From Challenges to Smiles: Jackrabbit’s 7 Bicycles Go the Distance to Help Kids

Jackrabbit Technologies’ annual employee retreat took on a new meaning this year and all it took was a team challenge event.

It just so happened that the retreat organizers on Jackrabbit’s staff, came up with an idea for a team building event called the Trike 500. While this wasn’t entirely accurate since the “cycle” involved ended up being a toddler bicycle with training wheels, the event was quite a spectacle AND required the acquisition of some sort of “cycles” that would be challenging for adults to maneuver.

Part one began with an interesting test of engineering skills as the unassembled bicycles (and a small set of tools) were presented to the teams.

The teams that had the best engineers were ahead of the pack, quickly running to the race course where heats of races determined a grand winner.

This happened more quickly than expected so an impromptu blind obstacle course was set up, pitting teams against one another.

This took considerably more time than the original race and was quite hilarious. This took tremendous team trust since one team member guided the blindfolded teammate through the obstacle course.

All of that was a lot to say to get to the best part of this “event”: the donation of bicycles to Trips for Kids Charlotte (TFKC).

After the final obstacle course contest, each bicycle was checked for correct assembly. Every team didn’t have a dad with “Christmas Eve toy assembly experience” so there were a few corrections that needed to be made!

The week after the retreat, the bicycles were delivered to TFKC where Laken Flanders, the Jackrabbit team member who organized the donation, was able to see a delighted recipient of one of the bicycles.

“We didn’t have a truckload of bikes for TFKC, but we know we were able to make 7 kids happy and improve their lives with our gift,” Laken noted.

“Donating the bikes was a no-brainer. I like this organization’s goals of teaching the recipients life lessons from earning their bicycles. It helps them to become better contributors to society,” comments Jackrabbit CEO and cofounder, Mark Mahoney.

While challenging for some, there were Jackrabbit team members who seemed at ease on the tiny bicycles. Amber Smith was a prime example of this.

Jackrabbit Technologies’ software serves the children’s activity center market so the company obviously has ties to children and feels duty-led to help underserved and impoverished children close by or around the world have what they need to be happy and healthy. Visit Jackrabbit Technologies’ website and Facebook page.

Trips for Kids Charlotte (TFKC) provides transformative cycling experiences for underserved youth. We do this through our mountain biking Ride Program, our after-school Earn-A-Bike Program and the Charlotte Re-Cyclery (used bike shop whose income helps us continue to grow and serve more kids).  We strive to prepare children for success by teaching respect, honesty, teamwork, overcoming challenges, healthy and safe lifestyles and service. Visit TFKC’s website and Facebook page.

Employee vs. Independent Contractor

Determining if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor is often confusing to employers. Establishing the right classification is crucial for organizations to comply with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The US Department of Labor (DOL), Wage/Hour Division developed an “Administrator’s Interpretation” to guide employers about the differences between an employee versus an independent contractor. The “Interpretation” declares that most individuals should be classified as employees.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Wage/Hour Division continue to consider employee classification to be a high priority item. Employers need to familiarize themselves with this information and consider how it impacts the way they classify workers.

The DOL has established that a worker is classified as an employee or independent contractor under the FLSA based on an “economic realities” test. This test questions if the worker is “economically dependent” on the employer or if he is truly in business for himself. If the worker is economically dependent on the employer, then he should be classified as an employee rather than an independent contractor.

The economic realities test addresses six factors and gives real world examples for each. The factors are:

  1. Is the work an integral part of the employer’s business?
  2. Does the worker’s managerial skill affect the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss?
  3. How does the worker’s relative investment compare to the employer’s investment?
  4. Does the work performed require special skill and initiative?
  5. Is the relationship between the worker and the employer permanent or indefinite?
  6. What is the nature and degree of the employer’s control?

The Administrator’s Interpretation concludes by saying: “Most workers are employees under the FLSA’s broad definitions.”

The Employers Association

Why Should You Visit Jackrabbit at the NAA?

Are you coming to The National Afterschool Association Conference in March? We are excited to host our booth and have another opportunity to meet you in person and talk to you about Jackrabbit Care.

Rising to the Challenge

We’re in sync with the NAA Conference theme, because we’re “Rising to the Challenge” to answer questions for you! Take advantage of one-on-one appointments that you can set up ahead of time to ensure that you get some quality time with one of our Jackrabbit experts at our booth. If you’d like to participate, send in your request today.

This year’s convention promises to be powerful – gathering over 2,000 afterschool professionals who have goals for the event similar to yours – to network and learn – and basically to absorb everything from new methodologies to game-changing business tools like Jackrabbit Care.

In fact, Jackrabbit Care aligns with many of the best practices highlighted by the NAA by focusing on efficiencies enabled by automation and data management.

Providing Opportunities to Learn

Our booth is a great place to learn, because our software experts will also:

  • Share proven software tips and tricks
  • Show you the most recent enhancements from our development team
  • Give demonstrations directly in a live database
  • Preview exciting new features
  • Help you sign up for extended free trials
  • Review the features you’re using to make sure you’re leveraging all of Jackrabbit’s benefits

One of the best things about visiting our booth is the opportunity to meet or reconnect with your fellow Jackrabbit Care users and hear about ways that they use the software. You may learn as much from their questions as you do from your own inquiries!

Looking for the Bunny

This (looking for the Bunny) is what you need to be doing when you hit the Conference floor. This year’s National Afterschool Convention is in Dallas, Texas. Conference activities take place March 19-22, but we will be looking for you to stop by our booth (#302) March 19-21!

Not attending the conference but still want to connect with other Jackrabbit users? Participate in the Facebook User’s Group for Jackrabbit Care.

Adding Value

We pride ourselves on consistently enhancing our software, always elevating our industry leading customer support and customer satisfaction. We recognize that you are also leaders in your practice areas in providing quality learning experiences to students so we offer a system specifically geared to your needs.

Here are some of the prime benefits of your Jackrabbit software that we can help you make sure you’re leveraging:

  • Work smarter and have more time to grow your business.
  • Access your account information anytime and anywhere.
  • Streamline your business operations with student check-in, recurring billing, parent portal, immunizations and texting.
  • Save time, save money – save your sanity!

Check out what other afterschool programs have to say about how Jackrabbit changed their business for the better.

 

Jackrabbit’s 5 Resolutions

Jackrabbit helps dance, gymnastics, swim, music, arts, learning, martial arts, cheer, and children’s care organizations with more than 11,000 locations get back to doing what they are passionate about.

By helping them to leverage technology – something Jackrabbit is very passionate about – Jackrabbit’s clients get out from behind their desks and teach, lead and guide and grow their businesses.

It’s important to articulate resolutions.  And year ends and beginnings provide the information and opportunity to reflect and move forward. We have 5 “resolutions” that we consider critical to being successful at taking on the challenges and opportunities of the new year.

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Jackrabbit gives back to each of the communities of which it is fortunate to be included. This includes its headquarters business community, the many communities in the US and Canada where its employees work in their home offices, and the community of clients that we happily serve. From supporting local food banks, international children’s foundations, and customer crisis needs, Jackrabbit gives back in ways that it feels can be most effective.

