Friday, November 28, 2008

How the Economy Has Affected the Nanny Industry By Stephanie Felzenberg, Editor and Nanny

Ana, a nanny that works and lives just outside of Manhattan called Best Nanny Newsletter ( crying. Ana told me that her boss came home early during the week from his job on Wall Street and announced he had been fired, and that her employer could no longer afford to employ her.

I acknowledge working as a nanny for two parents that work on Wall Street is unsettling for me. If the economic recession has a trickle-down effect it will inevitably affect nannies. Nannies may lose jobs, but there may also be increase jobs as two parent families send both parents to work to bring in two incomes.

To share proper advice with Ana I asked a few nanny agency owners and nanny industry professionals if the economic recession is affecting their businesses and for their advice for nannies (like Ana) during this economic recession.

Katherine Leary Robinson, President of Beacon Hill Nannies, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts says, “I recommend nannies back down their salary expectations 10-12%, if they are not seeing families actively pursuing them.”

Ms. Leary continues, “Live-in nannies are very fortunate in this horrible economic environment. As their only expenses are clothing and entertainment, they have not experienced the increase costs of rent, heating, food or gas. Please don't forget the amount of money you save as a live-in nanny, here on the east coast. Live-in nannies are enjoying on average an additional $25,000 a year in tax free benefits with free room, board, an insured car, and health insurance. You would have to be earning an additional $33,000 year gross to net that $25,000 for those live out expenses.”

Susan Tokayer, Owner and President of Family Helpers, Inc. in Dobbs Ferry, New York explains, “We have been slower both with our temporary service and long-term service for the past six-weeks, since the banking crisis hit. I would say we are doing about 30% less business than we were doing one-year ago. Most families are being cautious right now, so there isn't as much activity as normal.”

Ms. Tokayer adds, “Everyone (nannies included) should have some money set aside for emergencies. If you were to suddenly be unemployed because your employer lost his/her job, you should have some money available to live on until you secure another position. Ideally, you want to have the equivalent of six-months of living expenses in savings. If you don't have that amount, now is a good time to put some money aside for a rainy day. Finding a new job may take longer than usual in this economic environment.”

Glenn S. Greenhouse, Owner of Greenhouse Agency, Ltd. In New York says, “We have noticed a very slight decline which I believe is due to the current financial crisis we are all facing. However it is minimal.”

Mr. Greenhouse continues, “My advice to nannies would be to stay where you are if your job is secure. If your boss's job is secure, don't look for greener pastures. If you are seeking a job, don't sell yourself short, but weigh job security as much as job compensation. It is a better decision taking a few dollars less with a family who will have their money tomorrow, than risk a job paying big bucks with a family who just made their money or who are working in a risky industry.”

Rachel Lawrence, Owner of Wilmington Nanny Agency LLC in North Carolina shares, “Things have slowed down some. Although you may be worth every penny, now might not be a good time to play hard ball about salary. Talk to parents and try to set up a plan for starting at a lower salary and then having a 90-day raise and a raise in one-year to get closer to the salary you were originally looking for. Once the family sees how wonderful you are, raises will be a lot easier to give than a high salary off the bat.”

Shannon Pitts, CEO of InteliMark Enterprises and explains, “Some families are holding back on full-time care, seeking ways to reduce their childcare costs. We have more candidates seeking fewer available jobs now than this time last year.”

“Nannies seeking employment may find they are competing for fewer available positions and as such should consider the quality of their application. It would also be worthwhile to learn how to sell the skills they have to potential employers and enhance their interview skills,” explains the CEO of InteliMark Enterprises.

“Another option for nannies would be to consider organizing a nanny share between two families. This will help ensure the nannies procure full time hours while assisting families with the cost of childcare. Families will be looking for nannies that have the organizational and time management skills needed to make a nanny share a workable option for both families,” says Shannon Pitts.

Alicia Torchia, President and Placement Consultant of Careful Care Givers LLC which serves the New Jersey and New York tri state area writes, “I have seen a 5% decline in the volume of business we have brought in over this past year, these are families who are hiring us seeking nanny care services. I have seen an increase in families hiring us for infant care specialists. I have seen an increase in repeat business over all.”

Ms. Torchia adds, “I have seen an increase in professional nurses, teachers, and college graduates and even corporate persons entering the nanny field because they lost jobs in their field. I tell all the nannies in my network to try and not change a job in this economy because you never know when you are going to find another job that suits your needs.”

