The Child Care Business Podcast

Episode 17: How to Funnel More Money to Your Child Care Business | Louise Stoney

October 14, 2021 Procare Solutions Season 1 Episode 17
The Child Care Business Podcast
Episode 17: How to Funnel More Money to Your Child Care Business | Louise Stoney
Show Notes Transcript

Louise Stoney has been in the child care field for well over 35 years and dedicates her work to helping providers put the systems in place to tap into and manage the funds available to them. In this episode, she discusses:

  • The critical role automation plays in providing information that can uncover any funds child care providers are leaving on the table
  • What shared services are, how they work and the benefits they offer to child care businesses
  • How she works with public policymakers to help them better understand the child care landscape and make the right funding available
  • The ways child care management software can transform recordkeeping to  drive better decision-making at every level
  • The concept of one-stop-shopping or subsidy management, and how to do it
  • The three most important things you have to do to run a successful child care business, also called the Iron Triangle
  • And so much more! 

About Louise:

Louise Stoney is a true powerhouse in the space – someone who’s making waves in  how we collect and analyze child care data to spur positive systemic changes.  Louise is an independent consultant specializing in early care and education (ECE) finance and policy, and Co-Founder of both Opportunities Exchange and the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance. Louise has worked with state and local governments, foundations, ECE providers, industry intermediaries, research and advocacy groups in over 40 states. 

Public and private organizations have sought Louise’s expertise to help craft new finance and policy options as well as write issue briefs on challenging topics. She has helped model ECE program costs, revise subsidy policy and rate-setting strategies, re-visit QRIS standards and procedures, craft new approaches to contracting and voucher management, and more. Louise holds a master’s degree in social work from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

You can learn more about Louise and her work at

Additional Resources:

To get more insights on ways to succeed in your child care business, head over to our Resource Center at

Contact Us:

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Speaker 1 (
Speaker 2 (
Welcome to the childcare business podcast brought to you by pro care solutions. 
This podcast is all about giving childcare, preschool, daycare, afterschool, and other
early education professionals, a fun and upbeat way to learn about strategies and 
inspiration you can use to thrive. You'll hear from a variety of childcare thought 
leaders, including educators, owners, and industry experts on ways to innovate, to 
meet the needs of the children you serve from practical tips for managing 
operations, to uplifting stories of transformation and triumph. This podcast will be 
chalk full and insights. You can use to fully realize the potential of your childcare 
business. Let's jump in,
Speaker 3 (
Welcome everybody to the childcare business podcast. Excited to have everybody 
here with us again today. And, uh, you know, as always, you know, we're always 
trying to scour the industry and find, uh, guests that we think in deliver a lot of 
value and insights for our audience. And, and, you know, certainly today is no 
exception. I'm actually looking really forward to today's guest and the interview, 
um, want to talk to you or actually introduce everybody to Louise Stoney. Uh, many 
of you might recognize that name if you're familiar and been a part of our industry 
for any length of time, you know, the more that I'm, uh, in our space, the more I 
hear about the wheeze and her group and all the things that they're doing, um, just 
really quick by way of a quick introduction, uh, Louise is an independent consultant 
specializing in early care and education finance and policy.
Speaker 3 (
And she's the co-founder of both opportunities exchange. And the Alliance for early 
childhood finance, uh, Louise has worked with the state and local governments has 
worked with state and local governments, foundations, ECE providers, industry 
intermediaries, research, and advocacy groups for over, um, you know, over the 
course of many years in, in over 40 states, um, public and private organizations 
have sought Louisa's expertise to help craft new finance and policy options as well 
as right. Issue briefs on challenging topics. Uh, you know, she's helped model ECE 
program costs, revise subsidy policy, and rate setting strategies. Uh, she revisits 
QRI S standards and procedures. She crafts new approaches to contracting and 
voucher management and a lot more. So Louise holds a master's degree in social 
work from the state, uh, university of New York at Stony Brook. So everybody let's, 
uh, and everybody would be me at this point because it's a podcast giving you a 
warm welcome Louise. How are you? I'm good. Thanks for inviting me, Ryan. 
Absolutely. It's our pleasure. So, Louise, I'm going to start with this question just so 
we can, you know, maybe introduce the audience a little bit to the concept of 
shared services. Can you, can you talk a little bit about the shared services model 
and define what that is? Yeah,
Speaker 4 (

