How to get the most out of FetchFind Monthly Pro for your team

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By Cara Armour, Founder of Active Paws Inc and marketing manager of ProPetHero

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and a popular question that they ask is, “if you could tell your 20 year old self something you know now, what would it be?” I realize that while there is a ton to tell my younger self, sadly what is most important to make my life better then didn’t exist.

Running a pet care business 15 years ago

When I first started Active Paws Inc back in 2003, I was using excel to print schedules and handwriting corrections on them. Smartphones didn’t exist, so I spent my dinner time responding to emails and phone calls. I certainly didn’t have amazing online training available, provided by experts in the industry. I had to either go out in the field and use my precious admin time to train my staff, or rely on a senior pet care provider to train the new hires.

Neither scenario was ideal. My company means the world to me, so I want my staff to know everything I have learned over the years; but, I only have a small window of time to deliver that information. I also do not have that time. I am busy with payroll, new hire paperwork, reconciling the bank account, bringing in new clients, handling client problems, answering employee questions, looking over schedules, doing accounts receivable — you get the picture!

Besides not having the time to do the training myself, my senior staff isn’t always overflowing with spare time, either. I have to pay them to train new hires or do a ride along, and I have to pay the new hires for their learning time out in the field. If my senior staff wasn’t trained correctly, or have developed habits that were not in line with the company standards, our precious new hires could learn bad habits and the quality of our care could snowball in the wrong direction.

Only having in-the-field training

There are many issues with only being able to train in the field as well. I don’t always have access (within the two week training period) to all of the “example” animals in our care that exhibit common behavioral issues or special walking tools, such as body language basics, safe greetings for shy dogs, using a gentle leader, introducing two new dogs headed out to a walk together, cats going outside of the box, etc.

So I was super excited to find out that someone was doing this, just for MY staff! For the 20 year old self that I would get the chance to talk to, I would tell her to hold on, an easier way to run your business was coming, courtesy of FetchFind Monthly Pro!

To be honest, I am [still] a little surprised that the training is only $59 a month, for unlimited users. My staff has access to things that would take months for them to be exposed to with that particular animal or in that particular scenario. Even though I provide checklists for my senior staff, I no longer have to worry if the new hire saw or was taught everything, let alone worry if they actually learned it. I now know that they’ve learned it, since the report in FetchFind’s admin dashboard shows me they did.

Why is education so important?

Prevention – the best way to prevent a bite is to train staff how to recognize the triggers and avoid them. If they don’t know what to look out for, they won’t know that a bite is coming.

Retention – while the pets in my care are an important priority, the liability of the people in my employment is actually my biggest concern. If they are not happy, well, and healthy, they cannot care for the animals our clients have contracted us to care for.

Employee happiness starts with confidence in the job. Confidence in the job comes from training and feedback.

If you have poorly trained staff who have to fumble through their tasks and learn by being corrected, they don’t feel great about the job they are doing. Don’t leave your staff figuring out or learning as they go. I started that way and it didn’t feel good. I felt great about my job after I had learned everything I know.

Health and wellbeing of the animals – someone that doesn’t know a cat going outside the box could be a medical problem might write it off and not mention it.

Confidence your clients have with your company – a new hire that wasn’t trained in customer service may not know how to act around your clients, and therefore could make your clients feel uneasy about the people you hire to care for their pets. I have seen staff who interview well get super nervous and act strange around our clients. This behavior would then prompt me to train them, but of course that’s after the fact. Now I can take care of that beforehand.

Cost effectiveness

I know from networking with a lot of pet care businesses that we know our time is valuable, but we rarely – if ever – put a monetary value on it. You really should! Figure out what it would cost to have someone trained to do your job and to the caliber your company demands, then add the value of your knowledge, and you’ll have a good number for an hourly wage. Now charge that to your company for training your staff. (I know you wouldn’t, because that would affect your bottom line, but you can see where this is going.) I can guarantee that doing all the training covered in the FetchFind Monthly Pro subscription would cost you much, more more than $59 a month.

