Before you expand your early years provision beyond your initial setting, make sure you’re ready for what’s in store, says Sian Nisbett…
So, when is the right time to move from a single nursery setting to two? There is a lot to consider here before you take the plunge…
Where: Your new setting should be close enough to benefit from your current good reputation, but far away enough to not compete with your current setting! That said, my first two sites were only half a mile apart – but they were so vastly different that it actually attracted more custom. One is large (92 places), spacious and ‘corporate’ feeling and the other remains small (30 places), intimate and ‘homely’. They complement each other; however, you must be careful to ensure that you don’t end up competing against yourself.
Finance: Can you sustain the start-up phase through the cashflow of your current setting, or are you going to need to raise a loan? Be sure that the start-up costs don’t impact the quality or effectiveness of your current sites by draining cash and resources.
Time: You cant be in two places at once, so how are you going to manage the work of an additional site? This may mean employing a manager, but be aware that you might need to train them up, which will take time too.
Quality: If you have always been ‘hands on’, how will quality of provision be affected when you have two sites? How will you monitor the effectiveness of both nurseries?
Staffing: Some staff may want the challenge of a new role. When I expand my chain, I always, without fail, take one of my existing staff (sometimes more) with me. They know my standards and how I operate. It means that I can be sure that the new site will operate to my high standards. However, this leaves another site short of staff, who are usually very well-qualified, long-standing team members. This impacts that setting and needs to be addressed.
HR, Marketing, Accounts Payable/Receivable: Everything doubles. You may need to consider hiring administrative staff to assist you.
Remember, you need to make sure that your first site can run without you before you consider taking on another. If you are the person who deals with invoicing, speaks to parents, organises the Christmas play, is the SENCO, is the designated Safeguarding person, etc., you cannot possibly think about starting a second nursery! So, if you want to expand, start delegating. Take some time off! When you’re confident that your nursery can run without you being on site, then it’s time for you to spread your wings. Good luck!
Sian Nisbett is the founder and owner of Dizzy Ducks Day Nurseries.