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Across the country 43,000 small businesses will today be planning activities to support development goals, identifying next steps and providing fantastic early learning experiences for the youngest in our society. They will also be overseeing their business planning and finances to ensure they maintain a sustainable business. Childminders are the unsung champions of the business world.
As well as being dedicated early years practitioners – 92% of whom in England have a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ grade from Ofsted – they are also focused on running their own businesses with all the financial and business skills that requires.
In a PACEY survey, a clear majority (61%) of existing childminders agreed that they take the business aspect of their work as seriously as the childcare aspect. However, a further majority (55%) agreed they could make improvements to how they run their businesses.
Supporting new childminders to develop these key skills was one of the main drivers behind the launch of PACEY’s new online toolkit, Business Smart – a resource that brings together everything new childminders in England need to grow their businesses.
It’s also full of advice and support for established childminding settings, to help them review their business sustainability.
Setting up as a childminder can feel like an uphill struggle with all that’s required to register, train and get a business up and running.
“Having a passion for childminding doesn’t necessarily bring with it a head for business, and that’s where planning can be useful,” says Jon Hopper, commercial director for retail business banking at Lloyds Bank, who offers his advice to business owners in Business Smart.
“A business plan has the ability to quickly highlight any issues in your planning and allows you to make your mistakes on paper, rather than in your business. The idea is to focus on what’s important to the success of the business. That includes setting out what you want to achieve, and importantly doing your market research.”
An effective business plan features four main elements, each of which requires you to answer a simple question:
PACEY has a handy template to help you get started – download it here
Vicky Walsh, based in Bromley, Kent, worked in the property industry before setting up as a childminder. “Developing the skills and using the right business language can feel daunting,” she explains. “But we need to see ourselves as entrepreneurs in our own right – embrace the fact that you are boss.”
Part of being the boss means gaining skills and knowledge in business and financial planning to ensure that you develop a sustainable business. Business Smart contains a range of tools to help childminders including a business health check, costs calculator and tools such as a SWOT analysis template (download it here) – this is an easy way to take an objective look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing your business, which can then be used to inform business planning.
Vicky has found this particularly useful for her business: “I did a SWOT analysis at the beginning but actually found it more useful when I reviewed it six months later,” she explains. “It has become a working document which I review twice a year as the business evolves.”
Connecting with other childminders in the local area can be a useful source of advice when you are first starting out. PACEY offers peer-to-peer support in many areas of the country through a network of local volunteers who are on hand to provide a helping hand.
As Nursery World Childminder of the Year, Rebecca Lihou, says, “When I was starting out, learning from others was invaluable. Even now I get inspired by others I meet in person or online. Childminders are amazing, talented people, and every day I am proud of the job I do.”
Business Smart can be accessed in full at pacey.org.uk/business.
Sue McVay is Director of Partnerships at PACEY.
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