Keep your eye on the goal(s)

goals-2691265_960_720

We are hyper-focused on goals right now, and so for the next several weeks, we’ll be sharing some new FetchFind features and offerings. As a side goal, it would be so awesome if OUR momentum inspires YOU to get hopping on something you are excited to complete and roll out. Get it going, my friends. This is YOUR year. 

So let me start…

Here’s some good news for everyone with available job opportunities: We’re retiring our creaky old job board and moving to a Facebook page named Pet Industry Jobs. If you’d like to have something posted, fill out the info here. Thanks to the excellent David Muriello at CATCH Academy for working with us on the development and beta testing.

The 2018 conference/tradeshow season is about to start in earnest, and I’m hoping to catch up with as many of you as possible at one (or all) of them. Below are my Q1 conference selections.  P.S. I’ll be speaking at some of them too. Woot!

2/23 – 2/25/18 – Texas Pet Sitters Conference | Schertz, TX
This is my first time and I’m thrilled that they invited me to participate! I’ll be speaking bright and early Saturday morning 2/24. But you’ll want to get there on 2/23 because 1) the fabulous Arden Moore (who is the creator of our Feline Fundamentals content) will be doing a “Cat Wrangling” workshop, and 2) the welcome reception is a Texas tailgate BBQ. Register for the conference here.

3/14/17 – The National Capital Area Professional Pet Sitters Network | DC Metro
Another exciting first for me! I met quite a few members of NCAPPSN at another conference last year, and they are an impressive bunch. This is one of their members-only events, so if you have a pet sitting biz in the DC Metro area, you should join their network. Really.

3/21-3/23/18 – Global Pet Expo | Orlando, FL
I won’t be speaking this year, but I will be covering every inch of the exhibit space talking to our customers, meeting new people, catching up with old friends, and checking out the learning track they offer. If you’re going to be there, let’s get a coffee (or shop for dog breed socks with me. I just can’t quit those damn things.)

What are your goals for this month/quarter/year? And how can we help you with those? Let us know at hello@fetchfind.com!

Jamie Sig Trans - First Only

Top ten must-haves for every pet business website

website-1624028_960_720

By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and Director of Customer Relations – FetchFind

When I started my dog training business, one of the first things I did was set up my website. A professional-looking website is vital in today’s world if you are a business owner. I looked at a lot of websites when deciding what I wanted to do with my own.

A new website can be overwhelming and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a lot of great, reasonably priced website builders that are very user-friendly (even for non-tech savvy people like me). I personally like wix.com, but I have also heard good things about weebly.com and yola.com. If you have the money, it’s wise to have a pro come to pretty it up at the end. I created my site and added my content by myself, and then had a web designer do a final sweep to make it look cohesive and professional. By doing 90% of the legwork, I didn’t have to spend as much money in the long run. But it was a worthwhile investment to have a designer quality-check the functionality and make it look the way I wanted.

Once you’ve decided on a platform, the next big question is: what do you include on your website? The right information set is very important, but again – trying to decide what really needs to be there can be overwhelming. These are what I consider to be “must-haves” for every pet business website:

Pricing. I understand the thought process behind not including pricing on your website: it might turn off potential customers, or allow your competition to know what you’re doing. And you know what? You’re right. You might turn someone off with your pricing, but that’s OK. Because even if you got that person on the phone and sold them on your company, if your price points don’t fit their budget, there’s nothing you can say that will change that (unless you’re willing to undercut yourself to make the sale, which isn’t a sustainable growth strategy for any company). Posting your prices gives you transparency, creates confidence in your company, and saves everyone a lot of time. And don’t worry about your competition; if they want to know your prices, there are many ways they can find out. Just concentrate on being you.

Customer testimonials. Every website should have a testimonial section. First, it adds credibility to your business. Second, it allows your customers to brag about your services (and their pets), and who doesn’t like that? Customers love to be featured, and  we all like to hear positive things said about us. 🙂 And even better, customers are more likely to share their featured testimony with others on social media. You can dedicate an entire page to testimonials, or have a rotating gallery on your homepage – include at least a half dozen or so, and be sure to ask new customers for testimonials to keep it fresh.

