Before you can put together a business plan and start a child care business it is essential that you do some proper market research. This is essential as you won’t be able to prepare a marketing strategy if you don’t understand the customers in the market that you are targeting.Many businesses outsource their market research to large companies who specialize in the research field. These services are really too expensive for the budget of a typical daycare startup though.To understand the overall child care market in your area you need to approach your research by looking at demographic data, local competitors as well as some of your prospective customers.This article looks at how entrepreneurs can undertake their own independent market research for a child care or daycare business.General Market InformationStart off by making sure that the area has potential in terms of having a population of families with young children. If you intend to put a business plan together and seek funding from investors or a bank you may have to back up your assumptions with demographic data from a reliable information source such as a recent census.There are also numerous local organizations that you can contact for information such as schools, churches and government departments. You will be surprised at what you can learn just by getting out there and talking to people or by making a few phone calls.Research the CompetitionVisit as many child care centers as you can in your local area. Even if you don’t have your own child of a suitable age you can always pretend that you do or say that you are making enquiries for relatives who will soon be moving to the area. Try to find out as much as you can about their pricing, facilities, services, staff qualifications and the way that they market themselves. As you walk around their daycare premises, put yourself in the shoes of a customer and make a note of anything that you really liked or disliked for future reference.One great way of assessing local demand for daycare services is to enquire with local child care centers about their waiting lists. If many have large waiting lists then this could be one sign that there is good potential in the local market.Research the Child Care Market with SurveysTo understand your customers better you should try to set up some interviews with families that fit your profile of a typical customer. Interviewing people in person is best but you can always do some by mail or on the phone. Offer people a voucher for a free coffee to thank them for taking the time to provide you with such useful information. The questions in your form should help you to assess local demand, understand what kind of daycare services are in demand and to find out if people are satisfied with the care that their children are currently receiving. If possible you should also get an idea of what kind of marketing they would be responsive to.After you have interviewed people, ask them for their contact details and let them know that you will give them a call when your business is set up. These people may later become your first customers if you paid enough attention to the needs and desires that they expressed in your interview session.If you are planning to start a child care business, market research can help you a lot in determining whether your ideas are viable and whether you want to proceed to prepare a full business plan.
Reason #1: Take back controlPlacing your livelihoods viability in someone else’s hands isn’t as comfortable as it once was. Even though this is your business, your clients call the shots. Which is fine, when the budget, and appreciation of your expertise is in abundance. When it’s not, work just isn’t fun anymore.You have control over your creativity. You don’t have control over the economy, or someone else’s cash flow.Enter a side business to create an asset, and passive income. It’s a great thing to get to do what you love, when you don’t have to worry about the income it generates. When you can help others who may not have been able to afford your services in the past. When you can move away from the “cobbler whose son goes without shoes” syndrome.Reason #2. Increase your income potentialWith your own business, the one you’re passionate about, your income, and your time freedom is limited. Unless you’re a huge corporation (think Dell, or DuPont, or Verizon), if you’re not present, your business won’t survive. You can only work so many hours in a day for which you can be paid. If you can leverage a product, or employees, that’s fantastic. But you’re still limited to what you’re able to manufacture, and your employees still need your supervision.Leveraging a network of Franchise businesses is a costly expansion, and a costly buy-in. How expensive would it be to duplicate your business? Is it even possible? How much does a McDonald’s or a Starbucks franchise cost?Leveraging a network of people, on the other hand, is inexpensive and accessible. Here, your income potential becomes unlimited. The higher your income, the more time freedom you can enjoy. Time to live your passion, which is why you built your business in the first place.Reason #3. Lower your stress levelDo you worry about making payroll? Are you comfortable with your retirement account? What do your children’s college funds look like? What would it do to your stress level not to have those worries? What if you didn’t have to worry about making ends meet where you want them to?Enter a side business. Now all of your eggs aren’t in one basket (or business, as the case may be!).Making It Happen #1.I have no timeNo one has time. The only way to make more time is to create it. If your desire for a side business, and the financial freedom it can create is strong enough, the time is there. I know it is. I see it being created daily. Here are a couple of tricks to find the nooks and crannies. When your side business is up and running, you’ll be able to integrate it into your “normal, Passion Business” work schedule easily.1. Prepare. Determine what it is you have to do, not what simply takes up time. What small steps will move you in the right direction? Are they phone calls? Writing something out? Scheduling something? The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. You’ll find 10 minutes here and 20 minutes there to jot out your ideas, make a call, or run a new business errand.2. Structure your day.Of course life will come up. But for the most part, you can block