Thinking of re-branding your child care? HiMama chatted with Beth Cannon, Entrepreneur, educator and Keynote Speaker of Beth Cannon Speaks about creating a culture and brand in your child care center.
Beth’s top tips for re-branding:
- Figure out who you are and what experience you want your clients to feel.
- Find out who your target market is and figure out how you can market to them.
- Ensure your employees and customers align with your brand to avoid any disconnect.
Beth continues to explain, “if you don’t have a values-based culture that your team is on board with, all the beauty of the brand doesn’t matter anymore because you’re not going to retain teachers and you’re not going to retain families.” She suggests ensuring your employees and customers align with your brand to avoid any disconnect.
Core values are another component when it comes to re-branding. Beth suggests getting your team involved when creating them. This way, daily interactions with employees, children, and families will reflect the experiences you want to deliver.
Beth also recommends creating a clear onboarding plan with new employees to ensure they align with your brand and values. “If you want to know how your people are doing you need to communicate with them on an on-going basis. You should check in with them 30 days after onboarding to find the gaps and figure out as an employer how you can help fill those gaps.” Beth suggests doing this check-in after another 30 days (60 days total) to create a nurturing relationship during the onboarding process.
“This process will make them be the rockstar teacher that you need in that classroom.”Beth Cannon
The onboarding process should help employees understand what you are as an employer, what you stand for and, your brand.
Interested in learning more about Beth Cannon? Check out the HiMama Helps webinar series for her previous appearances on various topics:
Transcripts from Episode–
Teachers love to understand the things that they’re doing well. Because if they know what they’re doing well and you constantly remind them that they’re doing well, they’re going to repeat that. And that is solid gold.
Beth, welcome to the Preschool Podcast!
We are delighted to have on the show today Beth Cannon. She’s an entrepreneur and educator. She’s also a speaker and she’s been on HiMama’s own webinars a couple of times, actually, talking about Enneagram personalities, adapting to different personality types and how to break burnout in 2021, something that I’m sure is being top-of-mind for a lot of folks that are listening to us today.
Beth, delighted to have you on the Preschool Podcast. For those of you who don’t know – for those of us, I should say, who don’t know who you are – tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you’ve been up to.
So, I have been in the early-childhood sector for going on 23 years. And I started in that as a fitness business owner. We purchased a franchise – Stretch & Grow International – back in 1998.
And then fast forward, I became their director of international training, revamped their training program, created curriculum to help them expand globally. And then we also have 12 franchises in Dallas. So, that is probably our main super-fun job that was, of course, completely shut down by Covid  and is slowly making the crawl back.
And then I’ve also been a speaker, keynoter, presenter for early-childhood childcare conferences for probably about the last 20 years. I love littles [children] but I super-love pouring into people who work with our littles.
And so we developed Beth Cannon Speaks last year, actually, right before the pandemic hit. And we had just created some digital courses. So, we were actually kind of ready and on the exciting slope of getting into the digital world. And then the pandemic happened. So, here we are, Ron.
Here we are, fully digital, including on this podcast recording. And we’re going to talk to you today about creating culture in a preschool and how we can get staff on board with defining “employer brand”. And that’s something we actually don’t talk about very often on the Preschool Podcast: brand. Let’s start there. Why is it important for a childcare program to have a brand in the first place?
Well, what’s interesting is, with me being with Stretch & Grow for so many years – the company started in  – and really didn’t innovate their visual brand strategy. In about 2017, 2018, several of the larger owners kind of got the itch to look into this rebrand.
And so I’ll tell you, Ron, just the process of saying, “Hey, we’ve got an established brand name. But it really needs a facelift.” And that’s what I thought branding was, right? “Let’s come up with a new logo and new colors and take some brand mix and call it a day.” And wow, I had no idea that diving into your brand strategy and how you position yourselves in the marketplace and “What are your features and what are your benefits?”
So, that’s the brand at the company. But as we go deeper into it, we started looking into, “What is your employer brand?” So, your employer brand, it’s kind of your talent-attraction strategy. So, when you’re looking to attract the right people into your company, you have a brand of teachers. And whether you’ve intentionally created that brand or not, you have a brand of teachers.
So, what is the talent attraction strategy to bring the right people into your preschool? And so I think when we put a name on it – like, “This is a brand and we have to define it and we have to get it benefits and features. And we need to give it our core values and what we believe in. And who are the types of people that we want to attract into our schools?”
Yeah, it really does open a whole can of worms, doesn’t it, when you want to try to define something as big and meaty as your brand and who you are and what you stand for. Is there any worry from folks that maybe you’re leaving people out? Or it’s not a fit, your brand with everybody and everybody being maybe talent that you want to attract or customers that you want to work with?