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Healthy and safe employees make happier employees! And happy employees are the best at making customers happy. Jackrabbit understands this and encourages safe and healthy living through physical and spiritual fitness, benefits perks as well as company policies. Jackrabbit always offers healthy options and stresses safety during activities and events.

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Each January gives us the chance to check our progress and set new goals – personally and professionally. By taking the time to renew the passions that fuel our actions, we promulgate improvement in all factions of our lives – including our work lives. Jackrabbit takes this to heart, looking at metrics and feedback to continue to raise the bar on excellence every year.

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With customers around the world, Jackrabbit understands the importance of coming together. That’s why once per year, Jackrabbit offers venues for doing so to all. East and West User Conferences are the largest of these events for customers, but regional trainings also provide opportunities for peers in the Jackrabbit world to unite.

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Jackrabbit completely supports providing opportunities for its team to renew, revitalize and recharge so that – regardless of what teams are doing as a unit or as individuals and professionally or personally – they are mentally and emotionally equipped for it. Recharging is essential to the ability to fire on all cylinders and maintain excellence, satisfaction, and happiness. Departments choose annual team building activities, the company has an off-site retreat to relax and have fun and to spend some creative time focusing on how the company, each department, and individuals should and could be changing and improving.

Why Jackrabbit is the #1 Software for Childcare Centers

Jackrabbit offers everything studios need to operate and grow. Here are just some of the reasons why more than 4,500 customers love using the all-in-one, online software solution.

  1. We give you help when you need it. Your work hours aren’t 9 to 5, Monday through Friday so your need for help doesn’t always happen then either. We understand this, so we’re available to you when it fits your schedule. Whether you’re processing payments for the first time or setting your online registration for a new session, your Jackrabbit support team is there for you with quick responses that will help you get your work done.

One thing is for sure, we not only want you to get our help when you need it, but we also want you to do it in the way that makes you most comfortable. For those reasons, we offer support using the fastest possible method – a Support Button available on every screen of your Jackrabbit software. Regardless of where you are working in Jackrabbit, you can click the button and get help. Submit a ticket, chat or schedule a phone call with our support team. We’re available to you and eager to help you with whatever software issue is challenging you.  

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“We love that we have a voice with Jackrabbit Care. Our suggestions for new features are greeted with enthusiasm and they do everything they can to add those enhancements to the system for all their clients to have.” Cristin Jensen from Central Christian Academy

“Jackrabbit Care has been wonderful to me. They help me solve problems, they help me get set up. They are always ready to answer questions. They are always improving the site to make it dummy friendly.” Kathy Schaeffer, Kathy’s Child Care

  1. We help you give your parents what they need.Your center’s parents are pretty needy and reach out to you for everything from simple questions to convenient ways to pay. We make it possible for you to eliminate the calls, the emails, the interruptions to your day with the Customer Portal. 365/24/7 access to accounts, calendars, class listings and schedules and invoices– everything parents want from you.

The Parent Portal is one of the most powerful of the Jackrabbit components because it helps you make you center’s parents very happy. You can be 365/24/7 with no extra staffing or hours by offering secure processes and information to parents. They have convenience and you eliminate data entry and manual payment processing from your to-do list!

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“Jackrabbit’s Portal and Online Registration have made a big difference with parents. They control their own information and their own destinies because we give them the tools to manage their accounts at the best time and from the best place for them. That is a real differentiator.” Kyle Grussmeyer, All Star Legacy

“Jackrabbit’s Online Registration and Customer Portal totally transform the way parents do business with your school and eliminate the drudgery of entering data and processing payments by hand.” Buffy Folise, Chicago Swim School

“The Customer Portal is one of the best features of Jackrabbit! Our parents love the accountability and freedom it offers them. The program is very user-friendly and support is fast and accurate. We are so glad we chose this program, it has saved us time and energy in an already busy environment.” Elizabeth Small, Define Dance Space LLC

  1. You always know where your money is.Who has paid tuition and who hasn’t? Are more checks in the mail? Whose credit card was declined? Jackrabbit makes it possible for you to eliminate inefficient payment methods and collections and to simply get your money quickly. With Jackrabbit, you always know how much you’ve collected and any issues payments have encountered.

ExecDash_plain_CareThe Executive Dashboard gives users a window into the areas of their business that are most important to them. Owners may want different data than Directors and Directors may want to see something different than teachers. For these very reasons, we’ve made the dashboard customizable to the needs and desires of the person who is logged in.

“Jackrabbit’s Dashboard gives me a quick glance into the most important details of my business so I can stay in touch with daily wins and challenges. It also opens the window into class details and this is very important in knowing what is really going on with students and instructors.” Wilma Lee, 4Cats South Burnaby

“The simplicity of an online system means we no longer have to think about updates and maintenance of the software and the convenience of anywhere access enables us to provide detailed answers – regardless of where we are when a parent asks questions.”  Jason Bergstrom, West University Baptist Church’s KidStuff

  1. We’ve always put you first. From the very beginning, we built our software around what you need by asking, listening and doing. We constantly enhance our software, putting more than 200 per year in place based on your requests and challenges you share with us. We always work toward a higher level of excellence so that you can efficiently operate and effortlessly grow. It is truly all about you.

sendideascreenThe Submit Idea button is proof that you’re priority one. This is a key part of the Jackrabbit software development plan because it is critical to how we learn what you need, what concerns you and what makes you happy.  

“Reports are just one example of how we know that Jackrabbit pays attention to our needs in trying to fashion the solution  in a way that makes sense for our type business. You can’t put a dollar value on that kind of attention to detail.” Joanna Harmon, Blount County Extended School Program

“Jackrabbit’s open attitude toward user input on development is refreshing! Through the Submit Idea button, we know that we’re putting our ideas directly in front of those who create new features and enhancements. We usually quickly hear back that our idea is on the development schedule. ”  JR & Kelley Zeringue, ACE All Stars Gadsden

“Since implementing Jackrabbit in 2008, we’ve used the “Submit Idea” button in our application many times to share our software epiphanies with them. It is a great tool that connects us directly with development. The continuous enhancement list shows that they pay attention to what we say.”  Amy Allen, Turning Pointe

  1. We give you training anytime you need it. From the time you become a Jackrabbit user until you’re a “seasoned” user, we have training for you! When you’re setting up critical components, having guides can be a tremendous comfort. When you’re brushing up on features you haven’t used in a while, videos help you brush up on the details. When you’re setting up online registration on your website or in your parent portal, step-by-step instructions can save your sanity. It’s obvious from these examples, that training is crucial. We believe good training is important in helping you to become proficient and happy with our software!

We make our training even better by providing it to you in multiple ways: getting started tools, online help and guides, subject specific videos, online interactive training, and one-on-one Jumpstart or Utilization Review phone calls.

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“Jackrabbit made sure we were off to a good start. The Jump Start Call did more than help us get our database set up. It also gave us great confidence in using the software to the max. The videos are awesome tools because we can look at them whenever we need a little refresher in one area or another.”  – Shelby Bruyer, Co-Owner, Amaze Dance Studio

  1. You can trust us. We don’t just want your trust, we’re willing to earn it. And we believe you can have confidence in us:

We take pride in the quality, security and reliability of our system. We keep our systems (and your data) in the same data center where banks and major global corporations store their systems and data. Because of this, we can promise you the highest uptime percentages not only in our industry but among all technology solutions. Our development staff believes in excellence and reliability so we use the highest development standards and test, test, test, test.