So, so actually I'm going to go back just a little bit to give people some context. So 
I've been in this field for well over 35 years, and I started in this field on the policy 
and finance side. I used to work for the state legislature and I sort of came out really
trying to, and my goal was to increase money for the field. And I got really good at 
that. I could open up lots of spigots, bunch of different funding streams, but I could 
never make it simple. It's never going to be simple, tapping all these different 
funding streams, dealing with all the accountability, managing the money, and that 
really led. And then I started realizing like are talking of your businesses are so 
small, you've got one individual that's responsible for everything, including this 
really complex finance that is super important. And so I kind of set myself on a 
course of saying, wait a minute, it's no point in me raising more money for 
Speaker 4 (
If we're not actually getting that money into the pockets of the providers that are 
running the programs. So that led me to really sort of think and look under the 
hood. What could we do? And, and at the time I was working with, um, an economist
at Cornell university who was a specialist in sort of economic development. And I 
started looking at other industries and thinking about industry clusters. And that 
really led me to realize that in many, many industries, the, the members of the 
industry I'm bonded together to invest in technology or invest in infrastructure. I 
mean, think about it when you drive up to a gas pump and you put a credit card 
into a right, why is that possible? That's possible because the banks collaborated on
a system for money to flow. And that, that collaboration really led to a whole host of
business opportunities for a whole host of businesses.
Speaker 4 (
Right? And you can name all sorts of examples of this, the airline industry, where 
you make reservations the hotel, right. But childcare had not capitalized on this at 
all. We just weren't really thinking about these strategies. We were still operating 
isolation, small businesses. So that really led me to sort of say, Hey, wait a minute. 
We need to create strategies for the sector to be able to come together, to share, 
share the investment in, in, in resources to share staff, to share technology. And, 
and so that was sort of the birth of the shared services movement in my head and 
like anything, everything I know that matters, I learned in school of hard knocks. So 
we just learned this by doing it, we'd try this, would it work? Let's evaluate it, let's 
try something else. And that really led us, you know, a step by step by step. And 
we're constantly learning constantly changing, you know, constantly trying to figure
out how do we really deliver value to providers.
Speaker 3 (
Yeah. And I, you know, I mean, I, I want to touch a little bit on a few things that you 
just stated there. And I want to also spend some time talking because I think even 
over the last 18 months, like everything that's been going on in our, in our country 
and in our society, and certainly in industry is shown even a brighter light on a lot of
the things that you guys are working on and, and kind of, uh, focused your energy 
on. But when you were working so early days, when you were working at the state 
legislature level and you were working to get funding for childcare, can you describe
like, like what did that entail? Are you talking about subsidy dollars for centers 

providing care to low-income families? Was it grants? Like what did the all involve 
when you were working on trying to find money? It was,
Speaker 4 (
I mean, I used to joke and say to people, you give me a funding stream and I'll 
figure out how to plant chocolate. So, I mean, honestly, there's so many ways that 
you can tap so many different funding streams, but it requires some, first of all, it 
requires a really good, uh record-keeping you know, and under, and, and business 
acumen on the part of the provider so that they actually know how to present 
themselves and tap the money. And then it does require some creative thinking 
about how you can pull dollars down. But the reality is there are always many 
opportunities. So yes, subsidy dollars is the lifeblood, but by far not the only funding
stream that early childhood programs can tap.
Speaker 3 (
And then what you were finding. And I think a lot of this still exists today is there's 
funding out there, there's resources available, but they weren't getting into the 
hands of the actual individual owners. What, what are the constraints that caused 
that? Like meaning is it because the there's not awareness from a provider on how 
and where to go find those funds? Is it because there's too much bureaucracy to get
the money into their hands? Can you elaborate on some of the constraints?
Speaker 4 (
Well, those are two issues that you just mentioned. Yes, those are true. But I think a
bigger issue is providers simply don't have systems in place to be able to tap and 
manage even money that is already there in front of them. I'll give you a concrete 
example. We worked with, um, a project, um, in Atlanta, Georgia that helped a 
cohort of about two dozen chocolate programs, um, mostly centers, but a few 
homes get automated and they tracked over the course of the year outcomes. 
These providers, when they first, um, when they first started the project, they 
estimated that, that on average, the programs had about $50,000 of uncollected 
revenue, revenue. They could have collected, they were not collected. We call that 
bad debt. Um, and by the end of the project, they'd gotten that down to $800 per 
program in one year, simply by getting them all using an automated system, which 
by the way, happened to be broke here.
Speaker 4 (
Um, my getting them to maximize the use of that automated system, um, to fully 
understand they also had a coach. They had an enterprise version. So the coach 
could really go in and take a look at their metrics, help them understand when they 
switch. And they, she saw they had a problem, help them solve that problem. And 
let me be clear, the money that they were leaving on the table was a combination 
of, um, parent fees that they weren't collecting. Cause they hadn't automated. And 
they work up to date every day that you don't collect money from a parent. It 
decreases your ability to ever collect that money. So you got to really be on top of 
collections. Um, secondly, there was a lot of money from government that was, that
was not collected because they didn't have systems in place to reconcile what 
government owed them with, what the actually got paid. They didn't catch errors. 
And usually with government, you have like maybe 60 days to catch an error. You 

