Guest Blog by: Britt Alwerud
Owning a dog training, or pet sitting business, is a dream career for most people – especially when you first start out. The thought of spending hours with dogs and devising a customized dog training program, sounds like heaven, but unfortunately there’s a high degree of burnout in this industry. And it’s definitely not because of the dogs. You might have set out to be a dog trainer, but then quickly realize that you’re a business owner too and with that comes a lot of responsibility and admin work. As a small business owner, you have to wear many hats and doing it all can weigh you down really quickly. Instead of working a typical 9 to 5 job, you may find yourself working on your dog training program for 8 hours, but then having to do another 3 hours of work having to deal with client scheduling requests, cancellations, invoicing, collecting payments, new client intake and keeping track of all of your client’s information. It can all add up and lead to major burnout. But imagine if you loved your business as much as you love working with dogs and you could save more than ten hours per week running your business? You can do this by applying your dog training techniques to your business.
You have to train yourself to be a successful business owner by doing these five necessary steps for putting your business on auto-pilot:
1. Shape your business model
It’s important to visualize and write down exactly what you want your business and your personal life to look like. Just like in your dog training program, you can use the concept of shaping when thinking about your business. Shaping refers to the reinforcement of behaviors that approximate or come close to the desired new behavior. The steps involved are often called successive approximations because they successively approximate or get closer and closer to the desired behavior.1
Do you love working one-on-one with clients, do you enjoy group classes, do you prefer having a dog training program online using videos and Skype calls with clients, or would you like to supplement your training income by selling E-books? How much time will each of these service types take and how much do you value your time? Once you zero in on what’s important to you, write down a goal for how much you want to make per year. Then work backwards. If you’ve decided to focus on private dog training clients, how many dog training sessions do you need to sell in order to reach that number? Can you offer packages that get you to that number faster or can you offer a premium service like a Board and Train program or a Puppy Potty Training program that you can charge top dollar for. How many of these programs do you have to sell per month to hit your yearly goal? Focus in on your service offerings and make sure they align with your core values and that you are valuing yourself and your time. You are worth it and owe this to yourself. Taking these steps will shape your business to be in alignment with your goals and lifestyle.
2. Capture your systems: Dog Training Programs
Now that you’ve zeroed in on your business model. It’s time to put the systems in place to deliver your high quality service. You may be the best dog trainer in the world, but are you providing the best customer service as a business owner? Just like in clicker training, you need to identify your successful systems and mark them so that the desired outcome happens more frequently – i.e your clients keep booking you and referring you. Identify what is working and what needs improvement. For your clients, you might put together instructions that help your clients form habits that change their dogs’ behavior. Consider putting together your own instructions for how your business should be run on a daily basis. That way you can create consistency for yourself and thereby create consistency for how you interact with your clients as well. An employee handbook is a great way to achieve this and it unlocks the information of how to run your business from your head, so that someone else can step in and help you run the business. This is the first step in automating your business.
3. Chain your processes using modern mobile business software
Dogs thrive off of consistency and so do humans. If you do everything the same way every time, it takes out the guesswork and creates happier customers, staff and business owners. Technology is a perfect way to automate systems so that everyone is on the same page. By using a scheduling, payments, and rating system like Handlr to run your business, your daily operations will be automated. You’ll have peace of mind that all of your appointments were handled and automatically charged to your client’s card, and that your client was satisfied with the service. You will never have to invoice again, shift through tons of physical paperwork, worry that you didn’t get a service agreement signed, or accidentally miss an appointment. It will all be handled in one easy to use business dashboard and your clients will be able to book you directly from their customer app. As you bring on more staff, they can easily be added to your business dashboard so that your clients can conveniently book with them. You can GPS track them, see what time they checked in and checked out of the service, and check your client’s ratings and feedback about your team member. Along with Handlr there are countless other business apps that can help you more easily run your business. Hurdlr is a mileage tracker that can help you keep track of miles for your expenses. Hireology is a great platform for hiring and managing your HR. Gusto is a great platform for payroll and employee onboarding and Google for Work is a must have for running a small business. All of these tools can help you automate your daily tasks so that you can focus on your clients and not on the tedious business admin work.
4. Positively reinforce yourself
Once you’ve set up your business to run on auto-pilot, you’ll feel more confident about bringing on more clients and more staff. This way, you will be able to take a vacation, take a break if you need to, not worry so much about getting injured, start another business, or just work less hours but make more revenue.
5. Reward your customers and staff
Showing your appreciation to your clients and staff not only strengthens the bond and relationship that you have with them, but will also improve your retention rates. Clients will also be encouraged to share your business with their friends and neighbors, and your staff will tell other good people to come work for you. Small gifts during the holidays, handwritten thank you cards, quarterly staff get-togethers, client appreciation picnics at the park or random acts of kindness make an impact in a big way.
One of the keys to a successful dog training program is consistency and setting aside the time to break down the steps and follow through with repetition, reinforcement and rewards. Applying these techniques to your business will result in a balanced, successful business that you’re proud of.
Britt Alwerud has owned and operated one of San Diego’s largest dog walking companies, DogZenergy, since 2006 and is the Founder of Handlr. To learn more about Handlr and how it can help you automate your client intake, scheduling, payments, team dispatching and tracking – request a demo here or visit myhandlr.com.