Margins, Culture, and Servant Leadership with Tony D’Agostino

Entrepreneur and early learning veteran Tony D’Agostino joins us today to talk about understanding margins and your numbers, his ‘near-death’ experience in the child care business, how to deal with a crisis, and toxic employees. Tony and Kris also discuss how to develop a culture where everyone on the team is accountable with shared values and the challenges currently in hiring and retention in the child care business field. Tony also discusses the mission behind Inspire! Care 360 and the three-pronged approach in helping leaders manage their people, brand, and purchasing. As a bonus, you’ll also hear about Tony’s rock and roll roots and his awesome mullet back in the 1980s. 

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Here Are the Key Takeaways From This Episode:

  • Tony owns and operates four centers across Western New York. He comes from a corporate background and originally bought the centers to spend more time with his family. He started with five acquisitions, went down to three, and then brought in another one.
  • Tony and his team originally grew the margin of business from 8% to over 30%.
  • The finances work out to your favor when you focus more on the margin and the revenue than getting a waiting list.
  • One of the first, crucial steps for getting in control of your business and staff is to thoroughly understand your margins and your payroll.
  • Tony speaks of his ‘near-death’ experience in the childcare business. One of his centers had a toxic environment with a negative staff. One day, the director and five employees quit, causing a real crisis. Tony took this occurrence and learned from it to realize the need for real training, power, and structure for owners.
  • Inspire! Care360 has three divisions: People, Brand, Buying.
  • Childcare has the perfect storm of needing to cover ratio, a relatively low-pay workforce, all mixed with a high burnout rate. Both Kris and Tony agree that a strong culture along with slow hiring and quick hiring are some of the biggest defenses against falling prey to hiring the wrong people who are misaligned with the core values.
  • It’s important that the directors empower their team to make decisions and grow with accountability.
  • If someone is not aligned to your culture, getting them off-boarded in the most ethical way is going to give you a sense of relief and the best thing for them and their future. Even if it puts you behind in ratio, it’s still one of the best things you can do for your culture.
  • When we put our ego aside and focus on becoming a servant leader, we see bigger and better outcomes than we may have ever imagined.

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