Agencies vs. Websites

22 Jan

Yesterday was MLK day, so I decided I would actually take a day off…which for me means working from home. I did wake up, thoroughly enjoy my coffee, watch the inauguration, and work from my laptop. I follow quite a few nanny bloggers, as well as nanny support groups and mommy bloggers, but one I stumbled across yesterday really hit home for me.

The Be the Best Nanny Newsletter is a wonderfully written blog, but this is one I didn’t want to read.

Here are some hard facts about how nannies found jobs last year:

How Nannies Found Jobs in 2007
42% Nanny Placement Agency
20% Nanny Web Sites
15% Word-Of-Mouth
15% Classified Ads in Printed Publications
How Nannies Found Jobs in 2010
38% Nanny Web Site
29% Word-Of-Mouth
19% Nanny Placement Agency
14% Craigslist
How Nannies Found Jobs in 2012
79% Nanny Web Site
10% Word-Of-Mouth
9% Nanny Placement Agency
2% Craigslist

As an agency owner, half the people I tell that I own an agency either think I am a genius to start a business in an area where most households are dual income, or they ask me how I’m “handling” the changes with websites like Care.com or SitterCity.

The answer is pretty simple: I am doing business as usual here at North Star Nannies.

You’re crazy if you think I haven’t reassessed my career choice with the current state of the economy, and yes, I have thought for hours, days, weeks, and honestly, months on end about how I can “update” or “tech-up” my company. And here is what I have decided: I am not changing a thing.

When I started my agency, the whole point was to be the most personalized agency in the area. Yes, there are much cheaper ways to find a nanny. Two of which are Care.com and SitterCity. My agency has ads on both websites, and many of our nannies do find us on there. I think I’d be crazy not to put ads in a place where there are clearly tons of nannies and babysitters looking for work..all in one place…all where I can see their “profile”. But what these websites lack is the personal touch.

People are sometimes even offended by our rates, which by the way, we are one of the cheapest agencies in the area. And of course, we intend to be the best agency in the area. We breathe, eat, sleep, and live all things “nanny-related”. Yes, you can go online and browse through countless profiles, and yes, more often than not, you might have some luck and find an amazing nanny. I found a job myself on one of those websites on a part-time basis a few years ago, but my hours started to slowly decrease as the mother’s schedule changed. To be honest, I only worked those two days a week to have something to do, but if I had been relying on that income, I would have been the one that was “screwed here”.

Agencies provide security. North Star Nannies meets every single one of our nannies. We meet every family that we place. Sara and I spend countless hours over coffee and her “refreshers” from Starbucks just chatting with nannies and getting to know them. We are aiming for the small town feel, here. I know more about our nannies than I know about some of my friends. We are all in this together. We have one of the most important jobs in the world, and I spend nearly every waking minute (when I am not doing CrossFit, taking care of my monkeys, and reading zombie novels) thinking about how we can improve our agency.

When you work with a website, you’re doing the leg work yourself. I can’t tell you how many profiles or applications we get from those websites, because I haven’t tracked it. If I did, my guess would be that we only even get to the interview process with 1 out of 15 people we get to phone interviews with, and even a smaller number from there “clear” our screening process and reference check. This sounds pretty cutthroat, but so many people just don’t take jobs seriously. We get spotty references and resumes, as well as countless no-shows. You simply can’t gauge a person based on a phone interview and their resume. Once nannies make it past that point, and we think they are a good match with your family, only then does a family meet with them.

And for nannies, the process is much more secure than the websites also. As I mentioned, we meet every one of our families too. We come into contact with quite a few people where red flags pop up when it comes to safety. On care.com, most nannies meet with families in their home, and they are walking into the unknown. Since most of our families are referrals from other North Star Nannies families, there is an added level of familiarity.

Security, safety and other scary words aside, agencies just also help you make decisions. Believe it or not, we do have experience with this kind of thing. We know the “nanny market”. We know what nannies make on average compared to job duties. We know what makes a position appealing to a nanny.

These days, it seems like families are the ones competing, rather than the nannies. It used to be that if I worked with a nanny, I always knew if they were interviewing with other families, because those families were North Star Nannies families. With the added options through the websites, the turnover rate of nannies is much higher. We’ve been forced to work a bit faster, and sometimes candidates that are fantastic for a job accept another position outside of the agency before they even get to meet with a family. This is why I encourage families to actually be ready to hire when they come to us. On our website, it says to allow for 4-6 weeks for placement, but I like to move much more quickly. Yes, I’m organized, and yes, I go 90 miles an hour sometimes, but this is for the family’s benefit. When you get that gut feeling that you just met your nanny, go with it. Your gut knows better than anyone if they are right for the position.

Yes, things are changing in the nanny industry, but some things are staying the same including North Star Nannies. With us, you will get us on the phone rather than a number option of why you’re calling. You will actually be able to see the background checks that are run, instead of just hearing that a nanny “passed”, because then you’re not left to wonder about the definition of “pass”.

Here’s a chart I made about the benefits of an agency vs. website:

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