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Summed up, this means that we take the high road in business and development practices to ensure that you have the best software and a trustworthy partner for today and for the long term.  

“Being with Jackrabbit from its beginning stages has – in itself – been a benefit to us. We have seen the system mature and that gives us a very intimate understanding of its inner workings. Several components of the system have been business-changing for us along the way and that is how we know that the company keeps our best interest top-of-mind. They continuously seek out and provide ‘that next thing’ that we need to keep our business humming.” Scott Davis, eNeRGy Kidz

“Jackrabbit has renewed our confidence in our operations. We don’t worry about downtime or outages because they just don’t happen with Jackrabbit and we have support resources that we can depend on.” Jeff Lulla, Fun & Fit Gymnastics

“Jackrabbit saved us from an inefficient software system and has provided us with control over our processes and insight into our information. The value it delivers makes the cost of our previous software seem unjustified! I’m very impressed and pleased that Jackrabbit is willing to improve their products as I grow and improve my business.” Keith Pinkston, New Orleans Dance Academy

There is no doubt that there are more reasons that Jackrabbit is #1, but we think this list covers the most important ones. To learn more, click here.

Impact of a Smile

Turn that frown upside down – really.

There is a song that was sung by the late, great Louis Armstrong entitled “When You’re Smiling the Whole World Smiles with You.” Apparently, the sentiment expressed in this classic is true. A study conducted at the Yale School of Management in 1999 showed that, among working groups, cheerfulness and warmth spread more easily than darker emotions. Irritability caught on with less success than the positive emotions, and depression, fortunately – has the lowest success rate of all.

Laughter is the most contagious of our emotions which is really not surprising. You can prove it in your own small test group by simply starting to giggle to yourself. Soon the rest of those within earshot will be laughing with you – or at least smiling.

The “why” of this is that some of our brain’s open-loop circuits are designed to detect smiles and laughter to which we respond in kind.  Some scientists even theorize that this is a hardwired dynamic in our brains from ages back. After all – their theory goes – smiles and laughter had a way of actually cementing alliances and in doing so, helped our species to survive.

That’s a little deep for me. I’m satisfied with the small group test as proof of laughter’s positive impact on our kind.

I also know, from my own experience, that you are happier when you smile. Smiling even though you may not feel like it. Can actually change your feeling and eventually you’ll feel like smiling.

All sort of impressive institutions and professors have produced scads of research on the happiness factor. There are plenty of scales and graphs to ponder, if that is what you’re looking for. But the theme of it all boils down to this (and it’s what we’ve suspected for years):

In general, people who are in good relationships are happier than those who aren’t. Healthy people are happier than sick people. People who participate in their churches are happier than those who don’t. Of course, there are exceptions and surprises but basically, those who emit positivity are happy and happiness is one of the most likely emotions to spread from its emitter to others.

And it is this simple fact that makes the simple act of smiling one of the easiest ways to influence the atmosphere around you.

Take for example, your studio/gym/school/center.

  • A smile on your face will – according to research – be reflected on the faces of your staff.
  • Smiles on the faces of those working in your facility can – again, according to research – spread to those who may not be smiling when they walk in your door.
  • And smiles emitted by your instructors can create a positive learning environment for every one of your classes – if, indeed, research is correct.

And what are the results?

  • Happy owners make better, more optimistic choices/decisions.
  • Positive managers set the tone for building relationships and success.
  • Smiling instructors not only encourage learning on a daily basis but also create a more positive outlook on your sport or art for the student in the long-run.
  • Smiling parents deliver students to your classes who are relaxed, confidence and ready to learn
  • Happy students are more engaged learners who are open to trying harder and pushing their skill limits farther.
  • And a smiling you can make a not-so-happy you feel better about the day.

Incredible, isn’t it, that something so simple can make such a difference.

All cheesiness aside, perhaps “Turn that frown upside down” is the perfect cure for sorrowful or disgruntled faces – including your own!

4 Bad Habits That Can Disrupt Your Business

Some say that you are the sum of your habits. So when the bad ones outpace the good ones – you know what happens. You sabotage yourself, inhibit your productivity and impede your path to success – whether success is completing a major project or daily tasks.

Because you don’t always see bad habits encroaching on you, your self-discipline is important. It can keep the damage bad habits cause from eventually breaking down your success.

What are the bad habits that may be creeping in on you?

Using your phone, tablet or computer in bed. Just don’t. It does much more than make your spouse/partner angry. It disrupts sleep patterns and limits productivity. There is something very scientific about this in the fact that short-wavelength blue light (from devices) impacts your mood, energy level and sleep quality. Sunlight actually contains high concentrations of this blue light. But whether it comes from the sun or from your device, the blue light halts production of melatonin (sleep-inducing hormone) and makes you feel more alert when your eyes are directly exposed to it. The sun’s rays lose the blue light late in the day allowing your body to produce melatonin and start to induce sleep.

Introducing the blue light via our devices in the evening messes up our bodies’ schedules and interferes with sleep.  Some screens are now coming with an evening mode – which switches the blue tones to warmer orange tones – that produces less interference with melatonin production.

Why does something that you do at home have so much impact on your business? If you aren’t rested, your performance is subpar and your mood is less probably the same. Your demeanor will color what does or does not happen during the day.

Not thinking of yourself as a business owner and entrepreneur.  It’s obvious that you’re passionate about caring for children: you opened a facility specifically for this. But as the owner of that passion and your facility, you have the responsibility to actually stay in business. You need to be profitable and growing to provide a quality learning experience for your students. It’s not an “open the doors and they will come” scenario. Operating a children’s activity center that is profitable and growing requires much more than passion. You have to constantly analyze and evaluate things for the present and the future that have little to do with your passion but enable you to keep doing it.

It’s important to consider the overall value of the training you are providing and to realize that your students and their parents are first and foremost your customers and that without you parents would not have a child getting amazing care. Also realize that you’re important to the care industry because you’re pretty much the gatekeeper of the industry to your customers. You have power that is substantial and you should wield it. You can’t do that if you’re thinking of yourself as simply a teacher and not a business owner and entrepreneur as well.

 

Saying “yes” when you should say “no.” Whether it’s no to participating in an event or to parents who feel they deserve special privileges, you must learn to say it and to do it easily. Because saying yes out of habit because it’s easier than saying “no,” just adds distractions for you and your students.

There is also research (Univ. of CA at San Francisco) that shows that the more difficult it is for you to say no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout and even depression. And ambiguous statements like “I don’t think I can” and “I’m not certain.” By saying no to new commitments, you honor existing commitments and give yourself a better chance to actually fulfill them.

Focusing on the Negative instead of the Positive. It’s for sure that you want to handle what goes wrong in your day, but don’t let that negativity put you and your entire facility in a funk. Move on from the negative or you’ll stay at that low level of existence.

