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Springfield, MO

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Little Sunshine’s has 17 operating schools and 439 employees. CEO Nicole Carr says three new locations will open this year.SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON
Little Sunshine’s has 17 operating schools and 439 employees. CEO Nicole Carr says three new locations will open this year.

SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON

2017 Dynamic Dozen No. 2: Little Sunshine's Playhouse and Preschool Inc.

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SBJ: What has been key to your recent growth?
Nicole Carr: Our biggest growth is the people in our company. Our culture and the collective passion that our team members exhibit is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. A fresh and relational driven approach to a highly demanded family need is very empowering and allows us to make positive impacts with the families and communities we serve. That is also very empowering to our teams and school leaders.

After that, I think our commitment to excellence in early childhood education. In the last three to five years nationwide, there’s been a lot of research and studies on the need for quality early childhood education to ensure students are ready to embark on their educational careers.

SBJ: What has the company’s growth enabled you to do?
Carr: As we have grown our team, we’ve evaluated the system for ways of improvement. We have very creative minded people. We’ve seen a lot of advances in our technology, for example our LuvNotes system and our Kiddie Cams. We are technology focused in a technology world. We’re staying cutting edge, allowing our families to have communication with the teachers of their children and getting a clear idea of what’s happening at the school day in and day out. It’s allowed us to have more transparency in the programs.

The Kiddie Cams around the building allow access to families to login remotely and see exactly what’s going on throughout the day. They can follow their children in the classroom and on the playground and see their interactions, and continue to foster those things at home. LuvNotes allows parents to receive daily notifications from the teachers about the children’s day. It also allows them to provide photos and videos.

SBJ: Is your fast growth sustainable?
Carr: Yes. We have 17 operational schools, and three more opening later this year. We have several other new market potentials in 2018. We look at more than just the numbers. We also evaluate in conjunction with quality indicators. We need to make sure our schools are thriving and we’re being promise keepers of our brand. We’re consistently evaluating and adjusting as we develop our growth strategy.

SBJ: Where is the tipping point?
Carr: That ties back to the quality indicators. We do a lot of surveying for our quality assurance program and spend time viewing the cameras remotely and getting open dialogue between the corporate office and the school managers. Ongoing communication through the intranet is really helping us to be in tune to what too fast would entail. It’s difficult to assign a specific number of locations to that. We’ve never been to a point where we’ve experienced any quality declines, but that would be the first indicator to us.

SBJ: What is the worst business advice you’ve received?
Carr: I do know a lot of companies have a lot of focus on the numbers. That makes sense and has its place, but it’s so important to be aware of everything else behind the scenes. If you are so focused on specific goals and not connecting the dots of what it takes to reach those goals, you are setting arbitrary numbers. It’s a recipe for a complete disaster of a company.

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