Prepare for that very special day when you can open your childcare center’s doors again and welcome your families back
We are hopeful that childcare centers will be opening again very soon to serve all families. In anticipation for that long-awaited date, there are important things you can do now to ensure a successful recovery. Let’s look at five specific areas:
You can’t assume all your families are coming back. Some may have lost jobs or their positions may have changed, causing their childcare needs to change. Plus those families who do come back will have new concerns and expectations.
To prepare for this:
- Engage now with your families to project enrollment when your doors do open. If possible, personal phone calls provide quick and accurate data along with an individual touch. Consider splitting the responsibility of making contact between several members of your team.
- Provide comfort and reassurance through preparedness, communication, and leadership. If you haven’t already, start communicating about precautions your center is taking and/or will take to follow CDC and other required guidelines. Also consider communicating about ways you have grown as a team during this time. What if your teachers completed additional professional development? Don’t hesitate to brag about it!
As with your families, you can’t assume all your staff will be coming back when your center reopens. Some may have used this time to find a new center to work at or maybe a new career path completely, and honestly, some may choose to stay on unemployment. Those staff who do come back will have concerns just like your families. Our teams will have anxieties and fears that weren’t there before the pandemic.
To prepare for this:
- Engage now with your team to ensure they know that you want them back, how the transition will occur, and any new expectations you may have. This is especially important if you aren’t currently open for essential care and/or if only a portion of your staff is working.
- Talk with your team about how to handle the emotions of coming back. Consider the struggles kids may have in the classroom after not having structure for weeks on end. Inform your team of how you are willing to support them and encourage them to support each other. Teamwork is critical!
- Again, provide comfort and reassurance through preparedness, communication, and leadership. Now is the time to lead your team confidently. Ensure them the worst is behind us. Don’t be hesitant to share potential hurdles that may still arise, but provide assurance that no matter the obstacle, as a team we can thrive on the other side of this.
Many of your old processes and procedures may need some editing. You may even need to add new policies and procedures that aren’t currently in any of your plans. Additionally, though your center was most likely full before the pandemic, you may have to start marketing again to attract new families and fill your capacity.
To prepare for this:
- Inventory your procedures and process to prevent future spread of the Coronavirus. Review handbooks and disaster plans and ensure they address COVID-19 through updates in how you handle communicable diseases. Gather necessary supplies that may be required as your doors open.
- Inventory how many open spots you may have post-COVID. Once you know what enrollment you need, gather your top five marketing ideas, get organized - and go! Make sure you have up-to-date marketing materials and don’t forget to modify your tour process so your team is educated on speaking to the many preventative COVID measures you have in place.
- Revisit how you manage leads that come in and the follow-up process. If you don’t have a system to help you manage these leads, consider a sales and marketing automation tool that will reduce the manual tasks your center director or enrollment coordinator has to do.
All of us have been through a lot! When your doors open, that is a reason for celebration. The childcare industry, like many others, has been extremely affected by this pandemic. If your center is opening back up, celebrate!
Some ways to celebrate:
- Host a grand reopening party. Give away individual bottles of hand sanitizer, individually wrapped cookies, and handwritten thank-you cards to each family. Consider sending a special invite to make day one super special. Don’t forget balloons! Share your party announcement on social media, and post it on your website.
- Over the next couple months, consider ways to appreciate your staff. While some may have left, they might no longer be considered part of "your team". Find simple, cost-effective ways to show your staff you are grateful for their loyalty and hard work. Teacher appreciation week is coming up, so make sure to include a week of fun activities.
- It’s a great time to show appreciation to families who were able to come back to the center. Be ready to greet them on day one and offer a personal thank you for sticking with you during this time.
- Many parents are in need of a serious break! Allowing their children to come to school for eight hours is a lifesaver to many of them. They have spent many weeks juggling work, homeschooling, and caring for their children 24/7. Come up with a funny gift to give parents to celebrate the new freedom they will have while their child is safe in your care.
Once your doors open, you must remain diligent in a number of areas so you can proactively shift as obstacles emerge. If there’s one lesson we learned from all this, it’s that we must be able to position our childcare centers so they can endure the unexpected. During this time, we may have uncovered weaknesses, and that’s OK. Learn from it, adjust, grow.
Some ways to ensure continuity:
- Monitor new processes and procedures daily to ensure they are being followed. Cleaning expectations and potential social distancing as well must be upheld to ensure a new outbreak doesn’t occur.
- Build up cash flow. Many of you may have been caught off-guard financially when the pandemic hit. To start, we have to closely manage our ratios/staff and do our best to max out our programs (even at restrictive maxes) immediately. Then, review your financials and consider where cuts can be made. I call it the "milk and cookies" and most likely, you have already scanned through your finances to determine where you can make cuts. Next, add revenue where revenue can be added by getting creative, offering new programs and/or even products.
- Know your numbers and hold yourself accountable! When you commit to these financial strategies it does not mean you can’t reinvest back into your center, but it does mean that you must do it wisely and with intention. If you struggle with managing your finances, find a childcare financial expert to help you.
- Consider ways to diversify your childcare services. Many centers have implemented strategies during the pandemic that could actually turn into long-term revenue sources. Don’t stop doing them just because you open back up! If you’re providing materials and content online - keep doing it and eventually you can sell subscriptions to this type of service. Maybe you were offering activity kits for families - brand these kits and start selling them. You may have even developed various part-time offerings and sold these at a premium - keep doing it!
For those centers that are navigating through this unprecedented time and may not want to continue, there are options for you.
- Find an investor; just having a partner to share the burden may keep your business alive and alleviate some of the stress you may be feeling. How do you find an investor? Consider reaching out to your local chamber of commerce, post online ads, or work with a company that has access to childcare center owners that may be willing to invest in a new center. To learn more about this option, contact Child Care Biz Help
- Sell your center; work with an early education broker. The right broker will connect you with potential buyers. Hinge Brokers and Molly Hanson of BayState Business Brokers are a couple options.
- Find additional resources; Join in on an upcoming "Essentials to kickstarting your COVID-19 Recovery Plan" webinar. Read other great blogs like the information-packed resources of Himama. Stay up-to-date on CDC Guidance for child care programs.
In a nutshell, we are all so ready to jump back into this! Am I right? Just make sure you have a plan for your families and staff. Get your procedures and processes in order. Find many ways to celebrate. Most of all, ensure future continuity of services by preparing and continuing to be the best you can.
Many blessings to you all as we enter the post-COVID-19 child care era.
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