If you can’t move past the negative you risk transferring your “funk” over to your staff, your students and their parents – basically everyone that you come in contact with – and prevent good things from happening. Any good vibes and forward momentum are easily disrupted by one Debbie Downer.

Sources: Entrepreneur.com, Danceinforma.com, Coachfederation.org

What is SaaS and Why Is It Safe for You to Use?

SaaS is the acronym for software as a service. SaaS solutions are delivered using the Internet (the cloud) via a web browser, paid for by subscription and hosted in a central location on the cloud where all updates, fixes and enhancements are applied. Sometimes SaaS is referred to as on-demand software. SaaS requires no software program or application to be loaded onto the user’s computer and therefore requires the user to do nothing except log in and use the features the SaaS offers.

Because SaaS solutions are not loaded onto the users’ computers or servers over which they have control, some people are nervous about its security. But this is really a control issue and not a security issue.

How do we know this is true?

Look at the facts learned by investigating the locations where most SaaS solutions are hosted. 94% of organizations in the corporate sector now use at least one SaaS solution. This shows that the concerns over SaaS and cloud security have been addressed and overcome in a big way.

Fear of Control Loss

Even the notion of giving up control over any solution that impacts your business is concerning to you. Software that creates, stores, or has access to any personally identifiable or sensitive information, it can be a potential source of a crippling data leak. This fear fostered objections to using SaaS or other cloud solutions, for that matter. These objections hinged on three (flawed) notions:

  1. You can do a better job of protecting your system and data if you remain in control.
  2. It’s difficult to properly vet a SaaS vendor’s security controls and protocols.
  3. Multi-tenant environments (i.e., cloud servers where multiple SaaS store data) can open up an organization’s data to the risk of being accessed (whether by accident or by nefarious attack) because of its close proximity to other SaaS solutions.

These are real concerns – not myths – and have real factors behind them. However, there is very real data to show that SaaS solutions and the cloud are as safe – and in most cases more secure – than solutions and data under your own control.

Security Proven

SaaS solutions employ security controls and protocols that no individual can afford to implement upon their own network or computers. This requires a massive investment as well as the IT expertise to oversee it. The economies of scale work in the favor of SaaS providers, allowing them to share the massive costs with hundreds of other SaaS solutions.

It may interest you to see all of the things that SaaS companies do to ensure the security of their solutions. It’s quite a list that includes some details that may cause you to scratch your head, but I think seeing this will help you understand why SaaSs are so secure.

  • Closely align with ISO 27034 requirements
  • Provide security training and certification for product teams
  • Perform product health, risk and threat landscape analysis
  • Conduct mandatory static analysis
  • Develop secure coding guidelines, rules and analysis
  • Conduct secure complete stack
  • Utilize big data for advanced threat detection
  • Develop service roadmaps, security tools and testing methods that guide the security team to help address the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Top 10 most critical web application security flaws and CWE/SANS Top 25 most dangerous software errors
  • Provide secure architecture review encryption and penetration testing
  • Conduct source code reviews
  • Ensure regulatory compliance

This list if obviously far too intimidating and costly for you to handle. It’s absolutely out of your wheelhouse. (And after reading that list – you’re probably glad!)

Cloud security has sort of “proved itself” and many companies now seek out SaaS solutions over software they would purchase and load onto their computers because of its stringent and proven security measures.

Cost Dispersed

SaaS solutions also provide a bigger bang for the buck. Since many, many users are bearing the cost of a SaaS solution, more features and more robustness can be “acquired” by SaaS users. Another significant cost is dispersed and that is management of the solution. Owning a SaaS solution is quite different than owning software. There is no responsibility on the part of the user for maintaining or updating SaaS solutions. There are no specs or requirements for the computer that you use your SaaS solution on. It simply needs to be connected to the Internet and browser. The management, maintenance, updates and enhancements of the SaaS solution are born by the SaaS itself. The SaaS’s IT experts are the ones who maintain “control” and it’s a good thing because, in addition to the massive cost of security, you could never afford the level of IT expertise that SaaS companies employ.

Serious About Security

SaaS solutions are hosted by companies that do nothing but provide secure environments for its solution vendors. This means that having the best possible security is their ultimate priority. It is literally their brand and they are serious about it.

Security isn’t your priority. In fact, software isn’t either. Your ultimate priority is providing students with the best possible experience in your facility. You are serious about their progress, their happiness and their parents’ satisfaction. If you’re good at all of these things, it follows that your business will grow and prosper. The last thing you need to worry about is the security of the sensitive data that you store.

And that may be the best case in favor of your use and confidence in SaaS solutions. They are just as serious about security as you are about your students.

A recommended process to use in making the decision to go SaaS is pretty simple:

  1. Look at what you have at risk.
  2. Establish a set of security requirements that you have for your data and your business.
  3. Analyze SaaS solutions from a security perspective. One of your “solutions” should be your own data environment.

When you choose SaaS, you aren’t losing control. In fact, you’re actually putting much greater controls in place that offer tremendous security and protection for your business.

Resource: Info-Tech Research Group

 

Make It Easier To Do Business With You

We all like things to be easy – me, you and your school’s parents. But how do you make this happen? Make everything simple.

The best way to understand how to simplify the way business is done at your facility is to look at the relationship your parents have with you through their eyes.  It’s all about simplification of processes, communications and information.

Technology has a huge role in this and it’s up to you to take advantage of the technologies that will make your business more engaging to your existing customers and more appealing to potential ones.

There are three areas of technology that you need to put to work for you: the Internet, mobility, and information delivery.

Leverage the Internet

The proliferation of the Internet is huge for businesses – especially ones like you, that need to consistently communicate with their customers and need their customers to participate with them on a regular basis.

The Internet makes this easy and affordable for your facility’s parents and for you.

The Internet is flexible and allows for free access as well as all sorts of levels of secure access.

Websites can make information visible to anyone while emails and texts can make this visibility targeted. Portals can secure this visibility by requiring passwords for entry.

These capabilities help make the business part of your school quick and simple by eliminating 3 needs:

  • The need for staff to be involved in transactions and enrollments
  • The need for in person payments and enrollments
  • The need for parents to ask staff or teachers questions about students

Technology let’s your clients self-serve. The Internet is always “on,” so processes are available to parents 24/7. When they’re part of a software application, information like class enrollments, payments and medical history such as immunization statuses automatically update into your center’s accounts.

Payments can even be totally removed from parents’ to-dos through secure auto-payment and pay-on-demand features.

Information is easily recorded by you, your staff and instructors then shared in secure portals so that parents can see it whenever they choose to login.

The information updates in the portal with no human intervention so you can be sure that what you entered is what they see. No re-typing the information ensures accuracy.

Convenience, simplicity, accuracy – what more could parents ask for?

Leverage Mobility

Well, they’ve probably asked for mobility. That is, they want to be able to do all of these online activities on their smartphones and tablets.

Mobile friendly features of software make the same portal parents use on their computer easy to view and use on their mobile device. They can pay bills, review immunization statuses, email history, etc. while they’re in the school pick-up line.

Improve Delivery of Information

Technology helps you to keep your parents informed and because of technology’s flexibility, you can tailor your communication to fit the message. You may want to email updates to schedules or future events, or you may want to text with urgent messages such as school closings.

