We recently chatted to Naturally Learning about the importance of living your ethos in the Early Years. And, while Famly certainly supports this, (for example, by removing a tick-boxing approach to development) an ethos is no use if the setting can’t stay open.
And that’s where Famly really made the difference for Naturally Learning.
“I won’t say that Famly saved our business,” says Tom Richardson, one of the directors at Naturally Learning, “But we absolutely wouldn’t still be standing without the capability of Famly’s back end. We came from educator and forest school backgrounds and we didn’t look at the business side of things. But now I have complete oversight of spending, of costings, how many staff are in. There’s no question about it.”
So how exactly did Famly help Naturally Learning take control of their finances?I met with managing director Mandy Richardson, directors, Tom and Sarah Richardson, and Manager Sally Palmer to find out.
Mandy’s dream to open her own nursery was cemented squarely in providing the best for children in terms of education and care, with the financial side of things a distant second thought.
“I’ll be the first to admit, I was useless at money,” says Mandy, “But because I didn’t understand it, the business nearly folded.”
Despite Mandy’s good intentions, the best setting in the world can’t stay open if the fees aren’t coming in. So Mandy took charge and invested in Famly.
“We brought the right people in and now our finance manager, Barry, is on Famly every day,” says Mandy, “He’s making sure the business stays afloat and he can do that because we’ve got Famly. It just works. It gives him the answers he needs, at his fingertips, at any point.”
Now Mandy can predict projected revenue for her settings into the future, as well as have oversight of how Naturally Learning is performing in the present. This protects the business from surprise drops in revenue, as the team can see what’s coming and take action
“We can set targets for managers like, ‘you need to fill your baby room for September’” explains Mandy, “It absolutely influences every decision we make in the nurseries.”
Having oversight also means catching issues before they grow into problems.
Tom explained that recently he and Sally couldn't work out why some of the revenue report for Sally’s setting wasn’t adding up, so they spoke to the finance manager about it. With all three being able to access the same information, at the same time, on Famly, they worked out that five new children had not yet had a bill-payer assigned, so couldn’t be invoiced. Finding the problem before the invoices were due to go out meant that the issue could be corrected, so the right amount of revenue could come in on time.
“Famly’s the only software that does it all. It feels like the most complete package,” says Tom.
Like most businesses, the finance manager isn’t the only person responsible for all the money in and out of Naturally Learning. That’s where a platform like Famly really comes into its own. Directors and managers can see the same information, at the same time, and work collaboratively on targets and budgeting.
And it’s saving them money.
Tom gives the example of how he and the managers budget for staff rotas, to make sure they’re not overspending.
“I’ve just spent time working with all the managers doing the rotas on Famly,” explains Tom, “We wanted to really dive into it and it’s absolutely invaluable. We take the revenue report and look at what the overall revenue will be and I can say ‘Here’s your target, you can spend this much of your overall revenue on staffing’. Then we populate the rota and cost it to see if we’re hitting that target. It’s a complete, full circle.”
This transparent, collaborative working through Famly, also means the directors can perform checks throughout the business to ensure things are as they should be.
“It’s supported accountability,” says Tom, “We used to have managers say, ‘I need this much money’ and we can quickly click through and see, actually, no they don’t!”
But it’s not about catching people out - the managers appreciate the transparency too, as it allows for support when the senior leaders aren't on site.
“I can have a conversation with Mandy, Tom, or Sarah remotely,” says Sally, “And we can all see exactly the same thing. We’re not having to email things across because it’s all in one platform. That behind-the-scenes stuff is brilliant.”
Finances aren’t the only way that Famly supports Naturally Learning’s operations. The leadership team believe that everything they do, and every decision they make, should have the child at the centre, including how they use Famly.
For example, Famly’s approach to observing and assessing children without checking off statements matches Naturally Learning’s philosophy on child development.
“In trying to fit children into little boxes, you find very quickly that they don’t fit,” Mandy explains, “And then you begin to fail them.”
But the Naturally Learning team believe that if the staff have a good understanding of child development, coupled with the right resources and environment, learning will happen naturally (hence the name). You won’t find the Naturally Learning team planning to tick off the next statement in Development Matters, and you won’t find that in Famly either.
“The synergy and the way we work with Famly as an operating platform… it’s Naturally Learning throughout,” says Tom.
Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.