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Building a business
Top 10 hiring mistakes

Dealing with high turnover can be frustrating, but perhaps you can lessen that turnover a bit by avoiding common mistakes in hiring that all businesses make.

1. Letting personal attitudes and biases impact decisions. Biases can include everything from cultural or ethnic prejudices to attitudes toward fashion, speech, age, and body weight. Failure to recognize your biases can mean missing out on someone who could be a terrific teacher or caregiver.

2. Making decisions too quickly. Directors often feel pressure to hire someone quickly to comply with standards, such as maintaining the required child-to-caregiver ratio. Snap decisions may work sometimes, but it’s safer to set a realistic schedule that includes review of applications, interviewing, reference checks, background check, and thoughtful evaluation.

3. Misinterpreting applicant information. What does it really mean when an applicant says of her experience, “I babysat my little brothers and sisters”? A simple statement may need explanation to determine the applicant’s true skills and attitudes. It’s also important to listen to what the applicant is saying in gestures as well as words.

4. Hunting for negative information. This mistake refers to an overly zealous search for information that would justify disqualifying an applicant. In child care, applicants must meet certain age and education requirements and have a background check for criminal and abuse history, as required by law. Beyond those requirements, it’s important to look at an applicant’s strengths as well as weaknesses.

5. Overlooking a person’s behavior patterns. Judging a person’s behavior patterns in advance of hiring may be difficult. Clues may appear in such things as showing up for the interview on time and silencing a cell phone during the interview. More concrete information can come from reference checks and orientation.

6. Talking too much. Ideally an interview is a conversation, a back-and-forth exchange of information. An employer who starts by describing the job in detail tips off an applicant to the right answers. Asking follow-up questions such as “Why did that happen?” and “How did you feel about that?” can elicit addition useful information.

7. Jumping to conclusions. A 30-second glance at the application and resume is not enough to evaluate an applicant. Preparing a list of questions in advance can help you check the accuracy of resume statements and pave the way for an engaging conversation. Calling references and searching social media can help provide further insight into an applicant’s character and behavior.

8. Telegraphing responses to applicants. Asking yes-no questions, such as “Do you like working with children?” can prompt an applicant to answer in a certain way. A better question might be “How do you feel when you’re around children?” Your body language, such as nodding your head, could also be a giveaway.

9. Failure to hire for a cultural fit. Culture here refers to the culture of the working environment. Is your program focused on academics or learning through play? Is it business-like or laid back? Sensing how an applicant may fit in in your program can prevent problems later on.

10. Lack of solid training. Recruiting doesn’t stop when you offer an applicant the job. Prospective caregivers need pre-service training and orientation that adequately prepare them for caring for children and interacting with their families.

Adapted from “Top 10 Hiring Mistakes Business Owners Make,” by Will Helmlinger,,


Three speeches: A lesson


“We hope you enjoyed this presentation and that now you will feel more knowledgeable about selecting toys for your children,” Adriana says, concluding her talk at the parents meeting.

Parents smile and applaud, and many stand up to leave. Adriana mingles for a few minutes, answers a couple of questions, and then begins folding up chairs.

“Good job!” says LaShana, the director. “This topic was a great idea, and it’s timely for the holidays.”

“Give me a break,” Adriana says dryly, leaning against a table. “Did you see how everybody was in a hurry to leave?”

“I’m sure they’ve all had a full day and were eager to go home,” LaShana says. “Anyway, not everybody left. Some stayed later to talk to you.”

“Yeah, but I was nervous, I goofed on advancing the slides midway through, and I forgot the part about explaining developmentally appropriate. It was awful.”

“Wait a minute,” LaShana says. “Of course, you were nervous. Giving a speech is usually the thing that tops the list of what scares most people.”

“Maybe I should have practiced more,” Adriana continues.

“Practicing is important, but even if you had practiced eight hours a day for a week, you might still feel some disappointment,” says LaShana.

“Oh? How’s that?”

“For every speech, even those given by professional speakers, there are really three speeches—the one you intended to give, the one you gave, and the one you wished you would have given. “

Adriana listens, silently.

“All I’m saying is that nobody’s perfect,” LaShana continues. “We all want to give a good speech, we do our best at the moment, and then we wish we could have done better. “

“OK, yeah. I can see the truth in that.”

“Good,” says LaShana. “Let’s plan another talk that you can give in the spring.”


Garage sale fundraiser: Good idea or not?


Having a garage or yard sale to raise extra money for your program may sound like a good idea. Search the Internet, and you will find dozens of sites promising that you will make a profit, clean out junk, and have fun.

