As some of you already know, I have good news in that I am expecting a baby in September this year! This has meant that my main focus and top priority has been on creating a reliable service that works well without me whilst I am on maternity leave, through being simple and easy to use, transparent and reliable, with clear contacts for our clients depending on their needs. Readers already saw in our newsletter the improvements I have made to our staffing processes, although some were still work in progress at that time, so this is just a quick extra update for you on what's happened since:
1. New Staff!
We are really pleased to welcome to our team, Jo Ellet and Julia Nicholls. Both are part way through their induction processes (Stage 2, see below for an explanation) but they are now out looking after our dogs and cats for our clients! Jo is going to be helping out mostly with holiday cover and ad hoc requests from our existing clients when our current team are full, as well as some solo walks in Guildford and Godalming. She has also been fully insured to drive our ForPaws van, so Jo will be Hannah’s dedicated holiday cover and she has been receiving extensive training from Hannah! Julia is a dog groomer in training (might be a useful person for you all to know!) and she will be mostly covering the Haslemere and surrounding areas – as we are getting a lot of new interest from this area. We have put a lot of work into ensuring that we hire the right people to keep you and your dogs happy and content, so we look forward to you meeting them in due course!
Jo had her first time covering Hannah last week which went well! When Hannah is on holiday, Jo will also be carrying Hannah’s work mobile, which is 07584 129457 – which ensures that there is no confusion over who to call on what number for last minute changes! If Hannah is on holiday (we will let you know) she will also now ensure that there is an out of office on her email, with instructions for urgent emails, that require attention before Hannah’s return to be resent to Michelle.Bialogrodzka@forpaws.net – who will action them as soon as she can.
2. New Appointments
To help ensure that you now have clear dedicated contacts depending on your requirements, we would like to confirm the following internal appointments:
Hannah Cubbon – Bookings Co-ordinator – all requests and bookings for cats and dogs to go to Hannah at Hannah.Cubbon@forpaws.net in the first instance. Please note that Hannah often starts walks early and finishes in the early evening, so replies to emails are often sent by her in the evening, not day time.
Sarah Sorgi – Staff Supervisor – any feedback on our team or our training processes, should be addressed to Sarah in the first instance. Please also contact Sarah if you have any queries regarding your dog’s health and wellbeing on our walks too – she will liaise with the team if we need to make temporary arrangements whilst your dog recovers from an op, or needs solo attention due to a bug or behaviour issue. As well as training up our new staff and monitoring their progress through the induction process, Sarah will also be monitoring our new monthly survey – a link will be sent to you all each month with your invoice! If you would like to, you can contact Sarah via direct email to Sarah.Sorgi@forpaws.net.
Michelle Bialogrodzka - Book–Keeping and Accounts Co-Ordinator – any queries on your invoice should go to Michelle who will then do the legwork for you! She will also be sending out invoices from this month, running batch payments via Stripe, receipting the accounts and sending reminders. You can contact Michelle via direct email to Michelle.Bialogrodzka@forpaws.net.
We hope that these new appointments will mean that any questions, queries or feedback you have, will now be dealt with swiftly and efficiently by a dedicated team member. Should you have anything you would like to escalate to me, then you are of course welcome to email or call me directly on 07500 119232. From mid-September-December, I would suggest that any emails to me are also copied to Matthew Harding, my partner and fellow Director (Matthew.Harding@forpaws.net) as I may have my hands full with our new addition!
3. Stripe Payments
Last month our first payments were made via Stripe, a secure credit/debit processing system linked to Pet Sitter. If you would like to sign up, just drop Michelle an email to request your account details and then log into the system to add your card. Payments for dog walks will be taken when the invoices go out (7 days before month end) and receipted automatically – so no need for reminders or worrying about late payments!
Our new induction for new staff has been going really well and we are thrilled that we now have a very thorough process for both vetting the suitability of new staff and ensuring that we provide them with clear, concise training, not only in dog walking (which can be an art!) but also in the processes that we have adopted over the past 5 years of business! Just to give you all a quick overview of the induction and the stages:
Stage 1 – References, contracts, driving license, insurances and bio.
Stage 2 – Reading our staff procedure guides, CRB checks, shadow walks and cat visits with a Senior Pet Carer, review procedures with staff member, introduction to Pet Sitter programme.
Stage 3 – Shadow a team member meeting a new cat client and dog client.
Stage 4 – Complete a written assessment on all procedures including emergencies, be shadowed on a dog walk by Corrine/Sarah.
As you can see, this is a lengthy process that spans usually 1-2 months. Until complete, our staff are referred to as ForPaws Trainees, but if and when they pass, they will then become a ForPaws Pet Carer. Trainees will start to take over and run their own dog walks during Stage 2/3 of the induction process, once we are confident they are capable (and are definitely ‘ForPaws material’!) whilst their induction continues in tandem. Stage 4 is our final check once they are starting to build up their own schedule. During the induction, Sarah will stay in contact with the owners of the dogs that they are walking, just to ensure that they are happy, and to address any additional training needs that may be highlighted. We feel confident that not only will this ensure a high standard of client service for all our team members, it will also improve our staff retention as we start off as we mean to go on, with plenty of training and support!
