The Three Pillars of a Successful Daycare provide a roadmap to help childcare center operators manage and consistently improve their businesses by focusing on Customer Relationships, Operational Excellence and Talent Development.
After I invested in a local childcare business, I realized I needed to create a structure to help focus resources and staff time where they were needed. The conceptual structure I built to manage and improve Callahan Learning Center became a way for me to understand how different daycare was from every other business I’d been in. Over the years I’ve learned that success for a business owner often comes down to paying attention to the experiences you are creating for your customers. No matter what you think your business is, the real definition of your enterprise lies in the feelings it creates for your customers, your employees and others who interact with you.
Building a strong daycare needs to start with recognizing the three core groups whose experiences will make or break your success.
Those groups are:
Parents – Parents are the paying customers, and they hold the power to build your daycare’s reputation—for better or for worse—by referrals and word of mouth.
Children – While the parents are paying you, children are the true consumers of your product. Their experience needs to be extremely positive, and that positivity must be clearly visible to the parents who decide whether to put them in your care.
Teachers and Staff – Your staff members are caregivers—they are your product. If they’re happy, children will have a positive experience, good teachers will stay on the job and parents won’t feel like they are walking into a toxic workplace every time they drop their child off.
Once we understand who these three groups are, we can look at the business practices that will ensure an optimal experience for each group. We also have to keep in mind that these groups do not act independently of each other. Teachers, children and parents are constantly interacting and influencing each other. Those interactions are a core product of your business as a daycare. The success of your business depends on providing an optimal experience for all three groups at all times. When one slips, it impacts the level of quality of the entire business.
Three Pillars, All Essential
This concept of interdependence among the groups in a daycare business influenced the structure I created to help me manage my business. I call it the Three Pillars of a Successful Daycare. Much like the legs of a three-legged stool, none of these pillars is optional. If one falls, the entire structure—the daycare—falters. While each pillar is rooted with one of the core groups served by your business, your children, staff and parents interact with all three every single day.
The Three Pillars are:
Customer Relationships – This pillar is primarily rooted with your parents. What is their experience, from the first time they call you asking if you have space, to their arrivals to drop off and pick up their children day after day?
Operational Excellence – This is how you deliver the experience that delights your children, but it is also crucial for parents and staff members, as well. From lesson plans to the efficiency with which you collect payments, this pillar is where the rubber hits the road.
Talent Development – Finding, training and keeping teachers who are the right fit for your business will make or break you. How are you preparing your talent to deliver the kind of service that will keep children and parents happy and raving about your business?
It’s important to look at the Three Pillars not as a prioritized list, but as a combination of factors that have to work in symphony for your business to succeed. Think of them as being the three columns holding up the roof of a structure, rather than three stops on a line, and it’s easy to see how the groups influence each other. That roof is your childcare business. The pillars are essential to its integrity.
For the purposes of this analogy, I have in mind brick masonry pillars. The bricks that make up each pillar are the core competencies necessary to succeed in each of the three business areas. We’ll come back to what those bricks are in future discussions.
If you want to improve your business, it’s easy to see that you can’t spend all of your time and resources laying bricks for one pillar, to the detriment of the others. A structure where one pillar is taller than its mates won’t be very sturdy. Your daycare’s quality will be defined by the lowest-performing of these three elements, just as you’d need to shorten tall pillars to level the structure that sits on top of them. Likewise, if you take bricks out of any of your pillars by losing focus on their core elements, your structure will begin to wobble. With this understanding, let’s dig into the work necessary to optimize each of the three pillars.
About Tom Callahan
Tom Callahan is a serial entrepreneur and seasoned executive with a track record of starting, growing and leading companies of all sizes. He is the owner of Callahan Learning Center, a Virginia-based child care management company that operates centers providing high-quality and highly flexible child care. He is the founder of Child Care Seer, an all-in-one platform that can make child care a more manageable and profitable business. He came to the child care industry after more than two decades in the software and technology industries, where he invented multi-million-dollar product lines and guided multiple startups from cradle to exit, including his last startup selling for over $200 million in 2019. Learn more about Child Care Seer at childcareseer.com.
About Child Care Seer
Software that automates everything for your daycare, pre-school, early education learning center, or after-school learning program.