Years ago, Evelyn Knight teetered on the brink of losing her child care center.
“I came so close to bankruptcy and failing that I actually had an eviction notice on my center door,” she said in a recent episode of The Child Care Business Podcast hosted by Procare Solutions.
She said her experience as a center director didn’t prepare her for all the aspects of running her own business.
With the help of a coach, Evelyn was able to turn around her failing child care business and eventually buy more centers. Now she’s a coach herself, with degrees in early childhood education and psychology in addition to spending more than 25 years working in the early childhood space.
She’s the founder of Child Care Business Professionals. Her mission is to empower early child care education professionals in reaching their full potential by providing educational services that promote quality standards, professionalism and business proficiency.
“I practice what I preach,” she said, saying that because she’s a child care center owner, she can teach her clients what she has learned through trial and error.
Aside from money issues, Evelyn sees many clients coming in for help with time management and staffing.
In the podcast hosted by Procare Solutions, Evelyn discussed how resilience, time management and coaching can change everything.
Deciding to Hire A Business Coach
As her business tanked, she said she found plenty of excuses.
She blamed the economy and unemployment. She blamed too much competition for children to care for.
“I had an excuse for every reason why I was failing, but when push came to shove, it was my leadership. I can’t deny for a second. It was absolutely my leadership. And I had to come to terms with that,” she said.
She stalled in hiring a coach because she didn’t think she could afford it. But she realized that would be her last shot if she had any hope of succeeding in her business.
“It took some swallowing of my pride, took some opening of my pockets and deciding I couldn’t afford not to hire this woman,” Evelyn said of her decision to retain a consultant to help her save her business. “But that’s pretty much where I was at. I was like, this is my Hail Mary. If this doesn’t work, I’m done. This is my last hope.”
She gave the coach her financial books, and the coach told her to go through her bank accounts with a fine-tooth comb and cut 10% of her spending. Evelyn thought that seemed impossible.
“ I just remember thinking, there’s no way. We’re already running so thin,” she said.
But she exceeded that goal and trimmed her spending by 17%. To this day, that consultant is her accountability partner. And last year alone, she spent $40,000 on business coaching. She credits that investment as a big reason she’s earning a seven-figure income now.
“A lot of times in early childhood education and as child care center owners, we don’t understand that we need to change our perspective and see ourselves as business people. So I started calling myself a CEO and I created for myself a CEO schedule,” she said.
The key to time management is learning how to duplicate yourself and automate.
Making a CEO schedule means that when Evelyn is not at her center, her brand and everything she created runs on without her. That’s how she can juggle owning multiple centers, a coaching business, as well as her own family.
Most people don’t track their time, nor do they understand how to manage time, Evelyn said.
“It’s a mindset shift to understand that so many of us have so much more time than we realize,” she said.
Making a Time Map
Evelyn makes all of her clients build a time map, which is writing down everything they do every hour of the day – a tedious, but important task.
“Everybody’s just like, are you kidding? You’re going to really make me do that? But I can tell you, by the end of the day, you see how much time you’re absolutely wasting. And you get to the point where you don’t want to write certain things down,” she said.
She said you don’t realize that scrolling on Facebook for 15 minutes at a time easily can add up to four hours by the end of the day. And such a time-waster is something you must eliminate.
And just a summary of how time is spent isn’t adequate. Evelyn wants her clients to tell her everything they did in one hour and keep that going all day to look for better ways their time could’ve been spent. She has them put a monetary value to each hour of their day to determine what they spend time on and what they pay someone else to do.
Solving Staffing Shortages
Evelyn said that child care centers either are unable to keep staff, or they’re having a hard time recruiting.
“And part of the problem is that in the early childhood education world, we don’t recruit — we hire. And so that is where I immediately change people’s mindset. You have to stop hiring and you need to start recruiting,” she said.
Retention is critical, and even more important than hiring, she said.
Evelyn has several staff members who’ve been with her for more than a decade and the average time a staff member stays with her is five years.
Statistics show that money is not even the top three things that an employee is looking for, she said.
“So if you’re so fixated on how much you can afford to pay your staff, then you’re kind of creating your own problem,” she said.
Evelyn uses a six-month onboarding process that she teaches all her clients to use for their staff.
“So after that initial six months, they become a part of our family. And that way we know that we’re retaining them. And then of course, every year you’ve got to follow up,” she said.
She also said her director observes each classroom and meets with each teacher monthly, which has had a positive effect on retention.
It’s building relationships and keeping them going, and making sure that you’re hearing, developing, coaching and mentoring your staff.
What the First Coaching Session With Evelyn Looks Like
Evelyn has an onboarding process and meets with clients weekly in the first month.
She uses her psychology background to ease clients’ anxiety, find pain points and dive in to relieve some of the pressure.
She’s looking to learn the biggest needs of you, the client.
“So I’m going to ask you a lot of questions, just really digging in to try and find where o can alleviate the most stress out of your life, right? And then we’re going to work together pretty intensely for the first month to make sure that I’m actually really making a difference right off the bat.”
That means answering questions you may not expect, such as whether your financials are consistent, how do your parents pay, do they pay on time, what is your staff attendance like and how long has your average staff member been with you.
She wants to diagnose the biggest problems to tackle first and help child care center owners find the quickest, easiest way to relieve that stress and pressure from their lives to help gain their lives back.
Evelyn also is a certified life coach and wants to see what life trajectory you’re on to help you best meet your goals, whether that’s planning to retire in 10 years or own multiple centers in that timeframe.
“I’m going to help you get out of where you are today. But beyond that, I want to make sure that you have that life and future that you dreamed up when you first started, and you had all the hopes and the dreams that were still alive before the reality started to bury you. That’s really what I want to help people focus on,” she said.
Evelyn’s Outlook on the Child Care Industry
She cited the COVID-19 pandemic as something no one knew would happen, and says she advises her clients that disasters are always going to happen.
She described the pandemic as a wake-up call that we must be prepared. She said her child care businesses survived just fine, despite huge drops in enrollment, because she had pre-planning in place.
And she’s not worried about the future.
“I’m really optimistic and I’m ready to grow and expand. And unfortunately COVID has created a really good market for really good business owners because there’s going to be a lot of centers out there to acquire,” she said.
Join Us For More Procare Podcasts!
The Child Care Business Podcast is all about giving child care, preschool, daycare, after school and other early education professionals a fun way to learn about strategies and inspiration to thrive.
In each episode, you’ll hear from a variety of child care leaders including educators, owners and industry experts. They’ll offer their tips on ways to innovate and meet the needs of the children you serve, as well as advice on managing operations and sharing uplifting stories of transformation and triumph.
If you want to connect with Evelyn and hear more of her wisdom, you can find her in the following places:
Have an idea for a podcast or want to be a guest on The Child Care Business Podcast? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!