As a small business owner and full time Mum to 2 young children, it is so important for me to not only have the right team around me but also the best.
Read on to find out why…
In 2013, I was lucky enough to join Entrepreneurial Spark, a business incubator programme for Entrepreneurs. It’s kind of like a very intense business school for small businesses where we learn every aspect of being a business owner / entrepreneur.
I was there for 2 years and during this time, I learnt loads about myself and business. I was challenged beyond belief and my business also doubled in size. Stardust went from me and one doggy van to a team of 5 crazy doggy ladies, 4 doggy vans and over 60 dogs on our books.
I remember during this time the CEO of Espark, Jim Duffy telling me that once I started to employ that would be my real test…
…he wasn’t wrong.
In the years that followed, unfortunately I did have a few employees who were not the right fit for my team.
As the dog walking industry is not regulated within Glasgow, there seems to be a certain thought that as we “just walk dogs” it’s quite easy and anyone who has ever cuddled a dog in their life could do this job.
Whilst potential candidates can look amazing on paper, give fab interviews and even impress on a trial shift, as much of our job is hands on and learning on the job – it can take a couple of weeks to see that we have picked the wrong person.
With dog care, there is so much more to consider than just walking. As with humans every dog is different, have their own unique quirks and their own individual needs.
We therefore have to adapt our service to ensure all dogs in our care are looked after equally and this can depend on:
…the list is endless.
Not only do we have to ensure our canine handling is as spot on as it can be, but we also have to ensure we have in depth knowledge of each of the breeds we work with as well as each and every individual dog.
All of our gang have individual care plans specifically tailored to their needs. These are living and breathing documents, which change as the dog’s needs change.
We also have to ensure health and safety for both the dogs, the public and our dog walking team.
There are policies and procedures which need to be created, implemented and training is ongoing for every aspect of the business.
With this in mind, I need to ensure that I have a strong dog walking team. They need to be passionate, experienced, educated in animal handling and psychology, have a good knowledge of the local areas for driving purposes, be self motivated, have a practical and common sense approach and above all – a good sense of humour!
Our job is highly rewarding, amazingly enjoyable and lots of fun but it is hard work both mentally and physically and very stressful at times. It can break even the most experienced of walkers some days.
Building A Team
As a business owner I know it’s important to have everyone working to their strengths. In the early days, I was doing everything myself:
- Dog walking
- Customer service
…you name it, I was doing it.
I felt like I never stopped and there are some things that are just not my area of expertise. Take accounting for example, that whole process may as well be in a foreign language for all I understand!
So after a few years of flailing about in the dark and trying to sort everything myself, I decided enough was enough and that changes needed to be made.
My business had taken on some debt due to rapid expansion and then some issues with former employees setting up in direct competition and, sadly – poaching clients.
I had fallen out of love with my business, it was stressful and making me incredibly unhappy. I did play with the idea of winding it up, however I had come too far and it was my life.
So I decided to take back control, get back to the front line and do what I love, being out and about with the dogs and outsource what I’m not good at to other people.
I cut the number of dogs on our books and went down to just one doggy van. For a good few months I was the only dog walking team member, walking the dogs full time. Although this was hard work and a bit stressful with juggling my 2 children, it was also liberating and I fell back in love with my business.
I employed the services of a VA who undertakes all our admin, book keeping, social media content preparation and some customer service. This alone freed up so much of my time, and she really is wonderful. I don’t know what I would do without her, she also does things a million times better than I ever could.
I found a new accountant who is forward thinking, passionate and speaks in plain English to help me understand what and why I need to do things. She is patient and kind but also very strict and keeps me on my toes. She helps to plan for the future and makes me find structure – which is just fantastic and a huge stress relief right there.
After a couple of very expensive mistakes with marketing companies and spending lots of money on traditional methods like newspaper ads, flyers etc. I decided I needed an expert to join the team, as again this is not my area of expertise. I was apprehensive due to previous experience, however I found the loveliest, most knowledgeable and patient man.
I am very pleased to say over the past year he has worked hard to help me build my brand to exactly what I want it to be, we have seen proven results in increased sales and bigger presence online and he also coaches me from the perspective of a business mentor, which for me is amazing. It keeps me on track with my targets and keeps me motivated.
As it was not sustainable for me to keep doing all of the dog walking on my own, I decided to look for a dog handler to help me out. I did however have specific requirements and interviewed a number of people, but one crazy dog lady stood out and I am happy to say she is with us today. She fitted in like she had always been part of the Stardust family and her knowledge and skills are second to none.
What This Means
At the moment, we are in a good place because I now have THE most amazing team beside me and I cannot tell you how wonderful and stressless it feels!
We do have plans to add to our franchise family and also branch out with canine holistic therapy, however these have a structure and a timeline for being rolled out.
I also plan to add a second doggy van and another crazy dog lady or man to the dog walking team, however this will be done carefully and timely to ensure we have the correct balance and person on board.
The days of being too big that I’m stressed all the time and distanced from the true love of my business are well and truly over.
My own dog walking business is the flagship as an example to our franchisees of how to create and manage a successful business whilst providing yourself a healthy income without compromising on your health or relationships with loved ones.
Stardust doggy care from the ground up is all about providing love, safety, security and sustainability because we now have all the right people in the right places doing an amazing job.
If you want to feel the Stardust love and look at our franchise opportunity, feel free to drop us a wee message or if you feel that your dog would benefit from our bespoke walking service, give us a woof.