don't catch it within that 60 days. Sorry, Charlie, you lose the money. So just by 
instituting procedures like that, helping the providers to automate them, to make 
them simple, to have a coach that helped them do it. Um, huge, huge difference in 
the finances for these programs.
Speaker 3 (
Yeah. Like how you said that it's not just like all these untapped sources of revenue 
it's actually taking the revenue that's already available to you and the customers 
that you're working with and making sure that that cashflow is consistent as dial 
that you're not chasing money, reduce some bad debt. Can you just to give our 
audience an idea because you referenced this user story or this, you know, um, 
case study in Atlanta, can you take even a one step back in terms of that particular 
like case study? How did that start? Like meaning when we talk about trying to find 
that group of providers and identify who they are and organize that shared service 
environment to really enable them with the coach and those resources, how does 
your organization identify the hub or, you know, the organization that is going to 
support that? And then how do you actually, you know, message that to a 
community of providers to actually build a story like you just shared that benefits 
those local providers. How did that start? What does that,
Speaker 4 (
Yeah, that's a really interesting question. So I could tell you the story of this one 
particular Alliance, but it would, it would, it would be idiosyncratic. In other words, in
other words, they're all different. So let me just say that particular Alliance was 
started and led by a visionary childcare resource referral organization. Um, but we 
have shared service and lunches that are led by community foundations that are led
by large chapter centers that have an altruistic mission driven perspective by, um, 
non-profit organizations that might sponsor a spectrum or Chuck your network. Um, 
uh, what there's there's no, um, uh, oh, we have the [inaudible] we have some led 
by AYC. So there is no particular organization, um, that is the right place. What 
here's, what matters, what you're looking for is a hub organization. Someone who's 
willing to be your back office, your backbone, that is mission driven.
Speaker 4 (
In other words, they are willing to do the job of leading centralized administration 
and supporting your participating providers at cost. They're not taking any profit, 
they're simply covering their cost to do it so that they can return back to the 
providers more money. Cause our I'll be really honest in, in, at opportunities 
exchange where we have a very strong and very clear mission. Um, and we really, 
we believe that every jumping director of deserves an administrative team, we 
believe that every child deserves a reflective teacher. Um, and we believe that 
every teacher deserves reflective supervision. So we want those outcomes. And 
that means we've got to shift dollars from administration into classrooms so that 
teachers are paid more, they get better wages. And so it, administrators can 
actually get away from their desk and into classrooms, working with teachers, not 
struggling with paperwork all the time. So, so, so we, and we're very clear that we 
want, we really want to do this in an environment that is focused on serving 
children and, and serving children with high needs.

Speaker 3 (
Yeah. I love that. And so w in terms of, like you said, every single shared service, it 
looks different, starts differently. Some of these are organic, but it always starts 
with an organization. If I heard you correctly, Louise, that says, Hey, we're a mission
driven organization in XYZ city. And we want to be the administrative backbone for 
this initiative, because we believe in the outcomes that it can deliver for basically, 
you know, at the end of the day, families and students in our community. So they 
sign up and they say, we want to do this. There's not a financial incentive for them. 
It's all about their mission aligning with their mission. But then how does that work? 
Is there funding that comes into that organization, like government funding that 
they can then use to go provide incentives for providers in addition to the outcomes
that they believe they can deliver? Are there financial incentives? Is that, is that 
Speaker 4 (
The answer is sometimes. So let me back up and say that opportunities exchange is
essentially a nonprofit consulting firm. So our goal is to transform the business of 
early care and education. And we do that primarily through shared services. So we 
are actually out there to help make this happen. Um, and, and most of the time we 
work with people who come to us, people who see, read our stuff and say, oh, I love 
this idea. I want to make it happen. And typically what happens is we'll get a phone 
call from an organization and the wants to be a hub, and they have maybe a kernel 
of funding, or they have a small startup, or they got just, they got an idea and they 
got a few pieces, right? And we basically say, great, let's help you get started. And 
we help them start putting those pieces together.
Speaker 4 (
What could you do now with the funding that you have now? How do you build on 
that funding? What are other sources? So we do that now, let me also say that we 
understand that early care and education is a very regulated industry. And in order 
for things to be successful, you have to also work with public policy. So at the same 
time, as we are working with, um, uh, uh, into organizations that are working on 
launching shared services, we are also working with stitch out here, administrators 
and people inside the beltway to educate them about early care and education, 
business, and shared services and innovation. And so that they are, they're primed 
to, to, to really think differently about the funding that they make available. So, and 
we're also working with vendors like ProCare and others, right. To help them 
understand how does this work, all fit together and what would be important things 
for them to do. So we're constantly sort of working on this larger ecosystem 
alongside, as working with the programs themselves, um, right now in COVID, I 
mean, COVID recovery, there's lots of potential funding streams that could be used 
to support shared services. And so, and again, not they're different in every state, 
sometimes in every city. And we just are really helping people think through here's 
what you're trying to accomplish. Let's let's think about how you, what your 
business plan is for that. And now let's look at what are the different funding 
streams you might tap.
Speaker 3 (