Exactly. A lot of times when you look at your staff – and let’s say you have people on your staff who just for some reason don’t seem a part of the team, they’re not on board with change. I’m sure probably a lot of the schools that offer HiMama [software], they probably maybe have a little bit more resistance when they went from doing paper handouts and doing handwritten records and collecting checks from their parents.
And then all of a sudden they have this amazing platform where everything goes paperless. And you’re providing all these services to them. And you might have people who have a little bit of trouble getting on board, right?
Or teachers who don’t necessarily fit the educational category – maybe you’re a Montessori school and you need all of your teachers to be Montessori-certified. And you’ve got someone who’s resistant to the shift where you’re taking your school. That person would be considered, for lack of a better word, “not on brand”. But truly, do you really want people on your team who are not on board with the brand that you want to create?
Yeah, and I guess it’s really hard to say no to people and to come to terms with the fact that a staff member or a customer might not be a good fit. But that is what brand and strategy is really all about. And it’s hard, I think if you don’t have a good fit you’re constantly going to have tensions otherwise, whereas you can get into a really magical place, I think, with your culture if everybody is sort of on the same page and aligned on what your brand is, which I think is quite important and sort of what we’re getting at here.
And of course, you mentioned this was a much bigger undertaking than what you had initially thought, which was maybe revamping your logo and your colors and whatnot. If our listeners are thinking about branding, rebranding, marketing, what are sort of tangible things that they can do to implement a brand or a culture that they envision for their organization?
Well, I’ll tell you, Ron, we sit down with the top 10 Stretch & Grow owners in the country and we tried to do this on our own. We did every free download; we did every PDF. We read books; we read [Building A] Story Brand by Donald Miller. We bought aesthetic books.
And what we ended up leaning on was hiring a brand strategist. Her name is Hilary Hartley, she’s out of L.A. And I went out to L.A. She was a marketing executive for Disney. So, she had a pulse on a product that was packaged to appeal to children, yet we’re not selling it to children. We’re selling it to their parents and to their caregivers.
And so she had a really keen understanding of who our target market was and what the feel [was] that we wanted the people to have. Like, your brand is an experience. And so we came up with our brand words. And so I kind of translated this once I got back and downloaded everything and learned it.
And I’ve done several trainings in our schools to help them start with, “Okay, who are you as a staff?” And we came up with brand words, for example. So, let’s say you’re thinking, “Okay, what is our brand?” It starts with so much more than the aesthetics. Go to your brand words. What is the experience that you want your customers to feel when they come into your center, when they interact with your teachers?
And then do your teachers understand what your core values are? What are the key components of, “How do we speak to our parents? What’s our brand voice?” I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a “brand voice”. And for Stretch & Grow, for example, it’s always fun and energetic and exciting. And then for my speaking brand, it’s always very uplifting and motivating and encouraging.
And so you look at the experience that you want people to have. And the word that really sold me on working with Hillary was the word “clarity”. Because we had expanded, we had started offering other programs and I didn’t have clarity on how to package everything that we did.
Because we wanted to be able to choose all the things: we had music and fitness and dance and sports and gymnastics and yoga. And we wanted to package it in a way that didn’t seem overwhelming but it seemed appealing in a way that made them feel like, “We are here to meet your needs. We’re here to engage.” I mean, what we landed on was to “Engage your kids, excite your parents and enhance your curriculum.” So, finding those key, again, features and benefits for your preschool as to what you want to offer to attract that ideal client.
Cool. What was some of the most challenging part of that process for you?
Oh, my gosh, working with women. And we’re all close friends. We’re all very much leaders; most of us are Enneagram Three’s, which means that we’re achievers. And so we have an idea of what we want things to look like. So, it was agreeing just to nail down all of the options that we had. And, “What are the right words?” And, “What’s the right copy that’s really going to attract the right people?”
So, I think just making the decisions because there’s so many choices and you decide, “What pieces of your old brand do you want to keep? And what pieces of the new brands do you want to see come alive?”
And what about the most rewarding thing? If you look back on the experience and the outcomes, what has been the most rewarding thing for you?
It’s been to see it come alive. We do our training call Coach Camp a few times a year, it’s our big staff development. And to get new shirts in our brand colors with our new logo and see my team come to training and get excited. And just the energy that it created was incredible.
But like I said, it didn’t just start with just the brand of the business. What really happened was, the beauty of creating, “Who are we as a team?” And so getting clarity around the culture, getting them to really understand, “What were you hired to deliver? What is the experience that you were hired to deliver?”
