Are Your Paws On The Right Track?
How To Know If A Pet Consultant Is Worthy Of Your Trust
By Paula Mosteller
The appeal of using a consultant in your business is undeniable. It seems so easy to have an expert come in, investigate your business practices and, like the flip of a switch, have a secret formula that guarantees success. After all, they look good and talk a good game.
What is this secret sauce that is worth the thousands of dollars they are getting paid? What guarantee is there, if any, and how do you know that they are not selling the same method to everyone they see?
I want to share some things I’ve learned and get some advice from some pet pros! Stay tuned to learn a few no-nonsense tips, a few ways to calculate and understand numbers and put a great strategy in place with some fresh ideas.
Have Clear Objectives
What are your concerns? What is the problem you need solved?
Are your concerns micro or macro? Are you looking for one solution or a menu of ideas?
This is YOUR MOMENT! Make this about your needs. You should decide what your objectives are, not the consultant. A consultant should work with you to achieve your goals by reaching sustainable solutions. But remember, you need to act on these solutions.
Once you know your problem(s), consider the focus needed to address these concerns. Next, ask the advisor their process to assimilate and draw conclusions to this issue(s). Assessing, engaging and planning are crucial in reaching needed milestones.
Empowering success by helping lead your team will empower you to achieve and sustain your goals while building a winning culture.
The best formula for success doesn’t have to be complicated!
John Sturgess of RetrieveOne Advisors explains his Five Pet Care Business Essentials to help achieve your goals:
Use straightforward pricing on products and services. People are not going to flock to your business because of your pricing structure. They are coming for the quality customer service and the trust that you’ve instilled in them in taking care of their precious pets. If they need to have a CPA to understand the metrics of your pricing, it screams price gauging and is hard, if not impossible, to manage.
- SWOT Analysis: Understanding the Business aspects of your pet services business is key to grow and sustain your operations by knowing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats. You will better understand wins and losses in order to forecast future results. Forecasting is key because this includes estimating future revenue that allows you to calculate operating and capital expenses.
- Yield Management & Pricing: Now that you understand your customers and influencers, the secret formula is to determine what they are willing to pay for your services. Part of this formula is to research data such as household incomes, competitive pricing, your service offerings, what do customers pay in similar markets nationwide, demand, etc.
Now, ask yourself, should I discount? Why & how? Are you trying to attract new business or retain existing business? Are you dealing with competitive pricing? What other factors are pushing you to consider lowering your prices? Where are you positioning yourself in the market?
For example, you may be offering a new service such as Grooming, so you want to build visibility by offering a New Customer discount. This is considered a marketing discount. But, if you are discounting Grooming because your competitors’ rates are lower, then this can be a slippery slope. You need to be disciplined by truly understanding your position and keep your pricing within this position. Remember that if you are positioned in the high-end market and the competitor is mid-scale, then by dropping your rates, you could hurt perceptions by your customer base. As long as you are positioned correctly and your offering is consistent, stay within this segment financially.
2. Great Customer Service
A smile and a warm hello are often more valuable to your business than any discounts or promotions. Remember that unlike selling tangibles, we are in an emotion filled business where perceptions mean everything. What is the first impression you give to your two-legged client; how do they perceive you? People are watching you closely, so make sure they like what they see!
Empowering success by helping lead your team will enable you to achieve and sustain your goals while building a winning culture. Part of this formula is knowledge and engagement in the following areas:
- Customer Focus – Know who
they are, what they want & how
to build loyalty.
- Passion for Excellence – Best of Class processes.
- Development – Employee, process, training and growth.
- Industry Expertise – Know your business, industry trends and competitive analysis.
If you are picking up a car and the garage smells like oil, not a big deal. If you are picking up a pet from a smelly facility, that problem needs to be addressed yesterday! Make sure that your ventilation and cleanliness practices are sniff ready. Use the right products for the job and don’t ignore those sensitive sniffers.
Carmen Rustenbeck of the IBPSA advises the way your facility looks and smells depends on your level of hygiene. Develop a process of keeping your facility clean and sanitized at all times. Teach your staff to clean areas or report areas that need cleaning as they move through each area. Ensure that your employees know how to use the cleaning products correctly. And lastly, ensure OSHA compliance and infection control.