Emails sent through your class management software can leverage your student and parent lists, allowing you to send emails to custom groups such as just those who owe you money, or just those in the three year old room, without needing to maintain separate “lists” in another email application such as Microsoft Outlook or Gmail. Since your software stores so much information on each family and student already, you are able to send emails to specific groups with minimal effort.

Integrating texting gives your parents the ability to sign up for important, one-time alerts. If you have a facility closing your parents can know at a moment’s notice!

Enabling Technology

Technology does amazing things that help you to personally enhance the experience your parents have with your organization. It’s quite the enabler.

Automation frees up you and your staff. There is more time to become acquainted with parents’ and students’ needs on a more intimate level and to spend more time teaching than managing “business.”

Software reduces your cost of doing business. You have more budget dollars available for facility improvements or for adding more services that your parents want and appreciate.

Software offers your parents simplicity and convenience. It allows your parents to take care of their business with you when it’s convenient to them, on their own and without the need to be at your facility to do it. Because of this, when they are in your facility, parents can focus their attention on their students’ work and the amazing things that you’re doing for them.

Important to You

One of the most important pieces of information in all of this for you is this: Jackrabbit can help you make all of this possible for your parents.

Online enrollment and portals, automated payment features, immunization tracking, emailing features. Jackrabbit provides one place where your parents can access it all.

You can easily see how leveraging technology helps make doing business with you convenient and easy for your parents – your existing customers. But how does this make you appealing to potential customers? Your website is often the first point of contact prospective parents have with your school. Use it to show off these value enhancing offerings. Also word spreads. Parents talk. It will become known that you pay attention to details and – yes – you’re easy to do business with.

Use technology and leverage it in ways that have very specific, and incredibly effective benefits for you. Depend on Jackrabbit to make it as easy as possible to do business with you.

 

from Human Resources

QUESTION: As the holidays are approaching, we are looking for ideas for employee gifts. If we give gift cards or gift certificates, will they be taxable to the employee? What about hams and turkeys?

ANSWER:

Anything that equates to giving cash must be considered taxable income for the employee. This includes gift cards, gift certificates (even if they cannot be redeemed for cash and can only be used to purchase certain items), and bonus checks. The value of all of these must be included in the employee’s income and is subject to employment taxes.

However, if the employer buys a gift that is not equivalent to cash and gives it to the employee, it is not included in the employee’s income. An example would be if the employer buys $20 boxes of Godiva chocolates and gives them as gifts to the employees. However, if the employer gives Godiva gift certificates to employees, it has to be included as part of the employee’s income. If the employer buys turkeys or hams and distributes them to the employees, it is not considered taxable income. However, if the employer gives a gift certificate for a turkey or ham to the employee, it must be counted as income, and is, therefore, taxable.

Items such as turkeys, hams, chocolates and some entertainment tickets are considered “de minimis” benefits, which are defined as “any property or service you provide to an employee that has so little value that accounting for it would be unreasonable or administratively impracticable” (IRS Publication 15-B, Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits, 2015). These gifts must have a low market value and be given infrequently; otherwise, the IRS may question the practice.

The IRS has determined that, if an organization pays its employees a specified percentage of their monthly salary as a holiday gift, the gift is paid as a result of the employment relationship and is, therefore, taxable. It is immaterial that the gift is not paid pursuant to work quality, quantity, or tenure. In view of this, a common practice among employers is to “gross up” cash gifts so that the employee gets the full value of the gift. “Grossing up” is a procedure to calculate the gross payment that the employee must receive when the employer pays the employee’s taxes.

Source: The Employers Association

Bringing Heart into your Community

Each year I ask my staff what community means, the usual responses circle around place, people and shared visions and values. A check with the dictionary concurs. I often find there generally is one person or core of people that are identified as the Heart of any community. I’ve wondered what would happen if everyone was at the Heart?

heartpostimage118 years as director of the School of Arts and Sciences Extended Day Program in Tallahassee, FL, has provided me the opportunity to explore creating an environment of safety and belonging where students, families, and staff participate in fostering the growth of lifelong learners and responsible citizens through community building. In other words, everyone is at the Heart. Big stuff you say, but how do you do it?

Exposing the Cover Up 

I am open in saying the workshops covering the gamut from STEAM to life skills are a cover up for teaching social skills. They are fun and exciting, but they are only the medium for building relationships with one another which is the heart of community and key to responsible behavior within any group of people. So while I don’t have a degree in social work or teaching for that matter, I am actively teaching social skills to a diverse population and ages. Concordia University’s School Age Degree and Conscious Discipline® provided me with the research and professional skills to support my original vision of out-of-school time programming.

Our school is an all-county charter school based on a lottery draw of students K-8th grade. We see an average of 80 students each afternoon and 50 before school. Many of our students attend all 9 years of school. Many of our workshops are split by skill/age in cluster groups similar to our school’s multi-age classrooms (k/1, 2/3, 4/5, MS) however many are not grade specific allowing siblings and friends to play and work within a wide variety of personalities. Our ratio is one adult to twelve students. Our workshops are flexible in size (12-24 students) but within the ratio we set of 1:12. And yes we have some of “those” students and parents.

Becoming Acquainted

The first six weeks center on getting to know our families and building a sense of safety and belonging. Daily, we begin meeting in smaller groups based on grade clusters. Here we learn each other’s names, lay out agreements about how our community wants to operate, have meaningful jobs that contribute to our wellbeing, and transition from academic to out-of-school time learning. At snack, we move into a larger un-graded setting for eating and playing. Forty minutes after final (MS/4/5) release, we move into one hour workshops selected by families and students bi-monthly. After workshops, students choose from active play outdoors or quieter play indoors.

Making Connections

heartpostimageThe heart our community begins daily with greetings. An adult and student job daily is to be the greeters as students come in (yep, roll with a twist). These greetings require eye contact and touch in a playful manner and are often created by the students themselves. This is the first moment of saying, “you are important and valued here.” After putting their backpacks away, student lead and participate in a Brain Smart Start® developed by Dr. Becky Bailey of Loving Guidance. Students take on the responsibility (jobs) of uniting through a chant or song, de-stress through a brain break and deep breathing, building empathy through connecting with others, and committing to a goal for their time with us. The goal is often based on demonstrating one of the skills needed for the agreements that they chose. The accountability for the goal is on them. Often it comes by a community member noticing their actions in the day.

We’ve just concluded our first six weeks. Despite the school expansion building project, a new school administration, two hurricanes, doubling our extended day attendance, and new staff for our program, we are adjusting and settling into what our community looks and feels like. Are we there yet? No, but together we will get there. Our next step is to build that same Brain Smart Start® idea into the individual workshops we teach.

www.consciousdiscipline.com

 

 

Cash Flow Management: The Secret to Success

Cash flow is the lifeblood of any small business. Some business experts even say that a healthy cash flow is more important than your business’s ability to deliver its goods and services.

While that might seem counterintuitive, consider this: if you fail to satisfy a customer and lose that customer’s business, you can always work harder to please the next customer. If you fail to have enough cash to pay your suppliers, creditors, or employees, you are out of business!

What is Cash Flow?