Sharon Toutant, Owner of A Better Nanny in Sierra Madre, California tells us, “We are seeing fewer families offering full-time positions. They often are using family for part of their caregiver needs and hiring part-time nannies. Many families are seeking our help in finding their nannies some other part-time work so they won't lose someone valuable to their lives.”

Ms. Toutant says, “My best suggestion to nannies is to be extremely prepared and have your best information ready for that first interview. Present a well done concise resume, written references with phone numbers or other contact information for those references, a current DMV report and any criminal background check that you can present. Also present for examination any school transcripts, CPR and First Aid certification. Be the nanny who brings the best package to the table so the family will remember you as the best prepared.”

Lora Brawley owner of Brawley & Associates and in Federal Way, Washington adds, “I’ve seen a decline in the number of families purchasing consulting services. However, I still get about the same number of families looking to hire a nanny.”

Ms. Brawley recommends that nannies:

1. Be prepared to jump into a job search. Don’t wait until the unthinkable happens before you start polishing your job search skills and developing your search portfolio.
2. Be prepared to have the “why are we paying you this much?” conversation. Every nanny should be able to clearly define the value they bring to a family.
3. Stay calm. Anxiety is contagious. It’s your responsibility as a professional to create and maintain a secure care giving environment. Plus it will make you feel better too!

Judi Merlin, President of A Friend of the Family Home Services, Inc. in Georgia answers, “Yes, our business is down, both short and long-term. We are recruiting for only specific areas and specific jobs, as we have enough caregivers to fill almost all the jobs we have.”

Pat Cascio, Founder and Director of Morningside Nannies in Houston, Texas explains, “Long-term placements are down. Temporary is down a bit. We have had fewer inquiries, fewer new clients, and fewer hires.”

Ms. Cascio says, “Nannies that are used to earning at the higher end of the salary range, may need to be a bit flexible about the salaries they are requesting. Some families that are involved in investments and banking are not earning they type of commissions that they are used to and thus money isn't flowing as easily as it once may have. Other families may be watching their investments dwindle in the market and aren't feeling very certain about their financial futures. When offered employment, nannies should consider themselves lucky to be getting a job offer and hope that when the financial situation turns around that their employer will be able to increase their salary. There have been a few stories recently about nannies not being able to find jobs in cities as large as New York. The London newspapers are reporting the same thing -- when families cut back on expenses the nanny may be the first to go.”

Merrilan Kougias, CEO, Choose The Right Nanny, LLC in McKinney, Texas discloses, “We have seen a decrease in our live-in placements in markets such as New York. We have also noticed that families are not calling to interview candidates in a timely manner. Clients (on the East Coast) are not rushing to fill vacancies and seem to be taking a ‘wait and see’ approach.”

The CEO of Choose The Right Nanny continues, “If a nanny decides she must make a career change, she should try to be patient and flexible. A high end nanny may need to reduce her salary requirement or work smarter by using an agency to promote her job skills and salary requirements. Another point is to insist on a work agreement or contract between the employer and the nanny.”

Michelle Damas, CEO of Neverland Nannies & Domestics in Woodland Hills, California says, “Unfortunately, we have noticed a slight decline in business due to the economic recession. However, there are certainly still jobs available by those who the recession does not affect.”
Ms. Damas continues, “The recession doesn't affect the majority of our type of clientele, but first time home buyers and (unfortunately) lower income households have to cut corners. On the brighter side, many families who still have secured employment still demand quality childcare for their children, offering continued career opportunities for professional nannies and child workers.”

“If any nannies are experiencing difficulties securing nanny positions, I would encourage them to take the following steps in order to increase their odds of finding a great opportunity and beating their competition:

1. Put together a quality nanny resume. Hint: List your qualifications in the beginning so they stand out from others. Try to only incorporate your childcare related positions, rather than non-relevant work experience. Families want to know what type of childcare experience you have more so than anything else.

2. Do not put all your eggs in one basket! I encourage all nannies to take the time to scope out the quality agencies in their area and interview with each and every one of them (don't sign on to an agency exclusively). Without harassing the agencies, provide each with a weekly phone call/email letting them know that you are still in the market for a nanny position.

3. Remain competitive by keeping your salary requirements reasonable. Figure out what the going rate is in your area and then adjust accordingly. Be flexible, and professional.

4. If you can, be flexible with your schedule (and note it on your resume). If you are open to travel, overnight stays, and weekend, note that on your resume.

