Are You Recession Ready?
By Laura Laaman
We’ve weathered a lot this year. As if the seemingly never-ending pandemic wasn’t enough, let’s throw in the wild travel booms and ongoing staffing crisis—not to mention costs increasing at historic levels, including gas prices.
If you’re like many pet care facilities, you had a very busy summer due to pent-up travel demand. The good news is that pet parents are likely to continue traveling through 2023. According to Tourism Economics, travel spending is predicted to reach within four percent of pre-pandemic levels, which is more than nine percent over 2022. However, demand and inflation mean higher costs, including airfare prices, which have increased and are expected to continue to rise.
The pandemic had another effect on the pet care industry…there are far more pets in homes than before. The ASPCA estimates more than 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic. They followed up with a 2021 study that showed an overwhelming majority (over 90%) of dogs were still in their new homes. With a lot more pets—and especially first-time pet parents—the need for your services increases.
In fact, pet-related spending has jolted upwards across the board this year, with the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reporting massive leaps in pet and pet product spending nationwide. So, although there’s a lot of economic uncertainty, there’s also a lot of opportunity for those business owners who can navigate these choppy waters.
Recessions are challenging for business owners. You know more than anyone that successfully running a business is hard work in any economy. It can be lonely and hard to know if you’re doing the right thing—especially when it feels like you’re fighting the “normal” employee, customer and facility challenges (and now a struggling economy, too). But you can get through this! Now, more than ever, the best tools to help your business thrive are a solid plan and an optimistic outlook. As weird as it might sound, recessions can be tremendous opportunities and really help separate great businesses from the rest.
No one knows how severe or long this difficult period of economic uncertainty will last. The news tends to focus on the negative and sensationalism because those generate the most clicks. It’s important to be aware of headlines without overreacting to them. It’s so easy to turn on the news and hear that the world is falling apart and stick your head in the sand. But in many ways, our industry is actually doing well.
Recessions affect each industry differently. Technology and finance companies thrived during the pandemic while many other industries (like ours) suffered. The tech and finance industries went on huge hiring and spending sprees just to keep up. But now that the world is getting back to “normal” and the period of nearly unlimited, free funding appears to be ending, money and attention are shifting away from tech companies. These companies are often exclusively built around top-line growth, so when Google, Facebook and leading banks are down, it generates a lot of news.
But just because Google or your bank is going through some belt-tightening doesn’t mean that your business is affected in the same way. Americans have more dogs than ever, people are going back to the office and need doggie daycare and training, and grooming demand has never been higher. The fundamentals of our industry are strong, so if you take the right steps now, your business will emerge even stronger than before.
One of the most powerful things you can do right now is set a goal—or, better yet, multiple goals—and work to achieve them. An inspiring goal can guide, sustain and propel you better than almost anything else. Goals can focus your attention on the solutions rather than the obstacles. They have a special way of helping you prioritize what will move you forward rather than what will get in your way.
Take a second and think about what you want your business to look and feel like, and what you want to achieve in the near future. I find it’s helpful to think forward just one or two months from now, and in just one or two key areas. Multiple long-term goals are OK, but sometimes these can feel confusing or even daunting. Instead, focus on one thing that you can work to achieve this month that will have a positive impact on your future.
Ensure You Have Great Staff
We’re in a service business that depends primarily on great staff. The staffing shortage caused many business owners to hire the first warm bodies they could find. But now that we have a little more breathing room, it might be time to look closer at your staff. Are these the team members who will provide the best care and boost your brand to higher success?
Dedicated, passionate, career-minded professionals are critical to a strong pet care company. But how do you attract and retain these kinds of employees? At a minimum, it’s become necessary to pay above market average to draw in quality staff and keep them committed to your company. With a nationwide push for a $15 minimum wage, combined with a shift in jobseeker values following the pandemic, offering more than minimum wage and benefits is an effective method to ensure you attract and maintain a great team.
If you feel like you can’t afford to pay what you need to, develop a plan and figure out how you can change that. Yes, it’s absolutely possible (and necessary) to provide exceptional pet care, develop and fully pay a quality team, and still have a financially successful and viable business. In fact, they all tend to go hand-in-hand.
Price And Promote Your Services Appropriately
With a constantly changing economy, are you confident you’re charging the right rates ahead of the holiday season? If you’re charging too little, you’re leaving money on the table—especially during one of the most lucrative times of year. The difference between what you’re currently charging and what you should be charging could be enough to give those raises your team needs, pay for business maintenance or improvements and (most importantly) pay yourself a very healthy and well-deserved salary.
But, on the other hand, if you’re overcharging, prospective clients are likely turning to your competitors instead. This is especially true if your team isn’t consistently doing a great job explaining why you’re special or if your marketing messages are inconsistent or insufficient. Determining the right rate requires preparation and research, but the payout is massive. It’s important to review your rates every so often, for all the service you provide.
Offer The Services Pet Parents Need
Many of the new pet parents are first-time dog owners with no experience integrating a dog into their lives. This has created an increased need for dog daycare and training. Many pet resorts have most of the resources needed to deliver this level of training in-house without hiring an independent trainer. Implementing a robust training program to help parents with all of their dogs’ needs can increase your revenue substantially. In addition, you can reach a much greater population of new clients while supplementing your revenues in the off-season.
To ride this roller coaster but come out ahead and thrive, it’s necessary for business owners to execute the right strategies to achieve success. Providing excellent pet care simply isn’t enough anymore. This upcoming challenging period is different than previous slowdowns and recessions; this time we have an expected economic slowdown plus the effects of inflation.
The good news is, when you’re busy transforming your business, the outside “noise” doesn’t matter as much. While your competitors are going out of business and complaining about the latest problem of the week, you can take your business to the next level.
Laura Laaman is president of Outstanding Pet Care. If you’re interested in growing your revenues, any of the strategies in this article, or any of our other proven and guaranteed services, schedule a consultation by calling 1-888-735-5667 or vising www.OutstandingPetCare.com/contact.