Then you have the senior staff –  you might get away without paying them extra, but you have to pay the new hire to tag along and do a one person job with two people. I have tried making the visits enough for two people, but the backlash of the new hire seeing the tremendous workload sometimes turns them off. I’ve had people quit after a couple days out in the field because they were so overwhelmed by what they saw and needed to learn!

I now have all new potential hires take an hour’s worth of courses on FetchFind Monthly Pro before they are even hired. I consider this my second interview for them, and a way for me to see how they do in the training, since I can see their results. If they don’t score well on certain quizzes and  I choose hire them anyway, I know the areas in which to concentrate further training.

While content is added every Friday to FetchFind’s Monthly Pro subscription, the crucial information needed to get a new hire confident with caring for pets is already there, and can be taught in 5-10 hours (depending on the type of pet care business you have). If you care for cats and dogs, there obviously is more content to consume.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s estimate the minimum wage to be $10/hour. For 10 hours of paid training on courses that cover more than you could in 10 weeks, you’re looking at $100 + (lovely taxes). A few hours of my time is worth that amount, not to mention the cost for 2 weeks at 5 hours/day training in the field (that’s $500 + taxes).

So basically for an hour of training as part of the interview process and $100 in payroll, you have saved yourself $341 ($500 – $59 – $100). (I left out taxes for the sake of simplicity.) That’s $341 savings per new hire for more consistent, time efficient training.

There are a few ways around the pesky payroll as well. Depending on the structure of your pet care company you can have staff take courses while pet sitting, if you provide in-home visits. I have asked my clients about doing this and they love it. No course is longer than 17 minutes, and for those that pay per job, this is a massive bonus! I get the wifi password from my client, the staff performs the visit in the time the client has requested, and for the downtime when your staff would be at the house not doing anything but being present for the pet, they can be learning as well. As I write this blog, I am pet sitting a Chesapeake Bay Retriever who has been a client for 8 years. I am sharing while she is snoring.

What about an incentive program?

You can ask staff to take the course not as a requirement, but rather as an incentive. Whoever scores the highest gets a $100 gas card or $50 to Starbucks. This is one of many ways to cost effectively get your staff learning.

Do you ever throw staff parties, events, or dinners? I take my crew out on a yearly excursion of their choosing. We have gone bowling, laser tagging, and even taken a trip to an amusement park. Have everyone meet beforehand for a half hour to an hour of training – it’s a great group exercise and bonding experience.

Finally, the cheapest and most cost effective way to train – just ask! Ask your staff to have a look at the FetchFind Monthly Pro courses provided. Let them know the benefits it will provide them in their daily tasks and the experience and credentials they can gain.

My younger self would be jealous

I’m sad that my 20 year old self wasted so much precious time and money doing things the hard way. Pet care software, CRMs, and now unified pet care staff business training exists, and it’s always online at our fingertips. My 20 year old self is jealous for sure, but at least now I can prevent turnover, have animals in safer hands, have happier staff, and – most importantly – have more time to work ON my business.

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Cara ArmourCara Armour os the co-founder of Active Paws Inc., a professional pet care business based in the greater Boston, MA. In 2009 Cara won Pet Sitter of the Year, the industry’s highest honor awarded by Pet Sitters International and collected many other accolades over the years. Since 2003, Cara has been trained in Pet First Aid and CPR, and in 2015 she started her own online pet first aid & CPR company. She later joined the team at ProPetHero. She is also a volunteer and foster home for The Boxer Rescue Inc. She has been a mentor to many in the pet industry as well as those in the small business world. Cara spends her free time traveling to agility, lure coursing, and conformation trials. 

 

Thanks to you – we did it!!

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I’ve always said that we have the best community in the world.

And it’s thanks to this community that we were able to meet – and exceed – our goal for the Republic equity crowdfunding campaign.

