A Missing Key In Pet Care Success
By Laura Laaman
When revenue growth occurs, evolutionary changes follow. A critical tool for navigating these changes is a realistic staffing growth plan. Without one, your business is vulnerable to internal chaos and unsustainable operation.
This article will help companies of any size develop or tweak the growth plans essential to the foundation for success.
Define Your Expectations
Let’s start at the beginning. Most owners decide to open a pet care facility because they love and want to be surrounded by pets. They generally have a genuine skill or even a gift for providing proactive, quality care. They imagine dogs and maybe cats playing happily in their company, their grateful owners picking them up at the end of a lovely vacation or a long day of work. Unfortunately, that happy bubble is burst when the reality hits: there’s a lot of work involved in running a quality pet care facility. That’s where the need for hiring not just a quality staff but a manager or numerous managers comes in.
Our view on any new hire, but especially a manager, is that this person needs to make your company stronger. Otherwise, why would you invest in them? Hiring a manager is a greater cost than hiring an entry level employee, so therefore the return for the company should match.
An often-overlooked key to success is clear expectations, and most pet care facility owners do not have a planned organizational chart to know what skills they’re looking for to grow their company. Without a clear list of reasonable expectations, the probability the new hire and company will be successful is very low. Defining what you expect and desire from your staff gives them visible goalposts on the way to success. Hiring managers that suit your game plan brings in the skills needed to keep your team and company on course.
Managers are frequently promoted within this industry because they’re great with pet care. That’s certainly an important skill for an operations or care manager, but you need to consider other key areas that make a pet care facility successful. What about customer care? What about employee development and coaching skills? Conflict resolution? Fair and productive discipline? You see the problem. If you hire a strong pet care manager and expect them to improve customer or employee care without the right skills, there’s bound to be a disconnect. This disconnect can often cause more drama that not having anyone in the role at all.
Hiring a Winning Pet Care Team
The pet care industry relies on people, and because pets can’t talk, trust is a priority for pet owners. Hiring competent, trustworthy, and enthusiastic employees is the first step to hiring success.
Pet care is an art, and not everyone is capable of this kind of work. A successful employee will need patience, keen observational skills, and devotion to the pets and their humans that come through your doors.
It’s important to try to choose trustworthy employees who will make a good impression and inspire confidence with your customers. Your employees are likely the first people your customers come into contact with, and many customers will base their initial impressions of your business on the friendliness, competence, and responsibility of your employees—so choose carefully.
Motivating employees and creating a positive work environment where they can thrive will go a long way in ensuring they grow in their roles and deliver exceptional care for both your humans and pets.
To create a quality, solid team and minimize turnover, it’s important to let employees know that growth is available within your company. Someone who starts off as a pet care technician may work his or her way up to being a manager. With the opportunity for personal growth, your employees are likely to work harder and with a greater sense of purpose.
Common Positions in the Pet Care Industry
Finding the right level of staffing is a challenge for most pet care facilities. This business is hugely dependent on people, so managing the quality and quantity of labor of a pet care company needs to be a priority. Without proper staff, the owner and others will burn out. The energy, focus and attention to detail will slip. Too much labor and the company won’t be profitable.
Let’s look at the most commonly adopted staffing models. Most pet care companies are stratified, which means there are different levels of staff and employees. At the top, there’s usually the owner and managers, who oversee supervisors and assistant managers. In turn, the assistant managers and supervisors directly supervise the work of the general staff and employees. This system creates the accountability that makes for healthy working relationships.
The owners, of course, are responsible for everything within a company. They’re responsible for pet care, customer care, employee development, financial success, and effective marketing. As the business grows, owners need to bring on someone else to act as their eyes and ears to help ‘manage’ various aspects.
General Managers or Department Managers
Hiring your first ‘real manager’ can feel amazing, as if a huge burden is lifted from your shoulders. That is, until your new manager has personal issues, becomes overwhelmed, doesn’t do a great job, or leaves. Then you’re scrambling to replace 6 or 7 roles or responsibilities. Realistically, this will take weeks, if you’re lucky—but likely months. Meanwhile, the owner will be forced to jump back into the business, neglecting other key areas of business development (sales, marketing, customer service).
We recommend breaking the ‘general manager’ position down to a smaller set of functions because it’s very unrealistic to find someone with all the skills necessary to act as a true general manager. If you do find someone with all the skills, it will likely be very expensive. And even if you do, you’ll still have the vulnerability of relying on one key person.
The secret to finding a strong management team is finding a set of employees who can move upwards. The best leads, shift supervisors, assistant managers and department managers can come right from within.
Supervisors or Leads
The supervisors or leads are needed to provide leadership to other staff members, but they don’t have general supervisory or disciplinary power.
When you choose a lead or supervisor, look for these important characteristics:
- Company loyalty
- Following company structure
- Positive attitude
Having a good employee structure which includes positions like supervisors or leads will provide staff with good examples. This structure should help reduce employee turnover.
Leads or supervisors are a great solution to a variety of problems. Keep in mind:
- Leads, assistant managers and even managers should be working positions.
- They should only cost you a little more than technicians.
- They can help with training by showing new employees how to properly do certain tasks.
- They naturally mentor a positive attitude.
- You can rely on them to help answer questions.
- They can act as a manager’s eyes and ears (leads can also help notice if an enclosure hasn’t been cleaned properly, if a dog is acting strangely, etc.; same as entry level employees, but more can be expected of leads).
- Leads are not responsible for scheduling, disciplining or interviewing.
- Ideally, leads can be groomed into managers or assistant managers.
Similarly, the assistant manager might cost you a little more than a lead. Depending on the size of your company, you’ll probably need more than one lead. You might even want more than one assistant manager.
Not only are they likely great candidates to fill the manager position, they make the manager position realistic and increase the probability of success.
A good assistant manager can help in a wide variety of ways:
- Cleanliness / care
- Problem observer
- New staff trainer/mentor
- Some discipline responsibility
- Some interviewing responsibility
The Importance of a Labor and Employment Attorney
Your business is most likely subject to federal, state and/or local employment laws. Labor and employment laws are complex. Some laws only apply to employers of a certain size, while others apply to all employers. While this article highlights some situations that may be governed by applicable labor and employment laws, nothing written here should be construed as legal advice or as a statement of the law.
A labor and employment attorney is a special type of lawyer that specializes in the relationship between employers and their employees. They can help make sure your company is following all the rules and work with you to create a hiring process that follows the law.
Having labor and employment attorneys available to you and providing updates is invaluable. For example, your application and all other hiring tools should be reviewed regularly to ensure you’re complying with all state and/or federal laws where you do business. Laws are changing all the time, and they often vary by state, so it’s important to keep on top of them.
Your attorney’s professional guidance will clear a path for you to build the self–sustaining work environment that promotes dedication and passion in your staff.
Having a strong management team that doesn’t rely on the owner is essential for smooth operation of the business. Our clients are prime examples of how a business producing strong revenues can comfortably and profitably pay for these managers.
Having strong managers is also a key to successfully selling your business one day. So, adopting a solid management team solution will help you enjoy life by running a smoother and stronger company today while helping you sell for top dollar when it’s time.
Laura Laaman is president of Outstanding Pet Care. Outstanding Pet Care guarantees to substantially increase the revenues of its clients with its proven services. If you’re interested in growing your revenues, schedule an individual consultation with Laura Laaman or one of our team members. Call Outstanding Pet Care at 1-888-735-5667 or go to www.OutstandingPetCare.com.