Writing a business plan
Your working day might contain more exploration, learning, development and fun than most, but if you're running a childcare business, it is just that - a business. Use tools to help you plan your finances so that you can build a sustainable childcare business that has room to grow. We show you how it’s done, below.
What are the benefits?
Putting together a business plan will help you to organise your finances for your business. If you are starting out, spending time on planning will give your business the best chance of success. And if you've been a childcare practitioner for a while, a business plan will help you reflect on your current situation and focus on what’s important to the future of your business.
You can use your business plan to prepare a contingency plan for times when your business may be quieter. This will help give you the confidence to know that you have really thought about all aspects of being a childcare practitioner. By recording the information in a formal document you are showing that you are serious about your business. It will quickly show up any flaws in your business model, or potential stumbling blocks, allowing you to make your mistakes on paper rather than in your actual business.
Over time, your business plan may change and develop as you and your business change, so plan to regularly review and update your plan.
What to include in your business plan
To write an effective business plan you'll need to include four main elements:
- mission statement
This can sound pretty daunting, but essentially all you need to do is answer these four questions:
- What is the purpose of your business? (Your mission statement)
- What do you want to achieve with it? (Your objectives)
- How will you achieve your objectives? (Your strategy)
- How much will it cost? (Your budget)
Start with a short description, or overview, of your business. Remember to include the basics: your name, your business name, address and contact details.
Summarise what you want your business to achieve. For example, this might be "I aim to provide a high quality home-from-home childcare experience for children from 6 months to 5 years old, and before and after school care for children between 5 and 12 years." Or, "I aim to provide high quality care in a nursery to support children from 6 months to 5 years old."
You can download our business plan template to help you get started.
Include a few sentences about your goals for your business, both for the short term and for the future. For example, you could set out what you would like your business to achieve in six months’ time, a year’s time and three years’ time.
When considering your aims and objectives, make sure you set yourself SMART targets:
- Specific – detail what you want to achieve. For example, you want to offer 10 childcare places in your first year, over five days.
- Measurable – you must be able to figure out if you are meeting your objectives so that you can take appropriate action.
- Achievable – can you meet your objectives or make changes to ensure you do?
- Realistic – are your objectives reasonable given the skills and resources you have?
- Timed – when are you aiming to meet your objectives by?
Base your strategy on good market research, but keep it flexible enough to adapt to changes in the market or the economy. Think about:
- Who are your prospective customers?
- Who are your potential competitors (not just other childminders but other childcare settings in the area)?
- What is happening locally and what is the current childcare market like? Are there long waiting lists at nurseries? Are there popular schools you can partner with? Is there a specific local need for flexible childcare as many parents work shifts?
- The type of resources and equipment you'll need.
Have a look at our marketing section to help you do your market research thoroughly.
Analysing your strengths and weaknesses can help you build your business plan around your strengths (and any possible opportunities) – and bear in mind any possible weaknesses and threats to your business. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis can help you to do this.
Read how Vicky used a SWOT analysis to help her build her business.
Download a template for your SWOT analysis here.
Cash moves in and out of a business all the time. A parent pays their bill, and you spend money on new resources and the business stationery you need. A good business plan will always include a 12-month cashflow forecast to help you make sure your business stays solvent. The goal, after all, is that more money comes in than goes out! You'll need to know what sort of cashflow you can expect – how much cash will be coming in and going out, who will be paying it, who needs to be paid and when?
This can be a challenge, particularly for childminding businesses, when income can fluctuate from month to month, but a good understanding of your basic income and expenditure plan will be important and help you build your business plan.
Use tools to your advantage and set up automatic reminders in your calendar to help you keep track of payments in and out. An online system like Kinderly can also help you manage your finances.
Calculate your profit
Profit is the money left in your business after you've paid expenses, costs and taxes. Ideally, a business plan should include a two-year profit forecast.
Separate your cashflow and profit into monthly figures, and show the main areas where you're receiving income and spending money. You should also add contingencies to each area to cover any unforeseen costs. Be realistic with your projections – it's safer to be cautious than over-optimistic.
Our cost calculator will help you project your costs, whether you're a childminder or work in a group setting.
Your business is your business
Every childminding business will be set up differently, so how you create your business plan is up to you. Use the templates we have on offer as a starting point, but also don't be afraid to adapt them to work in the way you need them to.
Your local bank's small business advisor may also be able to help.