Cash flow, simply defined, is the movement of money in and out of your business; these movements are called inflow and outflow. Inflows for your business primarily come from the sale of goods or services to your customers but keep in mind that inflow only occurs when you make a cash sale or collect on receivables. It is the cash that counts! Other examples of cash inflows are borrowed funds, income derived from sales of assets, and investment income from interest.

Outflows for your business are generally the result of paying expenses. Examples of cash outflows include paying employee wages, purchasing inventory or raw materials, purchasing fixed assets, operating costs, paying back loans, and paying taxes.

Note: A tax and accounting professional is the best person to help you learn how your cash flow statement works. He or she can prepare your cash flow statement and explain where the numbers come from. If you need help, don’t hesitate to call.

Cash Flow versus Profit

While they might seem similar, profit and cash flow are two entirely different concepts, each with entirely different results. The concept of profit is somewhat broad and only looks at income and expenses over a certain period, say a fiscal quarter. Profit is a useful figure for calculating your taxes and reporting to the IRS.

Cash flow, on the other hand, is a more dynamic tool focusing on the day-to-day operations of a business owner. It is concerned with the movement of money in and out of a business. But more important, it is concerned with the times at which the movement of the money takes place.

In theory, even profitable companies can go bankrupt. It would take a lot of negligence and total disregard for cash flow, but it is possible. Consider how the difference between profit and cash flow relate to your business.

Example: If your retail business bought a $1,000 item and turned around to sell it for $2,000, then you have made a $1,000 profit. But what if the buyer of the item is slow to pay his or her bill, and six months pass before you collect on the account? Your retail business may still show a profit, but what about the bills it has to pay during that six-month period? You may not have the cash to pay the bills despite the profits you earned on the sale. Furthermore, this cash flow gap may cause you to miss other profit opportunities, damage your credit rating, and force you to take out loans and create debt. If this mistake is repeated enough times, you may go bankrupt.

Analyzing your Cash Flow

The sooner you learn how to manage your cash flow, the better your chances of survival. Furthermore, you will be able to protect your company’s short-term reputation as well as position it for long-term success.

The first step toward taking control of your company’s cash flow is to analyze the components that affect the timing of your cash inflows and outflows. A thorough analysis of these components will reveal problem areas that lead to cash flow gaps in your business. Narrowing, or even closing, these gaps is the key to cash flow management.

Some of the most important components to examine are:

  • Accounts receivable. Accounts receivable represent sales that have not yet been collected in the form of cash. An accounts receivable balance sheet is created when you sell something to a customer in return for his or her promise to pay at a later date. The longer it takes for your customers to pay on their accounts, the more negative the effect on your cash flow.
  • Credit terms. Credit terms are the time limits you set for your customers’ promise to pay for their purchases. Credit terms affect the timing of your cash inflows. A simple way to improve cash flow is to get customers to pay their bills more quickly.
  • Credit policy. A credit policy is the blueprint you use when deciding to extend credit to a customer. The correct credit policy – neither too strict nor too generous – is crucial for a healthy cash flow.
  • Inventory. Inventory describes the extra merchandise or supplies your business keeps on hand to meet the demands of customers. An excessive amount of inventory hurts your cash flow by using up money that could be used for other cash outflows. Too many business owners buy inventory based on hopes and dreams instead of what they can realistically sell. Keep your inventory as low as possible.
  • Accounts payable and cash flow. Accounts payable are amounts you owe to your suppliers that are payable at some point in the near future – “near” meaning 30 to 90 days. Without payables and trade credit, you’d have to pay for all goods and services at the time you purchase them. For optimum cash flow management, examine your payables schedule.

Some cash flow gaps are created intentionally. For example, a business may purchase extra inventory to take advantage of quantity discounts, accelerate cash outflows to take advantage of significant trade discounts or spend extra cash to expand its line of business.

For other businesses, cash flow gaps are unavoidable. Take, for example, a company that experiences seasonal fluctuations in its line of business. This business may normally have cash flow gaps during its slow season and then later fill the gaps with cash surpluses from the peak part of its season. Cash flow gaps are often filled by external financing sources. Revolving lines of credit, bank loans, and trade credit are just a few of the external financing options available that you may want to discuss with us.

Monitoring and managing your cash flow is important for the vitality of your business. The first signs of financial woe appear in your cash flow statement, giving you time to recognize a forthcoming problem and plan a strategy to deal with it. Furthermore, with periodic cash flow analysis, you can head off those unpleasant financial glitches by recognizing which aspects of your business have the potential to cause cash flow gaps.

Make sure your business has adequate funds to cover day-to-day expenses.

If you need help analyzing and managing your cash flow more effectively, please call Sean Dever.

Human Resources: What Measures Can An Employer Take To Stop Employees From Gossiping?

Casual gossip is inherent in the culture of many companies and, for as long as people work together, employers will have to deal with gossip.

But at its worst, gossip involves vicious rumors that create animosity among co-workers and disruptions in the workforce. Gossip rarely is a form of flattery and in most circumstances lacks any real validity. It can cause irreparable damage. When individuals assume to know and talk about the private affairs of others, they display an unprofessional and unattractive personality trait of their own. Also, employees who spend their time standing around the water cooler catching up on the latest gossip are wasting valuable work time and affecting their ability to be productive.

Realistically speaking, an employer never can put a complete stop to workplace gossip. But what employees discuss on company time has a direct impact on what they produce and how they produce it. Therefore, employers can attempt to combat the problem by taking measures such as the following:

Educate your employees. If they understand how damaging gossip can be and what it costs them and the company, employees may be less inclined to spend time spreading gossip. Remind them that small talk is one thing, but whispering about colleagues is another. If the gossip mill can produce juicy tidbits about someone else, it can just as easily target them next time.

Challenge employees through meaningful work. Individuals challenged by their jobs will have less time to participate in idle gossip.

Inform employees that malicious personal gossip will not be tolerated. Attacking other employees whether out of dislike for an individual or for personal gain can create animosity, tension and organizational dissension. Employees should be informed of how damaging it is to partake in such gossip.

Confront repeat offenders. Employees who spend considerable time gossiping should be made aware that their behavior is not acceptable and that they are wasting valuable company time and money. Managers should address problems during an offender’s performance evaluation or by counseling him or her at the time the problem occurs or persists.

 

SHRM

Do You Accept Checks as a Form of Payment?

Many of you who use Jackrabbit take advantage of the ePayments in the system and even require that all parents have a credit card on file for billing – elihttp://www.jackrabbitclass.com/using-epayment-schedules-save-time-collect-money/minating checks as a form of payment for their businesses. We believe it is a best practice to use ePayments to speed payment processing and to ensure that you get your money with practically no effort. By using bank drafts for this process, ePayments also allows parents who may not want to (or have) credit cards to automate the way they pay you. It is also a best practice to have a back up credit card on file – just in case the bank draft fails. (Read a blog post about ePayments.)

We understand that there are Jackrabbit users who still provide parents with the check option. To be helpful to you, we’re offering some tips for making sure that you can take checks in a way that gets your money in your account as quickly and painlessly as possible.

