Lightbridge Academy is a rare business gem.
The fast-growing child care provider has a big heart that shines through everything it does—from how they select digital solution partnerships, to their core values and unique Circle of Care philosophy that places equal importance on every single member of their ECE (Early Childhood Education) community.
In the 20+ years since Lightbridge Academy’s story began, founders Guy and Julia Falzarano have spread their values-first message—and their outlook is infectious.
Today, the Lightbridge community has over 50 childcare centers serving thousands of children across five states. And over 80 additional Lightbridge Academy franchises have been sold and are in the process of opening.
But as one of the most successful child care providers in the US, Lightbridge needs streamlined systems to boost productivity and bring all its centers under one digital roof.
That’s where Chief Information Officer, Ben Blake, comes in.
The IT superhero began programming computers at ten years old, and went on to study at The University of Texas, before quickly scaling the digital career ladder.
We caught up with Ben to find out more about how the Lightbridge team finds the best systems and keeps the Circle of Care philosophy right at the forefront, no matter how big they grow.
Check it out!
After becoming Lightbridge’s most digital-savvy team member back in early 2019, Ben’s biggest challenge was uniting all of their systems under the same digital umbrella.
“One of the things we wanted to do was to continuously improve our customer experience by taking better care of customers and employees. And a big part of that is finding the right child care management system,” says Ben.
As with everything Lightbridge, their Circle of Care philosophy was at the center of the decision-making.
“Our child care centers were using between 7 and 10 different software applications to run the business. And, naturally, that takes a lot of time that the administrators could be spending with staff, parents, and children, really understanding and meeting their needs,” explains Ben.
“We wanted to rid ourselves of all of the redundant data entry, complexity and costs. We needed to find a solution that could do most of it and easily integrate with other technologies eliminating administrative grunt work and so they could spend their time on what really matters… building relationships,” he says.
Luckily, no one has ever accused Ben of being too type B. In fact, a zest for the finer points is exactly what defines his personal work philosophy—and when it came to choosing the perfect child care management solution, the decision was in the detail.
“I'm very detail-oriented. Anybody you speak to will tell you that I can be a pain in that way because I look at everything, I pick up every rock,” laughs Ben.
“I wanted to make sure that we picked the best child care management solution out there, so I worked with the company to gather over a hundred and ten requirements detailing our needs in that space.”
(Yes, you read that right.) The Lightbridge team had tried child care management software before and left feeling underwhelmed. In fact, they’d even wrestled with the idea of building their own system. They knew that if they were going to make this leap, they had to do it right. So, once Ben and the team had whittled their list down to just 119 requirements, here’s what they did next.
Once Ben and his team had compared each contender with these eight factors, the decision was made: MomentPath was the clear winner.
“MomentPath really shined and demonstrated their flexibility throughout the whole selection process,” says Ben.
Once Lightbridge’s ideal child care management system provider had been chosen, it was time to put the wheels in motion.
But after just one pilot project had been successfully rolled out, along came COVID-19.
Like many child care centers, the pandemic brought a ton of challenges for Lightbridge—but Ben saw an opportunity. The pause in operations meant an increase in time.
“COVID disrupted our business, but we took advantage of the downtime to move our technology platform forward to better meet customer needs. We'd already brought one center onto this solution and we grew so much from that experience. During the pilot project, MomentPath had been very receptive to feedback and ideas that we came up with that were way out of our 119 requirements of scope, and we really had something great.”
With one child care center completed, Ben was keen to onboard more, Covid or no Covid.
“We wanted to get the child care management solution out to the next five child care centers but as with most things in life, things don't go to plan, right? Because Covid struck, and those five centers—along with all of our other child care centers—were closed. So, we had a decision to make: should we try to get these five centers onboarded even though they're closed? Or should we wait until things are back up and running again?”
For Ben, the choice was clear—it was all or nothing.
“We decided to go with option C, which was: let's not just bring on five as we planned, but let's bring on all 14 additional company-owned centers and a franchise center for the pilot, because what better time to do that than when everything is shut down?”
That’s right. During the biggest pandemic of our lifetime, Lightbridge decided to 3X their pilot project and invest in the experience of their families and employees, despite the challenges.
“The time it took depended upon each center's management, how available they really were during that crazy time, how quickly they proceeded through the tasks. But everybody got there and all but one of the centers trained on one day on the new system.”
Talk about a bounceback. Armed with a new, streamlined system (and less tech clutter getting in their way) the Lightbridge community was able to reopen stronger than ever.
“Then they reopened and the feedback, even within the first two days was, ‘We're glad we did it. This application is much better than what we had.’ The administrators loved it, the teachers loved it. And the parents were giving good feedback. It worked out really well.”
One of the project’s biggest wins was the boost to parent-teacher communication—even when in-person contact was out of the question.
“You want to be able to communicate with who's caring for your child. And due to COVID restrictions, parents couldn't do that in person anymore, but because of MomentPath, for the first time, teachers and parents could communicate electronically and in a very natural way, very much like text messaging. That communication really helped us maintain a trusting relationship because of the communication between the parents and the teachers,” he says.
But it wasn’t only parent-teacher communication that shined. It was also super simple for Lightbridge employees to ask questions and connect directly with each other and their administrators, using one secure system.
“I've seen in the past where, when you bring in a new technology, you've got some people that are scared of technology and scared of change—you've got the perfect storm there for people to push back and not adopt. But I was super pleased to hear from the center management that teachers learned it quickly.”
Of course, questions do pop up. In those instances, it’s important for Ben to know that the MomentPath team has their back.
“When they do have a question, it's just so easy to reach out to MomentPath. You can do it right there in the app. It just removed a lot of the fear and made it easy to overcome that learning curve,” says Ben.
Finding the perfect tool was a long process for Lightbridge—but it’s been well worth the effort. “I’m very happy with our choice and I see this solution becoming better and better and adding value to our customer experience,” says Ben.
After two failed attempts with other systems in the company’s past, it’s the lessons learned that really led them to the perfect provider. Ben’s advice?
“We learned that no child care management provider is going to implement everything for you—they can’t because they don’t know your business, they don’t make all of your choices during the onboarding. So, you’ve got to do these two things: You have to know what you want, and you have to be willing to put forward the resources to make it happen.”
But for Ben and Lightbridge Academy, a risk taken today is a dream realized tomorrow.
MomentPath was the only child care software that brought it all together for Lightbridge, see what MomentPath could do for your center!