Josh Young is a child care industry veteran. He and his wife founded the Young Schools in DC and Baltimore 28 years ago. They are a multi-million dollar chain with over 1,000 children and 220 staff. Josh works in a high-end market and runs a quality program based on the Reggio Emilia Approach. He’s always ran at 85-90% capacity.
One day several years ago, he started listening to some of Kris Murray’s CDs and saw something worth following up on. He decided to attend the Child Care Success Summit in Vegas and see where it took him. At the Summit, he joined our Child Care Success Academy Platinum group and considers it to be one of the best decisions he’s ever made. His schools are now at 100% capacity with as many as 500 students on waiting lists per school!
Of course, the big question is, what lead to his success and how can you apply it to your own center? We’ll share two of his secrets with you today – Raising the Bar and Building a Culture of Excellence.
More than a Job, ECE is a Profession
Let’s face it, your teachers and directors will never get rich in the field of early childhood education. It’s one of the lowest paid professions in the US and respect from the general populace has never been that high.
But Josh looks at it differently. He knows that teaching young children is a passion deserving of respect. The earliest years of a child’s life are some of their most formative and early childhood educators can play a transformational role in not just helping individual children, but society overall.
Seeing and understanding the need of his team to feel pride in their role, and to ensure that parents see them in the same light, Josh changed the names of roles in his schools. He says, “We are professionals and this is a professional industry.” He doesn’t call them child cares or centers. He calls them schools. His directors are called Heads of Schools.
It’s a simple, but powerful difference. The pay may be low, but it takes a high-caliber professional to commit to doing your best while knowing full well that you could work somewhere else for more money. Staff retention is a key driver of performance and business health in the child care industry, or should we say early childhood schools, with the industry average being 40% turnover in one year’s time. 40% turnover? That’s nearly half your staff changed out every year, which is awful for your children, your team, and your business!
Pride, Development, and Staff Retention
Billionaire and leadership expert Richard Branson says, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of employees, they will take care of the clients.” By helping his team take pride in what they do, Josh is ensuring his team stays happy in their jobs.
Josh also provides extensive development opportunities for his team. This isn’t just the mandatory training required by the state that every child care advertises in their brochures. Josh goes above and beyond by ensuring that his team has opportunities to learn from each other, take on new challenges, and have extended training opportunities focused on their goals, not just licensing’s or his schools’.
So, what’s the result of all this? Most of Josh’s directors have been with him between 15 to 18 years and he says that they are more like a family than a traditional workplace.
Holding Staff Accountable
Well, once you have good people, you want to keep them, right? The other end of this spectrum is holding the team accountable for maintaining a high standard. Passionate staff work hard, but the bane of a professional’s existence is other team members who don’t pull their weight.
Do you have staff that are habitually late, that call out regularly, that spend more time sitting in the class than educating the children? If you’re like many early childhood schools when we first start working with them, we’re betting you do.
And there are always plenty of excuses for allowing this to continue: it’s hard to find good help, there are too many children enrolled to lose a teacher, nobody wants to change the teacher again. But, the real issue is, if you’ve followed some of Josh’s advice and inspired some passionate teachers, those that don’t hold themselves to the same high standards will destroy your team from the inside out. Then it becomes a vicious spiral of disgruntled staff and poor teaching quality.
Having a Hiring Pipeline
The best strategy to being able to find great teachers and also hold staff accountable when needed is to maintain a strong hiring pipeline. By keeping an active pipeline of applicants, you can move quickly to replace any teacher that isn’t working out. Believe us when we tell you that it’s much better for you, your staff, and your families if this happens quickly rather than having it drag out because you can’t find a replacement. For owners and directors, this often means committing time each week to staffing, even if you already have enough staff in the building.
When you hold low-performing staff accountable, you find the good ones stay. In the Child Care Success Academy, we’ve worked with a lot of schools that needed to transform their cultures and it’s not easy. It can sometimes take over 6 months to build a culture of excellence and passion in an individual school, but it can be done. In fact, we do it all the time.
Culture is Key
Your team culture will drive success in your school while a toxic one can quickly destroy it. Focus on the needs of your team, find out what motivates them, and help support them. Inspire their passions every day and give them opportunities to grow.
Keep high standards and make sure everyone on your team is committed to them or, if not, help that team member move on to find a better fit. This could mean a move to a different position or a move to a different job altogether. Once you’ve established a culture of passion and excellence, it’s often self-sustaining, so is definitely worth the effort. And, even better, word often gets out and you start attracting higher quality talent to your center!