  • 217 investors
  • 222% funded
  • $111,161 raised

I won’t lie to you – the last four months have been a roller coaster of emotions and soul-searching. Just getting to the point where we could launch the campaign was a hard, tough slog (and boy did we learn a few things along the way). But the rewards of the campaign go far beyond the funding – we’ve tightened up our processes, met amazing investors and pet industry pros, and drilled down to our core values and company mission.

And now – after a weekend of catch up and, yes, a nap! – we’re back at it with new ideas and new perspectives on how we can make FetchFind an even better tool for pet pros across the world.

We wouldn’t be here without you.

With love and endless gratitude,

JM Sig copy

When your business is your significant other

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By jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

I like being in the office at night.

I like listening to music and drinking tea while I get stuff done.  My office is less than a mile away from my home, but I take at least one night per week to stay here and do a marathon session of catching up on email and looking (and marveling) at our new customers’ pet companies.

Being here at night is a peaceful and powerful feeling. I use the time to connect with my business on a deeper level, practice some self-compassion, celebrate the wins (e.g., the amazing traction we are getting through our equity crowdfunding), and reframe the challenges (e.g., not enough time in the day. Never enough time in the day). 

It’s in those moments that I realize I am in a real relationship with FetchFind. And, just like any relationship, it needs nurturing, attention, and occasionally whatever the biz analog to “Netflix and chill” is. 

Do you need to schedule a “date night” with your business? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

 

Think big,

JM Sig copy

 

Dogs, discernment, and doughnuts

This article was originally published on the Republic blog, 5/31/17. Learn more about our equity crowdfunding campaign here. 

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Founder Series: Dogs, doughnuts, and discerning investments

Meet Jamie, CEO and founder of FetchFind, and Stacy, mentor, angel investor and entrepreneur. FetchFind, Jamie’s fourth startup in pet services, unites the nearly $70-billion fragmented industry by connecting pet parents with trusted resources.

How did you two meet?

Stacy: My dog, Jameson, was enrolled in one of Jamie’s pet training programs. Jamie happened to be the tester during Jameson’s “Good Canine Citizen Test” (he passed!).  

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What was your inspiration for FetchFind?

Jamie: During my 25 years in the pet industry, I’ve personally witnessed its transformation from a $17-billion industry in 1994, to its current state, with almost $70-billion in consumer spending. While pet parents increasingly look to professionals for advice, the fragmented nature of the pet education space often leads industry professionals to make up their practices as they go along. This opens an opportunity to make pet services more accessible to pet owners, while also equipping professionals with relevant skills and knowledge at scale.

This is your fourth startup; is building companies still as exciting as when you first started?

Jamie: It’s more exciting! By developing expertise from working in the pet industry and building communities, I’m able to enjoy everything else that comes with running a business. I’ve also overcome various mental blocks, including becoming comfortable talking about money.

What three things do you look for when deciding to invest in a company?

Stacy: When deciding whether to invest, I consistently look at three things:

  1. Social good. I want ideas that are more than just money making ventures.
  2. The person I’m dealing with. They need to be someone I want to spend a lot of time with, even when things aren’t going well.
  3. My excitement for the company. I need to feel a personal connection, otherwise I question my value as an angel investor for that particular startup.

As an example, Public Good Software excites me as it makes it easy to contribute to social causes. I’m also interested in political tech mix-ups, which build tools to mobilize voters in the face of a fragmented political system.

How does being a founder help when choosing companies to invest in?

Stacy: As someone with experience on the other side of the pitching table, I can gauge the authenticity of any pitch I’m given. I know which parts the presenter is comfortable with, which parts they’re testing on me in the hopes that I may like it, and which parts they’re making up.

It also allows me to empathize; you owe it to your entrepreneurs to invest with your heart. When an entrepreneur calls to tell me it’s been a rough day, I prefer to encourage them to take the rest of the day off and have a doughnut.