5. Try to go on the majority of interviews each agency offers you. Be on time to every interview and dress professionally. Bring a copy of your resume, your references (depending on the agencies policies), any letters of recommendation you may have, copies of your First Aid/CPR certifications, Trustline clearance and any other documents you may have that show your qualifications as a professional nanny.

6. Again, remain optimistic! All of that positive energy is bound to land you a great career opportunity.”

Anne Merchant of Teacher’s College for Professional Development and author of The Nanny Textbook explains, “The economic recession has impacted us. We waived all of our fees because the number of nannies registering for classes dropped-off dramatically. Now, because we have no fees at all our student count is higher than it has been in six-years. I would advise nannies to not make the mistake of assuming that you will never be laid-off. With the rate of foreclosures and the tumbling down of formerly well-respected banks and corporations (not to mention individuals and families that have lost a lot of money in the stock market) people are cutting back.”

Ms. Merchant recommends, “To stay as marketable as possible, don't work just on your education - work on getting additional credentials that can be added to your resume, such as;

1. Renew your CPR certification and include a copy of the certificate in your nanny portfolio.
2. Get a letter of recommendation from your current employer while you are currently working or ask your employer to complete an evaluation for you that can be included in your nanny portfolio.
3. Ask friends that are nannies if their employer needs an occasional evening nanny and if so request a letter of recommendation.
4. Take nanny classes like ours at Teacher’s College for Professional Development.
5. Find a way to volunteer to help out at an after school program, nursery school, a Gymboree, the local bookstore or library by conducting a "story hour," or daycare. Volunteer for an adult or children's literacy group, teaching English as a second language, or tutoring at an elementary school. Tell them up-front that you are building both your skills and your resume and you would like them to acknowledge your help by writing a letter of reference.”

Steve Lampert CEO of a national nanny web site writes, “It’s a fact that there will be more nannies searching for fewer jobs, that makes it extremely important that each nanny be very professional and have a well written resume, dress appropriately and have good letters of reference. Also, respond quickly to all emails and calls and arrive on time for interviews.”

Jo Anne Reed, Owner of Estate Domestics, in Atlanta, Georgia suggests, “I would advise nannies to get seasonal jobs to subsidize their income while we get through this time.”

Hilary Lockhart, CEO and Founder of A+ Nannies, Inc. in Scottsdale, Arizona shares, “Our temporary placements are down 42%, family registrations are down 47%, and permanent placements down 51%. I think everyone is seeing a hit. I think that nannies need to know that if they want the same pay they have been getting for the last two or three-years, they need to expect to be patient when looking for jobs. We have many families wanting to start about $1 less than what I was seeing two-years ago; they are all willing to give raises at six-months. I think parents are just trying to save money (like the rest of us). Of course there are those clients that money is still no issue, but they are not all like that.”

Betty Davis of In Search of Nanny Inc. in Beverly, Massachusetts discloses, “We will not have as high an increase in total annual revenue as compared to prior years. We will definitely meet last year’s total revenue levels but we might not increase revenue, as we have in nearly every past year.”

Ms. Davis adds, “In the metro Boston area, it is not just in-home care that has been impacted. There are many long-term family daycare providers in our geographic area who have closed their businesses due to lack of enrollment and have submitted applications to the agency for professional positions. Day care centers have also let teachers go due to declining enrollment.”

“Salaries in the metro Boston area are perhaps the highest in the country and they have increased dramatically over the past two- to three-years. I think caregivers, as all of us, will have to ‘tighten the belt’ and perhaps consider positions at slightly lower salaries (still competitive) than perhaps they have had recently. The economy will come back and if a caregiver is doing a great job, I am sure as their employers are more secure in their professional positions, their caregiver’s work will be financially recognized. Most of the families that we assist have also seen their income decline – no raises, elimination of bonuses, and so on,” says Ms. Davis.

She continues, “Nannies might also consider working two part-time positions to earn their weekly salary. We have placed caregivers in two jobs – a two-day job and a three-day job. Salaries for part-time positions do not seem to have been as affected as salaries for full-time caregivers. When our agency places one caregiver in two part-time positions our agency will always negotiate full benefits for the caregiver between two families. If a caregiver already has one part-time position (which she found independently) and wants us to find another to ‘match’ it, the caregiver might not receive a full paid benefits package unless we are able to negotiate with the other family – which has happened only a few times.”

