How to Be Prepared for Rapid Business Growth in Child Care
Everyone wants to own their own business but it’s not always as easy as it seems. As a business owner it’s important to prepare for economic hardships, so we often plan for seasons where we might need to cut back. The question is, are we also preparing for seasons of rapid growth?
Although not all child care owners experience seasons of exponential growth, many do. When I led an After School Program there was a season where we almost shut down as we were down to 23 kids, the budget was tight, and it seemed we wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.
If I would have resigned myself to failure, the center may in fact have closed down. But I knew we had potential for growth so I prepared for the worst and planned for the best, and before you knew it we were growing again!
The fact is, you can’t always predict growth, but you can prepare for it. Growth opportunities will come, I can promise you that, but if you’re not ready they will pass you by.
Today I want to talk all about preparing your center for growth. This might mean filling all your classrooms, starting a waiting list, or even opening a new center.
Here are 5 things you should do to prepare for rapid growth at your child care center.
Standardize Your Processes
One thing I’ve learned about quick growth is that it requires you to be able to duplicate. If your systems can’t be duplicated, you will not be able to manage your growth.
When standardizing your processes, you will want to review how you hire and onboard staff, promote classroom policies, manage growth, and structure staff meetings. If you go from a team of 5 to 25 in a short period of time you will need to have a process in place for everything to run smoothly. If you don’t have procedures in place to onboard and support a larger team you will find yourself in big trouble.
Kumar Arora of CNBC’s “Cleveland Hustles” says it best: “When business owners disregard process standardization, they struggle to keep up with the ever-changing business environment.” He goes on to explain that early in your business you can get away with disorganization or ad hoc procedures, but eventually lacking proper procedures will prevent you from growing effectively.
Hire for Growth
When you think about hiring for growth it’s logical to think “I’ll worry about that when we get there.” I felt the same way, but what I found is that in a season of growth, particularly in the child care industry, you have to prepare for that growth ahead of time to create the necessary space and staff to handle it. If you see a season of growth coming I suggest beefing up your team by adding a few extra floaters who would make great future lead teachers, or open a new classroom before it’s completely filled up.
You’ll find that when you hire people based on where you want to be, rather than where you are, those people will help get you to your desired destination.
The team that can manage a center with 25 children will not always be the same team that can manage a center with 150 children, run new classrooms or manage satellite locations. The key is to challenge yourself to think bigger and cast that same vision to your team from the beginning of the hiring and onboarding process.
Listen to Your Families
Seasons of growth can be challenging for your staffing team but also for the families in your center. As you prepare for a season of growth, spend some time investing in building relationships with the families in your center. Listen to them to find out what they are looking for and how you can provide a better experience.
I found that when I included families in the process and listened to their feedback, I was able to plan for growth with their needs in mind. A business designed to serve the needs of the customer is one that will last.
There are times of economic hardship and uncertainty in child care, as there is in any industry, but that doesn’t mean you can't have a growing and thriving business. The key is to be willing to pivot and get creative.
As you move forward with your growth plans, start thinking outside the box. Ask yourself, “what are successful centers doing that I'm not?” while at the same considering “what else can I do that the rest of the market hasn’t thought of? In other words, how can I set our center apart while being the best?”
Pursuing an answer to these questions is essential for planning and managing growth.
For example, if you have a growing center you don’t have time to waste on paper records and billing. Save time and energy by automating your billing from start to finish. Ditch paper registration as well and replace it with a simple online registration process. You can’t get exponential growth without change and adding comprehensive child care management software is an important part of reducing training and administrative tasks so you can focus on providing great care and growing your business!
It’s always good to recognize what you’ve been doing that is working but don’t be afraid to look at what isn’t working and be willing to change it!
Treat Prospects Like Gold
If you are in a growth mindset it’s key to treat each and every prospective family like gold. If you are too busy to give a quality tour, follow up with leads, or enroll a new family then you are not putting yourself in a position to grow your center.
When I was in our highest growth season I treated enrollment like a full time job and it quickly became one. Although this was time consuming it led to incredible growth. Don’t let yourself fall into the common pitfall of being “too busy” to grow your center.
They say if you build it, they will come, and child care is no exception. No matter where your center is today, if you ever want to grow, start planning now. Create a growth goal and start preparing to be a center that can accomplish that goal. Standardize your policies and take administration online, hire the kind of people you need to grow, and get to know what your families really want so you can use your creativity and work ethic to provide service that sets you apart from the rest. Respect and invest in your staff and treat your customers like gold and more often than not they’ll return the favour, providing you with the thriving, fulfilling child care business of your dreams!