5. Searching for New Staff
We are also going to be looking for further new members of the team as we are hoping to have at least one more full time member of staff offering group walks in Godalming and Haslemere and we are also now looking for a dedicated ‘Hound Solo’ Dog Walker. This will be someone with a particular interest in dog behaviour as they will be dedicated to working with some of our more reactive dogs to help them enjoy their walks a little more and improve in their behaviour on them. More details on this soon!
5. Refining the Services We Offer
Finally, we have started looking to review our services to ensure they reflect our values and commitment to providing fabulous and well organised care. One of our biggest realisations has been that offering dog walks on an adhoc-only basis for new clients, does not suit our day-to-day schedules. They tend to result in unpredictable group walks (we like our group walks to be set groups of dogs who all know each other and get on, this can change in an instant with the sudden introduction of a new dog) they often take a great deal of time to manage and co-ordinate, which we feel detracts from time we have to spend with our valued regular clients and their dogs, and lastly they also take up space that we feel should be kept for our regular clients when they request the odd extra walk. Whatever you use us for, this will not affect you or your service, as this only applies to new enquiries, but we just wanted to highlight this change for taking on new potential clients - so that you can see the steps we are making to ensure that your dogs are our top priority!
If you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to let me know.
Enjoy the glorious spring sunshine and we look forward to seeing you soon!
What a busy few months we have had! We hope you all had a lovely festive break and that you and your furry family are looking forward to sunshine, spring and warmer, longer days!
As you will remember from our last newsletter in August, we were just rolling out several fairly major changes to enable us to meet the challenges that face a small but rapidly growing business. I am pleased to report that all but one of these changes have now been put into place and update you all on how their progress and success.
Firstly, I am very grateful to our lovely clients who embraced Hannah’s new group walks and our gorgeous new van! I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing it whizzing around Guildford, Godalming and Haslemere! The dogs have certainly been enjoying the comfort of the new van and our clients will be happy to know it has also been kitted with an electric fan to ensure constant cooling air flow during the summer months that are not that far away!
Hannah is almost fully booked 5 days a week, which means that we are now in the process of recruiting several more members of the team with our new recruitment process. We are looking for a holiday cover member, and a new walker to cover Haslemere and Godalming as Hannah is finding that the majority of her clients are centered around the Guildford area. We have just interviewed several excellent candidates who are exactly what we are looking for and we are now starting our induction process, so expect updates shortly!
Secondly, we were very sad that in November we had to let Kirsty go. Unfortunately, as is so often the case at that time of year, business went very quiet, which could not have come at a worse time having just increased our cost base significantly. So, sadly we had to let Kirsty go – however we are still in close contact and she has set up her own business in Haslemere, which we are pleased to report is thriving! Thankfully, Hannah immediately picked up the role of co-ordinating bookings for our walks and cat sits, which I have found has worked very well, simplifying our communication for us and our clients! If you do email us, please don’t worry if you do not have an immediate response, Hannah is walking during the day Monday – Friday and responds to emails in the evening.
Sarah Sorgi and Hannah have now been promoted to the role of ‘Senior Dog Walker’ and they are jointly responsible for training our new staff and helping them find ways to work with any special requirements our clients may have.
All of our staff received their uniform in September and October last year too – we just have a few bits for now, but there will be more soon!
Lastly, the one thing that we are now just in the process of finalizing from our last newsletter is the anonymous feedback tool, this should be coming out to you all soon!
So we are now very much back to business as usual and we hope that you, our very valued clients, have seen an improvement and feel that we are working on offering a reliable, professional and caring service that really takes the worry out of pet care needs!
As you will see the rest of our newsletter is dedicated to just a few reminders on our cancellation terms (as we have lots of our clients asking) and information on how you can now pay us hassle free via Stripe, but what would a newsletter from us be without more grand plans?! So here’s what we are hoping to do this year:
We already have a new business plan drafted for a day care and training centre. This year we are going to be looking for premises to launch it!
I am analyzing some of our canine clients with more specialized needs and seeing if we can improve our services for them, by having a dedicated and highly trained walker focusing on improving their walks and general wellbeing.
Hannah has been signed up to begin her training as a dog trainer, starting with the APDT foundation course.
We are hoping to expand our walks to Woking and more of Haslemere.
I am training as an agility instructor!
Finally some of you may have seen that I have had a new addition… Patch! Patch is a 6 month old border collie, rescued from an Irish pound, just days away from being put to sleep as an unwanted pup. I fell in love with him and brought him home to live with me, Matthew and the dachshunds, who bizarrely accepted him without even a bark! He is still quite nervous of strangers, but every day he grows in confidence. You will see him out and about with me, as he is going to be a ‘stooge dog’ and my agility project!
So we hope that gives you a whistlestop tour of what we’ve been up to in the past six months since our last newsletter.
As always, we are so grateful to you, our wonderful clients for your continued support and for choosing us for your pet care needs. We hope that you have a wonderful spring and summer and we look forward to seeing you soon!
Kirsty and Hannah officially joined us as employees in August and Hannah started driving our fabulous new ForPaws van (whilst sporting her new uniform) which she LOVES. In September, she was tasked with driving it all the way to Middlesborough to see Jonathan Horsell of Designer Crates and Cages, who built us a stunning and secure crate system for the van.