Service area. Be very specific if you only cover certain areas. If you’re a little more loosey goosey and flexible about coverage, then just mention the overall area or region. 

Staff bios. I always want to know who will be coming into my home and looking after my precious family member. It’s very important to include a little information about your staff, including photos. And even better – list their credentials! It’s nice to know that someone is a “lifetime pet lover”, but I also want to know what makes them really qualified to watch my pet. Are they a FetchFind Monthly Pro student? Are they certified in pet first aid & CPR? Do they work at the local shelter as a volunteer? Let your customers know! The more credentialed your staff, the more comfortable your clients will feel, and the more you can differentiate yourself from the competition.

Social media. Have social media buttons clearly displayed on every page of your website; put them either at the top of the page or at the bottom – or both –  but keep the placement consistent and easily located. Potential clients want to see what you’re posting on social media. You can also put widgets on your website with up-to-date feeds from Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

About you. Everyone loves a good backstory. Why did you decide to start this business? What is your philosophy or mission? Don’t be afraid to tell your story, and make it as compelling as possible. You can include this on your staff bio page, or you can have an entire page dedicated to it. Photos of you with your pets (past and present) are great to include on this page.

Why you? This information can be in a separate paragraph, page, or tab, or you can scatter the info throughout your site. Tell the client what differentiates you from your competition. Why are your prices worth it? There are pet sitting/dog boarding facilities on just about every corner, so what makes you so special? This is a great place to talk about your education program (*ahem* FetchFind Monthly Pro!), pet first aid & CPR, etc.

Incident reporting. People want to make sure their pets are safe and they want to know how you handle incidents. If an incident occurs, how is it documented? Be transparent. Let them know incidents are seen to quickly, professionally, and compassionately. This is another way you can make yourself stand out from your competition.

Contact us. Your contact information should be on every page of your website, as well as on a dedicated, “contact us” page. You always want to make it easy for someone to hire you.

The Look. First impressions matter, and websites are often the first touch point for your business. A clean, professional, up-to-date website will draw more potential clients in, and will promote confidence in existing clients. 

Did I miss anything? What are your “make or break” inclusions for websites? Feel free to share your comments and the tools that have been effective for you.

Heatmaps and reporting

 

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 6.28.20 PM

By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and Director of Customer Relations – FetchFind

There are a lot of content providers dedicated to educating the pet industry. I am sure as a business owner it can feel very overwhelming and the variety leads you to a lot more questions than answers. Over the next few weeks, I am going to elaborate on FetchFind Monthly Pro features that set us apart from our competition. I hope I can add some clarity as to why FetchFind is a step above the other resources on the market.

Did you know that we have a special admin feature that allows you to arrange content, add content, add and remove staff members and view your staff member’s progress? We put the power in your hands and give you total control over what content you allow your employees to view.

In this post, I am going to give more information about our reporting system. Every account is set up with the ability to track employee progress. You can see if they watched the videos, took the quiz, how they scored on the quiz, and whether or not they completed the section. This allows you the ability to ensure your staff is utilizing the training you have provided for them. It is also a great tool to use when considering promotions and advancements within the company.

Let’s talk about the heatmaps first. This is probably my favorite feature.

The heatmap below shows that the video has been watched to completion. As you can see, it is a light yellow and completely filled in. That means this person watched the video all the way through, in its entirety, without pauses, skips, or breaks.

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 6.28.01 PM

This heatmap, on the other hand, looks very different from the first. This person watched some of the video (the light yellow), fast forwarded through some parts (the white bits) and re-watched other parts (the dark yellow). At the end, this person only watched 64% of the video.

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 6.28.20 PM

Along with every one of our videos, we include a graded quiz. This person got two out of three questions correct.

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 6.28.37 PM
When you click on the quiz score, a results window will pop up, with the employee’s answers highlighted.

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 6.29.32 PM

Our reports also show if a person completed a section. If the section heatmap is completely white, that means there was no activity by that employee.

As you can see, our reporting gives you a lot of information. Unlike many training options, FetchFind Monthly Pro gives you real time access to your staff’s progress.

