How one charity grew – running 41 new settings almost overnight.

Spring Group by Action for Children

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Who are they?

It was the summer of 2016, and the children’s charity Action for Children had just taken over the running of one of the country’s largest nursery groups.

“Action for Children went from operating 3 nurseries to 41 almost overnight,” Interim Director of Childcare Ruth Pimentel explains, “with settings in Northumberland, Stockton, Gateshead, and Derby to name just a few. It’s a big group of nurseries and they’re dotted all over the country.”

Action for Children work with disadvantaged children throughout the UK, so taking over these settings was a natural step for them. “It’s very much about being in communities where other businesses might not go,” Ruth goes on, “running this rather large group of nurseries presented a new and exciting challenge for the charity.”

What was going on?

As the charity’s Interim Director of Childcare, Ruth’s number one priority was getting the settings into shape financially. “With the systems that were in place it was difficult to get a handle on where the nurseries were. How do you even know where to start if you don’t know what the financial performance is?”

Ruth and the team were keen to put the day-to-day invoicing, reporting and financial management in the hands of local managers, who needed to understand more about how their own setting was performing. “Previously, all of the financial legwork was being done centrally and that was inefficient and expensive,” Ruth points out.

Instead, they wanted to introduce a system that would redress this balance without losing the bigger picture of what was going on across the group. “When you’re managing such a huge number of nurseries, you need to be able to empower your managers to take control of their business, but with the confidence that very little can go wrong. That is very important.”

“Famly has been incredibly well received by our parents, and they love the easy communication it’s given them with the nursery. We’ve had really good feedback. On the management side, many of the other systems available can be tricky to get your head around. Famly is not.”

Ruth Pimentel, Director of Childcare, Spring Group

What did they do?

“The invoicing, reporting, the occupancy – it wasn’t easy to just get a clear picture of this overnight,” Ruth explains, “and that’s why we brought Famly in to help.”

The team at Spring Group couldn’t afford a steep learning curve if they wanted to engage their managers with the system from day one. “The setup was extraordinarily quick,” Ruth recalls, “partly because the managers just picked it up straight away.”

It was this simplicity and intuitiveness that really appealed to the team at Spring Group to begin with “It’s clean, bold, and very intuitive to use” Ruth explains, “other software is not as slick and can feel clunky to the managers who hadn’t used software or managed these processes before.”

The personalised onboarding Famly offers made a difference to the speed of the process too. “The managers could access personal online training when it suited them, and the support staff had endless patience,” Ruth says, “they always get back to me straight away if there’s anything I need.”

What happened next?

“It quickly became a really powerful tool.” Ruth says, “The intuitive design makes a difference to each manager’s independence and to our bottom line.”

With a tool that they could get to grips with so quickly, the managers could take on many of the day-to-day responsibilities themselves. “They can manage room numbers, income, and look into the future of the setting as well,” Ruth explains, “more importantly, they can do this independently, giving the central office overall control without taking up time and resources.”

Whether it’s spotting opportunities to improve the way things are being run, or getting a handle on each nursery’s future with their projected income, Ruth could now focus her team’s time and energy where it was needed most.

“At the end of the day, the beauty of Famly is how effective it can be despite its simplicity,” Ruth finishes, “We have saved a significant amount of money simply by putting Famly at the heart of our manager’s toolkit.”

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