Paul & Tammy Huff’s start-up tale reads like a dream for many new child care center owners. The first year they opened, they had 150 children on their first day. Paul says that, “there were so many people there that my dad was giving group tours.” That’s the kind of opening most of us can dream about.

However, running a smooth child care is more than just opening doors and enrolling children. Paul remembers coming in on their first day at 8:30 am and his wife Tammy, was in the bathroom crying, with forms lying around everywhere. They had not thought to ask parents to bring in registration forms before their first day, so they had over 100 parents trying to meet teachers, drop off forms, and get to work all at the same time. Paul recalls that “it was pure chaos.”

Still, with some hard work and no small amount of luck, they made it through. Within 2 weeks, they were full with 300 hundred children. Five years later, they opened a second school and that one started off doing well, too.

Building a Foundation

Not all stories are like Paul’s. In fact, most aren’t. For most of us, filling our building takes loads of sweat, tears, and long days. Clearly there was a very high demand in Paul’s area, but they also realized on day one that having systems and procedures in place is key.

When most new businesses start out, they are the least likely to invest in support, but this is often the best time to do so. Having a strong foundation will not only set you up for long-term success, it will allow you to focus on running your business, supporting teachers, and communicating with families, rather than the busy work of creating email templates or newsletter templates.

Don’t Re-invent the Wheel

Hiring someone to help you and working with other directors that have already been through what you are now going through will also save you inordinate amounts of time. There are thousands of child care centers throughout the US and most of them need similar documents, tools, and procedures. Why re-invent the wheel, when you can network with people who have already done the work for you and are willing to share? That’s a big part of what we do here. 🙂

Cracks Begin to Show

Getting back to Paul’s story, things had been going great with their two buildings always near capacity, but, by the fall of 2014, there luck had begun to run out. They had dropped to 80% enrollment in both schools and Paul decided it was time to kick it into high gear and figure out what was wrong. This is part of what prompted Paul to attend his first Child Care Success Summit. He signed up for our Diamond coaching program that year mainly because he wanted someone to come to his schools and see them with a fresh set of eyes.

Staff Training & Team Building

Something Paul repeatedly noticed upon entering his schools was that the director was always in the office with two or three other teachers and always seemed to be refereeing some kind of dispute. He also was shocked to see that every time a child came in for a tour, teachers would mutter under their breath, “Oh no, not another child.” Something had to be done.

Kris came in and devised training and team-building exercises for his staff, emphasizing what the schools could do with a full center. By March, they’d enrolled an additional 80 kids and both schools were full by following the recommendations of Kris and suggestions from peers in the program. Paul was amazed, saying, “Those 80 kids mean $20,000 a week for us.”

You Can’t Do It All

Paul learned that building a strong foundation is the key to long-term success. Another thing he learned is that you can’t do it all yourself. Trying to do everything yourself is one of the biggest mistakes many child care directors make. They’re the teacher trainer, sales person, finance manager, marketer, and everything else all rolled into one. No one can do all of that and deliver quality on every level.

When Paul wanted to create a new music program for his Pre-K classes, he decided to give delegation a try and asked his son, Steven, to develop the program. Not only did Steven deliver, teachers were amazed and now he has directors from other centers clamoring to use his program.

By delegating tasks, you free yourself up to focus on the key drivers of your business, but you also allow your staff opportunities to grow and develop. Think of delegation as an investment in your team. They often become more committed and you end up with something better than if you had tried to rush it in between all your other tasks.

Excited for More

“I say we’ve been successful in implementing 20% of it (ideas from Kris and other members in his group) and I’ve still got 80% to go”, says Paul. With the huge success he’s seen implementing just 20%, it’s going to be amazing to watch and see what he can do implementing the other 80 and we’re excited to be part of that journey.

What lessons have you learned along the way that you’d like to share with new or aspiring child care owners? What do you wish you’d known starting out that you know now? We can’t wait to hear from you in the comments!