Friday, December 31, 2010

My pet sitting goal for 2011: Just Do It!

Kiva and Guiness relax at Judy's
As I thought about the new year for this post, I remembered something a SCORE counselor said to me early last year. I was hemming and hawing about adding independent contractors, afraid to get started.

His comment: “Just do it. Add one person, and get going. The rest will follow.”

Now I look back and realize he was right. He even knew someone who might be a good match, and my helper Judy has turned out to be the perfect person to add to my business. She has been a lifesaver to my (our) clients and me.

This weekend I will have nine dogs staying at my house and four visits a day. She has two more dogs at her house. At this point I have a couple of tentative new people lined up to help out.

During the busy season I certainly need more help, but the rest of the year, I like being a small one-woman show. I’ve decided to keep it small and let it grow only if the perfect people, like Judy, show up. Not an aggressive business plan I know, but I’ve decided I like it that way.

I realized that to make more money, I can always start doing more pet sitting visits again. I had cut back to focus on boarding. Now I’d like to keep the boarding where it is and add visits to add to my income. My plan a year ago was to quit doing visits. This year I revised that plan, because visits are at least 30% of my business, and I don’t want to lose that.

To compensate for the hassle of late night and early morning pet sitting visits, I have shrunk my service area a little. I no longer add new clients in Rancho Bernardo, which is at least an 8-mile drive each way. I’m keeping my current clients (because they are such nice people) but not adding new ones that involve that much driving late at night.

So that’s my business plan for the coming year. Have you thought about where you want your business to grow?
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The weather outside is stormy

Star and Ari share a Christmas kiss
Happy Holidays everybody! If you're like me, you are dealing with a lot of wet dogs this week. One of my clients asked me to wipe their paws when I let the dogs in every night. We've had so much rain that they were soaked from head to toe. When all three, giant schnauzer, mini schnauzer, and shih tzu crash through the door at once and immediately start shaking off the rain, you've got a huge mess on your hands. Then the schnauzer starts rubbing along the wall. UGH!

Optimists that they are, my clients left me two bath towels. I brought more from home. Their new hardwood floors are now covered with drying paw prints. And they'd already scheduled a carpet cleaning for the white dining room carpet. Wise move.

Warm and cozy at my house: Lily, Desi, Blaze, Izzy, Bonnie
We settled on letting the dogs stay in during the day with the back door open to the yard so they could get out if they needed to. The shih tzu, age 12, just shouldn't have to sit out there and get soaked to the skin. For that matter, none of them should have to. The wind was so bad their makeshift shelter (umbrellas and tarps) didn't keep them dry.

One of my other clients said to me once, "But they love the rain!" No dog house, no shelter, and he didn't want them in his pristine garage. I hated him. Malamute or not, they deserved better. I brought over a dog house of my own, and the dogs used it for the rest of their lives.

So stay as dry as possible, carry chains if there's snow; heck, carry a chain saw. My husband used to go with me sometimes on winter pet sits in Seattle. He had to cut through a fallen tree, fix a broken heater (poor kitties- it was only 19 degrees in the house), and tow me out of a ditch once when I ventured out on my own.

Happy Holidays! :)
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

What if you forget a pet sitting visit?

Nate and Roup destroy a dog bed

One of the discussion groups I am on recently featured a question from a distraught pet sitter. She missed a visit, and felt TERRIBLE about it. How could she ever make it up to the owner, and how could they ever trust her again?

Her excuses weren’t extraordinary. She had a cold, was tired, had a busy day, and just plain forgot to go let the dog out. She was pretty hard on herself, and the rest of us were sympathetic.

Why? Because many of us have done the exact same thing. We are human, and humans sometimes make mistakes. So how should you handle it when you screw up?

Admit it and apologize. Tell the clients, and make no elaborate excuses. Unless you were in the hospital, anything else you say isn’t going to impress them much.  Eat crow and be humble. Don't lie.

Don’t charge them. Either give them a free day or the entire assignment at no charge, depending on how much trouble your mistake caused. Did the dog mess on the carpet? It is your responsibility to pay for cleaning. Did the cat have to go to the vet because of missed meds? Pay for the vet visit. Accept responsibility and do what you can to salvage the situation.

 Let go of it. Either they forgive you or they don’t. If they never book you again, there’s not much you can do about it.

One thing I learned from the time I forgot a visit, similar to the time I locked myself out. You’ll pay more attention and won’t let it happen again anytime soon. 

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Friday, December 3, 2010

The week after the pet-sitting rush

Mac, Labrador retriever by Terry Albert

So are you sitting back and counting all that lovely money? Taking long naps? Me too. But this week is so quiet I immediately worry that I’m not going to make enough money in December to pay the bills.

This back and forth feast-or-famine cycle is the norm in pet sitting. It is sure hard on the nerves. Over the years I have learned that the business WILL come, and to take it easy and enjoy a few days off while I can get them.

“Days off” is relative, since I have three dogs staying here. But three is a lot less than nine, so it seems quiet. This is the week to get my car washed, my hair cut, the house cleaned, the corrals spiffed up, and do some Christmas shopping. This is the week I spend time with my horses, who were virtually ignored last week. And this week I paint, since I have three pictures to get done before Christmas (see the first one, above). So it’s not like I’m bored.

The Thanksgiving rush enabled me to pay my property taxes without going into savings this year, which is a blessing. I usually count on the holiday income to get me through January and February, which are always slow.

So don’t go on a spending spree; the rush will be over in another month and you have to pay the rent all year round. 

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