You may also think that – since you’re taking checks from people who are in and out of your place regularly – you would never have returned check issues. It may be rare that long-term customers pass you a bad check, but you may find that the beginning of each season when you welcome new families into your facility, policies may be just what you need to provide guidance in making sure you get paid.

If you do accept checks, it’s almost assured that at some point in your business life you’ve gotten a check returned for insufficient funds. The first thing you may have thought is “How could one of my customers do such a thing to me?” The second is “How do I handle this?”

Because there are always questions in this situation, it’s important to have policies in place to guide you.

Accepting checks can be a huge convenience for your parents but a great risk for your business because it is actually an obstacle to efficiently collecting your money.

There are some policies that can help in keeping the insufficient funds experience from happening to you.

  1. Be sure that your parents know that you have a very strict check writing policy and make sure these policies are provided to parents upon enrollment.
  2. Don’t accept checks drawn on out-of-state (non-local) banks or starter, unnumbered or non-personalized checks.
  3. Require parents to provide driver’s license numbers when presenting checks to you. (You may need to seek legal action to collect funds on a returned check)
  4. Never accept checks for more than the purchase amount.
  5. Never accept post- or future-dated checks.
  6. Never accept checks without bank ID, routing bank identification, or routing transit numbers along with the customer’s account and check numbers.
  7. Require that all checks be completely filled in: “Pay to the Order Of” made out to your business, matching numeric and written sections, signature and current date.
  8. Process checks through a check reader or use electronic check processing.
  9. In your policy, inform parents that you reserve the right not to accept their checks after a check has been returned to you.
  10. Charge a returned check fee. (Check the returned check fee limits in your state before setting your fee amount.)
  11. Deposit checks as quickly as possible.
  12. Check to see if a check has cleared your bank account 3-4 days after receiving it from a parent.

When you accept checks from parents without applying these simple policies, you risk cash flow problems for your business. You may even have to spend money chasing down returned checks and getting them paid.

Other forms of payment (cash, credit cards, Paypal and/or money orders/cashier checks) present much less risk to business.  Recommended practice? ePayments in Jackrabbit

What should you look for when verifying identification for checks?  

Verifying identification for all checks can help you safeguard your business against fraud. Forms of identification commonly accepted include state-issued driver’s license, I.D. card, or military I.D.

There are also things that you should make sure of when you look at a customer’s identification.

  • Look at signatures. Make sure the one on the customer’s identification matches the signature on the customer’s check
  • Look at personal information closely. Make sure personal information like phone numbers, identification numbers and expiration dates are clear on the check and if they aren’t precisely record them.
  • Lookout for suspicious behavior. Trust your instincts. Fraud “red flags” may be right in front of you. Call the customer’s bank if you’re suspicious of the legitimacy of a check.

What should you do if a check is returned because a customer’s account is closed, or has insufficient funds to pay for the transaction?

Your check policies and check readers and electronic processing, you can employ the help of electronic check verification companies to identify flagged individuals and help you protect your business. There are services that provide comparisons against databases of individuals that are known to have written bad, stolen or forged checks for a monthly fee.

Regardless of how many protections against the risk of accepting bad checks that you put in place, you may still have one slip by on occasion. If a check fails to clear on your first attempt, your bank will generally attempt a second deposit. In some cases, the customer can quickly resolve the problem by transferring or depositing funds to cover a bounced check. If the issue is not resolved by the customer, you can choose to take legal action or get law enforcement involved. Be sure that you understand what your rights and options are before you ever need to act on them. Some states require businesses to mail a registered letter and allow a designated waiting period to lapse before further action is taken. This information should be included in your check acceptance policies.

If the payment is not satisfied, you have legal options of filing a suit with a small claims court or employing a collection agency to pursue the payment on your behalf. Many prefer taking the collection agency route to avoid the lengthy and expensive court settlement process.

What should you do if a customer stops payment on a check?

If you ever have a customer who stops payment on a check, it is important to understand why this was done. They may have an explanation. Or they may be dissatisfied. If they believe that the services they paid for did not meet their expectations, they may be entitled to a refund or a reduction in the amount owned.

You must also be diligent about how you approach collecting payments.

Here are some tips:

  1. You must collect payments on time.
  2. Parents must know that they must pay on time.
  3. Don’t be shy about collection. Being passive about collecting your money will only lead to delinquent accounts and to collection costs for you.

Remember that you provide a great service and you deserve to get paid for it.

Sources: sba.gov, childcarebusinessowner.com

Nurturing Morale of Care Professionals

Do you know what it’s like to be around someone who doesn’t make eye contact, who isn’t engaged in what is taking place and is distracted during conversations? If you do, then you know what it’s like to be around someone who isn’t “present.” Obvious then being present is the opposite.

In a care center, being present is critical in dealing with students, parents and staff members. It’s important to train yourself to be present. In other words, when you’re with someone, you’re fully with them.

As jobs use more technology, it is important that the human contact of being present remains a priority.

Being present is especially important for care center owners because the level of your team’s morale is critical to their performance, your children’s progress, your parents’ satisfaction and your center’s success.

The problem is, with everything going on in your center, it’s difficult to defend yourself again distractions, stay out of your email and focus only on what the “other person” in your conversation is saying.

Even if you have to close your laptop so that emails coming in don’t distract you during a conversation, do it. It’s important. Don’t cast it off with a “they know that I’m expecting an important answer” attitude. No one is so important that they can’t take their eyes off of email for 15 minutes.

What does all of this “being present” stuff have to do with staff morale? Well, how does it make you feel when someone keeps their eyes on their phone instead of looking you in the eye when you’re explaining or reporting something to them? How would you feel if you were asked where you were on a project and then the person you’re talking to glanced down at their laptop screen every few seconds instead of actually comprehending what you’re saying?

Being present is one of the most important traits of a good supervisor, employee, teacher or friend. If you’re present, you’re showing others that you are interested in what they are doing and saying. You are showing them that they matter, that what they contribute is important to the success of the team. It’s critical to making others feel a part of your world.

If you are “present,” you convey respect and appreciation to others. If you are “present,” you show others that you care about them and what they contribute as a team member.

Have you ever heard of the FISH philosophy? This is an approach that John Christensen, owner of ChartHouse Learning, modeled after the dynamics that he saw happening at the Pike Place Fish Market where fish being tossed in the air of the market energized passersby on their lunch breaks. This ensured that all around the fish market paid close attention to what was going on. That they were all “on their game,” so to speak, so that they didn’t get smacked in the head with a flying fish. Christensen noted that the flying fish took the monotony out of a mundane, dirty and not-so-pleasant job. They stayed on their toes and – hence – did a better job. It’s all in attitude, in the attention you bring to the job, in being present.

Often in care centers and early education settings, the professionals experience fatigue and their morale remains low. One reason for this is that these professionals don’t know how to care for themselves in ways that help them to sustain their excitement and energy for the work they do with children and families and protect themselves from stress and anxiety that comes with working with children and parents.

Often the only ways that these folks “take care of themselves” is by taking long showers or walks when they get home. Most of the time ways that they feel they’re “taking care of themselves” is actually just part of their routine and not really self-care on a level that actually helps them.

Besides the dynamics taking place amongst children, families and care professionals, stress and anxiety of low pay mingles with other stresses of the day and the classroom. The pay grade for care professionals and early educators is low compared with other professions, even within the education field, and this is a kick in the shins of their morale.

