My Dad once told me that in order to be successful, you have to have at least twelve things that are very important to your customers that you do that your competitors won't do, either because they can't or because it is so hard that they will choose not to do it. Here are some of ours:
1. More Staffing: We have about two extra staff members scheduled at all times. Since staffing is the biggest expense of any Center, we count this as the biggest difference between us and our competitors.
2. All of our staff work hard and do their share because they are well managed by Judy and I directly. We do not hire others to run our Center, but work open to close, Monday through Friday. You will also see us in on the weekends getting done what we couldn't during the week.
3. Because Judy and I manage the Center directly, we have a very close relationship with our employees and have excellent employee retention. Judy and I also have high standards and are very demanding of our staff, but we also do for them more than any other Center does for their staff: We make them special meals, plus they are entitled to any food in our Center. We go out with them regularly, pay them well and are understanding in areas where other Centers are not.
4. Excellent Summer Program: Once your child has completed his or her first year of Kindergarten, he or she will be able to enroll in our Summer Program. We take four to five field trips every week, all Summer long, to such places as the Baltimore Zoo, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Indian Echo Caverns, the Middletown/Hummelstown Railroad, the Amazing Maize Maze in Lancaster, Hershey Butterfly Gardens, The Hands On House in Lancaster, the Land of Little Horses in Gettysburg, the Gettysburg Battlefields, the Renaissance Faire, LazerDome in Lancaster and much more. We also go Swimming every week and Bowling or Chuck E Cheese every other week all Summer Long. We go for Ice Cream once a week to Dairy Delights. The children are kept very busy and have a great time.
5. Staffing is key, much more important than facilities, but we also have all the facilities any child could desire in a child care Center. We have tons of toys neatly organized in bins. We have lots of space, nicely kept and very clean. Smell deep when you come in and you will not smell urine or feces. We clean everything religiously, including the floorboards, including every toy (I know because I have to wash all the stuffed toys, which takes about a week per room: that job is continuous).
6. We take video and pictures of your child(ren), which we distribute to you in developed pictures and DVDs as a memento to your child and for you to watch with them to learn more about their days at Whales, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails.
7. Hot Breakfasts and Lunches.
8. Home Made Cookies and snacks regularly.
9. Better, more nutritious snacks and foods: fresh fruits, skinless boneless chicken breasts, boneless hams, top quality meats. I go into the back where the shipments come in at Giant and take the bread out in trays that has just come in and won't hit the shelves for as much as another week. I go to extra lengths to get the freshest foods, which is why I go to buy the foods myself rather than having delivery (when a company delivers to you, they always send you their oldest food).
10. More food: Other Centers limit the children to one helping. Our children can have as many helpings as they would like.
11. Most Centers have one director that works about 30 to 35 hours per week. When the Director is not there, you find you have a totally different Center. Our Center has two Directors, Judy and I, who work about 70 hours per week each and who are in open to close, so we have a well run Center open to close.
12. I have an Undergraduate Degree in Marketing from Penn State and an MBA from Rutgers, where I graduated Magna Cum-Laude. I have also worked for Otis Elevator, a Fortune 100 company part of Untied Technologies; ran my own elevator company in Philadelphia: Frankford Elevator Gate and Door; Managed the Baltimore office of Amtech Elevator; owned a software company with my brother: Whalesoft. I know a little about business and how to make money, which means that you are going to get a lot more value for your money at our Center than at others because we put most of our money back into the business and towards the children.
13. Excellent Crafts: Most Centers have a craft budget of about $100 per month. Our craft and supply budget is often ten time that each month.
14. Judy has an Elementary Education Degree form Penn State and has over 15 years of teaching experience, which means that our Center does not run solely as a business, but has an education heart to it. I am often countermanded on business decisions because of how it will impact the children or staffing and culture of the Center. I have discovered that teachers and assistants get attached to their rooms, for example, and cannot be moved around to improve efficiency, because this will actually lead to less efficiency and turnover.
15. We are not run solely as a business or an educational facility or a loving child care environment, but as a combination of the three, mashed up into one big great ball of awesomeness. If we were to run it only as a business, it would be cold and sterile and the money wouldn't go back into the program except where it benefited the bottom line. If it were run solely as an educational institution, it would prepare the children for school, but may be rather cold without the loving and caring child care part. Often Centers run very lovingly and educationally will say: "We don't have the money for that", and they aren't lying, they don't have the money because they do not understand how to maximize the bottom line to generate the money needed. We generate the money, not to merely make money, but to do the things we want to do with our program. We are one of the few Centers that consistently makes money, which is important to you because this means we have funds to do what we want to accomplish with your child(ren).
16. Excellent Resources: In our office you will find 10 four-drawer file cabinets. Only one of these contains the children and teacher files. The other nine cabinets contain all of our resources organized alphabetically by theme. Over the last thirteen years, we have grown and organized these theme folders into a spectacular resource room. Having something to do for a theme is not the problem. Choosing what to do out of the myriad of things, is. Staff do not spend time looking for ideas, but rather spend the time organizing those ideas they have set right before them and how they will implement those ideas. Above the file cabinets is an entire shelf of teacher resources not related to any particular theme. Our resource library consists of over 4,000 books, a resource library ten times greater than at most Centers.
17. We focus on getting our children interested in Science and Math at a very young age. We regularly conduct Science Projects where chidren can witness embryo development and growth of chicks into adul chickens. We watch caterpillars become butterflies a tadpoles become frogs and we talk about what this all means. The children always demonstrate a greater grasp of Science when it is hands on. We dig in the dirt for bugs and look at them under microscopes. We put everything under the scopes from skin to legos and we always learn a lot. We learn math through games that are challenging and fun for the children. The first thing they learn is that Math and Science are fun.
18. We continually invest in the Center Facilities, The Center Program and The Children. For example, our kitchen had all wood cabinetry, but when we had a leak and the kitchen started smelling moldy, we didn't just clean the cabinets, we replaced them with all new stainless steel cabinets that would not ever rot andenabled us to have much cleaner food preparation surfaces. We also put in a top of the line Electrolux Convection Oven and Fridge that, combined with our double oven, endabled us to get the food out much more efficiently to the children. This kitchen renovation cost us $30,000, an amount most owners with short term objectives would not have spent. Judy and I are in this for the long haul.
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