Are You Spending Too Much Time In Your Business?
woman with corgi dog and magnify glass
By Laura Laaman
The pet care industry can be incredibly rewarding and resilient. But, as you know, that doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and butterflies, either. Almost all pet care business owners have at least one thing in common: When we got involved in pet care, we wanted to create something wonderful for pets and their people. We likely envisioned being surrounded by happy dogs and even happier customers. But, unfortunately, like in all businesses, unforeseen challenges pop up…

Maybe just a few at first, or maybe a lot—but they tend to pile into something big, intimidating and maybe even suffocating. With employee issues, staffing shortages, inflation and building problems, owners can quickly feel consumed with so much on their shoulders…and in a recession, it’s even worse.

In pet care, success typically involves providing exceptional pet care and outstanding customer service while generating a healthy financial return. And in the pursuit of that, you can get swallowed up by every minor aspect of your business. The reality is, owners who remain too deeply embedded in the day-to-day operations tend to struggle and burn out.

Many of the most successful pet care facilities are owned by people who have experience or even owned businesses in other industries. This tends to provide a special perspective. They’ve seen how important it is to develop self-sufficient businesses and that their most valuable role is to act as the company’s conductor rather than its engine. So, if you’d like to take a step back, breathe and reclaim your life, read on.

The Benefits of Being an Absentee Owner
Have you ever thought about selling your business? Are you trying to sell your business right now? If so, why?

If you’re like so many others in the industry, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Some of the most common reasons include unreliable employees, overly demanding customers, not making enough money and the owner just being tired. As a consultant to this industry for over 20 years and pet care facility owner myself, I completely understand! This is a very demanding business—especially on the owner or solo manager. But, what do all of these complaints have in common? They scream that the owner is way too involved “in” their business.

In contrast, many wonderful pet care facilities operate with absentee owners. They’ve intentionally established a self-sufficient business and have freed themselves from getting bogged down by every day-to-day issue. These owners mostly work “on” their business rather than “in” it. While they still fulfill important roles in the company’s continued success, the business still manages to thrive despite their regular absence.

corgi next to woman holding book open
Making this switch from actively running your business to shaping or stewarding your business can have profound positive impacts on your personal life, financial success and business health.
Making this switch from actively running your business to shaping or stewarding your business can have profound positive impacts on your personal life, financial success and business health. Some of these benefits include:

  • Drastically improved quality of life and more time to do what you want, whether it’s spend more time with family, travel or pursue other business ventures.
  • More time and energy to focus on the sustained growth of your business.
  • Better accountability and efficiency among management and other team members.
  • Significant increase in your business value when it comes time to sell.
The Power of Your Business
Even if you’re not actually planning to sell your business yet, preparing for a potential sale right now has a magical way of clarifying the areas you need to work on. What would happen if you didn’t show up tomorrow? This week? This month? This quarter? What if an important employee or manager quit or got sick while you were away?
If the answer is that nothing would change significantly and cash flow would remain strong, then you likely have a valuable asset and healthy business. Nice job! However, if you’re like many others and believe the business would fall apart or positive cash flow would soon stop, then you likely have work to do.

I believe you either sell your business or you buy it back from yourself every day. Achieving this mindset is a powerful strategy to guide you and your business to a healthy, successful, sustainable place. Unfortunately, too many owners don’t do this. They eventually get overwhelmed spending too much time in their business and end up selling in a fire sale and settling for much less than what their business could be worth.

At the end of the day, most prospective buyers don’t want a business that requires the heroic efforts of an owner or super-human manager to sustain itself. This is especially true for consolidators (who pay the highest multiples). While an individual person or family might not take issue with an owner-centric business, the highest bidders will. Consolidators don’t want to have to fix the existing operations or set up management to make their investment worth it. At the same time, they’ve been burned by enough businesses that claim to be turnkey but really aren’t. The best evidence of your business’s value and self-sufficiency is in a strong revenue stream and high cash flow, which is being generated regardless of the owner’s presence.