Are you impressed? (Personally, I’m always impressed by robust, easy to read reporting functions.) Now, I want to go a step further and explain how this information is invaluable to you and your business.

First, we remove the pressure of training your staff by providing you with all the tools needed to ensure employees are watching the training and retaining the information.

Second, we give you the ability to check in on your staff to ensure that they are keeping up with their assignments. If you are already experiencing performance issues with certain employees, this gives you a way to ascertain where they are having problems, as well as concrete information to help them improve their performance.

Third, this is a great way to incentivize your staff. If you build training into their job description and explain how continuing education will benefit them (both in their current position and in the future), this can be a great motivator. It can lead to job promotions and open up other ways to increase their income. I find that incorporating incentives (or “high value treats”, as we like to say in the dog training world), such as gift cards is a great way to motivate your staff.

Fourth, it can be excellent opportunity to build camaraderie. That might sound strange, but training can be a highly effective way to bring your staff together as a group, and – by incorporating a little friendly competition and incentives – you might see your staff start working together as more cohesive team.

If you have any questions or would like more information on how to use the admin dashboard and reporting functions, feel free to reach out to me directly at erin@fetchfind.com.

 

 

How to help your pet business stand out in a crowded market

erin's pet sitting

By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and Director of Customer Relations – FetchFind

If you own a pet care business, you probably spend a lot of time and energy trying to differentiate yourself from the competition. Because there is a lot of competition out there. A LOT.

But the good news is that you already have access to a great differentiator … FetchFind Monthly Pro! It may seem that a staff training program is something that you just do as part of your drive to have a great business, but the fact is that your clients want (and need) to know that their pets are in the best possible hands. And there is no better way to demonstrate your commitment to their pet’s well-being than the fact that you care enough to train your staff.

Here are some easy ways to inform clients (both current and potential) about your ongoing commitment to excellence:

FetchFind Approved BadgeDisplay your FetchFind Approved badge with pride (because you’ve earned it)! All FetchFind Monthly Pro members receive FetchFind Approved badges in both physical and electronic formats. If you have a bricks and mortar location, you can put the badge on your front door or a window near the entry. I also recommend framing your FetchFind Approved certificate and placing it on your front desk where clients can see it when they check in. This also gives your staff the opportunity to start a conversation with clients when they inquire about it. (If you need more badges, please let me know!)

Educate your staff on how to talk about FetchFind. Your staff will already be familiar with FetchFind because they take the courses. But do they know how to talk about it to your clients? It’s a huge bonus for your company when employees can speak knowledgeably and enthusiastically about what FetchFind is, what they’ve learned, and how it helps them to be better employees. Clients want to hear that everyone within the company takes the safety and comfort of their pets seriously; so if they talk to the front desk staff, dog walker, or daycare attendants, they know their pets are receiving the best care possible because the people who take care of them are receiving the best training possible.

Include information in your blogs, newsletters, website, and social media. Post pictures of your staff in training, share fun snippets of recently acquired knowledge (dog breed info is always a favorite), and mention employees who are “killing it” in training. A great place to mention your FetchFind Monthly Pro training is on your website’s  “About Us” page, where you share your philosophy and mission statement. The more places you can talk about your dedication to education and safety, the better.

If you’re excited about it, your staff will be too. Company culture says a lot about how staff will react to a new training program. If you’re excited about their education and make it a priority, so will your employees. Be proud that you offer this great educational and career development tool to your staff, because it clearly communicates that you are investing in THEM as well. The best business owners are those who treat their employees like valuable resources – because they are! There is no better recommendation for your company than happy, knowledgeable employees.

Update your staff bios to include FetchFind Monthly Pro training. A great way to showcase your staff training is to update their bios on your website. Include a little something about how an employee is working hard to complete their FetchFind Monthly Pro training, mention what their favorite topic is, or talk about how they love New Content Fridays. This makes your staff feel included and invested in the process, while also showing current and potential clients that your entire company values ongoing education.

Let us know how you use FetchFind Monthly Pro to differentiate yourself from the competition, or post it on the FetchFind Approved Facebook page! And remember, we’re always here to help you succeed.

