There are only so many hours in the day and managing your own day care business can take up every one of them if you cannot manage your time. Few things are as busy as a day care from morning until night, except, perhaps, for nap time.
However, the business end of a day care will not wait until the perfect time. You must take advantage of some time-saving tips and technology to streamline day care management and keep your sanity.
Here are some ways to manage your day care business more efficiently.
Develop processes and procedures
When everyone performs tasks differently from one another and from the day-to-day standard, inefficiency can arise. Common tasks where you can maximize efficiency include:
- Child drop-off and pick-up
- Class planning and scheduling
- Moving between activities
- Monthly administration
Take a close look at how your staff performs a particular process from day-to-day and observe where bottlenecks appear and when the environment seems to be particularly hectic. Take note of where problems occur and develop or modify a process until it works for your organization.
The staff and children will benefit from a smoother, calmer beginning to the day.
Every morning at drop-off, a line of families snakes out the door waiting for check-in. The line is not moving very quickly, and parents who need to get to work become agitated; the children soon follow suit.
What are the steps to your current check-in procedure that cause delays?
- Only one person is checking children in
- There is only one sign in sheet
- There are multiple steps for signing in
- If one family has an issue, the entire line is held up until it is resolved
A better process could include assigning more than one person to check-in, decreasing the number of steps for checking in, and having problem check-ins step aside to be helped by a manager or another staff member who is not tasked with another routine.
Write down policies and rules
There are a couple of problems when your rules and policies are not put in writing. One is that everyone can and will be treated differently, creating the potential for discrimination and harassment. Another is that you will not have legal support for any actions that a parent or staff member objects to.
Policies and rules that are provided from the beginning of the relationship and made part of any contract assure equal treatment for all and gives you legal protection in the event of a lawsuit.
You and your staff will waste valuable time in discussions about handling various organizational issues with each other and with clients if there is no documentation specifying allowable limits, terms of service, and payment terms.
Every client and staff member should know what is expected of them and what they can expect from your facility.
A parent asks one of your teachers to allow a child to bring special snacks to school for a birthday celebration. The teacher agrees but another parent becomes concerned about potential allergens.
Your teacher will have firm guidance to offer anyone requesting to bring food to the facility with a policy stating that no outside snacks will be allowed, or everything brought to your center must be purchased from a store with a written ingredient list attached. Parents can be assured any children with food allergies are being taken care of.
Manage your time
As the day care owner or administrator, you have tasks to complete each day, week, and month. If you have an open door policy, you probably get interrupted throughout the day which forces you to work late to finish administrative duties.
Modify your open door practices to include specific days and hours when you are only to be interrupted in case of emergency. Then close your door and put up the proverbial (or actual) Do Not Disturb sign. Prioritize tasks by importance and only do those that count. Either throw away the bottom half of your list or put it on tomorrow’s list.
Delegate, delegate, delegate. Trust your staff to make decisions and perform some of the tasks you are trying to carry. Not every decision needs to be done at your level. When you hire, look for people who are responsible and capable then let them take care of things that do not need your authority.
Batch your tasks. Select two times a day when you will check and respond to email. Do not be tempted to check email outside of those times. Return phone calls the same way; do one batch in the morning and another in the afternoon. Pull together all the payment paperwork and just work on entering payments. Then move on to another pile.
Do NOT multitask. There is no such thing. If you try to do more than one thing at a time, you may get all your tasks completed but they will not be done well. In fact, you may waste more time going back to do something over. Do one thing, do it well, and then move on.
Organize your records
Disorganized documentation, from client profiles to invoices, is a common source of inefficiency. Too much time is spent looking for records, reconciling bills and payments, and creating reports to help you track finances, payroll, and attendance.
Make a list of the documents you must keep and develop a processing and filing system that allows you to find any document you need as quickly as possible.
Good record-keeping also helps you with scheduling. It is easier to keep track of staff hours, client vacation notifications, late bill payment, and budgeting.
Many of your repetitive tasks can be automated by using the appropriate technology. Use a software program to perform billing tasks, staff scheduling, meal planning, and more. Store documents electronically in a database for quick and easy access. Use tablets, smartphones, and computers during drop-off and pick-up.
Instead of tying yourself to a single computer at the facility, use a cloud-based solution that you can access online through a portal or a browser. You can access information anytime and anywhere, from different terminals at the day care center or your laptop at home.
Software speeds up tasks using automation, stores more records than you could fit into a file cabinet, and pulls together information for reports at the click of a mouse, allowing you to monitor finances, attendance, meals, and staff hours.
Day care is a busy place full of energy. It is also a business that requires your attention. Make time for it all by setting aside uninterrupted time to do certain tasks, develop efficient processes, and organize your documentation, so you don't waste time.
Write down your policies and rules, and publish them online or make them part of a contract packet for parents and staff to own. Finally, all of these areas benefit from the streamlining capabilities of technology such as a childcare management solution. Invest your time in your day care rather than waste it.