Mary O’Connor, Owner of Nannies from the Heartland, in Minneapolis, Minnesota adds, “Right now we are at about the same place we were last year. We have noticed more families considering a part-time nanny over a full-time nanny. Our temporary placements have increased. However, in the last couple of weeks we have had a decrease in client inquires and new clients.”

Ms. O’Connor says, “Nannies should carefully consider switching jobs knowing that finding something could take much longer than it has in the past. Good jobs are available but it is taking longer to find the 'right fit.' Consider accepting temporary or short-term work while searching for permanent placements. Look at what might be negotiable because you may be making compromises in your pay range or benefits. It is in the nanny's best interest to make sure their resume is up-to-date, CPR and First Aid is current, and they have demonstrated professional continuing education -- these things get attention.”

Erin Krex, Owner of First Class Care, Inc., in Illinois adds, “Families are not offering the same generous salaries as three-months ago. They are shopping around more for the best deal. Most of the nannies I see are asking for more money than they made at their last job, which is understandable, but I tell them if you can find a good family who needs you long-term then take the pay decrease and wait the year for a raise, otherwise they will go months without a job while waiting for the desired salary.”

Some agency owners have seen no affect from the economic recession. For example, Starla Smith of in Pennsylvania says, “Business is booming!”

Ginger Mylander Swift, President of ABC Nannies & Domestics, Inc. in Denver, Colorado discloses that she is having, “another great year and once again we are on track to surpass last year's revenues. Nannies with experience and strong references will always be in demand.”

Jessica Gillan, President and CEO of A Nanny Solution, Inc. in San Jose, California shares, “I have had my most profitable year. We have placed 53 full-time nannies this year alone, and the year isn’t over. I have had parents tell me that they recently sold stocks to be able to afford one of our high caliber nannies in addition to our placement fees. I have seen three agencies in the bay area go under within the last six-months, I advertise my services to the business and medicals professionals who are less affected by the economy, since I placed a nanny with a doctor at Stanford, the whole hospital calls me now. Believe it or not, this economy can be a blessing in disguise for the nanny industry. More mothers are going back to work and those families need nannies. If this truly is your career then you must take the good with the bad, the economy will make a return. In the meantime, stay off craigslist where the parents who are looking for a cheap deal are on there and as a result only want to offer below market wages. Parents use agencies because they want the whole package and they are aware of the placement fees and higher salaries. Parents want a polished and a committed professional nanny.”

Wendy Sachs, President of The Philadelphia Nanny Network, Inc. explains, “We have not noticed a decline in our business in any way due to the economic recession. We have seen families deciding to opt out of using our service telling us it's because of the economy but we are still getting new clients in to replace that attrition.”

Ms. Sachs continues, “With more people getting laid-off, the pool will become flooded with people looking for work, reassess moving out of job at this time, may be wiser to hold onto the job they are currently in.”

Elizabeth Walsh, Owner of NannyQuest, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia explains, “Our clientele seem to be above the financial storm. I suggest nannies open up the parameters of your job search. Be willing to do a bit more than just childcare. Sell yourself by emphasizing your skills at home management, light housework, meal preparation, tutoring, swimming lessons, and so on. When parents realize that they can be more effective at making money because of what you take off their proverbial plate, they are more willing to pay top dollar.”

Claudia Kahn, Owner of The Help Company, in Santa Monica, California writes, “We have not yet seen a decline in our business, but we are expecting it. We have had calls from many good nannies that have lost their job and are seeking new employment. I also assume that parents will try to do the job that a good agency will do in vetting the right person to help with their childcare. There is always a need for nannies here in Los Angeles as there are thousands of families with dual income parents that need childcare. I am not only telling the nannies, but other job seekers as well as personal and executive assistants, and chefs to possibly lower the expectations of their salaries, and to be more flexible in what they are looking for in a position. Everyone needs to lower their prices including agencies, as this is a time when everyone is worried about their bottom line.”

Susan Feigon & Gail Hamilton of Feigon Hamilton Partnership recommend “Keep a positive attitude and keep the job you already have for now.”

The good news: Ana, the nanny that called Best Nanny Newsletter crying she had lost her job and who inspired this article has found a job before printing this issue. She has just signed a contract making $65,000 per year as a nanny in Hoboken, New Jersey. For Ana, her former boss losing his job became her blessing in disguise.