So, how do we make the business more self-sufficient and less owner-dependent? Usually by establishing stronger systems, including a dependable set of tools, processes and training, instead of relying too much on the special skill or heroic efforts of any individual.

The Power of Systems
The most successful pet care companies establish effective and reliable systems as a foundation for their healthy, self-sustaining business. These businesses can often weather (and even thrive in) challenging situations and economies like we’re seeing today.

Good systems should be:

  1. Documented. And include clear, consistent and referenceable material.
  2. Duplicable. Doable by all of your employees/teams.
  3. Measurable. Quantifiable and easy to track.
  4. Provable. Backed up by results.

So, how do you implement your systems, and in which parts of your business?

If I had to choose the most challenging obstacle to achieving success in this industry, it’s not generating enough revenue. Most owners are pretty good about controlling expenses; they are either naturally frugal or quickly figure it out with their accountant, bookkeeper or financial advisers. But, they just don’t have enough revenue coming in to propel to the next level.

Most facility owners know they need systems or processes to take care of the pets—this is almost a 24/7/365 business, after all. And, just one person won’t be able to do it alone for long. Owners quickly realize they need a team of multiple people. And when multiple people are working together, they usually develop some type of system to ensure quality care is provided. However, on the other side, the revenue “systems” are often deeply neglected and broken. It might be less immediately obvious amid the constant hubbub of a typical pet resort operation, but the revenue systems are just as critical to the business’s and owner’s financial health and success as your pet care systems.

Here are some of the high-level revenue systems that most owner-centric businesses need to develop to eventually become self-sustaining:

Improved Prospect Onboarding
Are you confident your business is bringing in enough new clients to keep you on a path of sustained growth? Having enough new clients is key to success in pet care, and every new lead deserves to be handled with care and skill. Implementing a strong phone sales protocol has proven to be a powerful system for many successful facilities. Due to the highly emotional factor in this industry, more pet parents still call you instead of using digital points of contact. A carefully selected phone team can make an enormous difference, especially when provided with quality training and compelling scripts.
Effective Marketing
Knowing how and where to spend your marketing dollars can feel like aimlessly throwing darts. But once you identify what works (possibly with the aid of a consultant), it’s time to set your system in place. It’s important to ensure your team members know the game plan, whether it’s making outbound calls to existing clients, posting flyers or hosting daycare events. Also, be sure to carry the same messages through your various marketing efforts—especially focusing on the fun experience and quality care at your facility. In addition, consider setting a schedule to measure the results more easily and adjust as needed.
Dog Training Sales Process
Selling dog training can often be challenging as it’s a high-ticket item requiring a lot of trust from the pet parent. But by establishing compelling messaging and presentation materials, it’s far easier to earn that trust. Arm your training salespeople with the knowledge and information to conduct winning training evaluations. With a personalized yet consistent presentation, they can inform prospects how your company can meet their needs. Plus, pet parents who trust you to train their pet are likely to use your other services, too.
Better Facility Tours
It’s natural for many pet parents to want to see your facility before trusting their pet to your care. A tour is a valuable opportunity to showcase the wonderful amenities and experiences you have to offer—but, it can be a delicate balance. A written tour procedure and clear guidelines can help qualified members of your team deliver more memorable and effective tours, securing conscientious prospects.

Each system helps your business operate more self-sufficiently, and they’re most powerful when combined. Unchaining yourself from the day-to-day pet care minutiae lets you focus on the most essential “business” parts of running a company. It can help you read a stronger pulse on revenue growth, labor ratio, conversation rates and other metrics important to sustained success. Ultimately, these strategies can pave the way for not only a healthier business, but also a happier, less stressful life.

Laura Laaman is president of Outstanding Pet Care. If you’re interested in establishing a self-sufficient business, any of the strategies in this article, or any of our other proven and guaranteed services, schedule a consultation by calling 1-888-735-5667 or vising