Jamie: It’s so valuable to have a mentor with experience running a company—Stacy is truly with me in this journey. She’s also right about the doughnuts: the other day, I had one of those “crazy days” founders have. Stacy helped me take a step back by taking me out to eat doughnuts and talk it over.

There’s so much going on in the process of building a company, how do you prioritize?

Jamie: People first, money second, everything else after. I begin every morning filling out three columns (‘people, money, stuff’), reviewing each category to keep the day’s priorities in check.

Why did you decide to do equity crowdfunding?

Jamie: While I’ve already raised $500k from professional investors, FetchFind is an idea that millions can personally relate to. I’m building this company for people and their pets and I love the idea of opening it up to more than just accredited investors.

How do you achieve balance outside work?

Jamie: The truth is that you don’t really get balance. When you’re running a company and putting in 90-hour work weeks, that is the reality. It helps to surround yourself with people who understand that.

Stacy: While what Jamie said is true, it’s also important to practice radical self-compassion. You have to accept that this was the journey you chose and not feel guilty about the opportunities you gave up as a result of that choice. Also, doughnuts help.

What tips do you have for anyone who wants to become an angel investor?

Stacy: Five tips:

  1. Just do it. You don’t need huge sums. I would recommend starting with small investments, which is now so much easier with equity crowdfunding.
  2. Connect with relevant groups and ask experienced investors for advice.
  3. If an idea sounds too good to be true, specifically due to scale or proportion, walk away.
  4. Be wary of companies pitching a service that already exists. I prefer companies offering a new idea.
  5. Look for entrepreneurs with a solid background in the industry they’re building their company in.

Head here to learn more about how FetchFind is disrupting the pet services industry.

– by Caroline Hoffman, Republic team

A lesson in authenticity

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We’re so proud that these outstanding pet professionals are FetchFind clients! Top row, L-R: Jenna Gotch of Passionately Pets, Lauren Cora of Dogs Deserve It, Yvette Gonzales of As You Wish Pet Sitters.  Bottom row, L-R: Barbie Klapp of 2 Paws Up, Karen Levy of Laughing Pets Atlanta, Lisa Tesch of Best in Pet Services.

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

As you know, March 5-11 was the 23rd annual Professional Pet Sitters Week. Since pro pet sitters are right in the center of our FetchFind Monthly Pro wheelhouse, I decided to feature one of our clients on social media each day (see above for a collage of all that awesome). Not just to honor the week, but also (and primarily) because they’re the reason we exist.

It felt great to give a shout out to our peers, and if that had been the sole benefit, it still would have been a win for FetchFind. But when I looked at our weekly Facebook insights (stats) I saw that our genuine display of love and support for our clients resulted in an immediate increase in FetchFind’s most relevant metrics.

Page views: up 113%. Page likes: up 900%. Post engagements: up 467%. 

The moral of the story: Keep it real. Keep it genuine. And always tell the people (clients, colleagues, partners) who inspire you and make you want to do your best work every day that you love and admire and appreciate them… because they are the reason you get to do what you do.

This inspired me to reflect on how that same thinking applies to other areas of life… how when I am fully in gratitude and commitment, valuable outcomes result. Case in point: my mom was in the hospital this week, so  I had to cancel my trip to St. Louis for the final full week of PWE. I had to reschedule investor activities, as well as several other important meetings and calls. During the week when I was tending to my mom’s care, I was stressed and resentful that I had to make the choice between my family and my career – a career which includes supporting staff, clients, and partners.

And then I remembered what happened on Facebook: by following my heart and staying true to my vision, the results were unexpected and fantastic. And, as it turns out, the same thing happened by choosing to put my family first.

So I will meet the rest of this week/month/year with a deeply renewed sense of trust in myself, the process, and the outcomes.

With love, admiration, and appreciation for all of you,

JM Sig copy

 

How to rock Global Pet Expo – like a Boss!

 

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With Wendy Jones from Walk-e-Woo, and a drool-free spokesdog from The Wipe It. 

