A yearly sprucing and polishing of your R+ dog business can increase your efficiency and productivity, bump up your bottom line, and lead to greater enjoyment of your work. And if that’s not enough, here’s a bonus: unlike household spring cleaning this practice requires no mops, spray bottles, or feather dusters!
Ready to roll up your sleeves? Here are our best tips for easy dog 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 providing? 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 perhaps you’re sick of driving and would benefit from moving your training services entirely online.
On the dog walking side, we often hear walkers complain about clients choosing half hour walks for a 2-year old German Short-haired Pointer or a young, hyperactive lab. Not offering choices you don’t want clients to make is the easiest way to avoid these situations. If you feel a full hour-long walk is best for dogs and your business, retool your services this year accordingly.
In contemplating your current and possible services look for choices that maximize your enjoyment of your business while best serving the clients you most want to draw.
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 print ads, brochures, and online review services, consider diverting your marketing dollars to content-based projects like print newsletters, tip sheets, online lead magnets, 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. Call all your service providers once a year 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 leaving more time to market your business or take more clients. Systems to check include bookkeeping, tracking client information, follow-up calls or emails to prospective clients, check-up calls or emails to past clients, easy online class registration and scheduling, auto-payment, etc. Good systems management will contribute to the efficiency and enjoyment of your business—and leave you more time to play, too.
And don’t overlook the option of hiring some administrative help. 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. On the dog walking side, set day, minimum day, and flat rate policies protect your income and provide dogs with the regular exercise they need.
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.
Clean up your clientele
The right clientele—canine and human—is a key component to daily enjoyment of your work and your business’ longevity. Hanging on to clients outside your primary geographic range means extra unpaid hours driving, hours you could be spending on marketing or time with friends and family. Hanging on to difficult dogs and clients (especially in ongoing relationships like dog walking) means a constant level of stress that chips away at your love for the work and the sustainability of your business.
While it’s stressful to consider letting clients and dogs go, that momentary high-grade stress is a worthy trade for the long-term, low-grade stress that contributes to eventual burnout.
To avoid such difficult decisions in the future, spend some of your spring-cleaning time on your marketing, too. Think about who you most enjoy working with, and make sure your messaging is designed to appeal directly to them. Also think about the kinds of clients who aren’t a good fit and how you’ll help them self-weed. For example, if you want to pull clients who are already fully committed to R+ training and walking, be sure your website is clear about how you work with dogs and the benefits of your approach.
Clear off your desk
Granted, this one does feel a bit like actual cleaning, but there’s a twist—if you do it well once, you shouldn’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.
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. Or maybe it’s time to go paperless by setting up a filing system in Google Drive or a similar app.
If you don’t file things away out of 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, commit in your schedule to a time that you will tackle the task and add it to your calendar for that day. Not only will the task not be forgotten this way, it’s actually more likely to be done because you’ve carved out specific time for it. (In addition to a cleaner desk, you’ll be amazed at the peace of mind this approach creates!)
Set up a spring-cleaning routine
We’ve looked at many areas for your dog 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’s working and what’s feeling a bit grungy. Analyze what’s 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?
Once you’ve identified the problems and their causes, 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 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 for your spring cleaning. Gifting yourself a week or two 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!
Happy spring cleaning, whatever your season or weather!
Rather not clean alone? Get your spot on the THRIVE! waitlist to join a supportive community of R+ trainers actively working on their businesses together!