Daycare management offers a unique set of challenges not inherent to any other business. At times it is easier to create your own tools to solve these problems. As with most businesses, there are elegant solutions out there if the cost is worth it to you. Following are some ideas for creating your own tools or looking for third-party solutions. From there, I've included some analysis on these ideas.
Excel and other Spreadsheets
With its ability to record a wide variety of information such as text labels, numbers, dates, and times, Excel is must-have tool of just about every business.
Excel's simplicity in creating lists and performing calculations can also lead to problems if it is the exclusive tool used. While it is easy to organize your data one way when you're in a hurry, it is difficult to change once you've had the chance to think about it further. Additionally, spreadsheets can be stored almost anywhere on a computer or on any computer. It is very easy to misplace files or have multiple copies of the same file with slightly different data in each.
Special care needs to be taken when organizing by spreadsheets to have your files and data organized and backed-up properly.
If you plan to use Microsoft's Excel as the primary tool for organizing your daycare, I'd like to make you aware of other tools that probably offer the same amount of power utilized in Excel, but at a fraction of the cost. These tools come have at least a foundation in the Open Source Software revolution and include: Apache Open Office Calc and Google Docs.
You can purchase pre-printed roll sheets or print your own. This functionality can also be input directly to a computer, saving printer and ink expenses. In addition, we're going to see more apps for this sort of record keeping as tablet computers like the Apple IPad or Microsoft Surface tablet become more economically feasible for childcare centers.
You have many tools, many that are fairly inexpensive, for marketing your services as a daycare provider, but there is an old axiom to marketing. "I know 50% of my marketing is working, I just don't know which 50%." The list is quite long: brochures or discounts to local businesses, Google Local, phone book, various directories, and signage.
It's also common knowledge amongst marketers that the most ideal marketing method is word of mouth. I've seen programs where companies will reward their customer referrals, but it has been shown to be most effective to just ask for the referrals.
Other Software Tools
There are other software tools in addition to spreadsheets to help you be organized and up-to-date. Financial systems let you manage your bills and revenue as well as employee payroll. The can be specific to the childcare industry or more of a small business solution.
Tools for the example of roll-call mentioned previously can take an electronic format.
As we continue to advance with different technologies, it is also going to be important to look for tools that let you work with whatever technology is at hand. One morning, you perform roll-call with your phone, and that same afternoon use a tablet computer to check students out. Finally, to close the day you could use a desktop computer at home (multiple miles from your daycare center) for some last minute financial updates.
Be sure to consider options that will give you the kind of life-style you want as you run your day care, including the ability to work when and where you feel like it.
Fleet Management is not a concern for every company, but transportation is a service provided by many childcare facilities. Keeping tabs on more than one vehicle can be difficult. Make sure to look for tools that allow you to track the miles driven on each vehicle and that you know exactly how they are being used.
In addition, it is important to track vehicle performance such as your miles per gallon. This allows you to make sure that vehicles are operating at peak performance and that gas money isn't being misused.
When it comes to managing and owning a daycare, there are many new tasks one has to deal which may be completely foreign. Sometimes, we can devise our own solutions and other times it is easier to buy tools. It's always important to evaluate any tool or solution for your childcare service to make sure you don't waste money and more importantly, time.