A little advice, some proper tools, and a lot of hard work can go a long way.
In 2014, Bethel Early Childhood Academy committed to improving their childcare facility and its operations. As the Academy’s director, Lynn Morris was aware of the Academy’s challenges as a non-profit business that included limited financial resources, insufficient marketing, and the need for streamlined internal operation.
Wanting to overcome these challenges, Morris voluntarily enrolled in the United Way of Central Indiana’s Child Care Quality Improvement Project. The goal of UWCI’s project is that child care sites enroll in and advance on Paths to QUALITY, Indiana’s quality childcare rating and improvement system.Enrolling in UWCI’s program meant Lynn would have access to funding to improve the structural challenges of the building, gain age-appropriate learning resources for students, have access to staff training options, and have the opportunity to meet with a business coach for six months, free of charge, through the Indy Chamber’s Entrepreneur Services division.
As a director with extensive experience as an educator, but limited experience with financial management and business operations, Morris began her six-month journey with her Entrepreneur Services business coach, Sarah MacInnis. Bethel had met the health and safety standards required to attain a Level 1 Paths to Quality rating, but wanted to work toward Level 4, achieving national accreditation.
“My initial meetings with the Indy Chamber’s Entrepreneur Services business coach and the development of the Cash Management Tool proved our financial forecast was even bleaker than I realized. Although we were making it month to month, our tuition income closely equaled our payroll and we had very little ability to do much else. We were in debt to the church for a little over $3,000,” explained Morris.
To put Bethel on the path to financial independence and freedom from debt, MacInnis helped Morris identify the Academy’s strengths and weaknesses, and targeted areas that needed work. Assessing Bethel’s cash position to determine their break-even point using the cash management tool, a financial forecasting tool offered through Entrepreneur Services, MacInnis helped Morris to identify realistic options for increasing their revenue and decreasing expenses.
Through a detailed analysis of the businesses operations, Morris and MacInnis identified avenues for change. One of the first changes was battling old community perceptions. Bethel needed to shift the community’s perception that Bethel was a part-time preschool to the understanding that it was now a full-scale childcare provider. Together, they developed a plan to increase revenue enough to purchase increased signage, marketing to the community and boosting their enrollment and revenue numbers. Bethel also created a Parent Teacher Organziation to enlist the help of parents and family to further grow enrollment.
Another step on their journey to growth was opening an infant room in January 2015. United Way facilitated the structural expansion while the church and community members contributed initial equipment and funds through a “baby shower” hosted by Bethel. Through coaching, Morris was able to develop an enrollment target for that room to ensure they could pay for the needed resources like staffing and supplies. By January 2016, the number of infants in the class had grown from three to eight. Serving as a feeder into Bethel’s program, the infant room resulted in the older classes being filled with a waiting list.
Thanks to their hard work and instruction from Entrepreneur Services, Bethel has shifted a once bleak financial outlook to a positively cash flowing organization that has achieved financial independence from the church and attained a Level 3 Paths to Quality rating.
“Since June of 2015, we have been able to pay our church a monthly building usage fee. Now we now have the ability in our budget to pay back a $3,000 loan, pay our portion of worker’s comp insurance, and have budgeted to put money in a reserve fund this year for future improvements and unexpected expenses. Every month I update the cash management tool and make sure it coincides with the reports. I also use it for projections,” says Morris.
To learn more about how Indy Chamber’s Entrepreneur Services can help your business grow and succeed, schedule your free business coaching session today by contacting Tonya Varvel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317.464.2258.
A previous version of this article suggested that United Way owned the Paths to Quality program. This is not the case, and has since been revised.