out the times you need to spend on your passion business. Then block out times for meetings with yourself to work your side business. Carve 2 hours a day out for just you. It might have to be early in the morning, or later at night in the beginning. Many people like taking a couple of hours in the middle of the day – pretend you have a business lunch and spend 11:30 – 1:30 every day on your new side business. Knowing you’re moving forward and taking the steps to build your asset will help lighten the stress your passion business may be currently experiencing (until you can lighten its financial burden).3. Increase your knowledge so you can increase your belief in your success. When you believe you will succeed, you’ll be more likely to use your time wisely. The more you know about others’ successes, and what you need to do to achieve the same results, the more comfortable you’ll be, taking a little time away from your “normal” activities.Making it happen #2.I don’t want to give up my business. It’s what I know and it’s worked before.No one is suggesting you stop your passion business. That’s the primary reason you’re starting a new side business to create an asset in the first place! Times have changed however. Even if the economy bounces back, the luxury housing industry has changed. People’s purchasing habits have changed, particularly with the ease of using online sources.Your passion business may have been able to make money on mark-ups in the past, but that margin is getting so much smaller if its there at all, as people are finding comparable product online, for less. And the proliferation of online and TV design shows and information is a 2-edged sword. We all love educated clients, however most people have a difficult time discerning the differences between “TV reality” and the truths of excellent design.Making it happen #3.What are my choices?You’ll want your side business to eventually be able to function, and provide your income, without your day-to-day attention. Otherwise, you’re simply creating another business in Robert Kiyosaki’s “S” quadrant, that of the self-employed or specialist. This is also the quadrant where you might get the most satisfaction, because this tends to be where your passion business lives. But YOU are doing all of the work, limiting your income, and your free time.To build wealth, you’ll need to dip your toe into Kiyosaki’s “B” quadrant.”B” Options A big company certainly isn’t going to work as your side business (nor is it typically an option. Could you imagine creating a company like General Electric to run as a side business? You get the idea). A franchise is a wonderful business option, but they are very expensive, and would typically require an enormous amount of time, at least in the beginning. It would be difficult to build a successful business franchise part-time.That leaves a network marketing business. Leveraging a network of people is an accessible investment for just about anyone, and you can scale your time involved.BenefitsThere are numerous benefits to leveraging a network of people, particularly in this day and age of social networking. You’re already networking!One, these are scalable business models, meaning you can start small and slow, and build it as quickly or as slowly, as you want. This allows you to run your passion business as you need or care to.Another advantage is they are very inexpensive, most under $300. One of the best is only $100.The investment usually includes the entire system; everything from your business website & education, through ongoing training and support.It is your business, but you’re not in business by yourself. You’ll have a team of people helping you, and it’s to their advantage to see you succeed. This is a true, pay-it-forward system.Lastly is the business model itself. All it is, really, is word-of-mouth advertising, right? Isn’t that how you typically get your clients for your passion business?Is a side business for you? For me, the answer was easy. I want to live my passion, have a balanced life, and enjoy financial freedom, all while helping others. Don’t you? It’s certainly worth taking a look.Everyone should have the opportunity to live on purpose; create from inspiration rather than desperation; and be empowered to do what they love.
Operating any business in today’s economy involves risk of one sort or another. When a person decides to venture out on that proverbial limb to start or to take over an existing business for themselves they should perform their due diligence, research, ask questions, etc. What business owner or aspiring entrepreneur would not?If you are a business owner and you deal in cash or have high value equipment associated with your business, you can bet that you can add a few more considerations to your list of worries than say an accountant or someone who has started a medical transcription business.My wife and I own and operate a small retail business in western Tennessee. The thought of being robbed of either cash or merchandise does not sit well with me, nor does the thought of our establishment being burglarized. But the thought that my wife may be injured or worse at the hands of a criminal who thinks he has the right to take what does not belong to him or her infuriates me!Because we are in a small town, many of our neighbors and fellow citizens do not consider robbery or burglary a major threat. I will admit that I myself do not sit and dwell on the subject to the point that it interferes with my day to day life. But experience has taught me well. One of those lessons is that while the likelihood of a particular incident may be low…the possibility is 100%…every day…every minute of the day.It should take nothing more than a quick search on the internet to see that the threat of being a victim of crime is part of doing business. Not just violent crime, though I tend to consider all crime a form of assault. I know the legal eagles will disagree with me, but I take a pretty simple and basic stance on most things. Someone who lies to you assaults your trust while a person who steals from you assaults your trust and financial stability.Every business is a potential target whether it is actual assault in the form of robbery or burglary. It could take the form of shoplifting, check forgery, credit or computer fraud, identity theft or internal theft by employees.According the National Sheriff’s Association at least 30 percent of all small business failures are the