Feb 16

It’s a big decision to go into business for yourself, and when it’s a child care center you’re considering, it doesn’t take long to realize how much goes into setting up shop. Below, we’ve put together a few key considerations as you embark on what’s sure to become a very fulfilling venture.

Be sure you know your community’s needs! Too many times, child care providers move forward, unsure of what the needs are in their respective communities. For instance, do the school doors not open until 7:30 a.m., but many parents need to be at work by 7 a.m? If so, it’s crucial you provide a solution for these parents. Ask around – you’ll be surprised at what you can discover.

How about your fees? It’s important that you find that happy medium between charging too little and charging too much. You want families to be able to afford your services, but charge too little, and they may believe your low prices have something to do with what you’re lacking. Check around and then price appropriately. Also, every child care provider we’ve ever spoken to says to avoid the flat rate weekly fee. Infants require much more than older children; it’s absolutely appropriate to charge according to age.

Never underestimate the importance of documenting everything. We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: contracts, policy manuals, expectations, revisions, changes – put it all in ink. And then get it signed and ideally, notarized.

Another key issue many underestimate is the power of marketing. Rest assured, there are many ways you can easily and successfully market your business without blowing your budget. This previous post goes a bit more in-depth with some of the tried and true ideas.

Also, and this is a new tip for us, many day care providers will contact the local schools and will prepare a brief package that introduces the facility. In it, business owners might provide copies of all the appropriate licensing information, testimonials of satisfied parents, contact information and sometimes even a pricing sheet. This way, parents who approach the school’s office in search of suggestions for a reputable child care provider, the school need only provide your packet (if, of course, you made copies for the school to give out).

Finally, and this is perhaps the most important aspect of starting your new business. You must ensure the employees you hire are worthy of working with children on a daily basis. Do your homework and be sure appropriate background checks are conducted. This is one area you simply cannot afford to cut corners on.

Have anymore great ideas for new child care business owners? If so, drop us a line or leave us a comment – we’d love to hear from you!

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Oct 07

We all know the crucial role child care providers play in society.  We also know that it takes a special person capable of giving so much with so little in return.  This week, the country was made privy to just how much our daycare providers give to those left in their care.  Keep reading for some of the latest national statistics and a peek into what you, as a child care provider, can expect in the coming months.

According to the National Association of Child Care Resources & Referral Agencies, there are more than 11 million children under the age of 5 who spend the lion’s share of their waking hours with someone besides his or her mother.  That someone is most often the child care provider.  In fact, on average, each of those little ones Mom trusts you with spends approximately 36 hours with you.  Not only that, but there’s a good chance you’re not the only one Mom and Dad rely on to ensure the safety and well being of their children.  With so many industries that exist on an “around the clock” environment, some parents rely on others, including grandparents and neighbors, to help out when they’re working the late shift.

If you routinely care for children whose families are low income, it could be those meals and snacks you provide are the closest they get to a nutritious meal each day.  It’s not that parents don’t care or don’t pay attention to what their children are consuming; it’s more likely due to a combination of tough economic times and parents who might be working two or more jobs just to keep the bases covered with very little time left to shop for groceries.  Then, of course, there are still 14.5 million Americans who are out of work with another 7 million who are only working part time because those are the only available jobs.  Most child care providers know all too well losing a child they’ve grown to love because families can no longer afford to pay for your services.

This is why it’s so important to ensure your families are made aware of the many programs that will allow them to continue to leave their children with you versus other less safer options.  For instance, one woman, who worked in a mall, could no longer afford daycare for her young daughter.  She had no choice but to leave her in the car while she worked.  She was able to check on her every hour, but that’s an incredibly dangerous situation that could have easily resulted in tragedy.

If you’re wondering if new programs parents are able to take advantage of won’t be compatible with your Alpha Cares software, you’ll be surprised to learn the transition is a breeze as we’ve built in all of the requisite “must haves” these programs require.  Visit the AlphaCares.com site for more information and for a compilation of recent newspaper headlines and stories from across the country, visit the NACCRA Organization’s website here.  You’ll also discover links that will take you to the various programs in place to help families who are struggling, but need to ensure the safety of their children as they set out to look for new employment.

Do you have a story to tell?  Drop us a line – we’d love to hear from you and some of the hurdles you have overcome in your child care business.

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Apr 26

Adapted from Small Business Articles – by Arthur Chong and Donna McGill – Apr 17, 2010

So your daycare business is finally on stable ground; the foundation is in place and things are running smoothly.  Now what?  It’s not quite time to take a step back and allow it to continue with its own momentum; in fact, a successful small daycare business means you’re constantly updating and tweaking your operations to ensure it remains competitive and that it meets the needs of your community.  Even if you opt to remain small and are quite comfortable in the “peaceful equilibrium”,  you still must define a strategy that allows for consistent improvement.  This will help ensure your business never stagnates, or worse, that you don’t lose customers.  After all, they want only the best daycare options for their children that their money can provide.

Continuous improvement is not a new concept; and in fact, it’s a model small businesses follow to keep them competitive and vibrant, even in down economic times.  The basic idea is to improve your customer’s experience through an ongoing process that encourages change and adaptation as the industry itself moves forward and changes.  Not only that, but your customer profile will likely shift along the way too, and you want to be in the best position to makes those shifts right along with your clientele’s needs.

As a small daycare business, continuous improvement and growth strategies can be approached  in a variety of ways. The key is selecting an approach that complements your strengths and even your weaknesses as a business owner. The strategies listed here focus on simple ways you can improve customer experience, and are “tried and true” approaches to small businesses in general.

Establish Best Practices

-          Consider what the praises (and complaints) parents heap on your services – remember to keep an open mind.

-          Mentally walk through your established procedures and write them down so these can be explained to others (see next suggestion)

Increase customers with existing resources

-          Compliment all-day care with after-school care, or even morning-only care customers

-          Hire a high-school intern who can follow your best practices – it’s a win-win for you, the intern, and the children.

-          Deploy automation to eliminate repetitive tasks (utilize task helpers such as Alpha Cares “auto-invoices” – which eliminate the need to generate weekly invoices manually, or by hand.

Remodel Your Services

-          Package your hours into flexible choices (include modest concessions with higher services, and higher prices)

-          Keep an open mind in your efforts and don’t be afraid to try new methods.

These are just a few best-practice methods that are easy to incorporate but when instituted properly, can mean not only a better position for your small daycare center, but a healthier bottom line, too.

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