“A goal without a plan is just a wish”—Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Every business deserves a great start.
And a detailed business plan is the best way to ensure your ECE franchise or center is headed for success right from day 1.
From basic operations to big-picture expansion plans, developing your ideas before you open your doors can help you stay focused on what really matters.
If you already know which school you want to franchise with—great, they will offer tons of support and can help you with the process once you’ve got your business plan sorted. If you’re unsure—that’s fine too. This article will help you refine your ideas, understand what you truly want, and make some big decisions on where you’re headed next.
So, listen up and take note as we walk you through the key things you need to know to develop a super-successful child care business plan.
First thing’s first, if success is what you’re after you need to get up-close-and-personal with the world of licensing requirements.
Understanding the basic rules of your state’s licensing laws will help ensure you and your child care business are headed in the right direction.
There are loads of resources available from every state government website, so do some digging and ask as many questions as possible.
To get you off to the best start, here are just a few things to consider:
After you understand the rules of the game, it’s time to get back to why you’re playing in the first place.
But remember, objectives and goals are two very different things – and you need to understand them both to get the best results:
Aligning your goals and objectives is vital for guiding your business. This can also be valuable information for potential funding partners. Showing them the “why” of your business, along with well-structured goals, can help win over an investor.
So, take some time out to really think about your driving forces.
What is your motivation? Why do you want to take this project on? What will you get out of it personally? How will other people benefit? Why align yourself with this particular ECE brand?
It may seem like a lot to think about, but outlining your goals and objectives can help you get to know yourself and your business so much better—plus it can help you stay focused when you’re busy scaling your enterprise.
It’s time to break out the magnifying glass and really get to know your competition.
They will likely serve different markets or have different competitive advantages—and it’s your job to figure out what makes them successful.
Whether their cost of care is different, or their unique marketing styles help them bring in customers, each business will have a competitive advantage. And understanding what makes them successful will give you key insights into your own business.
Here are a few questions to start your research process:
As well as getting to know everything you can about your competition, you also need to research your clientele as deeply as possible.
Your aim: to understand as much as possible about their lives.
Ask questions like: Who will be using your child care services? What are they looking for from a child care provider? What makes them choose one center over the other?
Other types of info you should be looking for include:
As you research your target market, you will likely come across hidden gems of information which you can use to make better decisions.
Remember, not all market reports and web searches are 100% accurate. Make sure you overlap your findings with primary research. Finding and speaking with your potential audience often delivers the most valuable insights.
By now, you know exactly where you're headed, you’ve decided what your values are, and you know your audience inside and out.
It’s time to use those insights to create your brand and figure out how to get the word out about your awesome child care business.
Your franchisor will help you with this, but it’s great to get a head start by thinking back to your market research—who is your audience, where can you find them and what can you do to encourage them to enroll?
Your marketing plan should discuss the 'Four P’s' of marketing: Product, Place, Price, and Promotion.
It’s time to discuss the F word.
Financial success comes from creating a solid budget that you can work with right from the start. Honesty and practicality are key—make sure you don’t overstretch yourself and include plenty of space to maneuver.
Here are some of the things you need to consider:
We’ve created a non-exhaustive budget template to help you develop your own.
You may also want to create a “Sources and Uses” worksheet. Child Care Aware has created one which you can find here. This document essentially shows where funds may flow in from and where you plan to allocate those funds. It can help you stay on top of the funds within your business.
At this point, your business plan should be full of super useful info.
Now we just need to make it look awesome.
Take the time to create an easy-to-read document, carefully articulating your meanings and losing any unnecessary fluff. Check out this template to help with formatting and idea generation.
Remember, this document isn’t for your eyes only. You will be showing this to franchisors and investors to offer insight into your plans and effectively communicate your vision. So, invest time in it and make sure it’s 100% perfect before you sign off.
Now you’re well on your way to drafting an awesome child care business plan. Keep in mind that a business plan is a roadmap, and it’s not etched in stone. Things are bound to change, and that’s ok—simply rewrite the sections that need adjustment.
If you find you’re drifting too far from your first version, take the time to sit back and think about your business. Revisit your goals and objectives and remember to keep one strategic eye on the future while with today’s challenges.
We promise, your future self will thank you for it.
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