Yeah, that's interesting. Is it fair to say, I mean, just going to something you 
mentioned about the advocacy you do at the state level, across the country, you 
know, we've heard a lot about government funding, you know, through COVID relief,
coming down to the state level where, you know, look we've earmarked funds for 
ECE, and we've, we've heard from state saying, Hey, we have these funds, but 
we're not sure how to go administer them and how to go deliver them in the most 
impactful way. It two questions, a, is that an accurate statement from what you 
guys are seeing and hearing, and then B, is that something that you guys are 
working with states on to help them understand how to get those dollars flowing 
into the proper channels?
Speaker 4 (
So, um, yes and no. So yes, I think that's a pretty accurate description. Um, and, 
and we are working with some states. I mean, we don't insert ourselves in places 
where we're not wanted, we're not requested. So, so it's not like we're out there 
sort of saying, Hey, states listen to us. And we're like, you know, we're, we're not a 
national organization in that way. You know, that sort of puts out. We basically 
really respond to folks where there seems to be a readiness for change where they 
reach out and say, Hey, we really want to think about things differently. And we try 
to educate them. We try to get them to really understand here's the challenges 
here's, here's, here's what you, what you need to understand in order to be 
effective. So let me go right to COVID dollars. So, um, while it is true that on some 
level states don't know how to spend money, it's also true that states know that 
90% of their money needs to go after providers and, and ma and because they're in
the process of developing, um, applicants, some of them have already developed 
application process where providers can apply for those refunds.
Speaker 4 (
At the same time, they are also reading the federal guidance, which says, these are 
the things providers are allowed to spend the money on. These are the rules for 
how we're going to handle accountability. And there quite frankly, you know, 
skating on thin ice because, you know, we've never really asked for this level of 
recordkeeping from providers, the whole way we're going to track accountability is 
unclear. And so my feeling is a provider community needs to be prepared because 
the last thing we need is for there suddenly to be an audit. And, oh, my, you know, 
you don't have the records, right? Or for there to be a provider who uses the money
and appropriately the press gets a hold of it suddenly there's this big backstory and 
it hurts everybody. So we believe that it's really important, not just for such hungry 
administrators, to think about what investments they need to make, but also for 
providers to be prepared. That's why we are unapologetically and boldly pushing 
childcare management software. We believe that it is the roads and bridges of 
recovery. I mean, right now we've got childcare providers that are literally driving 
on dirt roads, if there's even a road and we need to pave those roads and then start
building connectors so that we can actually have the information, the record 
keeping the accountability that we need to have these dollars flow in a way that 
everyone is comfortable, they're spent in the right way. And that's why Chuck, you 
mentioned software is so important.
Speaker 3 (

Yeah. And we are, I mean, you and I have talked a lot over the years. I know we've 
worked together on, on this topic and this conversation and the importance of, you 
know, automation and the proper record keeping tools. Are you, are you and your 
team getting a sense that because of some of these changes over the last year and 
a half, and because of some of the things you just mentioned about how funds are 
becoming available, has it changed at all the reception that you're receiving from 
providers and their awareness of how important that is like digitizing the
Speaker 4 (
Absolutely. We're getting a lot more interest from providers. We're getting a lot 
more interest from government. We're getting a lot more willingness on the part of 
the government to pay for subscriptions, to chop your management software. And I 
just want to underscore this and say this loud and clear to your audience. You can 
use your Cobra dollars on purchasing software. Even if it doesn't say it in the list, it 
is an allowable expense. And
Speaker 3 (
Say that again, one more time.
Speaker 4 (
You can use your going down. So we, and we're actually encouraging states to 
message that to providers in fact, to go even further and actually purchased, you 
know, negotiate, bulk discounts, purchases, software, make it available easily. 
There's lots of different ways states are doing that. Some states are, you know, 
working on big buys. Some states are just creating a list of approved software and 
saying here, choose one of these softwares we're, um, we're, we'll help you pay for 
it. Um, the other thing that we're working on that's super important for providers is 
we are also working on, we call the early current education technology ecosystem 
and the is we know that it's entirely possible now in a cloud-based environment to 
link all these systems together so that if you're a childcare provider and you're 
using an automated Chuck, your management system, and you're you check in a 
child electronically, you should be able to just build subsidy with that same check-
Speaker 4 (
In other words, you shouldn't have to do a separate swipe card. You shouldn't have 
to go key in separate data. You shouldn't have to, God forbid in some states create 
a separate paper form with a separate wet signature, right? All of that is old school. 
And we are totally in a space to be able to transform the sector so that it will be 
easy when we're having more and more families check in using CR codes that same
secure code could drive your subsidy payment. Now I'm going to do a commercial 
here only if you're using ProCare connect. There you go. Desktop version convert 
the ProCare connect if you want to get into the 20th century. So, um, so yes, and 
any, you know, uh, talk your management systems, but we're working very hard to 
get states to be open to this concept of API APIs, to this concept of one-stop 
shopping for subsidy management. So that there's not all this separate paperwork, 
which will make it so much easier for providers to get the money their own, and to 
accept children who are receiving public subsidy.

