Dare I mention the “p” word for fear that this article will be judged in the first sentence? It seems to me that the childcare sector shies away from making a profit – thinking it right that they should focus on the children and let the finances take care of themselves.

Let me explain my view on profit as a director of a successful nursery called Toybox. First and foremost, we’re a business – therefore we have to make money in order to operate. Why should the fact that we work in the early years sector change that? If we can’t operate, we can’t provide outstanding childcare and ultimately it’s the parents and families who lose out.

My view may seem a little clinical, but my wife Jackie and I have managed to successfully build up and sell 3 nursery businesses despite suffering several setbacks (including the recession) over the years.

When we opened our forth nursery, we secured Ofsted’s top mark and within 17 months the business was generating enough money to repay the initial set-up costs and support our investment in providing a quality childcare service.

I believe investment holds the key to both creating and sustaining a quality service. Investment leads to outstanding outcomes, which parents are willing to pay a little more for, which in turn leads to profit, which allows us to keep investing in things like our building, our facilities and our staff.

We, at Toybox, are passionate about the nursery sector.  We enjoy challenging convention to ensure families receive outstanding care and education for their children.  Let me make it clear: we aren’t money-grabbing entrepreneurs focused on the bottom line for our own gain.  We’re focused on making profit in order to help improve what we do – ultimately benefitting the children we care for.

So, why are many nursery owners frightened to talk about profit? Politics plays a huge part in this sector.

The national press runs stories about the rising cost of childcare and there seems to be an unchallenged notion that nurseries are making thousands of pounds in profit. Yet the press fail to balance their headlines with the fact that nearly half (49%) of all nurseries are forecast to break even or make a loss this year.

Nevertheless, the sector has to take its fair share of the blame for the profitability crisis. Convention teaches us not to talk openly about the “p” word for fear of been seen as greedy and regarded as profit –focused instead of childcare-focused.  We’re frightened to talk of profit for fear of being judged, and my belief is that the government uses this fear to underinvest in childcare. The government knows they can short-change the sector because nurseries will always try to absorb the costs, whilst still heroically striving for the best outcomes for children.

At Toybox, we’re driven to provide outstanding outcomes, which in my view can only be delivered in the long term by generating a reasonable profit year on year. By simply taking the view that to be truly outstanding in every area your nursery has to make a profit, the crisis could be turned around. In my opinion, profitability should be a sector standard for success.

Chris Townson is a director of an Ofsted ‘outstanding’ nursery in Denham. Find out more here

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