While all of that may be possible, it’s important to take a hard look at the project in advance.

Purpose. What’s the goal? How will you measure success? If the purpose is to make a profit, what’s the amount? Would another type of fundraiser raise more with less effort?

On the other hand, a profit may not be so important as bonding between staff and parents. Maybe it’s an opportunity for parents to trade clothes, toys, and equipment that their children have outgrown.

If the goal is to get rid of junk, maybe it would be better to take items to a consignment shop or give them to charity.

Amount of work. It’s easy to underestimate the time required to clean out closets, sort merchandise, gather tables and supplies, organize and tidy up the selling area, price the items, set them out, run the sale, and clean up afterward.

How likely is it that you will sell enough to justify the hours you will spend? One parent spent three weekends getting organized, one day getting ready, and one day selling and cleaning up. She made only $184. Was that worth it?

Experience. Garage sales look so easy. Set out the stuff, put up signs, and rake in the cash, right? Actually, unless you’ve done several sales, you can make costly mistakes. How do you know, for example, whether that old Barbie doll should go for 50 cents or might be valued at $500 on Antiques Road Show?

Workers. Will enough volunteers commit to helping? What experience have they had in selling? How good are they at greeting customers, engaging in conversation, and taking up the benefits of the merchandise? Will you provide refreshments or lunch to workers? How will you organize shifts?

Timing. When will you hold the sale? A Saturday morning is usually best. Bargain hunters will come early, and customers will thin out after lunch. Some sellers have found success with a preview sale on Friday.

Avoid scheduling on spring and summer holidays when customers are likely to be spending time with their families. Avoid Sundays because passers-by may think the signs are left over from the day before or the bargains have already been snapped up.

Location. Real estate professionals say the key principle in selling property is location, location, location. The same could be said of a garage sale. If you hold the sale at your program site, can shoppers find it easily? Is there enough parking? Can you hold the sale on the playground or parking lot? (You don’t want people milling around in offices or classrooms.)

Market. “I thought more people would come,” said one disappointed seller. Why didn’t they come? Maybe garage sales have reached a saturation point in your area. Think of the abundance of thrift shops, Internet sites like craigslist and eBay, catalog shopping, and seasonal discounts in big retail stores.

Advertising. Do you need to? Really? Many newspapers still have a “Garage Sales” category in their want ads, but the classified sections have shrunk to almost nothing.

Signs. How big? How many? Placement? One seller learned that the words “Yard Sale” and an arrow worked better that a carefully crafted sign with date, time, and address. Signs stapled to sturdy boxes held up better than signs taped or tied to stop signs and street signs. Signs are best noticed by drivers if the letters are large and the signs are placed at driver’s eye level and at key intersections.

Display. Can you gather up enough tables to display small merchandise? Large items such as bicycles and shelves can go on the floor. Do you have time to clean all items? Customers will have an easier time shopping if you group similar items together and refold and rearrange merchandise periodically.

Test electrical and electronic devices in advance. If something doesn’t work, no one will probably want it—not even for the parts. Don’t offer child safety seats, cribs, toys, and other items that don’t meet safety standards.

Money. How’s your arithmetic? In a busy time, you can easily get confused, so have a calculator on hand. Go to the bank a day or two before and get at least $50 in dollar bills and rolls of coins. One sale organizer dispensed with coins altogether and sold everything in whole dollar amounts. Have a cash box and keep it in a place where you can keep your eye on it.

Pricing. Of all the considerations, this may be trickiest. One amateur seller priced a slightly worn baby quilt, which had been a baby shower gift, at a dollar. An estate sale professional, recognizing that the quilt was handmade, priced it at $45.

Some experts recommend pricing items at 10-20 percent of retail. Books, clothes, and bedding will go for even less. Often it helps to group like items at a discounted price—one book for 25 cents, and five books for a dollar, for example.

Every item or category needs a price. No marked prices and questions like “What will you give me for it?” make shoppers uncomfortable. Marking something “Free” can make shoppers suspect that there’s something wrong with the item. On the other hand, having a box of free or 25-cent items may help get rid of items otherwise destined for the trash.

Bargaining. One expert advises no bargaining at all in the first two hours and the most intense bargaining in the last hour or two. A sign such as “Willing to bargain” may encourage buyers to make an offer at any point during the sale event.

Sales tax. According to the Texas Comptroller’s Office, an individual holding a garage sale is exempt from charging sales tax, but groups and organizations are not. So if you’re collecting items to sell at a garage sale type event, you must collect the tax. In addition, if you’re selling new items, such as T-shirts and books, you are required to collect tax.

For more information about taxes and exemptions, see