Speaker 3 (
Yeah. Well, and the other piece of that, I mean, you're right. Were lots of 
conversations happening because in the past states have been really separate from
what individual providers are doing in terms of running their business. And they've 
had their own set of process and policies, and that's where your, Hey, I've captured 
my attendance electronically, but now I've got to go push it out manually into a 
separate system. So there's that conversation. But the other piece that's really 
interesting. That'll be fun to see how things continue to evolve. Is that conversation 
about how that opens up the awareness around availability incentives. You know, 
now we can feed to the state of family. That's looking for care. We know where 
there's available spots in their community, and we help not only families find spots, 
but then that drives, you know, FTEs and enrollments at the center level so that, 
you know, centers can actually have better access to filling open spots, right? Like 
that's part of this conversation,
Speaker 4 (
A hundred percent part of this conversation. I simply, I talked about only one small 
piece of the early care and education ecosystem. And that is the, um, the subsidy, 
but no another big piece is linking chunky management systems to the childcare 
search function so that you're getting real time, live data on availability, and you're 
getting it easily without the provider having to log into another portal and enter 
more data. You're literally able to pull it out of the chapter management system. 
Absolutely. That's a big piece of it. And there's more, I mean, we also believe there's
huge advances and advances that can happen on the pedagogical side, around 
child assessment data, all, a lot of the requirements for quality rating systems for 
accreditation systems. There's absolutely no reason that professional develop 
registries is another one. We can connect all these systems electronically, which will
save childcare programs, huge amounts of time, and really allow them to focus their
energy in the classroom with kids and not with all this paperwork.
Speaker 3 (
Yeah. Which when you get down to the heart of it, Louise, I mean, I know there's a 
lot of alignment for, you know, companies like ourselves and what you guys are 
doing that at the end of the day, it gets down to that. Like, it's all about outcomes 
for these children and providing the absolute best quality product in that space. Um,
and so, you know, everything we're talking about, and I do think it, I don't know if 
silver lining, in fact, I'm sure it's not the right term to use about COVID, but in terms 
of like providing some momentum to these topics and pushing technology forward 
and figuring out how things can be leveraged to better impact, you know, you know,
resources for providers, I think it has created a lot of momentum for the things you 
guys have been talking about for years. Certainly what we've been doing for many 
Speaker 3 (
Can you talk, I want to ask you too about a concept that I know is like really central 
to what you guys do in terms of supporting providers, which is the iron triangle, like 
the iron triangle, I think, is something like that. People maybe have heard that term.
People are maybe hearing it more. I know, you know, we met years ago at a 
conference in Florida. I think it was maybe a childcare success conference, or 

