Hey, you guys. For today’s Work It Wednesday, I want to talk to you all about how I handled my time of storm in my life. Just recently, we encountered Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Irma was much more powerful than several of our residents ever imagined. I knew where I lived that I did not have time to think it out, I didn’t have time to wait it out, and I did not want to live it out. I immediately decided that it would be best to close the facility and to evacuate the city.
Here’s one of the craziest things about owning my childcare business that I never thought I would say: I was totally unprepared for what happened. As I went through my parent handbook, and all of my thousands of SOPs, I realized that I never, ever thought about what to do in the event of a hurricane. I never thought about who I would need to contact. I never thought about when I should contact individuals and how I should handle when a hurricane happens. But boy will you learn quick when it happens to you!
How To Handle Weekly Fees
Now, we all know that our childcare business is based off of parent fees. Whenever our business is closed, there is a big question mark???? Do I charge my parent these parent fees or what do I do? Well, I want to give you my firsthand experience as to what I did and the wins and losses that I experienced from my decisions that I made.
Just like you, I sell my childcare services based on slots. That means that my parents are paying for slots and not for service. What I offer my parents is that they can secure their child’s space within my childcare program for a weekly rate. With this weekly rate, we will agree to provide XYZ childcare services. I also have this clause on my contracts, bold and upfront, that the weekly rate is due whether or not the children attend one day or the full week. During the week the we did not service children I did not charge families, however during the week that I did charge parents my rates remained the same. We had families wanting their rates pro rated and the Hurricane week FREE. Man, I was frustrated. I thought that parents would see the value of me giving them a week free due to the hurricane but I had two parents that did not feel the same. I stood for my contract and of course they decided to withdraw after their conversation with me. One thing that those parents did not understand was that there was a cost involved rather or not their child attended, especially if you pay your teachers on a salary base without a compensation agreement. Which is what I once did, until hurricane Irma.
Here’s my scenario of what happened to me during Hurricane Irma. During Hurricane Irma, I had to make some quick decisions about closing my facility. When I tell you guys quick, it happened in less than 30 minutes. The time was about 5:15pm est., and I had just begun talking with my parents about our plans to remain open until Friday morning, and that would be our last day. Within 30 minutes, I had received about four staff members calling saying that they are gone on emergency evacuation with their parents, aunts and uncles, or family members, and that they cannot stay to work.“Well, why can’t you stay to work is what I’m thinking. Then reality sets in. We just received word from our state governor that our county was under a state of emergency and that we should really consider evacuating.
Then my mind started racing back to the night before, which happened to be on a Wednesday, of how I traveled from gas station to gas station looking for gas, only to find that the gas was drying up in my county and that there wasn’t much to share. Why was the gas drying up in my county? Well, I’m glad you asked. Just about two weeks before Irma hit, there was another hurricane that hit Texas – Houston, Texas that is. What do you think happened? Some of the oil that we use in the United States comes from Texas, so of course, oil prices went up. Now that we have a mandatory evacuation in our area, there wasn’t much oil to spare and to spread around.
Back to my emergency evacuation situation. Now that I’ve gotten staff to say that they won’t be in the next day, and I’ve seen clearly with my own eyes that we are coming up on a bad hurricane, I decided that it would be best for me not to service children because of the shortage of staff and the state of emergency that our governor had released. During this time, I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was nervous. I was thinking about getting home safely and those who worked for me and the children that were in my program, getting them home safely. Now remind you, the sun is out; it’s a beautiful day. Deep down in my soul, I knew that I needed to get these children evacuated and in their parents’ arms.
By the time my staff finished calling out, I sent out an email. I use a software called Procare Software, where I collect emails. For those that are registered, we put their emails in our system, and we’re able to message and communicate that way. Without further ado, I sent out the email at 6:15pm. The email stated that due to an emergency evacuation by our governor, Akeba Academy will not take the chance of operating while we are short-staffed and under a state of emergency. These are some things that I said and Boy, oh boy, I thought that the message got out.
Hurricane Irma taught me a lot. As I begin to pack up to evacuate, there were a few things that I decided to bring along with me.
What You Will Need To Keep Ready To Evacuate
#1 I decided to go ahead and make sure that my general liability insurance would cover our buildings, and it would cover our content. Then my next step was to pull my policies and bring them along with me.
#2 I pulled my floor plans to my childcare program. My floor plans really cost me a lot of money to have created, and I didn’t want to incur that expense again. I pulled my approved floor plans and took them on a trip along with us.
#3 The third and final thing that I pulled was my father’s will, at least a copy of it. I wanted to make sure that I had birth certificates, my father’s will, and our IDs to make sure we had everything that we needed to support our journey and our trip of evacuating. I’m so glad that I thought ahead with these three things to help make sure that if anything drastic happened that I would know how to handle business, even though my childcare program may not be operating that day.
Then, the next thing that I learned through Hurricane Irma is that I needed to put a clause within my salary contracts. I personally believe that what you work for is what you make. At this point, I did not have a closure due to bad weather clause in my salary compensation plan. However after the event I discovered that it is a part of our Department of Labor that those who are on salary are to receive their same salary. In the event that they are closed due to life threatening weather, they must receive up to one week of their salary. I decided that I needed to upgrade my salary contract that I offer my staff to ensure that the next time this happens, I’m not paying for five days of no work, that I’m only paying for what services were rendered. To Read More About That Clause Click Here.
Hurricane Irma taught me a lot. It taught me how to prepare myself appropriately for business and professionally if this should happen again. Hurricane Irma taught me to make sure that I have an evacuation process that I follow each and every time to ensure that I’m never moving too fast just because I’m nervous.
With everything that I learned from Hurricane Irma, I learned that it is better to prepare and to give parents notice as to how you will conduct yourself, and have those things readily available so that parents can read how you will conduct business in the event that you are closed due to a natural bad weather situation. Not only did I need to prepare for the paperwork, but financially, Irma had its way in my life. Although my contract states that they are to pay for the week regardless if they attended or not, my heart would not allow me to charge hardworking parents to pay for a rate that their children did not use because of the bad weather.
I know, I know, I know, many of you are saying oh no; not me; business is business; but I followed my heart on this one. I’m glad I did because one of my competitors did not charge her clients for that week that we were closed completely. Nevertheless, Irma has taught me a lot. She’s taught me how to be properly prepared because you never know what’s going to happen to your business. I hope that you will take my words of advice, and prepare yourself physically and mentally, plus financially, if something like this was to happen for you and your childcare business.