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“If you have a chance to expand, go for it!”, says PACEY's Sue McVay...
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This article is Part 3 in a series. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? It’s a question often asked in job interviews, but if you are a self-employed childminder, it’s a good enquiry to ask yourself as part of a regular business review.
At the heart of your business plan should be a clear understanding of your vision and goals for the future. Working by yourself may suit you and your plans, but you may at some point decide that the time is right to think about expanding.
Here are three routes for you to consider if you are thinking about growing your business.
Taking on an assistant can bring a range of benefits to your setting. As well as being able to expand the number of places you offer, it will also allow you to share ideas for planning and activities.
It can help to make childminding a less isolating experience, and children can benefit from interaction with another adult.
For childminder Pam Holland, employing her daughter – initially as her apprentice, then as her assistant – proved an ideal way for her to expand her business. “It made a real difference to my role,” she says.
“It gave me the flexibility to offer more spaces and to be more accommodating with school drop-offs and pick-ups. It also enhanced my setting, as it gave the children another person to go to.”
Spending time finding the right person is important – it’s your business, so you need to employ someone who will reflect your brand values and who you will be able to work well with.
Becoming an employer can feel daunting, but HMRC has a helpful online guide that takes you through the steps.
“It was really important to treat my daughter like a potential employee,” says Pam. “She was interviewed, we discussed the hours that she would be required to work and outlined her responsibilities.”
Holding regular supervision sessions will give you a chance to review performance and discuss any sensitive issues, particularly concerning a child’s development or child protection concerns.
Putting in place a programme of training and development is also important – both to help your assistant progress but also to enhance your business.
As Pam says, “It is one of the best things I have done and would recommend it to anyone considering it.”
One option to help you grow your business and increase the number of places you can offer is to convert to childcare on domestic premises. This is where four or more people come together to work in a home-based setting at any one time.
A childcare on domestic premises setting can sometimes feel like a ‘mini nursery’. It can have all the advantages of a larger group of children learning together but retain the ‘home from home’ feel of a childminding setting.
For Norfolk-based childminder Sam Dunn, taking the bold step of converting her childminding business to childcare on domestic was just the step she needed to make her business thrive.
“Demand has always been high for our services, and when a house came up for rent across the road, we snapped it up as it allowed us to accommodate more children,” she says.
“My vision was to provide the flexible service that parents so desperately need. Managing individual registered childminders across the different sites helped me to provide a seamless service for families.”
Childcare on domestic premises can be registered with Ofsted either in an individual’s name or in a company name. You must make sure you meet the requirements for group care and that staff hold the relevant qualifications.
If you feel this route is for you, do bear in mind that if at any point you are operating with fewer than four people at any time, you will also need to register as a childminder and apply for a separate registration with Ofsted.
Another thing to think about is ensuring your insurance is adequate to cover you and your staff, including volunteers or students.
As Sam explains, “Through expanding the business it has allowed me to let other people take the reins from a practical point of view, while I can take a more strategic approach and run the business.”
One option that some childminders may not be aware of is that you can provide care on non-domestic premises for up to 50% of the time without requiring extra registration.
This means that you could, for example, childmind in your home for morning sessions, then offer care in a church or school hall in the afternoon. It’s up to you how you split the time, so you could also base yourselves on larger premises for the school holidays and childmind in your home during term-time.
For Sam Dunn, opening up a preschool alongside her childminding business provided an additional business opportunity. It also provided a more effective way for her to offer the early years entitlement for two-, three- and four-year-olds.
Sam has not looked back: “If you have a chance to expand, go for it – you learn so much and working with others offers huge benefits,” she says.
Sue McVay is Director of Partnerships at PACEY. More tips and guidance on building and growing your childminding business can be found at pacey.org.uk/business.
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