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Showing posts from 2018
So, Who's Your Backup?By Jim Shields, Enterprise Architect @enrollsmartRecently, we've tested a new bit of our technology with some of our clients.  Well, it's a mixture of technology and philosophy.  The teachers at one of the schools we support have begun bringing on their own backups when they are hired.  As a result, the school now asks applicants "Do you have a person that can back you when you're absent?" Now, in traditional thinking, this may seem odd or even weird, but is it really?  In response to this school's need to enroll backup teachers along with their direct hires, we've developed a technology tool that supports this; giving the school a larger pool to draw from and, giving each teacher a way to connect their hand-picked backup person to the school.Of course, the people backing up the teachers have to meet the same requirements and undergo the same screenings as the primary teacher. However, because this is the understanding that the p…
Why Cash Should Not Be"King" in Childcare Centers in 2019 Safety and Customer Expectations Top The List of Reasons for Preschools and Childcare Centers To Go Cashless in 2019 By Jim Shields, Enterprise Architect @enrollsmartIn the United States, more than 90% of childcare centers are owned and operated by women. This is a proud fact because quality preschool/childcare has become increasingly important to the development of young children as well as the stability of the US economy.Now, given the fact that preschools and childcare centers do not have the budgets that school districts do and, their workforce is more than 90% female, it makes safety sense that preschools and childcare centers begin converting their payment options to "cashless" for safety reasons. I go to childcare centers all the time and I see receipt books lying around indicating when and how much parents have paid the center in cash.But wait, aren't checks, money orders or ACH withdrawals safe…
Sticky Notes and Old Dusty Totes: The Task Management Crisis in Childcare Centers
By Jim Shields, Enterprise Architect @enrollsmartIt's been quite a while since we've updated our blog. The fall was very busy with implementations, consultations, beta tests and more.  In the time since we last posted in this blog, here are some things we've learned about the inner workings of hundreds of childcare centers across America:

1. Task management methods in nearly all of the childcare centers we spoke with are still heavily dependent on paper and face-to-face communication.

2. For nearly all of the projects and tasked we were involved in at childcare centers, there was a significant lack of follow through in a timely manner simply because communication relied so heavily on paper and meetings. For example, we attended weekly staff meetings at a number of centers for which we are engaged in technology projects and, we tracked the progress of projects and duties assigned to various cent…
Childcare Center Star Ratings Why Having No Website Or A Basic Website Can Take Away From The Credibility A Center's Star Rating 
By Kimberly Newman, Customer Success Leader @enrollsmartAs we have been helping customers in states that have star ratings and star-rated licenses for their childcare centers, we've noticed that many of these centers do not have a website at all or have an outdated site.
However, in an informal survey of parents seeking childcare arrangements, one of the first things that a parent looks at from a center's Google Listing or Facebook page is whether or not the center not only has a website but, a professional website.
It seems that design equals credibility is the feedback that we have received so often when speaking with parents. One parent commented: 
"If a business a cheap looking website or doesn't have one at all, it really makes me wonder about them because I want to know more about their services before I call them, and I want to do a…
Owner Talk:  Why a Professional Website Was Important For My Centerby Jim Shields @enrollsmartThis blog post covers the end of a brief phone conversation with Jen Kelly, Owner of First Step Academy in Independence, MO as to why a getting a professional website was important for her childcare center. Jen is an Enrollsmart client.
Jim Shields:  So Jen, tell me why you decided to get a professional website for your center?

Jen: Well, the truth is that it makes my business more credible.  When people search for childcare in my area using Google or Facebook, it looks much more professional if they are able to visit my website rather than just call me. Plus, with the online services such as payments and paperless enrollment my website lets me offer, I make things easier for myself. Not to mention all the money I'm saving.

Jim Shields: Was your website expensive? 