Start the New Year with a great Year-End

fetchy 2018
Last week’s big focus was all about prepping FetchFind’s year-end summary. And while I was doing that, I thought about all of you – my fellow entrepreneurs and business owners.

The year end summary/report is an incredible exercise for any entrepreneur. You can do your own and share it with all of your stakeholders: employees, contractors, investors, VIP clients, vendors, and partners.

Here are my sections and a brief overview of what each section includes. Feel free to add your own and/or let me know if you think I’ve missed something!

2017 Overview: Just as it says. Write a few sentences about high-level takeaways, wins and areas of focus in 2017. (If you’d like to see mine, email me and I’ll happily share it with you.)

2017 Highlights: Get a bit more granular by listing your accomplishments, goals met, new business deals, conferences attended, key partnerships, etc.

Team/Roles: Did you add anyone? Let anyone go? Talk about that here.

Vital KPIs (key performance metrics): These will vary from business to business, and if you don’t quite know what yours are, the start of 2018 is a perfect time to establish them. In 2018, FetchFind will be developing some helpful tools around this and other business topics.

Active Sales Pipeline and Customer Acquisition Strategies: What are you doing to grow the business? (i.e. getting new customers!)

Product or Service: Have you added any lines of service or new products to your inventory? Did you have a price adjustment?

Areas for Improvement: This is pretty self-explanatory! However, this section is only meaningful when you are honest. Do you spend too much time on things that yield little return? Are there operational processes that don’t work as they stand now?

2018 Q1 Goals: This is also self-explanatory… but I encourage you to be flexible with goal setting. Our whole team is highly focused on goals for 2018 and I can already see where FetchFind is changing due to thoughtful goal planning. But I am also aware that goals can be both overwhelming and limiting, so it’s a fine balance between setting, keeping, and changing them as needed. (Here’s a good article on that.) Remember that Q1 is only 90 days, so think about what you are setting out to accomplish and make sure you are being reasonable.

Overall Goals for 2018: See above, but multiply x4.

Help Needed and Housekeeping: Use this area to communicate anything about your business that you might need some help or support with, and/or as a place to mention any important updates or administrative items.

So there you have at it. Take the time to reflect on 2017 and set the tone for 2018. Even if you do this exercise and show it to no one, it’s exciting and extraordinarily useful to look at what you wrote for each of these sections one year later.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Jamie Sig Trans - First Only

How to keep the fur from flying

how-to-control-dog-shedding1

By Sandie Lee

We love our canine companions, but we don’t love those doggy-generated fur-bunnies scooting across the living room floor, clinging to our furniture or sticking all over our clothes. Plus, who hasn’t found a stray piece of dog hair in their dinner? Unfortunately, when we have the dog, we also have to take the shedding hair; it comes with the territory. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to combat all that flying fur.

Start with a high quality diet

The old adage “you are what you eat” can be said about our dogs as well. Nutrition plays a huge role not only in your dog’s inner health, but in its outer [hair] health as well.

If your dog’s food is primarily comprised of fillers such as corn, wheat, and by-product meals, then your dog will most likely have dry, flaky skin and lots of shedding hair. One of the ways to combat shedding in dogs is to feed them high-quality dry kibble that has real meat as the first ingredient. By incorporating a good quality canned food to your dog’s dry kibble you can up its moisture content by 78 % (dry food only has 10% moisture). This is an excellent way to ensure your dog stays hydrated. Plus, make sure your dog always has access to fresh, clean water.

A good balance of essential fatty acids and oils in the diet is very important. They can help your dog with the dry skin that often accompanies a dull coat and shedding problems. A high-quality dog food will already have EFAs in the recipe, but your vet may recommend other supplements such as fish or flax seed oils. If you’re adding liquid oil supplements to your dog’s diet, start slow! Adding too much oil at once can lead to digestive upset.

Giving your dog an occasional treat of people food can also help his coat. Good healthy choices for your pooch include eggs, carrots, apples, lean cooked meat, all-natural peanut butter (make sure it isn’t sweetened with xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs).

