Working towards your strengths

Vicky Walsh has worked in childcare for eight years but was previously working in the property industry in the city of London. Her move to childcare came about when she struggled to find reliable high quality childcare for her own sons.

I run my setting as a business and that works for me and for parents. Having a diploma in employment rights has really helped - I am very business focused and really enjoy keeping up to date with sector news. But overall I love working in childcare. I have such a passion for it and find my job very rewarding.

Having the business skills and using the right business language can be daunting, but we need to see ourselves as entrepreneurs in our own right - embrace the fact that you are the boss!

The starting point for me is finding your target audience, who do you want to use your service and what would attract them e.g. is there is a station nearby, will the parents be commuting, what would attract them to your setting? It is so important to know your local area, and do your research and find out who your competitors are. I went to all the local libraries and play sessions to get out there and meet people which really helped.

I did a SWOT analysis at the beginning but actually found it more useful when I reviewed it six months later. It has become a working document which I review twice a year as the business evolves. I also used the 7S framework to help with my business planning which hones in on Structure, Strategy, Skills, Staff, Style, Systems, and Shared values.

Being open and inclusive to all is a central part of my mission statement and business vision. I really enjoy celebrating the diverse area that I live in within my setting and I work with the parents to celebrate festivals and celebrations from different cultures.

Having a website and social media presence for me has not only been brilliant for engaging with people, but it has brought in a great deal of business. I initially registered a free website and worked on building it during evenings and weekends. Online is the first place parents will go to do their research for childcare and I have won business based on my website.

I worked alone for four and a half years, but the main driver for me expanding was supply and demand. I was turning business away and was full to capacity every day. At this point I looked at taking on an assistant which has really helped – especially with school runs and logistics as I offer school drop offs and collections from local schools.

From a business point of view, I think the trickiest thing for childminders can be to say no. Parents are all so different and all have different needs, but the service you are providing has to be consistent. I don’t compromise on fees with parents but equally I don’t compromise on service.

Vicky's top tips:

  • Work out who your target audience is and tailor your service to suit them
  • Do your research locally – find out who your competitors are
  • Have an online presence for your business
  • Stick to your guns and don’t be afraid to say no.

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