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Hiring Help: 3 Tips for Dog Pros

It’s not easy becoming a dog pro. It takes tremendous time, energy, and persistence to attain the right education, open up shop, and attract enough clients to sustain and grow your small business. You work hard to establish and market your brand, network with trusted peers, and attract those worth-their-weight-in-gold recommendations from friends, vets, and clients.

Which is why it could spell disaster when, after all your hard work, a new potential client takes a chance and calls your number, only to encounter a bored, rude, or hostile voice on the other end. Or you have to deal with a dog fight because your daycare attendant was busy texting instead of observing dog play.

In short, finding the right help can mean the difference between a new devoted client and a bad review on Yelp. We know many of you are thinking, “Are you kidding? I can’t afford to hire help!” But even starting small—hiring someone for five or ten hours a week—could take care of some of your least favorite duties, and buy you a little peace of mind. Spend some of those five or ten hours marketing and building your client base, and you’ll easily cover the cost of that one employee—and likely see your revenue increase, too.

Here are some tips for finding strong team members:

1 Make A List
Chances are you already know which tasks you’d happily delegate. Decide whether you want help providing a service or assistance with tasks that occur behind the scenes. Maybe you need another attendant at your daycare, or another sitter to help you during holidays. Or maybe you’d prefer help cleaning your facility at the end of the day or keeping up with email or balancing the books.

Define the tasks, then make a list of qualities your ideal candidate possesses. Think of those exceptional people you’ve known in similar positions and what set them apart. A list will keep those qualities front and center as you proceed.

2 Cast Your Net
Sure, you can post to Craig’s List. But depending on your location you could be flooded with emails and resumes from desperate job seekers in a bad economy, many obviously ill-suited to your business. So start closer to home first; look around your circle of friends, family, and peers. Talk to that excellent student from your advanced training class, or that curious client who asks smart questions. Add the job listing to your business website. Post to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Turn to your LinkedIn network and your Yahoo group. Consider local college job boards or community centers.

3 Bring Them In
Play your cards close to your chest during the interview process. Applicants naturally want to impress, and if they hear you’re looking for someone detail-oriented, they’ll assure you they dot i’s and cross t’s in their sleep. Rather than rely on traditional interview questions that focus on credentials, use a combination of behavioral and situational questions, which have proven in studies to be more reliable indicators of a candidate’s suitability.

Behavioral questions presume that the best predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. For example: “Tell me about the most difficult customer you’ve ever dealt with, and how did you respond?”

Situational questions are future-oriented. They ask the candidate to imagine a situation and how they would react. Here’s an excellent opportunity to bring up a challenge that you or another team member continue to face. For example: “How would you handle a growling dog in a Basic Manners class?”

You can also place the candidate in real-life situations. Hand them a client email and ask for a typed response draft. Put them on the daycare floor to gauge their comfort level around dogs, and their instincts.

Keep in mind that dog handling is more easily taught than human handling. If customer service is important to the position, don’t compromise. Carefully check your candidate’s references and employment history. Your brand, reputation, and livelihood are at stake.

Time To Hire!
Whatever your budget, it’s never too early to think about hiring. You may find your business dreams growing a little bigger.