Regular grooming is key

All dogs need to be groomed on a regular basis. This not only nabs those loose hairs before they fall out, but it also stimulates the circulation and distributes the natural oils in your dog’s skin to help keep its coat shiny and healthy.

Designate at least one day a week to brush your dog, and spend enough time to get all the loose hair, untangle the matted bits, and check for any skin abnormalities. Don’t know what brush or grooming tool to use? Here is a short list of the basic brush types:

Bristle brushes look similar to the brushes we use. They are best for short-haired and smooth-coated dog breeds such as chihuahuas and greyhounds.

Slicker brushes have tiny, tightly-packed, short wire pins, usually set onto a rectangular base with handle. These are good for many dog breeds with medium or curly hair, including retrievers and spaniels.

Rakes also contain pins and should be purchased with pins roughly as long as your dog’s fur to ensure that it adequately thins the undercoat. The rake works well on dogs with long hair and thick undercoats, such as collies and German Shepherds.

Deshedding tools are specifically designed to get rid of the excess undercoat. These come in various forms and should be used on heavy-coated breeds at least twice a year.

Giving your dog a bath can be a huge help when it comes to controlling shedding, as the hair is loosened and whisked away by the water and by the post-bath rubdown. However, too much bathing can irritate your dog’s skin, dry it out, and actually lead to more shedding. Ask a professional groomer or your vet about the appropriate bathing schedule for your dog’s breed or breed mix.

Then, there are the fleas. These nasty little critters can not only spread like wildfire throughout your entire home, but the itchy bites also do a great job irritating your dog’s skin and adding to the amount of hair that sheds. Make sure to treat your dog for fleas in the spring and fall to prevent them from using your dog as a feasting ground.

“Love me, love my dog…”

The vacuum cleaner is your best friend

Most house guests probably don’t appreciate that layer of dog fur on their clothes after they leave your home, unless they themselves have a shedding dog. To keep the furballs to a minimum, invest in a good quality vacuum, preferably one that specializes in pet fur (they tend to have extra suction power).

Grandma may have had the right idea when she covered her furniture in plastic; the pet hair slides right off. However, today we may cringe at the thought of the sticky, sweaty covers that made sitting on Grandma’s sofa a challenge. The good news is that now there are many nice furniture protectors that are designed for the wear and tear of having a dog. Even a nice throw blanket on Fido’s favorite spot can prevent lot of hair from getting on your sofa; plus, it can be easily laundered or shaken out when it becomes a mess.

Don’t forget car seat covers! How many times have you been embarrassed when you have to unexpectedly give someone a ride and they end up sitting on your dog’s “hairy” seat? This isn’t fun, so invest in some cool seat covers (or even just a giant beach towel) for your car.

One last tip: this may seem obvious, but getting rid of the hair as soon as you spot it can save a lot of time in the future. Keep a few pet hair removers scattered throughout the house so you can always find one when you need it.

********

sandie-lee-writerSandie Lee has been in the writing industry for over 20 years. She hails from a small city in Ontario, Canada where there are two seasons – winter and not winter! Her husband and pets, Milo and Harry, make sure she is diligently writing each day to help bring awesome content to her readers.

 

Winter activities, part 4: Rally

rally-copy

By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

In part three of my Winter Activities series, I talked about Nose Work and how much fun scent work can be. In part four, I am going to talk about the sport of Rally.

I loved working on Rally courses with Bailey. It was a great way to see what commands we needed to work on; it provided treats for her, which she always loved; and allowed us time together, which I always loved.

Rally is another registered AKC sport and any dog six months or older can participate. A Rally course is set up with 10 to 20 stations and is set up differently by every judge. Each station has a sign with instructions on the skill that should be performed. An example of instructions could be, “sit stay”, “call front – return to heel,” etc. The handler can use any verbal commands, hand signals, talk to their dog as much as they want and use any means of encouragement (except treats). The handler cannot use physical corrections or touch the dog. The idea is to complete the course correctly.

I love Rally because it is a great way to work on some basic obedience skills with your dog.

Whenever you work with your dog, you are also working on building a relationship with them, so it is a great bonding experience. And who doesn’t like a dog who knows basic obedience and practices polite behavior?

