10 Ways to Help your Nursery Business Survive the Credit Crunch
As Parents around the UK tighten up, Childcare Providers need to be more budget conscious and flexible than ever before.
- Review and Keep a Tight Rein on your Income and Expenditure
- Take Advantage of any Member Discounts Available to You
- Don't be Wasteful with Your Resources
- Explore all New Opportunities
- Checks Parents are Claiming all Benefits Available to Them
- Be as Supportive as you can to Parents - Customer Care
- Don't be Afraid to Talk About Money
- Think of Ways to Develop Your Business
- Your Team are Your Greatest Asset - Don't Forget to Involve Them in Everything
Review Your Income and Expenditure
Look at ways to maximise your occupancy levels of childcare places to increase income. For example, I have heard that some settings have introduced a more sophisticated pricing structure, charging a lower rate at low-demand periods to drive up intake and a higher rate for high-demand periods.
Make a thorough check on what you’re paying for utilities, materials and food. Compare prices from a range of suppliers and try to identify where you could make savings.
Become a member of a professional organisation like NDNA or the PLA and claim discounts on utilities and materials, for example, NDNA have preferential rates on Handepay Card Machines, allowing you to take credit or debit card payments on the spot - useful when payments are late. Both have 24 hour legal helplines and competitive rates with Insurance Companies.
Don't be Wasteful
Excess waste could be caused by over-buying or under-recycling. When you do your curriculum planning next, look at materials that can be reused, borrowed or even shared with other childminders, playgroups or nurseries, rather than buying new. Find out what books and toys your local libraries have to offer too, making sure everything is age-appropriate and in good condition.
Explore New Opportunities
The DCSF publication Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare announces more free places for two-year-olds in every local authority and a chance for providers to advertise vacancies on a new website. It also confirms there is money available to all PVI providers to help with ongoing salary costs through the Graduate Leader Fund – have a look at some examples of what Graduate Leader Funding you can apply for here or talk to your local authority about the funding.
Check Parent Benefits
Ensure Parents are claiming any childcare vouchers, tax credits or benefits due to them to help pay for their childcare costs. From the calls we have, I think Parents are still hugely unaware of what’s out there and they can claim for. There is an online tax credit calculator for parents to use to work out if they qualify from HM Revenue and Customs. If they are a student they can claim free childcare while they train, see here.
Be Supportive - Customer Care
If you suspect parents are running into difficulty, try to be as supportive as you can, make sure they know what is available to them, be it flexibility over sessions or a payment plan to help distribute the cost of their childcare. Think through your policy on this as it must be balanced with the needs of the business, and parents have to be aware of the limits of your flexibility.
Why are people afraid to talk about money? Don't forget you are running a business to make money. The cost of sessions, and the terms and conditions of payment, are often discussed when parents are new to a setting, but not much after that. If late payments are accepted once or twice without question, this can easily become the norm. Make sure invoices go out on time, which state clearly the deadline for payment. I know this can be a sticky subject but when you meet with parents, financial and practical issues should sit as comfortably on the agenda as their child’s development or wellbeing!
Raising the profile of your setting, among potential customers and existing parents, is crucial when competition is tough. Parents will always need childcare, and a flexible, quality service is going to be their first choice. Think about marketing ideas (open days, posters, local newspaper stories, website, online advertising) that can underline the benefits you offer, the additional services you could introduce (see Develop Your Business below) and any accreditation awarded from your professional body.
Develop Your Business
Explore ways to develop your business – by offering a mobile crèche, or evening and weekend sessions, for example. Team up with other carers in your area so that you can share experience, materials and support. Keep an eye out for local contract bids, for example from local authorities or local employers, and get on the tender lists.
Involve Your Team
Staff morale can impact on image and efficiency, making it a major HR issue in times of economic uncertainty. If your employees know you are investing time and money in their training and development, and that they are involved in any changes, you will benefit from their expertise, energy and enthusiasm. Invite ideas from employees on everything from cost savings to promotional campaigns. They are your team, use and work with them as a team. Don't try to do it all on your own.