Even with classroom and pay –related stresses, care professionals and early educators remain dedicated to their chosen profession – or perhaps it’s a calling – admitting that they “have a passion for bettering the lives of young children.”

Research shows that – even though it’s stressful – these folks would choose appreciation, respect and feeling cared about over higher pay.  The number one strategy we can use to lift staff morale in early childhood programs is to communicate that each member of the team is appreciated, respected, and cared about. Start by being present, by actually being a person behind those eyes and being a part of what is going on with them rather than a static observer.

Sources: ChildCare Exchange, Wikipedia, Forbes

 

 

Embracing Technologies in the Care Center

Technologies have been in classrooms for years, but we thought of them a little differently before computers appeared on the scene. Back in “the day,” technology was more or less scales and rulers. Today computers, software programs, and the Internet are the basics and smart boards, interactive tables and cameras at entry only begin the list of technological advances that help people to discover new and more efficient ways to learn and manage the learning process. Technology has made the world a smaller place because we can see and work with people from around the world and learn from those in countries we would never had considered part of curriculum back in “the day.”

In fact, the topic of technology in care centers and preschool classrooms is a highly debated issue among educators. There is much support for technology taking a backseat in the classroom, however when it is appropriately used by teachers and administrators to help them enhance their centers, it can play a vital role in a facilitating learning in the preschool environment.

Technology is really best seen by teachers as another of their support systems that they can leverage to better communicate and to be more effective at planning, managing and assessing students and curriculum. It’s not a crutch or a substitute for anything but a powerful enabler for personal, group and center improvement.

Embracing technology may be difficult at first. It may present more challenges to some than others. It doesn’t dictate changing of style or standards. It’s simply a way to support good developmental practices with 21st century skills. Teachers who are willing to embrace emerging tools are the ones who are going to continue to improve the learning experiences and results for their students.

Technology can (among other things) be:

  • Helpful
  • Supportive
  • Thought-provoking
  • Enabling
  • Strategic
  • Effective
  • Liberating

Technology enters the learning process in a variety of places and for a variety of reasons. Impact from various technologies can be directly or indirectly visible to children.

For example, computers and Internet connectivity in classrooms is absolutely visible. But software that helps teachers manage curriculum is less visible. And systems that help administrators manage schools and care centers is could even be considered invisible at the child’s level. Their invisibility doesn’t make them any less valuable than the technologies that are very visible.

Jackrabbit is one of those “invisible” systems. Child care centers could function without class and business management software, however, the efficiencies that such technology makes it possible for centers to keep high quality services affordable and to offer those services to more families without sacrificing the levels of learning children receive.

Jackrabbit’s mission is actually to help its customers (care centers) be better at what they do. So the system’s impact isn’t really invisible, it’s just that students don’t realize that a technology management system is giving their teachers more time to interact with them or making it possible for them to learn a broader range of subjects.

Childcare Exchange, Technical.ly Baltimore, Hi Mama Inc.

Tax Breaks for Hiring New Employees

If you’re thinking about hiring new employees this year, you won’t want to miss out on these tax breaks.

  1. Work Opportunity Credit

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit for employers that hire employees from the following targeted groups of individuals:

  • A member of a family that is a Qualified Food Stamp Recipient
  • A member of a family that is a Qualified Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Recipient
  • Qualified Veterans
  • Qualified Ex-Felons, Pardoned, Paroled or Work Release Individuals
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Referrals
  • Qualified Summer Youths
  • Qualified Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Recipients
  • Qualified Individuals living within an Empowerment Zone or Rural Renewal Community
  • Long Term Family Assistance Recipient (TANF) (formerly known as Welfare to Work)

The tax credit (a maximum of $9,600) is taken as a general business credit on Form 3800 and is applied against tax liability on business income. It is limited to the amount of the business income tax liability or social security tax owed. Normal carry-back and carry-forward rules apply.

For qualified tax-exempt organizations, the credit is limited to the amount of employer social security tax owed on wages paid to all employees for the period the credit is claimed.

Also, an employer must obtain certification that an individual is a member of the targeted group before the employer may claim the credit.

Note: The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (the PATH Act) retroactively allows eligible employers to claim the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for all targeted group employee categories that were in effect prior to the enactment of the PATH Act, if the individual began or begins work for the employer after December 31, 2014 and before January 1, 2020.

For tax-exempt employers, the PATH Act retroactively allows them to claim the WOTC for qualified veterans who begin work for the employer after December 31, 2014, and before January 1, 2020.

  1. Empowerment Zones

This tax credit provides businesses with an incentive to hire individuals who live and work (either full-time or part-time) in a federally designated Empowerment Zone (EZ). The credit is equal to 20 percent of the first $15,000 (up to $3,000) in wages earned in a taxable year if the employee lives and works in an empowerment zone (urban or rural). This credit can be combined with state enterprise zone credits as well.

Note: The PATH Act extended the tax credit retroactively to apply to the period from January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2016.

  1. Disabled Access Credit and the Barrier Removal Tax Deduction

Employers that hire disabled workers might also be able to take advantage of two additional tax credits in addition to the WOTC.

The Disabled Access Credit is a non-refundable credit for small businesses that incur expenditures for the purpose of providing access to persons with disabilities. An eligible small business is one that earned $1 million or less or had no more than 30 full-time employees in the previous year; they may take the credit each and every year they incur access expenditures. Eligible expenditures include amounts paid or incurred to:

  1. Remove barriers that prevent a business from being accessible to or usable by individuals with disabilities;
  2. Provide qualified interpreters or other methods of making audio materials available to hearing-impaired individuals;
  3. Provide qualified readers, taped texts, and other methods of making visual materials available to individuals with visual impairments; or
  4. Acquire or modify equipment or devices for individuals with disabilities.

The Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction encourages businesses of any size to remove architectural and transportation barriers to the mobility of persons with disabilities and the elderly. Businesses may claim a deduction of up to $15,000 a year for qualified expenses for items that normally must be capitalized. Businesses claim the deduction by listing it as a separate expense on their income tax return.

Businesses may use the Disabled Tax Credit and the architectural/transportation tax deduction together in the same tax year if the expenses meet the requirements of both sections. To use both, the deduction is equal to the difference between the total expenditures and the amount of the credit claimed.

  1. Indian Employment Credit

The Indian Employment Credit provides businesses with an incentive to hire certain individuals (enrolled members of an Indian tribe or the spouse of an enrolled member) who live on or near an Indian reservation. The business does not have to be in an empowerment zone or enterprise community to qualify for the credit, which offsets the business’s federal tax liability.

The credit is 20 percent of the excess of the current qualified wages and qualified employee health insurance costs (not to exceed $20,000) over the sum of the corresponding amounts that were paid or incurred during the calendar year of 1993 (not a typo).

  1. State Tax Credits

Many states use tax credits and deductions as incentives for hiring and job growth. Employers are eligible for these credits and deductions when they create new jobs and hire employees that meet certain requirements. Examples include the New Employment Credit (NEC) in California and Empire Zone tax credits in New York.

Wondering what tax breaks your business qualifies for?

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