Regina Bushell: What I learned from the rapid growth of my business

Grovelands Childcare | AIBF
Pictured above is Regina Bushell, Managing Director at Grovelands Childcare.

Between the years of 2003 and 2010, Grovelands Childcare expanded from 15 staff to 120 across six centres in Westmeath, Roscommon and Offaly.

Founder and Managing Director Regina Bushell managed the rapid expansion of her All-Star childcare business through smart recruitment and personal development.

She spoke to the All-Ireland Business Foundation about the challenges she faced and the lessons she learned for the benefit of fellow entrepreneurs and leaders undergoing similar expansions.

“Managing any childcare business is very complicated when you look at the legislation that we have to meet on a daily basis,” Regina said.

“We are inspected by Tusla, by the Department of Education and Skills, by Pobal as well as by the Environmental Health Officer among others.”

“There were a lot of elements to consider when expanding the business because we needed to recruit people with a range of profiles.”

“We needed everyone from client and people managers to operational managers, compliance experts as well as financial experts to meet the necessary requirements.”

Grovelands Childcare is a family business that prides itself on quality and attention to detail.

Regina has participated in several advisory groups through the years reporting to many Ministers of State and currently to Minister Roderic O’Gorman in DCEDIY.

The Grovelands team has been innovating for almost 30 years to raise the standard of early learning and care in Ireland and have gained a reputation for excellence in the early years sector.

“I am fortunate to have a succession plan in place and to have my daughter Dee Frampton Bushell as my right-hand woman, while my husband Ronan has been by my side as Financial Director during the growth of the company,” Regina said.

Her priority and focus throughout the expansion of her business was safeguarding the quality of its curriculum and ensuring that the children’s educational and care experience remained at a premium level.

After the team identified and documented the skill sets that were required for expansion Regina put together a recruitment strategy.

“We focused on growing our management team and getting the right people for the job.”

“One of the lessons I learned early was that having somebody who maybe was brilliant at childcare and really good at communicating with the children and with the parents didn’t necessarily make them a good supervisor or manager,” she said.

Grovelands now has a Director of Operations, a Head of Finance, an HR Manager and a Pedagogical Leader who cover its six centres.

They manage a team of centre managers, supervisors, leaders, educators as well as student support workers.

Reflecting on the expansion of her management team Regina said, “I think it’s important to not be afraid of employing people with more expertise than you in different areas of your business.”

“it’s important to look for knowledge yourself and surround yourself with people who have experience in different areas than you and who have a “can-do attitude”.

As her company grew, Regina felt it was important to grow and develop alongside it.

She told the All-Ireland Business Foundation that she researched ways to improve her own skills.

She said: “I couldn’t handle everything myself so I had to look at how I was going to ensure quality across six sector centres.”

“I went and studied employment law, marketing, leadership and customer service.

I attended conferences and travelled abroad to research best practices and I also used the enterprise board for support with mentors.”

That personal development work has carried through to my advocacy work within the early years sector and in my work with the Department of Children Equality, Disability Integration and Youth Affairs, to Seas Suas, an organisation I founded to support early education providers who are employers nationwide, to my work with a member of the council of Childhood Services Ireland, a trade association within IBEC.

Having set up the required management structures, Regina renewed her focus on internal hires and upskilling of her staff.

She found that with the right structures in place, developing and promoting from within brought brilliant results, as the people she chose already knew what the company stood for and what was expected of them.

However, she initially came up against barriers in accessing the right training for them.

“We found that a lot of sector supervision, management and leadership training that we were looking for wasn’t available,” she explained.

“So we had to develop it ourselves in house and then deliver it to our managers and supervisors into our staff who needed training in particular areas.”

“That training has now become part of what we do at Grovelands and we believe in constantly upskilling our staff and supporting their development”.

“Encouraging CPD and supporting our staff financially to upskill is part and parcel of our ethos and our success to date. Our team love what they do and it shows in their commitment to the children they work with each and every day”.

Grovelands Childcare has been named All-Ireland Early Learning and Care Business of the Year 2021, in recognition of its commitment to the Early Years Sector.

Reacting to the announcement, Regina said the Accreditation is recognition of the hard work put in by her teams to ensure that each child that attends our centres develops to their full potential.

Offering her advice to her fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders eyeing expansion, she said: “You have to be there to mentor yourself, first and foremost.”

“You then need to be there to mentor and support your teams and recognise where additional training is required.”

“Source high-quality training and deliver it across your business to encourage consistency of message and to ensure that everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet.”

“It is important that your business in the long term is not overly reliant on you to always be there to be successful.”

“You need to be able to delegate and hand over responsibility to employees you know you can trust to get the job done.”

“It’s also important to remember that there are many supports available out there for businesses undergoing growth from your local enterprise office to Government funding and grants – use them.”

To learn more about Grovelands Childcare, visit their All-Star showcase page here.