maybe it was NACY. And we were talking about some demographics around 
millennials and how that was impacting the industry. But that's when you know, you
first talked to me about the concept of the iron triangle and then ever since then, I 
just hear about it more and more. Can you speak to what the iron triangle is? And 
maybe anything around that in terms of why it's important for providers to be aware
Speaker 4 (
So I've spent many years working on early care and education finance. I've looked 
at very complicated Excel spreadsheets. I've done all sorts of cost modeling. If I had
to boil everything I know into one simple picture, it's the iron triangle, the three 
most important things you have to do to run a successful childcare business is you 
gotta be fully enrolled every seat, every classroom that you're staffed to serve. I'm 
not talking about license capacity. I'm talking about staff capacity. So enrollment 
based on staff capacity needs to be full. Number two, you have to collect every 
dime you're owed. So full fee collection, so full enrollment, full fee collection. And 
then the third one is that your revenue covers your cost, which means that you're 
setting your tuition, um, at a price that covers your costs. You under first of all, the 
understand your unit cost, you know, what your cost per child is, which is going to 
be different based on the edge of the child.
Speaker 4 (
And then your understanding whether your tuition is covering it. And if it's not, you 
have a plan in place to fill that gap. You have a third party funding, or you agree 
adjusted your, your rates or whatever. So, so in moment, full fee collection and 
revenue that covers your cost. That's the iron triangle. If you can just track those 
three things, track your enrollment and the providers that we work with are tracking
it every week, every classroom, there, that's a huge issue for them. Number two, 
they're tracking full feed collection. I remember I told you every day that you don't 
collect is a day you're less likely to collect. So they're on top of that every week, 
looking at it really closely. And then thirdly, they've all created. They all know what 
their cost per child is, which is not simple. That requires real recordkeeping.
Speaker 4 (
You gotta use, um, you use a software to be able to really calculate your expenses 
and then sort your expenses by classroom. We have tools on our website to help 
providers do that. Um, but once you know what it is, then you can benchmark, you 
know, is your tuition meeting. Your cost is, you know, if not, what's your gap. And 
that really helps you make smarter business decisions. So it's three key metrics that
really can make big difference. And, and Chuck, your mantra software can 
absolutely help every single one of those three things. It makes it a lot easier. When
you have an automated system, you can run a report on each leg of the iron 
Speaker 3 (
Yeah, it's almost impossible. I mean, I wouldn't say impossible, but obviously to try 
to get to those metrics and really understand your business without the proper 
tools. You know, I know this typically this it's not a plug for ProCare, but just the 
concept of automating your business without those tools in place, it becomes really 

difficult to actually stay on top of those things that you mentioned. I do. We'll put in 
our show notes and at the end, I want to give you an opportunity to share where, 
you know, listeners can find those resources about, you know, some of those tools 
you have and calculators on figuring out your cost per student. Um, is that a pretty 
common issue that you guys see when you actually get into the weeds of centers 
that their tuition isn't priced properly based on, you know, their cost per student, is 
that common
Speaker 4 (
You're coming. In fact, I'll be honest with you, Ryan. It is common for childcare 
programs just to not have data on any of the iron triangle. It's there are many 
programs that are, they're not tracking their, their enrollment. They're not tracking 
their feed collection and they're not tracking. They don't understand the unit costs. 
And again, I don't mean this as a criticism. This is non-intentional, they're sort of 
doing it by the seat of their pants, or they're doing it by their hunch. I can't tell you 
how often I work with programs that say, oh, we're full. And then I say, well, let's 
run the numbers. Let's, let's look at your data. And we see, wait a minute. You're 
not full. Like there was a whole month when then this seat wasn't filled. Um, and 
this class you're waiting for this child to age up. So that's six months that you didn't 
have that. Now. I'm not saying, I understand you make those business decisions, 
but it's important to realize what they need in terms of your finances. And to really 
be on top of it.
Speaker 3 (
I thought I was full. I thought my FTEs at a hundred percent, but they weren't. And, 
and so, you know, those are two different things for sure. Um, yeah, that's really 
insightful. Do you like coming out of, you know, some of the changes from COVID 
Louise and some of the things that you guys are hearing and seeing, because I 
know one of the things that that we've seen is, you know, some of the ratio 
numbers have started to change based on like spacing issues and those types of 
things. Has that changed the model at all? Do you do, and do you envision that 
being an ongoing change or a temporary of, so
Speaker 4 (
I have, I have to say, honestly, there might've been some temporary changes in 
ratios, but most of it has gone back to what it was before. So I don't think that's the 
real issue. I think what we are seeing in COVID, and I do think it's likely to be an 
ongoing challenge. We are seeing much lower enrollment, it programs we're seeing 
programs really struggled to be full. Um, a lot of this is that families have changed. 
Um, many families are not working from home, has dramatically increased. And I 
think we're not going to go back guys. I mean, I think that they'll, there will be some
returning to the office, but in many ways, maybe a few days a week, I mean, I think 
parent demand is going to change a lot in terms of hours of care in terms of types 
of care. Um, and I think programs have to be prepared to deal with that, which 
means that they've got to really have good metrics so they can reflect on what's 
going on and be prepared to pivot.
Speaker 4 (

