.  It is worth it.

Steps to Take at Your Networking Events

  1. Radiate enthusiasm. Smile wide and think positive. Remember how beneficial the event can be for your career and how much you appreciate those around you.
  2. Straighten up. Good posture boosts your mood and shows others that you’re strong and capable. Tuck your stomach in and roll your shoulders back and down.
  3. Make eye contact. Starting conversations with strangers can be challenging. Establishing eye contact is a natural way to gain someone’s attention and introduce yourself. From there, you can start chatting about the food or the program.

  4. Express interest. Guests at a networking event are likely to be eager to talk about themselves and their business. Ask open-ended questions that keep the conversation going. Share your own relevant experiences.  Give them a card.

  5. Be authentic. There’s plenty of advice available about networking. Sift through the information for tips that match your strengths and personality.

  6. Slow down. Pace yourself. Be courteous and friendly to each guest, but reserve your business cards for those colleagues you’re interested in following up with. Enjoy your initial conversations without rushing to connect on social media or promote your own products and services. Healthy relationships are based on trust that grows over time.

  7. Move along. Leave your contacts wanting more. It’s usually more productive to strike up brief conversations and make plans to talk again later if you think you’ve discovered a potential client or partner. That way you can dial down the pressure and explore more options.

Show up at annual conventions and monthly luncheons ready to make new contacts and stay in touch with old friends. Create business and social opportunities by reaching out to others. Allow your real self to shine through and feel your newfound confidence.  You can do this!

If you are still not sure you can do it, take a moment to read my thoughts on waiting to try something new.  Why Waiting for the Right Moment is Often a Mistake  Trying something new can be scary, but not is stagnation.

Take a moment to let us know about a networking event you have gone to and how it went.