By Candace D’Agnolo, Founder of Pet Boss Nation & CEO of Dogaholics 

Are you going to Global Pet Expo next week? I’ll be there, so I hope we can connect!

Even if you can’t be there in person, you can still experience the excitement! Just search #globalpetexpo on all social media platforms during the show (3/22-3/24) and you’ll be sure to come across loads of photos and videos of everyone sharing their experiences and product finds. And you’ll have access to all the awesome vendors who will be exhibiting by looking at the exhibitor list online.

Global Pet Expo is of the biggest pet trade shows in the world! With that being said, I want to share some of the tricks I’ve learned over the last decade of attending these types of shows myself. My tip in the video could save you HOURS on the floor!  

For Bossin’ Buyers

There are thousands of ways to spend all your money and all your time next week. I had many years where I left a show thinking “What just happened?!” So just stay true to what your business stands for. See every product and service you’ll come across through your business uniqueness. Don’t fall for an offer too good to be true, and don’t give in to a pushy sales rep.

#1 – Before you write an order, think about if the product aligns with your brand. Would your customers value it? Will it help you stand out from your competition?

#2 – Trade shows are not just about buying products and taking advantage of show specials. It’s about creating opportunities for yourself and your business when it comes to pricing, strategies, and partnerships with vendors. Build relationships and work together!

#3 – Have a plan of attack! It will likely be impossible to walk the whole show floor. Remember that it’s about the journey, not crossing the finish line. Have a list of things you want to find, instead of impulse shopping. Identify your top 10 current vendors you want to make sure you see for specials and new releases, then work the room discovering all the new stuff.

Here’s a quick video on how I like to plan my route, utilizing the show’s website.

For Bossin’ Exhibitors

Having had my own booth at two trade shows last year, I got to see the other side for once. I could not believe how exhausted I was!! At least buyers get to walk the show and take breaks from talking, but not exhibitors! It’s the same message and conversations, over and over and over again.

Here are a few things to consider, from the viewpoint of a seasoned buyer: busy exhibitors who make eye contact, smile, and say “I’ll be with you in a moment”, go a long way with a retailer. Being acknowledged and treated with the same high quality of care that we give customers in our own shop is fantastic.

And it is even more impressive to us when an exhibitor is still able to have great energy at the end of the day or the end of the show…I know it’s not easy. But you never know who might be walking by and ready to place a big order – or better yet, become a lifelong customer!

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candace-dogsCandace D’Agnolo, Founder of Pet Boss Nation and CEO of Dogaholics, started the Pet Boss Nation community because she knows the value that support and coaching can provide to a business. In her own company, she took the initial concept of a brick and mortar location and turned it into multiple revenue streams – up to three locations, offer services (as in dog walking, doggy daycare, grooming), online informational products, books, merchandise, and now pet business consulting. She’s employed over 150 people, led a team as large as 30 and still runs a successful 7-figure business. 

Learn more about Candace and Pet Boss Nation on the Pets Mean Business podcast!

 

Reciprocity and gratitude

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By Jamie Migdal. CEO of FetchFind

While contemplating a topic for this week’s Pet Industry Insider newsletter, it dawned on me that the answer was right in front of me (as it so often is).

The collage above is me with a bunch of different people. The top left is a lovely FetchFind customer, the top right is a women in technology colleague, and the bottom pic is me talking with Maxine Clark,  the founder of Build-a-Bear, at her home during a dinner party for the current PWE cohort. If I’d remembered to take a pic (!), you’d also see a photo of me with the women  who run IBPSA when they were in Chicago for the Pricing for Profit workshop.

Why am I talking about my social calendar? 

Well, that’s because it all represents two key principles of my life: relationships and collaboration. Every single picture here not only represents a relationship that I’m proud of, but also one in which I actively participate in reciprocity of thought and experience.

