In a recent blog post, “What I’ve Learned as a Child Care Center Director, ” I shared examples of what I learned over the last eight years as a child care center Director. Today, I would like to focus on one of the most important things I learned: relationship building.
Relationship building is the key element to running a successful child care center. As Directors, we have to build solid relationships with each of our families. This helps parents know they are attending a family-oriented center.
Parents need to feel at home the second they walk in the door. Child care center staff should greet families with a smile that is warm and genuine. I use my experience as a mother to empathize with their situation as they tour the child care center for the first time. I talk to them about their concerns and assure them we can address any situation. I introduce them to each staff member we pass so they can begin to form relationships and feel at ease. I make sure they know I am there for them and my door is always open.
After the initial contact, the first day of school is the next critical encounter. If each staff member of the child care center is ready for them and awaiting their arrival, it again sets their minds at ease. We always make sure families are comfortable with leaving their child in our care. We give them a business card as they leave and encourage them to call and check in as often as they would like.
The teacher then begins to build rapport with the parent. She has a “What happened on my first day” report ready for the parents when they arrive for pick up. The teacher also knows to address the parent by their first name and tell them about their child’s first day at the child care center. The teacher always makes themselves available for conversation or questions.
If all goes well the first week, we have made it over the largest hurdle. At this point, we have gained the respect and trust of the parent. Going forward, as situations arise, we address them head on. We are honest and see it through. If we say we are going to call a parent back, then we call them back. Parents understand there may be issues, but what matters most is how we handle them. If we resolve them promptly and diligently, then we have solidified our place in their family.
I have created long-lasting, loyal relationships with many families. There are parents who are constantly asking me for advice on raising their children. I have to remind them that I am not an expert on child rearing but do offer some ideas for them to try.
For example, I have a family with two sisters who have been bringing their children to one of my child care centers for awhile. One day, sister #1’s daughter got hurt at her public elementary school. The elementary school secretary called sister #1 and told her she believed her daughter had broken her arm. Sister #1 asked sister #2 to pick her daughter up from the elementary school and bring her to me at the child care center so I could look at it. I reminded her that I don’t have a medical degree, but based on her pain and mobility, it did look like she should take her in for an x-ray.
Other examples of the strong relationships I have built include one of my parents telling me that their son is thankful "that Miss Pattie loves him" every night in his prayers. I also have several families who want to invite me to their family parties. I have received several letters of thanks regarding my improvement of the child care center and the love I have for each of their children. When parents start to see you as a beneficial part of their day, you have built a loyal relationship.
A loyal family does my marketing for me. Currently, referrals account for more than half of all new enrollments. A referral is the best praise a center can receive.
Building these relationships, although time consuming, can make the job of a child care center Director much easier. It is easier to keep families happy and invested than trying to capture new families. Having families refer new leads is not only cost-effective, but also considerably easier to convert those leads into a new enrollment. The prospective family already trusts the referring family, therefore most of the work is already done.
Ultimately, building relationships and maintaining relationships is the key to building business for your child care center. Being able to keep families invested and happy keeps costs down, while referrals build enrollment numbers.
--Child Care Center Director in Utah