A yearly sprucing and polishing of your business can increase your efficiency, productivity, and bottom line. And, as a bonus, unlike household spring cleaning this practice requires no mops, spray bottles, or feather dusters. Here are some tips for easy business cleaning:
Dust off your services
Stop for a moment to ask yourself: Are the services you’re offering the right ones? The only ones? The ones you would most enjoy offering? The ones your clients most need? For example, if you offer one-on-one private training and often wish you had more hands-on dog time, or you hear your clients complaining about a lack of time for their homework, maybe it’s time to look into day training or board and train. Or if you live in an area heavily populated by working professionals, you might consider adding a high-end daily dog walking service to your menu of options.
In contemplating your current and possible services look for choices that maximize your enjoyment of your business and that take full advantage of the client demographics in your area.
Sort through revenue and expenses
Take an updated look at what others are charging in your area to make sure you haven’t fallen behind the times. Look also at whether you’re making what you need. If your fees aren’t keeping you safely afloat, or you see you’re charging less than you could be, it’s time to raise your rates. And no feeling guilty about it. You’ll help far more dogs and their people over your career if you are paid well enough to do the work full time and for the long haul.
Assess where your money goes. Are there business expenses that could be pared down or cut out altogether? The usual suspects include passive advertising costs that don’t pay good dividends on your investment. If you’re spending money on ads, brochures, and online review services, consider diverting your marketing dollars to content-based projects like print newsletters, tip sheets, and the like. You’ll spend less and likely see stronger results.
Other common culprits for wasted expenses include unnecessarily high fees on services such as phone plans, merchant services accounts, and credit cards. Once a year call all your service providers to see what they can do to lower your rates—after all, they wouldn’t want to lose your business! A little research to see what competitors are charging helps, too—then you know when to jump ship.
Spruce up your systems
If you’re losing hours each week to administrative tasks, the money you spend on a streamlined solution will pay dividends by giving you more time to market your business or see more clients. Systems to check include book keeping, tracking client information, follow-up calls or emails to prospective clients, check-up calls or emails to past clients, class registration, etc. Good systems management will contribute to the efficiency and enjoyment of your business.
And don’t overlook the option of hiring some administrative help. Again, the benefits of spending this money are likely to far outweigh the costs.
Polish your policies
If you’re losing income to cancellations, chasing clients around for payment, spending unpaid hours en route to outlying clients, or experiencing the frustration of unsolved cases or slow paced client progress, it’s time to retool your policies. Effective cancellation, payment, travel, and compliance or homework policies are essential to a smoothly run, profitable, and satisfying dog training business.
What’s important is to set policies that actually work. For example, a good cancellation policy should a) keep you from losing money and b) support client progress by promoting training consistency. If your cancellation policy is the typical XX hours’ or X days’ notice, it’s probably not doing its job on either count.
Freshen up your materials
Contracts with waiver language are key to liability protection, and well designed forms for such tasks as phone screening, client intake interviews, and client session notes can save immeasurable time and professionalize your business. Take a good look at your current versions to assess their usefulness. For example, does your phone screening form help you to keep your calls short? Update or replace as needed.
If your class homework handouts or behavior consultation write ups are getting stale, spend some time updating information or adding new insights. “Less is more” is the rule, though—the less text, the more likely clients will read it all. So be brief and to the point and stick with just the most important information.
Presentation matters, so if your materials could use a face lift ask a professional designer to make sure they represent you well with polished, consistent branding.
Clear off your desk
Granted, this one does feel a little like actual cleaning, but it has a twist—if you do it well once, you won’t have to do it over and over. If something sits on your desk for more than a couple of days it’s likely for one of three reasons: There’s no logical place to put it, it has a place but it’s not easy to put it there, or there’s a fear that if the item is put away it’ll be forgotten.
With that in mind, take a look at those piles on your desk. Really look at them— what’s in there? If there are items with no home, make them a place of their own. This could be a new file folder, spot in a drawer, etc. If you find things that have dedicated addresses but somehow never or rarely make it home, rethink their domiciles. Maybe you need to move that cabinet closer to you or that file folder within easier reach.
If you don’t file things away because you worry they’ll be forgotten, it’s time to develop a task organizing system. The simplest way to handle this is to put all tasks in your calendar. Rather than making a to-do list, writing a sticky note, or leaving an item out on your desk, simply commit in your schedule to a time that you will tackle the task. Not only will it not be forgotten this way, you’ve set aside an actual time to get it done. You’ll be amazed at the peace of mind this approach creates.
Set up a spring cleaning routine
We’ve looked at a number of areas for business spring cleaning. Now it’s time to tie back your hair and pull on some gloves. Here are some tips for getting the work done:
Look at each of the areas discussed here and assess what is working and what seems a bit grungy. Analyze what is causing the grime—what about your business feels frustrating, inefficient, ineffective, unenjoyable? Are there tasks that take up too much time? Things you chronically put off—what do you dread about them? Can you put your thumb on exactly where the problem lies?
You’ve decided what the problems are and what is causing them. Now take some time to envision how you’d like things to be instead. What will need to be done to make these changes? Write down your goals, then break each one down into specific tasks— this is your Spring Cleaning To Do List.
Set aside the amount of time needed for your cleaning. Assign specific tasks to specific dates and times in your calendar so you can be sure to get them done.
If the dirt is really caked on or the cobwebs are too thick, don’t rule out taking some time off to retool your business. Taking a week or two (or more in extreme cases) to clean out the corners will not only result in a nice shine, but will ultimately allow you to make more money is less time. You can’t say that about reorganizing the hall closet or scrubbing the kitchen floor!