There are times that I feel so overwhelmed with gratitude that I trick myself into wondering whether I deserve all of this collaboration, support, and love. Then I remember that you get what you give, and I feel better. Honestly, my day isn’t complete unless I know there were at least three times during my waking hours where I gave of myself, whether with advice and expertise, with a professional recommendation, or with an introduction to help someone on their journey. It really means a lot to me to be able to help someone’s world be a better place and enhance their career or personal life in some small, hopefully meaningful way.

To that point of gratitude, at the end of the week I like to look at my calendar and write thank you notes to the people who helped me. I don’t always get to all of them (and definitely not on time!), but I do my best. And since dogs can’t receive thank you notes, I always make sure to dedicate some time to think about the animals that I am able to impact through my work and relationships. 

 Drop me a note about the things that you do to recognize and thank the greatness of the people and animals in your life.  As always, I love hearing from you.

With gratitude,

JM Sig copy

Jamie

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Sign up for our Pet Industry Insider newsletter here. 

Joyful work: mental health days

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By Erin Taylor, Vancouver BC Canada Dog Walking Academy Instructor and Owner of Pawsitive Connection Dog Training

About five years ago, I experienced a serious case of burnout. After six months of feeling stressed, exhausted, and short-tempered, I wondered if there might be something physically wrong with me. When I finally found the time and energy to make a doctor’s appointment, I learned that the years of stress from running my own business, being responsible for other people’s dogs on a daily basis, and always feeling like I needed to take on more and more I had flooded my body with so much stress hormone that my adrenal glands were no longer able to function as they should.

As it turns out, everyone needs down time, a break from work and responsibility and everyday life. Everyone needs mental health days. For me, that means days where the only expectation I have of myself is to take care of me, to rest, to recuperate, to lounge around and read and snuggle with my dogs. It is critical to my sanity to be able to go for long, leisurely strolls with them where the goal isn’t exercise or mental stimulation, but simply to enjoy ourselves and be. I have to allow myself to gently and kindly replace the thoughts of everything I need to do the next day with what is right here, in this very moment. On these days, I find ways to help distract my brain from the laundry list of things to do because a day off is not a day off if the mind is still occupied with work. Some days I allow myself to get completely lost in a good book that isn’t dog related. I have to force myself to (gasp!) actually take a vacation and spend money on myself without the fear of what will happen if an emergency arises and I have “frivolously wasted” that money on down time and vacation time.

This period in my life caused me to profoundly shift my perspective, to understand that in order for me to be able to give the very best to my clients, I need to take time for myself. I had to learn to say no to them, to honor the time I need and to understand that it doesn’t make me lazy or unproductive, and that my business isn’t going to fall apart if I take two weeks off.

When I eventually bit the bullet and worked up enough courage to take that first vacation, I agonized over how to tell my clients, worried that I’d get a backlash of frustration and anger. What I got instead were emails filled with support and comments like “Wow, it’s about time, you really deserve a break” and “I hope you have a fantastic time, I’m so glad you’re taking time for yourself.” I was flabbergasted. I had made myself a priority, and other people thought that was a good thing. Who knew??

I took my dogs and spent two weeks at a lovely B&B, where I spent my days reading, napping, exploring with my dogs, and sitting in the hot tub. I even went horseback riding, something I hadn’t done in years, which invigorated me more than I ever could have imagined. That was the start of me getting me back. Together with the treatment for adrenal fatigue, depression, and anxiety, the time off allowed me to slowly start seeing more of myself again. I began taking one weekend a month where I had no boarding dogs, where I didn’t think about the coming week and what needed to be done. Instead I spent it in the moment, celebrating and enjoying my own dogs and my life. I lost one client because I said “no,” and I had the amazing realization that that was okay. Losing that client lowered my stress levels even more, because she was replaced by another client who respected my boundaries and my down time, and didn’t expect me to always say “yes.” Not surprisingly, my new client was much, much easier (and nicer) to deal with.

Mental health days are not something we should do. They are something we need to do.

