The usual challenge for dog training businesses is to get up to full speed, to run a full class schedule at maximum capacity, or fill all the appointment spots in your private training calendar. But once you reach these goals, there’s often a new problem to solve—how to create room for additional growth.
Not every trainer wishes to push capacity. But if you find yourself maxed out yet not feeling satisfied with either your income or the number of dogs and dog lovers you’re reaching, here are various ways to expand your offerings.
Hire Additional Trainers
Think long and hard about whether you want to be someone’s boss. It certainly complicates running your business, and the role isn’t for everyone. But if you’re comfortable with the concept, bringing on a fellow trainer to teach additional classes or provide more private training appointments allows you to serve many more dogs.
If you decide to hire, don’t rush in. Take a look at your local training scene. Do you live in an area full of like-minded, skilled trainers who would appreciate the work, or are good trainers hard to come by? Even if your locale has a dog trainer standing on every corner, stop to weigh the pros and cons of hiring an experienced trainer who will be ready to go but bring her own ideas and ways of doing things versus taking the time to train a novice with strong potential to do things your way. There’s no right answer here, just the approach that works best for you, your goals, and your temperament.
Hire Support Staff
If you’re not ready to bring on a new trainer, you might look at hiring support staff—someone to take administrative, janitorial, and other non-training tasks off your to-do list so you have more time to see clients or teach classes.
Add a Service
The obvious choices are adding classes to private training and vice verse if you’re not already doing both, but if you’re serious about adding capacity to your business, think beyond training.
Many trainers find dog walking a natural service to transition private training clients into, especially those with leash-reactive dogs or dogs whose behavior would benefit from increased exercise. If you have a dedicated class facility and aren’t offering daytime classes (another way to expand offerings— daytime classes for seniors or stay-at-home moms), think about using your space for daycare.
You don’t have to provide the walking or daycare yourself, and in most cases it’s better if you don’t—you want to keep time in your schedule to run the business and market your new services. You can start small by bringing on a single walker, for example. Or simply rent your facility to a fellow dog pro to run a daycare, providing passive income from space that would otherwise sit empty.
Open a Facility
If the classes you can teach are limited because you have to rely on the availability of others’ spaces it may be time to find your own. Though you take on a fixed overhead expense, you greatly expand your capacity to offer classes, as well as other services—including a place to hold private consults to cut down on driving time and costs.
Work Out of a Vet Clinic
Another way to reduce drive time and thus make room to see more clients is working out of a veterinary office. Some of our dog*biz consulting clients do this exclusively and others set up shop at a clinic one or two days a week. In addition to cutting down time in your car, having a busy clinic help fill your appointment spots cuts down on your own admin time, too.
The downside is that working with one clinic may make it difficult to maintain marketing relationships with others, so factor that in when weighing this option.
You can cut driving out of your work life altogether and greatly increase the number of private training clients you serve by working remotely. Today’s technologies offer a myriad of creative ways to actively coach and support clients without being physically present.
The downside is that remote training removes the option of training clients’ dogs for them via models like day training which have shown to carry a powerful marketing message as well as strong case outcomes. But if you live in an area that’s spread out and requires too much driving to offer day training, remote training has its advantages for trainer and client alike.
Decrease Your Service Area
If you’re looking for a simpler way to decrease drive time and increase the number of clients you serve, reduce your service area. You’re doing well enough now to consider ways to expand capacity, so there’s no reason to still be driving 45 minutes to see a client clear across town. Find trainers in outlying areas to refer to or, in the absence of good referral options, offer outlying clients remote training support.
Increase Your Prices
Here’s the simplest solution of all to increase financial capacity: If you’re running at full speed there’s simply no argument to not raise your rates. Raise them every six to twelve months until you hit the perfect balance—keeping all your classes filled and private appointments booked with a modest wait list as an insurance policy.
Run the Numbers First
Do some math before jumping in to any of these expansion endeavors. What are the costs you’ll incur? What is the potential income? Does the income number exceed the cost enough to make the effort worthwhile? If so, make and execute a plan. Then enjoy the extra money in your pocket and the satisfaction of helping more dogs and owners in your community.