In the natural world spring is a time of renewal, of fresh starts, of green growth. Just as mother nature makes a new start of things each year, it’s good business practice to do the same. We encourage our dogbiz business consulting clients and Dog Walking Academy grads to carve out a little downtime each year to reassess—and what better time of year than spring? Think of it as a spring business break. Perhaps not as exciting as a week in Cabo, but probably more valuable.
Here are some key areas to consider for potential restart and growth for a strong dog walking business:
Are you providing the services you most enjoy and believe best serve dogs and clients? We often hear dog walkers complain, for example, about clients choosing half hour walks for, say, 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. Same with any other services you aren’t enjoying or feel don’t best provide for the dogs in your care.
If your dog walking rates aren’t at the top of the current going rate for your area, it’s time to plan and implement a fee increase. Low rates can undermine your credibility and appearance of professionalism and expertise with potential clients, losing you business. If you take a serious, professional approach to caring for dogs you want your rate to reflect that. If you’re a Dog Walking Academy graduate, you have that much more rationale for a higher rate reflecting your pursuit of high-level professional education.
Don’t forget, too, that dog walking isn’t a volume business—you can only walk a limited, finite number of dogs per day. Serving the dogs you love for the long haul requires you being able to make a sustainable living, so don’t leave money on the table with lower rates.
For more on rates read Raising Your Rates–Why, When, & How
Good policies save you money, time, and hassle. They protect dogs and serve clients. Your “spring break” is an excellent time to review yours to make sure they’re doing all for you they can. Is your cancellation policy helping to avoid financial losses? Are you making use of set day and minimum day policies to protect your income and provide dogs and clients the benefits of regular canine exercise? Does your payment policy streamline your administrative time? And perhaps most importantly, are you and your clients on the same page about your policies?
For more about good dog walking policies read Dog Policies That Work.
The right clientele—canine and human—is a key component to your daily enjoyment of the 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. And hanging on to difficult dogs and clients 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.
Speaking of clients, good marketing brings more of the right ones to your door. Are you doing enough marketing? And are you making the most of the marketing time you do spend? Take some time to assess whether yours is targeted at the kind of clients you most enjoy working with. Review your marketing message, the projects you use to deliver that message, and your website—your ultimate sales tool.
While not as exciting as the spring breaks of college days, taking some time—even a few hours—to rethink the key areas of your business protects your ability to do what you love for a living for the long haul. And who knows—some tweaks this year to your rates, policies, and marketing may make it possible to take next year’s spring business break on a beach in Cabo.