Some daycare centers are content staying small and servicing less than 10 children at a time, for others, the goal is to grow and to expand their reach as a daycare center. Growing a daycare, just like any small business, should be done methodically and using tactics that will work long-term.
To effectively grow your daycare business you need to:
- Provide exceptional care
- Communicate with parents
- Invest in employees
- Find a niche(s) to serve
- Develop a strong brand
Provide exceptional care
The success of your daycare business is most influenced by the quality of care you provide for your customers and their children. No matter how cheap your price is or how much advertising you do, if parents don’t feel like their child is in good hands, they will look elsewhere for daycare services.
When you focus on providing the best care possible, not only will you start to gain more customers, but you will be able to charge more than competitors in the area. This is because customers believe they are getting the most value from your daycare facility.
Some things you should focus on in order to provide exceptional care are:
- Hiring quality employees
- Employee training
- Developing systems and standards for safety and quality control
- Obtaining feedback from parents
- Continous education for you and your employees
Communicate with parents
Having open and honest communication with parents is important for several reasons. When you are communicating often with parents you can obtain feedback, address problems early on, and ask for referrals.
Obtaining feedback is especially important if you are a new daycare. There’s always going to be new problems arising or certain things that you weren’t aware of that parents can help bring to your attention.
Depending on your relationship with the parent, you can ask for feedback by asking them face to face, send a feedback flyer home with them, or send them an email. Not all parents are going to respond and you don’t want to be too pushy, but you need to ask in order to receive.
You can also obtain feedback from friends, family, and online communities. Online communities such as forums, message boards, and Facebook groups can be an excellent source of feedback. The people in these groups are often experienced with daycare operations, and they are not worried about hurting your feelings because they do not know you on a personal level.
Addressing problems early on
Another important reason for having open communication with parents is because when problems come up, which they inevitably will, the parent will feel comfortable coming to you first, instead of going to a different daycare, or even worse, leaving you a bad review online.
You can open up these channels of communication by taking a minute to chat with a new parent when they bring their child to your daycare for the first time. Be friendly and inviting, and let them know that if they ever have an issue or concern to please come to you first so you can help sort it out.
Ask for referrals
Referrals hopefully will become your main source of new customers once you are established and have a quality referral system set in place.
Having a great referral program can give you a source for high-quality, qualified, and ready-to-buy customers. Parents are always talking to other parents with children in their age group, tapping into a referral program is a wonderful way to expand and grow your daycare community.
The goal of your referral program is to incentivize the right customers into leaving you a review, testimonial, or referring a friend.
When you give your parents incentives to provide referrals or online reviews they will be much more inclined to help you out. These should be discounts, offers, or freebies that are meaningful and significant.
The reason being, you already have a good customer that enjoys your daycare, if you give them a wonderful offer, they will be happy to spread the word, and will be more loyal to you and your center.
Ask the right customer at the right time
When asking for a referral make sure that you are asking a parent right after their child just had one of their best days at your daycare. Their child’s excitement will rub off on them and they will be very likely to help you out.
Make it easy for them
If your customer has to pick up the phone, call their friends, and give them a special code in order to get your incentive for the referral, they will be a lot less likely to do it.
Make it easy for your customer, tell them all they have to do is have their friend mention their name or give them ready-made referral coupons with their name on it.
Invest in employees
Your employees are the face of your company and the ones that will be interacting with children and parents on a day-to-day basis. Make sure you take your time to choose the right employee, train them well, and take care of them in order for them to represent your daycare well.
Choosing the right employee
You aren’t going to choose the best employee every time, but there are a couple of steps you can take to increase the odds of finding the right one.
Implement a system for your interview and hiring process. This takes out some of the guesswork of weeding through potential candidates to find your perfect employee. Develop some interview questions that help you understand the person’s personality and work ethic.
Performing background checks is another step you can take to ensure that a candidate wasn’t just putting on a friendly face and answering interview questions based on how they think you would like them to be answered. This is also something that you can market to give your customers peace of mind knowing they have responsible employees caring for their children.
Training is something that often gets overlooked because daycare owners feel that once an employee knows the basics of child care they are ready for any situation. Performing a more thorough training costs more of your time upfront, but will help retain employees and keep parents and children happy which will save you a lot more down the road.
Some areas where your employees need to be trained:
- Basic child care
- Safety and first-aid
- Educational teaching
- Situational training
- Documentation/record keeping
- Customer service/interaction
Aside from having a well-trained employee, spending time with them helps you get to know them better. This is beneficial for identifying problem areas that need to be monitored, but also helps you and your new employee bond which will hopefully create loyalty and a long-term relationship.
Take care of your employees
In general, ½ of your employees will be average-good employees, ¼ will be below-average, and ¼ will be the superstars of your daycare.
You should respect all of your employees and give them a chance to succeed, but don’t use all of your time and resources trying to take a below-average employee to superstar status.
For your good and superstar employees, make sure you are keeping them happy and excited to be working for your company.
Treat them with respect
This one is so easy to do but so many companies forget to do it. Treat your employees how you would like to be treated and everything else becomes a little bit easier. Ask them about how things are going, how their day went, and if there is anything you can help them out with.
A key to having your employees feel well respected is to not micromanage them. You still need to monitor them to make sure they are caring for children in a satisfactory manner, but if you’ve hired the right people and trained them well, then this shouldn’t be a concern.
If an employee doesn’t show up for work half the time and when they do they don’t perform, eventually you will have to let that employee go.
So if an employee shows up every day, has a positive attitude, and goes above and beyond their job description, reward them.
Financial rewards make everyone happier, but verbally recognizing their commitment and complimenting them on their hard work goes a long way as well.
Find a niche or niches to serve
Once you have your customers and employees taken care of, it is time to find ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. When you serve certain niches better than any of your competition, you gain a competitive advantage that will give you the opportunity for more customers and the ability to charge a premium rate.
Some niches that you can go after with your daycare:
- Foreign language
- Special needs
- Field trips
- Infant care
- Gifted and talented
Develop a strong brand
Having a memorable and recognizable brand is another factor that sets you apart from the competition and is the gift that keeps on giving. If you develop your brand right, potential customers will think of your company first when they are in need of child care service.
Some tips for creating a strong brand:
- Be consistent across all platforms
- Have a simple, memorable logo and name
- Invest in professional-looking marketing materials
- I am really bad with technology, how can I keep my daycare business up to date with technology?
You can also search for a local freelancer to help get you started and teach you some of the basics.
If there is a local university they might have a technology program where students could be looking for an internship as well.
- How should I handle when a parent leaves a bad review?
Bad reviews are an inevitable part of running any business. When a parent leaves a bad review it is best to:
- Apologize publicly on whatever platform they posted it on
- Reach out personally to see what you can do to make it right
- Do whatever you can to have them take the review down
Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
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