And I find because I work in so, so, so many preschools, so many of them – and I get it because we’ve all been there. You hire someone who can pass a background check. They have the availability and the hours that you need them and they have a pulse. But you don’t realize that you’re hiring them to deliver this experience to your kids. And if you don’t train them in a way that teaches them the really important core components of that experience, there’s going to be a lot of disconnect.
And so, do the teachers really understand how they’re supposed to interact with the brand, how they’re supposed to talk to each other, how they’re supposed to talk to the kids, how they’re supposed to talk and communicate with the parents and just be very intentional about building that values-based culture?
Like, it doesn’t really matter what your brand is; it doesn’t matter how great your building is or how cool your logo is or your brand fix or whatever. If you don’t have a values-based culture that your team is on board with, all of the beauty of the brand doesn’t even matter because you’re not going to retain teachers and you’re not going to retain families.
Yeah, and that’s something that I am pretty passionate about and I talk to our team a lot about, which is you have to live by your values and your brand because you’d almost be better off not to have them versus to have them and not follow them. That’s the worst possible situation because then it’s all just smoke and mirrors and it’s not really a real thing.
But of course, the concept makes sense to say, “We have a culture; we have a brand; we have our values. And we want to hire people that are aligned with that.” How do you do that, though? How do you assess that, whether that’s through [the] interviews process or what have you?
Well, for me, one of my favorite interview questions is, “Tell me about a time you enjoyed a group of children.” I don’t really care about experience as much. And I think unless the position demands a degree, I’m not so convinced that experience or even education makes a great teacher.
I think that if someone can tell you about a time that they enjoyed a group of children and they light up at things that they taught or they light up in a classroom or they light up in a situation, and do they have that the financial structure to be able to accept a job working in a preschool? That’s another big thing. So, are the components of their lifestyle, are the components of where they are and what their needs for a job are, do all of those things line up?
And then we also have our core values listed on our website. And I will tell you this, we pulled our team in when we create core values. And I would suggest that schools do this as well. When you’re going to create your core values, get your team involved.
I just did this yesterday. We met with the team at a church preschool here in Mansfield, Texas. And listed and said, “Okay, I want you guys to tell me five words that you think of when you think of this school. And then they listed, “We’re loving; we’re nurturing; we’re faith-based; we’re a play-based school.” So, they listed all of these things.
And then we kind of shifted them down. “Now, tell me what your best teacher is going to love about working here. Tell me what your best parent is going to love about being here.” And so has the whole team begins to verbalize, “This is what’s great about us. This is who we are and this is why kids come here.” They get so excited because the team actually helps to define the brand.
And then when they understand – and this is key – that the daily interactions between the teachers, between the teachers and the kids, the leadership, the teachers and the parents, the leadership and the parents, when all of those things are hitting on all cylinders, do the daily interactions reflect the experience that they want to deliver?
And I think when we don’t pay attention to the daily interactions, we realize that some cultural things start to happen to shift the foundation. And then you’ve got a culture of gossip, of backbiting, of being hateful to the kids, of being condescending to the parents, of leaders who are not present with their team. And they don’t really kind of lead their team, they just kind of throw a couple of things out there at them and say, “Okay, guys, sink or swim.” And that is the kind of culture that doesn’t breed positivity in a preschool environment. And it’s so, so common, Ron.
Yeah, and you mentioned there with your interview question about talking about a time when you were engaging with a group of children. I’m sure a lot of folks who are spending time in the classroom with children every day, you can get really caught up in the whirlwind of your job. And so you can lose that passion over time.
How do you extend that from the interview to ensuring that the teachers that you’re working with are seeing the community and relationship aspect of their work and the importance of that, versus call it the more “administrative” parts of the job?
Well, it’s interesting. That is an interesting question because we’re remote. So, our team doesn’t see each other because we’re all out in the field visiting other preschools. So, we have to be really intentional about those kinds of connections. And so when we hire someone and we bring them in, our onboarding process is very, very intentional.
Like, we ditched paper manuals about a year ago through the rebrand process. We took all of our paper manuals, we broke them into different training modules. We created slide decks; we created interactive courses; we created some systems that were very intentional about locking them into specific ways that they interact with the brand, that the brain interacts with the customers.
And so the onboarding process is big. But then it’s that follow up. I’m a massive detractor from yearly evaluations. I think they’re worthless. They don’t benefit anyone except for a check off the list. If you want to know how your people are doing, you’ve got to communicate with them on a regular basis.
