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Family Time

At the Toyota factory in Georgetown, KY, a worker starts the night shift after leaving her son in the homey …

At the Toyota factory in Georgetown, KY, a worker starts the night shift after leaving her son in the homey surroundings of the company’s 24-hour child care center; a nurse at a downtown Chicago hospital drops off her daughter at its preschool; in Everett, WA, a new $4 million family center is the pride of Boeing.

Behind each of these enterprises is CorporateFamily Solutions, a Nashville-based developer and manager of workplace child care and family centers. Its co-founder, president, and CEO is 51-year-old Marguerite Sallee, whose soft Tennessee accent belies a woman with a mission: to make life better for working parents and their children than it was when she was a single, working mother.

CorporateFamily’s founding dates back a decade, when Sallee, then Tennessee‘s human services commissioner, and Governor Lamar Alexander were leaving office. Looking back at their successful corporate initiative for employee child care, Sallee says: “We thought there might well be a business opportunity.” The co-founders’ timing could not have been better. With millions of working parents seeking quality child care, CorporateFamily is now a $63 million company with a roster of blue ribbon clients like Campbell Soup, Merck, and NationsBank. Last year, it went public in a $25 million IPO.

A typical service involves setting up, staffing, and managing an on-site child-care center, while corporate clients pick up the bill for the capital investment and pay an annual management fee. Child care starts with six-week old infants, and includes pre-schools with certified teachers, and summer camps.

The growing enthusiasm for corporate sponsored child care is in sharp contrast to the closed doors Sallee says she encountered years ago. Why the change? “It’s not just the altruistic thing to do,” she says of her company’s services. “It’s to deliver bottom-line value.” Chase Manhattan Bank, for example, saved $803,175 by avoiding missed working days in 1996. And in today’s tight labor market, companies have discovered that child care is a deciding factor in attracting skilled employees.

Responding to client requests, Sallee is now moving into a broader range of family services, such as consulting on flex-time, parenting, and even corporate-sponsored primary schools and elder care. Montgomery Securities analyst Michael Moe approves of her plans to use some of the IPO cash for acquisitions in these areas, setting CorporateFamily apart from competitors like Bright Horizons and KinderCare. “She’s a very strong leader who combines vision with savvy operational skills,” he says.

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