Starting a dog business
With demand for expert dog care increasing, it’s no wonder people are wondering how to start a dog business.
If there is one guiding thought that we focussed on when we started MyWaggyTails it was this – ‘How do we differentiate ourselves from our competition?’ What are our points of difference? Or as marketeers like to speak, ‘what are our USPs (our Unique Selling Points)?
Get this right and you won’t just be another ‘me too’ in an otherwise crowded field.
Frequently I hear comments like, “if only there was someone like you in X”, “I can’t find anyone in Y, do you know anyone you can recommend?”, “there’s such a demand in Z and very few providers, it’s so frustrating”, “I’m full. We could be three times as big and I’d still be full.” On the flip side, I hear, “I’ve lost a customer, how do I replace them?, and ‘It’s school holidays and everyone has cancelled, what do I do?’
This highlights that there’s still a big demand for our services whilst reminding us, not to be complacent and how important it is to keep getting better at what we do.
Here are some brief suggestions on things to consider when starting a dog business.
Training and qualifications
Rightly, DEFRA is increasingly demanding formal professional qualifications for everyone involved in animal welfare. And whilst a pain in the proverbial, they help with your personal competency, as well as credibility and professional standing with customers.
Some of the training and qualifications you might choose include canine first aid, behaviour and animal care.
Law and regulations
Know your stuff. Ignorance in law is no defence. The dog care industry is full of the potential to deliberately or ignorantly commit a criminal offence, get a criminal record, be imprisoned and/or fined. A poo in the park can cost you a £1,000. Don’t!
Protect yourself and those you work with
If you need the keys to a pet owner’s home, it’s a good idea to get yourself a criminal record check so that you can evidence your good standing and set customers’ minds at rest.
It’s also a good idea to have comprehensive insurance and suitable transport insurance, not just public liability. It shows you’re thorough and professional about your work. It also means you can rest easy knowing that if you lose a home owner’s keys or something happens to their pet in your charge, or you have an accident, then at least you’re financially covered.
Know your competition and exactly what they charge for everything. Not because you’re going to undercut them, although you might initially, but it helps to understand your local market and potential holes in their offering. At the same time, you need to know what it costs you to provide each service, from insurance, contribution to vehicle running costs, marketing, licensing, your time etc. There’s little point providing services that cost you money and where you go bust in the process.
Whether you have an estate, a dog van or an SUV, it needs to be fit for purpose, efficient to run, and easy on the fuel consumption. You also need to ensure that dogs are either crated or harnessed to ensure they are safely transported and can’t interfere with the driver or each other (the law says so). Also, if you have to do a pick up/drop off, there is little point taking on a new customer that is 8 miles in the opposite direction to all your other customers and where’s you’re walking, for example.
Operating your business
Develop a schedule for your business and broadly, stick to it. It helps you organise yourself and manage your customers’ expectations.
Sort out the money honey. Make sure you legally structure your business that’s right for you (get expert advice) and set up the financial side of your business properly from the outset, including keeping the right records, invoicing correctly, budgeting and paying for taxes, remembering that old cliché, ‘There are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.’ It’s difficult to get to the death bit not paying taxes.
Promote your business
If they don’t know you’re there, they will never come knocking. And just because you told them once, doesn’t mean the job’s done. They might not have been ready to buy.
Know your audience, where they are, how they buy your services, how and when to talk to them, then do it.
Things that matter? Awareness, flyering, online, search engines, social media, testimonials, word of mouth referrals, shared photos and videos, and great customer experiences.
And lastly, good luck.
Of course, MyWaggyTails would love to help you be successful. So please talk to us.
Tel: 0203 962 20020
Registered address: PolkaDot Consulting Limited, 3rd Floor, 86-90 Paul Street, London EC2A 4NE
MyWaggyTails is fully insured. Licensed for Home Boarding and Day-Care by South Oxfordshire Council – Licence Number: 20174
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