Jen:  Yes, the original site was expensive but, truthfully, you guys are offering so much more for just $39 a month.  Let's …
Our Paper Records Were Potentially Toxic and Weighed Nearly 2,500 Poundsby Jim Shields @enrollsmart
In many states, childcare providers are required to maintain child admission records and other child enrollment documents for 3-7 years after a child has left the provider's facility.  I'm not sure about other centers, but 5 years worth of records for the centers we operated took up a lot of space and they were very heavy.   I'm sure that most center owners/directors can attest to how challenging it can be to maintain child files in file cabinets and to keep active files separated from the files of children who have left the center.  However, what many centers do not realize is the health and financial effects extent of maintaining paper enrollment records at their facility.Before we decided to make our enrollment process paperless, we had a significant number of paper child enrollment files maintained on site.  I noticed that when we created our paperless enrollment process,…
Your Parent-Provider Contract: How an Interactive Website from Enrollsmart Can Help You Enforce It  By Kimberly Newman, Customer Success Leader @enrollsmartRecently, one of our customers had us add his center's Parent-Provider contract to the electronic state forms that we built into his website and, he told us the story why.First, let me explain how our websites are different: We have a library of State-by-State e-Forms that we build into each of our customers' websites and, our e-Forms capture actual signatures and create data files that replace paper files. An electronic version of our e-Forms is delivered to the center Owner/Director each time one is completed. Each form is and its data is saved to the cloud.What this means is that each of the child admission, infant/toddler feeding/care plan, CACFP IEF and, other forms that we include on our customers' websites have every field required for their specific state AND the form requires parents/guardians to actually sign w…
Why An Interactive Website And Online Registration Process Were Essential To Our Center's Disaster Readinessby Jim Shields @enrollsmart
About a decade ago, I noticed many States starting to require childcare centers to create a disaster plan.  During that time, we were still in the business of operating centers and, we created our disaster plan and posted it as required.  By operating in the Midwest, tornados were a recurring threat and, the catastrophic EF5 tornado that struck Joplin, MO in 2011 sent shockwaves through us because there were several notable destructions of childcare centers during the disaster.We began reviewing our disaster plan to make sure that it addressed some of the most critical issues to deal with in a disaster when it comes to childcare centers: Survivability, Accountability and Family Reuniting. Because we had developed an online registration process with e-Forms, we had contact information for emergency contacts as well as identifying child photos access…
3 Reasons Why An Interactive Website Is A Critical Tool In  Controlling Childcare Center Costsby Kimberly Newman @enrollsmart
For the past few weeks, we've been in the field working with Directors and Owners. The focus of our time in the field has been spent on re-affirming the pain points as well as the opportunities that exist for childcare centers when it comes to technology.During one visit, we spoke with a center owner who had just signed up for a childcare center management system and, they really didn't under the difference between a website and, an administration system.  So, we spent some time explaining the difference.We also discussed how our interactive websites can be linked to any web-based childcare administration system and, how our web platform is customer facing and that childcare administration systems are management facing and can, often times, lead to more work. Here are 3 core benefits that a website should provide a childcare center when it comes to cont…
The Car Seat Problem at Medium-Sized and Small Childcare Centers by Jim Shields @enrollsmart
In medium-sized and small childcare centers, parents are transporting their children back and forth from home in a variety of ways.  We witnessed it over the years.  For example, a parent and his children may ride the bus to the childcare center to drop off in the morning but, an aunt may be picking the children up from the center by car that evening.  In my experience, even when parents ride the bus or get a ride to pick up or drop off their children, they often leave a car seat so that another person can transport their children (relative, spouse, friend).Car seats are always a good thing for safe transportation. Storing them at your center may be necessary to support your families, however, it's not always such an easy thing and, here's why:Pests - We (literally) had to halt service to a customer once because everything they brought from home was infested with insects; even the box …
2 Reasons Waiting Lists Are A Myth For Medium-Sized and Small Childcare Centersby Kimberly Newman @enrollsmartIn the childcare business, we often hear talk about "waiting lists" and centers being "full." Though I understand the concept of a center being "full," I never really understood the reasoning behind a medium-sized or small childcare center saying it has a "waiting list."   First, let me clarify one thing, yes, a center can have a "waiting list" for infant care.  Infant care is always in high demand.  In fact, we viewed our infant space as our "anchor" space because available infant space was often the key to attracting multi-child families.Fast forward to today and, with the current cost of childcare, it's pretty safe to say that many families will try to avoid having more than one child in childcare at a time; at least that's the trend we've seen.Now, as far as a waiting list goes, even if you collect de…
3 Reasons Your Childcare Center Needs Social Media Policies for Parents and Staff By Kimberly Newman @enrollsmartWhen we operated our childcare centers, social media was on the rise.  We became well-versed in the use of social media and online reviews because we could see the coming impact that these two phenomena would have on our business.  Today, there is no escaping social media and online reviews; they are everywhere.We knew that we could not fully control how social media impacted our business but we learned from experience why it was important for us to have clear policies and practices around social media for both our staff and our clients.One unfortunate experience comes to mind when I think of why we developed our social media policy:  We had a staff person who took photos of a couple of children and posted them on Facebook.  Now, apparently, this staff person had gone to school with the father of the children and, he would pick them up from one of the centers on a regular ba…