result of losses from crime.While retail business seem to take the brunt of the storm statistics show that ALL small businesses suffer devastating effects from many types of crime.Law enforcement agencies in general do a terrific job in my opinion. But they cannot be everywhere all the time. As a business owner, it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure the security of your business as well as the safety of your employees and your customers, guests and clients. But what can you do to alleviate some of the risks, enhance the security and lessen the likelihood of your establishment being targeted?The National Sheriff’s Association in cooperation with most local law enforcement agencies sponsors a program called “Business Watch” similar to the very popular and very successful “Neighborhood Watch” program. The “Business Watch” program uses many of the same principles and practices that neighborhoods use to prevent and detect crime and apply it to businesses and business districts.This program is sponsored by the NSA, not operated. The operational aspect is up to people like you and I, the business owners. It will require some leg work and coordination among business neighbors to get it started and keep it effective, but if you have concerns about crime or have seen an up rise in criminal activity, you cannot afford to not consider initiating this program.With this program neighboring businesses working with local law enforcement agencies can establish and support a network that is very effective and has been proven to work in some of the most high crime areas. This will make YOUR business community an attractive and safe place to work and shop and make people want to visit your establishment.Neighbors helping neighbors is a very old concept and when businesses works together it allows business owners to take control of what happens in their business community, and lessens your chances of becoming a victim or your establishment from becoming a target. Through “Business Watch” you will be making crimes against yourself and your fellow business neighbors as difficult as possible by raising the risk to the criminal while at the same time lowering their expected reward. Over time it will be noticed and a smart criminal will likely move on to a softer, more vulnerable target.All aspects of the program are extremely beneficial, but a few of the most impressive include teaching merchants to crime-proof their own properties and to watch over neighboring businesses and report any suspicious activity to authorities, developing a telephone tree system for quick dissemination of information regarding criminal activity in the area and a potential life saving practice of developing a “duress code” or set of signals to activate in adjacent businesses when someone needs help.So how do you go about forming a Business Watch program in your area? First I would recommend contacting your business neighbors and let them know your idea. Ideally you would be able to call a meeting so everyone would have input to voice their concerns and ask questions. You should consider inviting a crime prevention consultant or professional to attend so that he or she could answer security related questions in a detailed manner.Once it is decided that this a course of action worthy of pursuit, contact your local law enforcement agency and tell them what you plan to do. Most agencies have a crime prevention officer who may very likely have the Business Watch starter packet on hand which will guide you through all the formalities and allow you to obtain professional Business Watch signage.Meetings should continue and be scheduled on a regular basis as well as soon as possible after any major criminal activity that happens to occur, especially violent crimes and continue to invite guest speakers to your meetings and ask them to emphasize certain but different aspects of security. It is highly recommended that the subject of internal/employee theft be covered early in the program.In the meantime take protective measures now. Always ensure that you secure all obvious (and not so obvious) points of entry to your business. DON’T FORGET THE ROOFTOP! Put yourself in the shoes of a criminal… stand outside of your store and plan how you would get in. Then install high security locks on all doors and windows. Remember… a cheap lock can be jimmied with a knife or plastic card, so use sturdy deadbolts on doors with glass panels. As far as locks go, there are more bargains at $100 than there are at $10.Some other immediate crime prevention measures you can take include:
Avoid displaying valuable goods in store-front windows, and install tempered or laminated glass or impact resistant plastic windows.
Brightly illuminate all entrances with vandal-proof fixtures.
Leave empty cash drawers open after hours.
Keep all shrubbery and debris away from windows and doors. Don’t provide concealment or climbing platforms for the burglar.
Lock up all ladders, ropes, and tools that could help a burglar gain entry.
Install an alarm system, and check it regularly for failure.
Make frequent bank deposits at varied times. Use an armored car if feasible.
Teach employees to be aware of persons who are loitering or behaving in a suspicious manner. Such persons may be casing the premises for burglary, robbery, or shoplifting.
Advertise a policy of prosecuting all shoplifters, and stick to it.
Establish effective shoplifting deterrents within your business. First, heighten shoplifters’ feelings of being watched. Second, minimize shoplifters’ access to merchandise without inconveniencing customers more than is necessary.
Deter bad check artists by establishing a check-cashing policy. Make sure employees know and adhere to store policy.
In pinpointing sources of losses, do not overlook the possibility of internal theft. Surveys indicate that employee theft accounts for the biggest chunk of dollar losses to crime by businesses.The above list is certainly not complete, but these are some very low or no cost steps you can take today to lessen your likelihood of loss. Consider contacting a consultant to conduct a security risk assessment of your establishment. Not only will he or she identify areas for improvement, but they can recommend “how” to improve the deficiencies.Most crimes against small businesses are crimes of opportunity. If the criminal has the chance and feels the reward is worth the risk…they take it. Make it hard for them to hurt you.