Thank you also to Sacha Taylor of Nannies and More in Atlanta, Georgia, Susan Buczak of Christian Nanny in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Shari Kendall-O'Neill, Owner of Amazing Placements, LLC for their contributions to this article.

1. Lora Brawley, Brawley & Associates, Federal Way, WA
2. Pat Cascio, Director, Morningside Nannies, Houston, TX
3. Michelle Damas, CEO of Neverland Nannies & Domestics, Woodland Hills, CA
4. Betty Davis, Owner, In Search of Nanny Inc., Beverly, MA
5. Susan Feigon and Gail Hamilton, Feigon Hamilton Partnership
6. Jesica Gillan, President and CEO, A Nanny Solution, Inc., San Jose, CA
7. Glenn S. Greenhouse, Owner, Greenhouse Agency, Ltd., New York, NY
8. Claudia Kahn, Owner,The Help Company, Santa Monica, CA
9. Merrilan Kougias, CEO, Choose The Right Nanny, LLC, McKinney, TX
10. Erin Krex, Owner, First Class Care, Inc., IL
11. Rachel Lawrence, Owner, Wilmington Nanny Agency LLC., Wilmington, NC
12. Anne Merchant, Teacher’s College for Professional Development, MA
13. Judi Merlin, President, A Friend of the Family Home Services, Inc., GA
14. Shannon Pitts, CEO, InteliMark Enterprises
15. Steve Lampert CEO,, West Hills, CA
16. Hilary Lockhart, CEO, A+ Nannies, Inc., Scottsdale, AZ
17. Mary O’Connor, Owner, Nannies from the Heartland, Minneapolis, MN
18. Jo Anne Reed, Owner, Estate Domestics, Atlanta, GA
19. Katherine Leary Robinson, President, Beacon Hill Nannies, Inc., Newton, MA
20. Wendy Sachs, President, The Philadelphia Nanny Network, Inc., Ardmore, PA
21. Starla Smith, Bala Cynwyd, PA
22. Ginger Mylander Swift, President, ABC Nannies & Domestics, Inc., Denver, CO
23. Susan Tokayer, President, Family Helpers, Inc., Dobbs Ferry, NY
24. Alicia Torchia, President, Careful Care Givers LLC Skillman, NJ
25. Sharon Toutant, Owner, A Better Nanny, Sierra Madre, CA
26. Elizabeth Walsh, Owner, NannyQuest, Inc., Atlanta, GA


Anonymous said...

Good points.

All Things Nanny said...

Congrats on the new blog. Great to see your valuable information available to all on this site.

Anonymous said...

This blog is very informative for those of us who work for wealthy families who have lost a lot in this economy

Anonymous said...

At least on the East Coast we all know a nanny that has lost their job or some hours because their employers have lost their jobs or reduced their hours at work.

Most of us work for parents with high incomes and a financial cushion.

I think we should follow Susan Tokayer's advice and tighten our belts and live within in our means so we have savings in case we lose our jobs.

Anonymous said...

This year I am not buying Christmas gifts for everyone like previous years. I simply wrote emails to everyone asking that we not share gifts. Then I wrote the same in their Christmas cards. Living within our means is the best lesson we can learn from this recession.

Anonymous said...

That's a great and very pertinent article. My nanny agency told me that they had a couple nannies calling them in tears because their
employer (and the nanny) lost their job. Their employer was in the construction business. I'm not too fond of my job, but I'm going to stick with it. My boss is a cardiologist, and I can't imagine her losing her job any time soon.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a well researched article. I wonder how many nannies have lost their jobs? Maybe you can ask that too later in the year. I couldn't sign on other than anonymously.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see the follow up of this in a year from now... Most nannies are fortunate to work for wealthy families that have a cushion of savings. If the parents lose their jobs they still can afford to keep their nanny while the parents interview for jobs. Scary times ahead.

Anonymous said...

This is a much more optimistic article than the Wall St Journal one. Interesting because I feel as if Best Nanny Newsletter actually included the entire quotes and seems like others are picking and choosing tidbits just to fit into their headlines. Just my humble opinion.

Anonymous said...

Great to hear what reputable nanny placement agencies have to share on the topic.

Anonymous said...

I think it's getting worse though. Now in 2009 I'm slowly hearing about a nanny here, and a nanny there losing their jobs. I'm employed by parents that work on Wall St. and am hopeful they will continue at their jobs. I saw in NewsWeek that most on Wall St are keeping their jobs. Nanny in NY