Easing restrictions = Business growth
It’s great news that restrictions are lifting and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel! This is the point that all the planning, preparation and development of your business begins to start to paying off and you goal should be to come back stronger and leaner than before, taking in all the experiences and learning that this difficult year has provided for us.
We are hearing from some childcare providers that there has been a shift in the intentions of parents with some already booking places and others who are starting to consider their children’s return to childcare.
This is not unexpected as lower Covid 19 cases and an accelerating vaccination programme are prompting businesses to get their staff back on full time hours and back working to recover last year’s losses.
It’s not too late to comeback stronger than before
If you haven’t made detailed recovery plans or developed your setting to be more robust or a leaner operation than before, well it’s not too late! Business development and improvements can come at any time and the last year, whilst unwelcome and difficult, has no doubt provided an opportunity to review what you did well and look to the future and see where you can do things better. So if you haven’t spent any time thinking strategically so far, try to build it into your business recovery plans and activities as you gear up for the return of more demand for childcare places.
Maintain your focus
What I find difficult for sure is that when things change in the market you foresee many opportunities, changes to adapt to and of course barriers to be overcome. These can sometimes be too much and your mind becomes filled with lots of things to do and consequently you don’t know where to start or get nothing done!
It’s worth considering the situation right now and breaking it down into the things that may take a priority in your thinking, planning and recovery activities. These situations will likely be different for each childcare business, but some will be core issues that will present themselves as problems or opportunities. Here are a few situations that we have mentioned before because they will present themselves as threats or opportunities in the early stages of market recovery…
What the market will look like.
It won’t be clear what the demand for places and take up patterns will be when everyone is back at work and the dust has settled. However, we do know that some companies may continue to allow staff to work from home or have more flexible working arrangements and this could affect take up models each day / week.
Equally some people may not now have jobs to return to and could either be unemployed or have started their own business, which in turn could mean more or less demand for childcare hours.
The point is this, you need to now what the emerging market looks like for your locality and how that could affect your delivery model, staffing, income etc.
Parental reactions and decision-making regarding the future use of childcare.
Knowing how local parents and your customers are thinking about returning to work and sending their children back to a childcare setting is important information and not something you need to guess. Parents will be in a variety of situations, they may have to return to work, they may choose not to return full time, they may not know when they are going back, but as the next few weeks emerge and the furlough offer comes to an end things will become clearer much more rapidly and therefore it’s important you proactively find out what parents are thinking and keep them in the loop regarding your situation in the setting. This will give confidence to parents and is a key piece of information to help them make decisions as to when to return childcare
Parents also need help to make decisions about their return to childcare both from a health and safety perspective but also knowing what’s available and if things have changed regarding your childcare opening times and capacity for each age range etc.
Some parents will have children that prior to the pandemic were in childcare places at your setting, but who now have moved up or at school and therefore you need to fill those places with new children so understanding where new parents are in your locality is also important.
Clearly define your delivery model and flexibility offer for parents.
Alongside active communication to returning and new parents to establish their return strategies, it is important to clearly state how you will be reopening to full capacity and what your opening times / days are and what flexibility you offer. It may be that you will open exactly as before, which is great, or maybe you have decided to change your offer and make it more accessible or flexible. Either way promote that in a way to maximize benefits for parents given their uncertain return to work to help them ease back and be clear on what they can access and when.
Having a recovery plan.
Obviously gearing up to meet the new demand profiles that emerge from the reopening of the childcare market requires some consideration and planning. Things like returning to full staffing, whether you open in phased manner with a few additional places each week as demand picks up, or you open in full at a given date. Bringing your staff back from Furlough, replacing staff who perhaps don’t want to return takes a little time so do your thinking now and be ready to act swiftly.
Whatever your local demand knowledge is driving you to do, plan it carefully and be ready to meet parents needs as soon as they are required so you can recover financially as swiftly as possible.
Good luck for the future as we enter another phase of the UK childcare market, one we haven’t seen before but one that will hopefully be better than before. If you would like support with any aspect of your recovery planning or if you are struggling with a particular problem and you need help, please contact us