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

 

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

 

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.

 

 

 

Get yourself out there

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By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

An essential part of running a startup is getting your company’s name out there, and to do that YOU have to get out there.  It’s not enough to ask your friends to share and retweet your information – you need to personally connect with industry experts and media professionals. If you’re just starting out in the business, make sure you get your ducks in a row before calling the local news outlets or setting up investor meetings:

Update that pitch deck. Make sure the information is current, and have at least one other person proofread every single version. Nothing will destroy your credibility faster than nonsensical information, wrong numbers, or apostrophe’s in all the wrong place’s.

Check your technology. If you’re going to be giving a talk featuring your amazing website or slick new mobile app, make sure everything works. Spend a little more money on developers or website designers to get everything working reliably before your make-or-break presentation to a room full of potential investors.

Polish your elevator speech. Memorize, and practice delivering, short and long versions of what your company is all about so that you don’t freeze up when someone asks you a basic question during an interview or at a networking event.

Put together a mini-press kit. Reinventing the wheel is the biggest waste of time ever. Once you have your personal bio, headshot, company bio, social media links, one liner, mission statement, etc. crafted to your liking, put them all in one document or folder and have them ready to cut and paste into emails as soon as someone asks for info.

Go to expos and trade shows. This will get you in front of your hardest customers, and every conversation you have will help you to fine tune your product. You’ll also get to meet the competition and hear what people are saying about them.

Go to seminars and workshops. Whatever your current business roadblock is, someone has already faced it, and there’s a pretty good chance that someone else has developed a seminar to help solve the problem. Check out professional associations like IBPSA for seminars and workshops in your area.  Bonus: these are also great networking opportunities, on a smaller, more manageable scale than trade shows.

Hire professionals. Yes, consultants are expensive (especially if the money hasn’t started rolling in yet), but so is wasting time and making avoidable mistakes.  However, you need to do your homework, and you need to hire a lawyer to go over your contracts before you hire anyone else. Trying to get media traction? Find a public relations firm that works with new businesses. Need to start blogging, but hate to write? Hire a freelancer or a small company that can offer a la carte writing services. Doing a tv or newspaper interview about local entrepreneurs? Book a makeup artist and hair stylist before you even think about getting in front of that camera. (Please believe me when I tell you that you should never do your own hair and makeup, unless you want people to think you are a circus professional.)

Starting your own business is a lot of work, and you will need help. You can make it easier on yourself by hiring professionals who already know how to do the things that you can’t. This will leave you more time to focus on your mission and the things that you love. 

5 things successful dog pros do

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What makes the difference between dog businesses that thrive and those that only survive? Here are the top 5 things we teach our clients to do:

Actively market

If you’re not willing to market your business, you’re running the race with your shoelaces tied together. These days people have lots of dog businesses to choose from; if they don’t know you’re there, they can’t choose you.

Put together a simple marketing plan, outlining one new project per quarter if you’re in growth mode, and at least one new effort per year once you’re where you want to be. Keep track of how people heard about you and what made them decide to call so you know which projects to maintain.

Value yourself and your services

People respond to confidence and quality. They will value what you have to offer only if you do. The first step to valuing your services is pricing them well. Low rates undermine a message of value. They attract bargain hunters who will likely jump ship as soon as they see an even lower price. To attract serious clients who choose you for who you are and what you have to offer, pick a price point that shows them you’re worth it. These are the clients who will reward you with years of loyalty.

Act like you’ve already made it

Be clear with yourself and your clients about your services: What exactly do you do, and how? If you’re a dog walker, decide what that looks like: How long will the walks be? When and where will they take place? What equipment will you use? What are your policies for weekly minimums, payment, and cancellations? Make these decisions clearly and communicate them clearly, then implement and enforce them consistently. Not doing so leads to decisions on the fly, ethical dilemmas, and a business that runs you instead of the other way around. Don’t mistake good customer service for letting clients dictate your business.

It’s tempting when things aren’t going well to make compromises—lower a price here, bend a rule there, accommodate a client with a half day of daycare when your service model is full day, or pet sit a dog 20 minutes outside your service area when you promised yourself you wouldn’t. But letting fear dictate business decisions will leave you with a number of problems that will require fixing down the road. The way to build the business you want is to behave as though you already have it.

 Keep and work with a schedule

You have a lot to do for your business—marketing, taking care of dogs and clients, paperwork, the list goes on. And a lot you’d like to do for yourself—time with family and friends, for hobbies, for your own dogs. There are a few superheroes out there who calmly, easily balance work and life, but most small business owners are either workaholics or given to procrastination. Both create problems and stress.

Finding balance requires structure, and that’s hard to come by when you work for yourself. You can create discipline with a master schedule, in which your work week is broken into discrete chunks of time for each category of items on your to-do list. Assign specific blocks for marketing, appointment slots to offer clients, desk time for administrative tasks, desk time for returning phone calls and emails. Equally as important, set aside the time to walk and train your own dogs, visit friends, run personal errands and tidy the house, and to take that yoga class.

Work ON your businesses as well as IN it

Marketing, systems development for smooth daily operations, and service creation and improvement are just as important as time on the daycare floor or training the dogs and their people. If you don’t tend to behind-the-scenes tasks, you’ll likely have fewer daycare dogs to monitor or private training consults to head to.

Your master schedule will help make the time to work on the business, but success also requires a perspective shift—an understanding that taking care of the business is part of taking care of clients and their dogs. It’s part of taking care of yourself, too—by creating a successful business you reduce your stress and ensure a long career doing what you love.

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This post was originally published on the dog*tec blog. 

Business challenge: delegation (part 2)

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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.