Another reason I love Rally is because you can practice anywhere. You can make up a course in your house, backyard, park, etc. You can practice inside when the weather is horrible or outside when it is lovely. And any dog can benefit from this sport. I love to keep dogs working. It tires them out, and gives them something more productive to do than getting into trouble. And as I said before, creates a great opportunity to bond with you.

Rally has become very popular, so it is very easy to find a program near you. Classes are fun and create a great way to meet other dog lovers and competitions are a hoot. Handlers and dogs really get into the competitions and they are a great way to spend a cold afternoon.

If you are interested in finding a Rally class or learning more about it, check out the official website.

Have you tried Rally? What was your experience?

********

Erin Schneider 250x300rin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

 

Business challenge: delegation (part 2)

delegating

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

In part 1 of Business Challenge: Delegation, I talked about how an inability to delegate can hurt your growth and bottom line, as well as how finding the right person for the job is the first step in letting go.

Now comes the hard part – actually prying your fingers loose from the reins and letting someone else do some of the work. If you’re a micromanaging control freak (a common personality trait amongst small biz owners, as I well know from my own experience with myself), this is the part that can actually, physically hurt to do.

My advice: baby steps.

The easiest way to get into the habit of delegation is to start small – ask someone to draft an email response, schedule a meeting, or post a few things on social media. Think of a handful of low-risk tasks to assign to one or two people in the company, and start parcelling them out. (By “low risk” I mean if something goes awry, it’s not going to cost money to fix or result in you spending hours you don’t have apologizing for the error.)

If that goes well, do it again, and then gradually add on a few other responsibilities until the entire task is being accurately managed by the other person, from start to finish. In dog training parlance, this is known as behavior chaining. (Any dog trainer will tell you that most things in life can be improved by using those trainer skills.)

I want to point out that none of this is to be presented as an indictment of your employee’s abilities or intelligence, but rather as a way for you, the business owner, to get comfortable with  relinquishing control and have space to internalize the fact that the world isn’t going to end when you delegate some of your work.

If this seems too overwhelming to implement on your own, my other advice is to find a good business coach. A coach can be invaluable at all stages of business development, and you should always have a dispassionate, objective adviser who knows you and your story. Business coaches aren’t cheap, but you have to look at it from a big picture, cost/benefit perspective – they aren’t cheap, but they are a lot less expensive than losing growth opportunities or client confidence.

 

Business challenge: delegation (part 1)

jamie-1

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

During a podcast recording with a dog trainer and small business owner last week, we talked a little bit about how hard it is to let someone else handle some of the daily tasks of running a company, even when you know that delegation will help spur growth and keep you focused on doing the things that you really love.

Part of the problem with becoming comfortable with delegation is that, as a small business owner, it’s YOUR name and reputation on the line if one of your employees goes off script. Even if you can honestly say to a client “XYZ incident wasn’t MY fault,” you will still lose their confidence because YOU are the one who chose a poor representative. No matter what you do as a small biz owner, everything ultimately redounds upon you – credits as well as debits.

(BTW, you should never throw an employee under the bus during damage control. You’ll still lose client confidence over the incident in question, and your client will see also you as someone who can’t be trusted on any level. It’s also terrible for staff morale. There is no upside in that scenario.)

Delegation is a two piece puzzle:

1) Identifying trustworthy people, and

2) Learning to let go.

The first thing you have to do before you can begin delegating is find the right people. If you have the luxury of time, use it to watch your current employees’ performance and capacity for good decision making. It’s a trite but true saying that cream always rises to the top. Watch to see who steps up to the plate when it matters, and who makes consistently good choices.

If you’re in a crunch scenario and have to hire someone to be in a position of responsibility, make sure you call their references and ask every question you can legally ask about past performance. Don’t fall for slick interview patter!  If their resume shows a history of increasing responsibility over time, it’s usually a good sign. Once the person is in place at your company, put more weight on what they actually do rather than what they say they’re going to do. And don’t be slow to remove them if they don’t demonstrate the capacity to do the work. (As I always say – hire slow, fire fast.)

The next post will focus on the really hard part – letting go.