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How Morning Health Checks Including Temperature Readings Reduced Our Illness Rates By As Much As 75%  By Kimberly Newman @enrollsmartDuring one particular year, we had a significant amount of child and staff illness. This was despite following the 3-Step Method (Wash, Rinse, Sanitize) for all of our dishes, sanitizing toys and cots and, washing sheets and blankets, regularly.This was a very frustrating time and, we decided to do something different to combat our illness rates.  We were already conducting morning health checks when children arrived each day but, we were not taking the children's temperature upon arrival.  In looking at and tracking the trend of illness that was occurring at our center, we noted that spikes in body temperature usually preceded a child going home sick and then other children and, staff calling out sick.We decided to add two things to our morning health process that proved highly effective in reducing the illness rates among children and staff at the c…
3 Reasons Small/Medium-Sized Childcare Centers Need a Website and Online Enrollment By Jim Shields @enrollsmart
During the 15 years that I was involved in the ownership and management of childcare centers, we processed thousands of applications for childcare and, hundreds of applications for employment.  The phone was constantly ringing because we used radio to promote our childcare centers and, people were always calling to inquire about childcare availability and jobs; that was a good thing.We ended up with call logs and mountains of notes on our desks with call-back numbers and, names, ages of children, hours of care needed, potential staff, etc.  We even had a website with a downloadable enrollment form and, people could apply for jobs at our website.   The bad thing was that, for all of the phone calls and "walk-in" notes we had accumulated, we didn't have enough usable electronic data to make it easier for us to make decisions or demonstrate to potential center buyer…
2 Things To Consider Before Letting Your Teachers Use Their Mobile Devices In Small/Medium-Sized Centers 😐👀 By Kimberly Newman, Customer Success Leader @enrollsmart
Technology is everywhere today.  In my opinion, it has its place in the classroom; on a "measured" basis. We used a fantastic service called Letsgolearn.com (No, this is not a commercial for LGL) that worked out well for our Pre-K program.  We used LGL  on desktop computers and, the children, staff, and parents really valued it. That was around the time the smartphone revolution was beginning to take off (circa 2007). Fast forward to today and, nearly everyone has a smartphone. We got quite a bit of experience dealing with smartphones in our childcare centers and with our van drivers.  We had to develop policies around smartphone use and, our policy was this:   Smartphones were NOT to be used on the premises. PERIOD (with the exception of drivers and management).  Today, we see all these various preschool/childcar…
3 Steps I Took to Manage Staff Absences In My Small and Medium-Sized Childcare Centers  By Kimberly Newman, Customer Success Leader @enrollsmart
When we closed our childcare centers after 15 years in business, we had a lot of stories to share; both good and bad.  Each day in the childcare business takes on a different shape but, one of the things that shape a day most is whether you will be fully staffed. After all, your customers are counting on you to be adequately staffed. In fact, many parents are not only entrusting you with their children, they are entrusting with their livelihood.  Like any other business, childcare centers have workers that will "call-out" or request time off in advance.  When a staff person "calls-out" in childcare, it is not only annoying, but it can put the center out of compliance.  Additionally, uncertainty about staff reliability can be a significant barrier to a childcare center meeting its enrollment goals and, as a result, the abilit…
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How "Unlinked" Google and Facebook Pages May Be Reducing Enrollments and Increasing Your Work Load in a Small or Medium-Sized Childcare Centerby Jim ShieldsSince last October, we have been surveying small and medium-sized childcare centers across the country. What we've found is that 90% of small and medium-sized childcare centers don't have interactive websites(by interactive, I mean a website that actually does things for the besides simply supplying information i.e. allows parents to apply online, allows parents to update information and, make payments).  However a large portion of these centers have Facebook pages and, they rely on referrals from Google searches to generate enrollments.Although it is beneficial to have a presence on Google and Facebook, the problem that we have witnessed in small and medium-sized childcare centers is that their Google listing and Facebook pages tell users to "Call Now" instead of visiting their website. A "Call Now…
3 Keys to Success for Medium-Sized and Small Childcare Centers  By Kimberly Newman, Customer Success Leader @enrollsmartOver the years, we have noticed some trends; particularly in medium-sized and small childcare centers.First, let's define medium-sized and, small centers. We define medium-sized and, small childcare centers as anywhere from 12 to 90 in licensed capacity.  These are programs where the owner is likely to also serve as the director and, many of these centers have programs and operating hours/days that are extended. It is not uncommon to see centers in this capacity range open up earlier or stay open later than the traditional 7am-6pm schedule.Medium-sized and small childcare centers make up the vast majority of the childcare market and, often offer a hands-on approach by the owner; who is likely working in the classroom, cooking meals, driving the van and, doing the lion's share of the center's required paperwork. In our experience, the owner/director of a me…

3 Keys to Building a Great Childcare Staff: Keep it Fun. Invest. Engage.

3 Keys to Building a Great Childcare Staff: Keep it Fun. Invest. Engage.


Chances are when a person starts a childcare business, they are not doing it solely for purpose of making money. Most people who own or work in childcare don't do it just for the money, they do it because they enjoy working with children and helping their community.

But, along the way, there comes the dreaded "business" part of running a childcare center and, of all the "business" issues that are front and center, staffing is the most important. I mean, after all, it is a "people" business.  Parents are buying into you and the people who will be caring for their children and, they can readily see which of your staff are in it for passion or just a paycheck.

However, the "reasons" people choose to work at a particular childcare center are not "fixed."  If a person made the decision to work at a childcare center because they were sold on the benefits, pay and, ho…