They are vital to us being able to provide the best care and service for our clients and their dogs. As dog walkers, we take on such huge responsibility for other people’s dogs. Not just the physical responsibility, but the mental and emotional one as well. I see so many dog*tec grads and other colleagues seeking each other out to discuss issues with their clients’ dogs, learning how they can make things better, looking for ways that (outside of work hours) they can make a difference. Each and every one is emotionally connected and engaged with their clients’ dogs.

The connection that can exist between dog walker and dog is a beautiful, amazing, touching thing. But it can also be an exhausting, draining thing, because when we care, we give of ourselves. And we give and we give and we give. I wish for everyone reading this a way to find that desire to give to themselves. I encourage you to find the things you can do on your mental health days that recharge and reinvigorate you, to give yourself permission to take those mental health days (whether it be a two-week vacation or simply taking a weekend off, fully and completely), to learn to say “no” so that you can continue to say “yes” to all of those dogs who benefit from you being at your very best.

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erin-taylorErin Taylor qualified as a dog trainer in South Africa in 2004. She wanted to expand her experience working with positive reinforcement with dogs and moved to Canada in 2007 to do so. She owned and operated a successful dog walking business for a number of years. She currently owns and operates Pawsitive Connection Dog Training & Services where she is very excited to offer the dog*tec Dog Walking Academy, Dogsafe Canine First Aid classes and both puppy and adult dog training classes. She has a passion for helping to connect people (both pet parents and dog professionals) with their dogs to develop strong bonds and relationships, positively.

 

 

 

Do you want to join the FetchFind Revolution?

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Dear friends,

We did something really big last week and * drumroll please * officially opened up our Seed 1 capital round!

First, a little background info: capital or funding rounds are usually restricted to institutional investors, crowdfunding platforms, and – in the very early stages – to friends & family. In addition, capital rounds are generally tied to specific benchmarks in a company’s development, traction, and growth.

I’m proud to say that we’ve been hitting our benchmarks left and right for the last six months. For example:

– We currently have 70+ subscribers, 3,800 users, and are growing 9% month over month.

– We’re in negotiations with some of the largest pet care companies in the country to provide HR solutions focused on hiring and training.

– We recently welcomed our first three international subscribers, thus signaling our opportunity outside the US.

– We’re in conversations with global media and insurance corporations to provide pet-centric content. Our own content library exceeds 1,000 unique pieces, and is growing daily thanks to the contributions of our in-house experts and other pet care industry leaders.

In a nutshell, this means that we are exceptionally well-positioned to dominate the global pet e-learning content market.

But one of the things that has always stuck with me throughout the process of growing this company is just how much support we’ve always gotten from the pet community – in short, the support that we’ve gotten from all of YOU!

It’s almost unheard-of for a private company to offer direct investment opportunities to non-institutional sources; however, as a way to recognize and thank you for your support, we’re opening up a percentage of this funding round to our wonderful, enthusiastic, and savvy pet community. Of course, there are a lot of requirements for those interested, but the main takeaway is this: If you believe in everything that FetchFind stands for – and want to be a real and material part of what are going to accomplish – you can become an investor as well. If you want to learn more, let me know and I’ll send you more information.

With endless thanks and infinite gratitude,

Jamie

 

 

 

Are you missing out on allowable tax deductions?

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By Marie Poliseno, CPA and managing partner of Dollars & Scents Accounting Services

Too often, self-employed professional dog walkers find themselves owing taxes at the end of the year, in part because they weren’t aware of things they could or should have done during the year to avoid a tax bill. This includes understanding tax deductions that are appropriate for a dog walking business.

First and foremost, planning is key: Don’t just get handed a tax bill at the end of the year. Learn advantageous ways to manage it. Make sure you are tracking your income and expenses accurately, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Too often clients fail to engage in a dialogue with their tax preparer. A good CPA who understands your industry will take initiative, but it never hurts to ask about tax strategies that could lower your tax bill, including allowable deductions you may be leaving on the table.