So that's number one. I think the second thing that's happened has been COVID has
been dramatic is, is staffing. Everybody is struggling to find staff and not just early 
childhood, by the way, it is all across the board, every employer. And so what I'm 
hearing increasingly from the folks that, that are engaged in shared services is they 
are having to significantly boost wages. They're having to really step up to the plate
and start providing benefits, figuring out ways. And the benefits piece is great 
because you actually can leverage the affordable care act. So that's, that's pretty 
cool. You can do the benefits now and in a way that's actually affordable. Um, but 
anyway, we're seeing programs really stepping into needing to increase wages. 
Well, the only way you're going to be able to increase wages is to where's the 
money going to come from. You've got to shift dollars, you've got to free up 
administration by working smarter by maximizing automation so that you can boost
wages in classrooms.
Speaker 4 (
Um, there it's the only way. And I just think, I think we're in for a real sea change. 
Um, I don't know if you read the New York times, but there was a fascinating article 
this weekend about restaurants, right? And restaurants are changing. Is there talk 
about innovative restaurants that are like moving away from typic and actually 
paying workers wages and quotes was interesting. I actually underscored quotes 
from those owners of the restaurants saying I had to get really smart about running 
my business if I was going to increase wages and I didn't have any choice because I 
have to increase wages. I had to really change my business model and work 
differently if I was going to create a positive work environment for my staff. So I 
think we're in a new day for early childhood program operators and I think they 
need, they're going to have to really rethink and, and really retool. Um, and 
technology is a key part of that.
Speaker 3 (
Yeah, I agree. I agree with that. I, I, um, I thought you were going to reference an 
article over the weekend, too, that I read, I think it was the Washington post 
actually, which is talking about our industry and this topic of like how many workers 
are leaving the industry because, because of the pain, we've heard this. I mean, I 
think if we went back and listened to all of our episodes, as we talk to leaders in our
space, like that is the theme right now in our industry is because of the low pay and 
pay. Isn't always everything. But, you know, because of, you know, some of those 
factors, we're just seeing a lot of teachers leave the industry. And so to your point, 
you know, there's two ways to offset that. I've got to take dollars from other places 
in my business to put into those staff wages, or I have to increase revenues or a 
combination of both. And there's a formula that all comes back to that. Like you 
said, that iron triangle to be able to support that.
Speaker 4 (
You know, another thing I, I wanna, um, put into the thinking cap is that you said it's
not just wages and I agree it's also working conditions. And so I also think that the 
field is going to be challenged to rethink the notion that a teacher is in a classroom 
all day, every day, that's a really high stress burnout job. And there may be ways 
for us to also rethink roles and responsibilities in programs, and maybe even rethink
scheduling. We have workers that maybe work part-time or rescheduled 

classrooms, and again, scheduling software, um, being able to use the data inside 
automated systems that actually like you can run a report out of ProCare that tells 
you every hour of the day, what am I ratios? What's my staffing in each classroom. 
And you can begin to analyze, wait a minute. Are there times of the day where I 
could restructure classrooms? Are there, are there different ways that I can rethink 
think scheduling teachers? So I just think that the higher order management 
thinking that's going to be required of directors going forward in this new world is 
going to be very challenging and they need to be under worded with really smart 
Speaker 3 (
Yeah. I, I like, I mean, and just, and it's really starting to think, not just where we are
right now, the weeds, but thinking outside the box 3, 6, 9, 12 months from now, 
like, what is the landscape going to look like? And as a provider being in front of 
that and innovating and being willing to let go of some of the, you know, the, the, 
the long held practices of this is how we've always done it. Because I agree like 
what we see in here is there's, there's been a shift. And I think a lot of that can end 
up being really positive. I think the business itself, the financial model for schools 
can actually be strengthened moving forward, but it is going to look different to 
your point in terms of being able to get to that spot where, you know, margins are 
increasing and as a, as a business owner, you're, mission-driven in childcare, but it's
also a financially sustainable model for you, which, you know, to your point earlier, 
you know, I think in the past you've seen a lot of providers who have, um, I love 
Speaker 3 (
This is my passion, and that's why I do it, but now really, to be able to strive in and 
thrive in this industry, you got to have a financial business model and that's, you 
know, a lot of what you guys are doing. Um, how can people, I know we were talking
before we came on the air, I want to be real sensitive to time because you're rolling 
right into the next meeting as am I. Um, if people out there in the industry want to 
learn more about, you know, some of the benefits of shared services or connect 
with your organization, get, and I mentioned this a few minutes ago, can you share 
some resources or places where people can find out more about you guys and, and 
reach out to you to, to connect?
Speaker 4 (
Yeah, it's pretty simple. If you go to op, O P P E, that's our website and 
you can, what I would suggest is sign up for our mailing list. We send out email 
newsletters periodically that, and we typically focus on the newsletter on one or two
ideas. So our are, we know people are busy and we're just trying to pepper you 
with, with some, a few new things to think about. Um, but on our website, our, our 
tool kits, um, for starting shared service alliances for step in which other networks, 
there are financial management tool kits, there's just a boatload of stuff and 
everything we have download it, use it, you know, we're not like, you know, we 
don't sell it. We're not, we're, we're, that's not our business. We want it. We want 
you to use whatever's there and the deal for you using whatever's there.
Speaker 3 (

