SBJ: What has been key to your growth?
Amber Riddle: That’s 100 percent our people. It starts with the vision and direction of our leader, Rochette. She’s passionate and has a vision that she carries out. If it wasn’t for the people at the schools who are carrying out that vision every day, we wouldn’t have been able to grow like we have. We are the promise keepers of our brand at the school level. That allows us to have the demand to grow.
SBJ: What are your top issues when it comes to managing growth?
Riddle: We put a lot of planning and thought to anticipate the growth. With anything, it’s just making sure you’re ready – people, places and systems. We have significantly grown our corporate team to offer the necessary support to all of our schools. We also are streamlining our processes internally, so it’s functional for our staff at the school level. We have systems that allow us to better track and project for future growth. Managing children is a lot. We brought on in-house counsel to help us with all of our handbooks and human resources. We’re in 10 states, so we make sure we’re meeting all those regulations by state. We have 20 operational schools and one set to open this summer.
SBJ: What has the company’s growth enabled you to do?
Riddle: We’ve been able to provide additional benefits to our staff. Child care is an industry that historically doesn’t offer great benefits. All teachers receive paid vacation, health insurance – 50 percent paid by the company – and voluntary vision and dental. Our health insurance includes a life insurance policy as well.
SBJ: Is your fast growth sustainable?
Riddle: We’ve been on this pace for the last few years now. We have a process that we do – a critical path – for each facility that opens. We just repeat that every time, and it gets better every time. On our corporate team, a director of expansion makes sure we hit everything that needs to be done, from the time we decide on a site to the point we open. We’re in the process of overhauling it because of a system change.
SBJ: Have your goals changed as business has taken off?
Riddle: Our long-term goals, which line up with our philosophy and values, that hasn’t changed. We’re intentional that doesn’t change. Our philosophy is that children learn best and develop their fullest potential by participation in a wide variety of activities that take place in a safe and secure environment. We pride ourselves in the facilities, our staff and our teachers. There is always something new to learn and grow from – maybe it’s a service for our families or a policy to create to comfort any worries. Those things do change. We’ve had a recent conversation about the fact that security features are currently a very large concern for parents across the country. We offer double-secured entry at all of our schools as well as cameras in the classrooms monitored regularly. We haven’t had to add anything, but we do highlight these services more regularly to ease concerns about the safety of their children.
Ariake Sushi and Robata opened; Great Southern Bancorp Inc. (Nasdaq: GSBC) opened its newest branch in Springfield; and a longtime employee with City Utilities of Springfield went into business for himself with the launch of Van Every Drafting & Design LLC.