Where to start

The first step is setting up a separate business bank account from your personal one. Once you’ve committed to a discipline of depositing all of your business income and paying business expenses from your business account, you’ve gone a long way toward helping yourself understand your financial picture and the taxes you’ll owe.

The second step is learning to properly categorize your revenue and expenses to determine their tax deductibility. There are various ways to get help with this step, including engaging a CPA knowledgeable about your industry, attending tax related webinars, or doing some research on your own.

Next, engage in a dialogue with a tax professional to answer some essential questions, such as:

  • Are there any tax advantages to purchasing certain assets for my business, like a car or an SUV? Does one type of vehicle have a tax advantage over another?
  • I am planning to invest in my business this year, including purchasing a new computer and software to manage my scheduling of dog walking and invoicing. How will this affect my tax bill?
  • I am planning to attend a conference this year or enroll in an education or certification program away from home. What expenses can I deduct while traveling to and from these events?
  • Are there any tax strategies I should be employing to lower my bill?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You know your business better than anyone, so if something is on your mind, speak up! Your tax preparation should not just consist of handing over some files or receipts to an accountant once a year. Having a consistent dialogue with your CPA throughout the year helps lay out a plan for managing your taxes and provides an opportunity to do something about them proactively. This will often save you money and unpleasant surprises, like owing more than you’ve budgeted for.

Often-overlooked tax deductions

I see too many clients paying more taxes than necessary simply because they didn’t know they could take certain kinds of deductions. Here are some of the most commonly missed ones:

The home office deduction. Did you know that a portion of your home or apartment used exclusively for your business is tax deductible? Your home office space is the most obvious candidate. And if you provide boarding or daycare in your home, which is often the case—because as your clients’ dog walker, you are probably the first person they will approach to provide this service—the space you use for crating the dogs in your care could also be considered when calculating the square footage of your home used for business. Think about not only the additional revenue source but the tax advantages of deductions associated with it, like the laundry, pet food costs, and other supplies. Translation: tax savings!

Business use of your vehicle. Especially for dog walkers who spend a lot of their time traveling to, picking up, and dropping off clients’ dogs, getting the best possible deduction for the use of your vehicle can save tax dollars big time. Many people believe the mileage deduction is always the most advantageous way to deduct the business use of their vehicle, but this isn’t always true. Often times, especially with new vehicles, the depreciation deduction far outweighs the mileage calculation. It’s worth asking your accountant which strategy is best given your vehicle and how it’s used.

Meals while away from home. This is often a topic of conversation because most dog walkers work in close proximity to their homes. In those cases, meals while out and about during the work day are NOT tax deductible. However, if your dog walking takes you more than 20 miles from home, the cost of your meals could be tax deductible.

Conference and workshop expenses. While most people realize the cost of enrollment in a conference or class is a business expense, many dog walkers overlook costs while attending such events. For example, you can deduct meals, the cost of travel to/from the workshop including car expenses (mileage or gas), parking, tolls, and lodging (even if it’s an RV park!), and any other expenses directly related to the activity.

Communication is the key

The rules around deductions change often—another reason to keep that dialogue going with your accountant. Knowing about tax law changes can help you make good decisions about a range of things, including when to purchase something, what to buy, and how to purchase it. Should you buy a new or used car? This year or next? How much should you spend on it? Should you own it or should the business? Your tax professional can also guide you in decisions about the use of your space, or even which expenses to keep track of.

In short, maintaining an active relationship with a CPA and keeping up on tax laws can keep more money in your pocket at tax time. Who doesn’t like that?

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marie-polisenoMarie Poliseno is the managing partner of Dollars & Scents Accounting Services. She is a certified public accountant (CPA) as well as a professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA) and honors graduate of the SFSPCA Academy for Dog Trainers (CC). To work with Marie on your financial and tax matters, email marie@dog-pro-cpa.com, or visit www.dog-pro-cpa.com to learn more about her services.