Excellent. And you guys also do now. I mean, you've kind of grown to a spot where 
you're also doing conferences, right? Like you guys haven't nanny comments. I 
think maybe
Speaker 4 (
Then we have a national comp having a conference that we handle hold every two 
years. And this year, actually, we were supposed to have our conference next week 
in Austin, but we had to postpone it because of COVID. So it is actually postponed 
till April, April 18th to 20th in Austin, Texas. And, um, there's information on that at 
the, um, website as well.
Speaker 3 (
Excellent. And maybe what we'll do Louise, I mean, it'll be a fun, ongoing 
conversation. I know we ended up running into some of the same circles, obviously 
working with op ex quite a bit, but maybe right before, or right after that national 
conference, maybe we'll have a session to, um, and just get a, you know, the lay of 
the land and any changes that have happened over the last six months or so, and, 
and maybe promote some of the things that people can find at your conference for 
those who might want to attend.
Speaker 4 (
Yeah. The other thing too, I want to say is that we, when we postponed the 
conference, we felt really badly because a lot of people had already signed up, we 
paid. And so what we did was we agreed to do once a month between now and the 
conference, we're going to do a webinar, um, pulling out some of the topics we were
going to do at the conference, but that webinar is only for people that registered 
and paid for the conference. So there's a reason to go to our website and sign up 
now because you will actually get access to monthly webinars leading up to the 
conference. And then you'll also get the chance to come to the conference both 
either in person or virtually, um, next year.
Speaker 3 (
Yeah. And I, you know, just for somebody who's been to a bunch of the industry 
conferences over the years, I don't know if it was your last one, but the one that 
was in Detroit that I was at, I mean, really well-run extremely valuable content. 
There was a lot of like, I always love when there's, you know, peer information, a lot
of providers that were there were sharing their experience and how a shared 
services impacted their operation. So I think there's, you know, not just industry 
experts, so to speak. And I don't, I can't remember, I don't think there was a vendor 
role, but maybe
Speaker 4 (
There will be this year, unlike other conferences, we all to be a vendor at our 
conferences by invitation only. So it's a very small number of vendors that we know 
have value for the shared services world. And so it's not like overwhelming, it's a 
small amount of vendors. And our goal is to really help people have deep 
conversations with vendors and, and, and go into workshops. So they understand, 
oh, let me see. Here's how so-and-so's using it. Now, let me go out and talk to the 

company and see what I can figure out whether that would be a value to me. So 
we're really, we're very intentional about vendors that are
Speaker 3 (
Excellent and, and any, um, insight just in terms of like webinars between now and 
then, and then the conference itself. Um, in any idea on some of the content that 
will be in those webinars, is it all gonna circle around the topics we've talked about 
today for the most part? Like
Speaker 4 (
Pretty much, yeah, there'll be webinars on, on things like, you know, the technology
ecosystem and a numb, a lot of stuff on child care management software in 
different ways. It's been used a number of workshops on Ciocca star on shared 
services, startups, and basically case that different folks case studying their work. 
Um, we'll have some more checks on healthcare and how to actually get access to 
healthcare. Just, I'm just going for a mint by memory. And there's probably other 
stuff that I've forgotten. Um, and then it's also just a great it's, you know, we leave 
a lot of time for peer interaction. We believe that we believe that people learn as 
much from their peers as they do from us. And so we really want to encourage that 
kind of interaction.
Speaker 3 (
Yup. Yup. And that's what I observed when I was there. So yeah. Great stuff. I'll tell 
you what I'm going to, you know, in terms of giving you a couple of minutes before 
roll into the next meeting. I know that goes, if want to really thank you for the time 
Louise. I was, I've been looking forward to this session since I saw it on my calendar 
and certainly didn't disappoint. So, you know, again, anybody who wants to find out 
more about kind of this topic shared services, best place to go is op That's 
OPPE, a lot of content there, and, um, wish you guys nothing, but the best 
Louise look forward to next time we have a chance to talk. Okay, great. Take care. 
Speaker 2 (
A good day. Thank you for listening to this episode of the childcare business 
podcast, to get more insights on ways to succeed in your childcare business, make 
sure to hit subscribe in your podcast app. So you never miss an episode. And if you 
want even more childcare business tips, tricks and strategies, head over to our 
resource until next time.