Do you struggle with client communications? Specifically, do you feel that parents just aren’t following your policies? Maybe you think they are doing this on purpose and just running over you. Today I want to ask – What would you tell your clients if you had the chance? Would you tell them to be better at following your policies and rules? Well, today we are telling those parents but good! Here’s the What, Why, How and When to tell your clients to follow your childcare policies.
“I know! I need to grow a backbone for dealing with parents.” I hear this from providers all the time. Believe me, I have been there too. As providers, sometimes we find it difficult to effectively enforce our policies with clients. That’s why today I will show you why growing that proverbial backbone and feeling confident in your client communication is so important for the childcare provider. So if you think you need to grow a backbone, keep reading! Providers need to Grow a Backbone
Why Providers Need a Backbone
Usually, when a provider thinks about starting their childcare they think about all the things they want to do. We have grand plans for curriculum and caring for the children we hope to get. We probably rarely think about what are some things we don’t want to do. Well, today I’m going there. Here are some things that I stopped doing at my Childcare … and why.
8 Things I Stopped doing at my Childcare
1. Undercut my Business and Me
For most new providers it is all about getting the client. I mean we started a business but until we have paying customers, it’s not really real.
I know it was that way for me. To be honest, I am not really sure I put that much thought into how much I wanted to be paid for my services. But because I didn’t do my homework, often times I found myself in what could be called negotiations for my rates.
Years later when I created a rate worksheet I was confronted with just how underpaid I really was. Although I wasn’t really expecting to get rich, I did expect my business to cover expenses and provide me a livable salary.
That worksheet saved me!
Even though I developed it as a handout for prospective clients, it really provided an “Ahh ha” moment for me. The worksheet broke down my rate to the hour and I finally realized that I couldn’t afford to undercut my business anymore.
Now every time I think about cutting my rate, I remember that hourly rate.
2. Bend My Policies
Even though I started with a contract, I will admit I don’t think I had any hard and fast policies. In the beginning, you don’t really know what you don’t know.
As time went on, I slowly put in place policies that I noticed were becoming issues with clients. But even then, if I was challenged more than not I would bend my rules. This was long before I grew my backbone and learned to stand up for my policies.
Policies are really the core principles of my business.
Over time I realized that my policies were really the core principles of my business. And just like the personal principles we have, I should think long and hard before bending them.
When I was a child, it probably didn’t take too much convincing to get me to break a rule here or there. Especially if it was in favor of something fun I wanted to do. But as I matured, I held on to core values that I was determined not to break.
I think the same is true for our businesses. As we grow our businesses and mature, there should be core principles that we cling to. By then we know the WHY. So no matter the WHO or the WHAT we need to stand firm and lean on our backbone.
Sometimes the right answer is NO!
3. Think people won’t challenge me
I have had clients who seemed to be a bit confused about our relationship. You know the type. They think you are a nanny. Or even worse, as an employee of their families company.
After being blindsided with requests for special treatment over and over again, I realized that no matter how nice I was, there will be people who challenge me.
They might simply need clarification of our relationship. But before I could inform them of who I was I needed to prepare myself by being confident in my role.
If not expect to be challenged, at least be prepared.
For me, I realized that I needed to clue clients in on my job functions, responsibilities and finally my time. I developed short concise responses to questions like “Why do I need to sign a contract?” or “Can I switch a day for the holiday?” or “Can I just bring you the check next week?”
Because if I wasn’t prepared with the “Why” or the “Why not”, I was setting a bad precedent for our business relationship going forward.
5. Not get a Contract
Speaking of contract issues, it took me awhile but I finally realized that it was best if I got everyone under contract. Yes, EVERYONE!
Too many times, a client would try to rewrite or back out of an (verbal) agreement we had made. Typically, it was a temporary arrangement, which is probably why they felt so comfortable breaking it.
This is another opportunity to establish the professional relationship with the client.
Here again, I was missing an opportunity to establish the professional relationship with the client. By making casual arrangments, I was treating our relationship too casually.
No more! Everyone gets a contract.
6. Accept Late Payments
If you have been a provider for any time at all, you probably have heard many of the excuses for why the tuition is not paid on time. I know I have heard them all!
I once had a client who routinely would pay me late. She would wait until the grace period was up and then submit her payment. One time she mistakenly sent me a text meant for her husband asking him to upgrade their airplane tickets to first class. But she paid me late! I mean SERIOUSLY!
What needed to change here was ME.
But in all honesty, what needed to change here was me. I was making her unacceptable behavior acceptable. When I finally got that, I made a change.
What did I do?
I adjusted the due date for tuition payments and rewrote the late fee policy. I took back my power and enforced a core policy for my business. Yea me!
7. Hold a Spot
Like I said before when you have a new childcare business you need clients. Sometimes you can get consumed by trying to find clients. I remember those days, who am I kidding, I still have those days.
When the enrollment dips, it is quite natural to step up recruitment efforts.
Early on when I would meet with prospective parents who didn’t have an immediate need, I would get talked into holding spots. I’m sure I reasoned that a future client was still a client.
The thing is, holding open vacant spots is not exactly filling an open spot. In reality, it is like asking someone to hold off selling their house or car because you might want to buy it in the future. Crazy right? Who would do that?
That is exactly why you shouldn’t do it either. Yes, you need clients, but actual clients.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have a Pre-Enrollment Program that addresses the need for people to reserve a future enrollment spot. But by reserving the spot they are required to leave a deposit to ensure that they will be occupying the spot.
The key here is they have to pay for it.
There were too many times when a parent would ask me to hold a spot only to back out in the end. I soon realized that I could not afford to hold spots. I can reserve upcoming spots, but current vacant spots needed to generate income.
8. Not Raise Rates
Remember when I said I created a Tuition Worksheet as a handout for prospective parents? Well, out of that exercise I realized that I needed to plan to periodically raise my rates.
When you consider that most providers make an hourly wage that is close to half the minimum wage, most providers probably need to visit their rate structure at least every few (more like every 1-2) years.
If your expenses go up, so should your rates.
If your business grows, and I hope it does, that probably will involve more expenses. Look at it this way, in the corporate world employees can typically expect to at least receive a cost of living raise. If they don’t they may consider other employment opportunities.
While providers, of course, should consider keeping their rates competitive, at the same time education, experience, and program offerings should be main considerations for rates.
8 Ways I Attack Burn-Out
There you have 8 things I have stopped doing at my childcare. Isn’t it funny how not doing something can actually be beneficial? By stopping counterproductive habits I strike back at the burn-out monster before he has a chance to attack.
Tell me, what are some things you have stopped (or what to stop) doing at your childcare. Leave me a comment below and tell me the what and why.