So, after onboarding: a 30-day meeting, we call it kind of our “grow meeting” where we sit down and we get information. We listen to them, we find out, “Hey, are there any disconnects? What are your gaps? How can we help you?” And then we meet again in that next month. And so for that first three months, it’s very much a nurturing relationship. But in that first three months, if you don’t get them to understand what your brand is about, you’ve lost to nothing because then we create unhealthy patterns.
So, I think that the onboarding process and being super intentional, that they understand who you are and exactly who you are as an employer and why they were hired and what you saw in them to make them be the rock star teacher that you need in that classroom. And I think that teachers love to understand the things that they’re doing well because if they know what they’re doing well and you constantly remind them what they’re doing well, they’re going to repeat that. And that is solid gold.
If I can try to summarize a couple of the points that I’m hearing: it sounds like a couple of key elements have to come together to create the culture in the brand, which is a combination of some of the more prescriptive and process-type things, like you mentioned being very intentional with your onboarding plan, with specific milestones and materials, which is all well planned out. As well as the second component, which is more qualitative, which is more the relationships, the conversations, the values and the interactions with other human beings.
Beth, always a pleasure talking to you. I understand you have a summit coming up, the Leaders Lounge Summit in February. Tell us a little bit more about that.
Yes, it’s going to be our second summit. The last one was kind of born out of the quarantine cancelation avalanche that happened when all these ECE [early-childhood education] conferences were canceled. So, I just kind of had a vision to create one online. It was slowly beginning to happen; it was a huge success. So, it was just for directors.
So, this year we’re doing it February 22nd through the 25th. It will be for directors and teachers. And directors will have an opportunity to get 24 hours of continuing ed [education]; teachers have an opportunity for 12 hours. We’ve got amazing speakers, some I think have been on your show: Holly Elissa Bruno, Cori Berg, ReShaun Webb; lots of real thought leaders in this industry.
And we’ve created separate presentations that are going to hit on things for teachers like play-based learning and managing tantrums. And then for directors, lots of training on leaderships and staff retention and motivation. And hey, we’re going to talk about core values. I’m excited to do a training on core values.
Because all these things that we’ve mentioned, they’re kind of pieces. But the beauty is, when you have a strategy and you have a framework that allows you to put all these components into place, you’re going to create an environment at your school that’s going to bring you so much joy. And your teachers and your families are going to want to be there.
And so that’s kind of the hope that we have with the Leaders Lounge, is just continuing to let all these educators, these business owners be learners and to help their teachers be learners. Because when the leader gets better, everybody gets better.
Sounds awesome. And anything you’re excited about for 2021? Tell us what’s exciting you for this year.
Well, I’m excited that [for] Stretch & Grow, the lights are slowly coming on. We went from about 1,000 classes a week to zero in a week. But we’re back at about 25% now. So, that’s exciting, to get in there and get to work with those kids, they get to move. Super excited about Leaders Lounge.
And just really the opportunity, as awful as Covid has been, it’s really shown me the beauty of this early-childhood community, that the camaraderie, that just the way that the organizations just like yours with the webinars and with your podcast, that you just continue to show up and serve and serve and serve and serve. And I just know that all of those sowing of seeds in 2020, there’s going to be a harvest in 2021. And I am super excited to see all the good that comes out of that.
Totally, awesome. Beth, thank you so much. If our listeners would like to get in touch with you or learn more about your work or Stretch & Grow, where can they go to get more information?
Okay, so I have a webinar. If you go to www.BethCannonSpeaks.com/BrandTraining, there’s about a 50-minute webinar for leaders on creating this culture with kind of a workbook. And that’s free, it’s a free deal. So, it’s www.BethCannonSpeaks.com/BrandTraining. And they can download that guide and listen to that webinar, maybe get a few more tidbits that we didn’t get a chance to touch on today.
And then we’ve got a Facebook group actually for faith-based and nonprofit schools. I’m in Texas, so I’m in the belt buckle of the Bible Belt. So, about 70% of the schools that we go to are faith-based or church preschools. And so we’ve got a great director’s Facebook group for faith-based nonprofits. And you can just look that up and you can find me on Facebook, www.BethCannonSpeaks.com, that’s also our website. And then Leaders Lounge is www.LeadersLounge.solutions. And that will be live in a couple of weeks.
Awesome. “Belt buckle of the Bible Belt,” that’s the first time I’ve heard that one, actually.
Well, that’s Texas for you.
Thanks again for joining us on the Preschool Podcast. Always lovely to speak with you and great to have you as a guest!
My pleasure, Ron. Thanks for having me!