Mel Forbes with Health Technologies always says “Sanitation is not a product but a process”.
Safety and cleanliness go hand in hand, and many of your customers probably agree that a cluttered space is not safe for you or their pets. If the facility is in chaos and items are scattered or dirty looking, people will notice and likely never return. The perception is that important details that might not have to do with cleaning are not being addressed. Make sure you don’t skimp on the cleaning or the training of your staff to be aware of animal behavior and safety.
The Dog Gurus, Robin Bennett and Susan Briggs, shared tips on best practices and standards for dog daycare safety:
- Playgroup staff are trained to identify canine body language and know how to manage playgroups with positive, force-free methods to keep arousal levels low and the fun factor high.
- Dogs are physically supervised by a staff member in the same room as the dogs at all times when the dogs are playing.
- Staff to dog ratio is 1 person to no more than 10–15 dogs, depending on the size of the dogs and the experience of the staff.
- Dogs have enough space to play (industry standard is 40–100 sq ft of play space per dog, depending on the size of the dog).
- There are less than two bites or fights per year requiring medical care to dogs or staff.
- Dogs with bite histories are provided private play space and are not put into playgroups (even with muzzles).
- Safe playgroups depend on a formal dog evaluation process and staff training programs. Additionally, there are known aspects of the design and layout of physical space and operating procedures that keep dog daycare safe.
5. Bottom Line
If you do the basic steps above, you are well on your way to running a very successful business. However, there is a bit of number crunching that needs to happen to make sure you are not pricing yourself out of a career! If you can calculate a few basic areas like profits, expenses and the price of acquiring a new customer, that will help you determine if you are already on the right track.
Do you know the numbers to determine what your profitability is based on your overhead and expenses? Hopefully your profits are a higher number than your overhead. Subtract the overhead from the profits. Whatever the number is, whether positive or negative, will give you a good starting point.
Keep in mind that your rates need to be based primarily on your segment position with an understanding of your costs of doing business. Stay true to your position in the market so you can price your services accurately. Comparing rates to competitors within the same segment is an input to your final pricing strategy, but most important is that the rate you set for each service is profitable.
Understanding the Business Aspects of your pet services business is key to grow and sustain your operations by knowing your strengths and weaknesses so you can better understand wins and losses to better forecast future results. Forecasting is key because this includes forecasting future revenue that allows you to forecast operating and capital expenses.
Good Consultant Attributes
- Goal Setting. Your goals are unique and might be beyond simply wanting to make higher profits. A good consultant will ask about your lifestyle, how big you want to grow and expand and will help you to define a program to meet milestones to achieve goals. Questions should be based upon the Needs and SWOT Analysis.
- Real Work Experience in the Pet Industry. Take a look at what they have achieved and if you want to achieve similar goals.
- Accessibility and Support. When the consultation is over, what kind of assistance will you have when you need it most? This should be discussed during the program assessment along with desired outcomes.
- Practical Business Model. A product and service model that is realistic for your location, demographic and resources.
- Perceptive Insights. A good handle on accounting, marketing, human resources, and business systems to give competent advice.
- Proven Reputation & Skills. A sound reputation and the skills necessary to point you realistically in the right direction for your business.
- Cooperative. A willingness to put your interests first to help achieve outcomes that are predictable and measurable.
Your business is a huge part of your life so choosing a consultant who is a true professional and will put your best interest ahead of their own is critical. Do your homework and make sure that anyone you choose is worthy of your business.
Thank you for your contributions:
- The Dog Gurus – Off Leash Play and Business How-Tos: thedoggurus.com
- IBPSA – Business resources and training and certification: http://www.ibpsa.com/
- John Sturgess Retrieve One advisors [email protected] 612-850-3433
Paula Mosteller is the co–founder of PetExec, Inc., a leading cloud based system for pet professionals to manage their pet daycare and related services businesses. With so many ways that technology is changing the way people interact, Paula is passionate about making sure that people learn smart and cost effective ways to manage these unique businesses. Paula also believes strongly that there are many ways for pet pros to achieve business success. After 11 years working with over a thousand pet business operators in different countries, Paula believes that people who care for and nurture the pets of this world are the best and brightest on the planet and is honored to continue to serve them.