Those of you who follow my Facebook or Twitter page closely will know that there have been some more changes to ForPaws over the past few months. This year has been the year things have exploded, my training classes started in January and they’ve been going from strength to strength, my walks have been getting busier and busier and my schedule is pretty hectic – which is fabulous!
As demands on my time kept increasing I realised that I needed to make some more changes to ensure that as I continued to grow my business I kept my existing customers happy. I have seen many businesses grow and stop valuing their existing client base, partly perhaps because they have become a little complacent, but more in my opinion because in the pet care industry it is easy to become swamped in requests to a point where you can hardly keep up with trying to keep so many people happy. When you work in an office it is very easy to have ‘work/life balance’ you and your colleagues work during the day and generally things are quiet in the evening when you and your colleagues are at home and immersed in their personal lives. Pets form part of people’s personal lives and as such, it’s often quite easy for them to feel that this means they can contact their pet care provider at any time, day, night or weekend. I’ve seen many people who run businesses similar to mine just burn out, leaving disgruntled customers in their wake – and I was determined that as I kept growing, I would not become one of them!
So after a lot of thought, I made a couple of changes:
- To stop offering weekend walks – my weekends are now for training and catching up on admin to keep things running smoothly, plus a little time to relax to ensure I’m re-energised for another week of walking!
- To stop taking on customers who are looking for occasional walks for the time being – adding in a new dog for the odd walk here and there can make walks less predictable and harder to manage. Most of my dogs are comfortable walking with their friends that they see regularly and a new dog in the mix can really upset the balance. I am looking at the possibility of taking someone on to offer this service again as there is certainly demand, but for now I don’t have the capacity.
- To increase the maximum number of dogs on my walks from 4 to 5 (all existing customers agreed to this change). This enabled me to drop from an average of 3 walks a day, to 2, which left me with a much more manageable schedule and diary! It also gave my customers the opportunity to request extra walks on days they don’t normally have walks and the dogs were all still happy as these were dogs that regularly walked together on different days anyway!
I’d also been wondering for a while what I would do about growing the walking side of things. Initially my plan had been to try to grow a large dog walking business with lots of people working with me, but the practicalities of doing this seemed difficult, not to mention that I would be trying to grow the training business at the same time. So I decided instead to focus on simply filling up my existing walks and then only taking on new customers when I had spaces on those walks. This means that my dog walking customers can now have a very regular service, with minimal changes and disruption. At some point in the future there is always the chance that I might be able to grow my little ‘walking empire’, but for now, I’d rather keep my existing customers happy and grow my training business with the rest of my time. Those of you who have seen my car driving around may have noticed that I’ve now removed dog walking from my cars signwriting too.
The last change over the past few months has been to interview and take on two lovely ladies to help me with the cat feeding side of the business. This is something that I would like to focus on too over the next few months. So after the novel process of receiving CVs and interviewing people, I asked Sarah Martin and Rhiannon Davies to join me. Sarah previously ran her own successful pet sitting service in Suffolk, before moving to Surrey in 2003. She now lives in Guildford with her beautiful cat called Mo and her husband and their lovely son Gabriel. Rhiannon is an English teacher, who has also looked after pets for friends and family before and who lives in Godalming with her own gorgeous cat Kobe and her husband. Both Sarah and Rhiannon love cats and enjoy looking after cats for their owners when they are away.
So once again, it’s all change! But in the best possible way! It’s been a brilliant few months and I’ve had some lovely feedback from walking, training and cat feeding customers! It’s been lovely to watch the business growing from strength to strength and seeing my plans progress!
If you need our help in training your dog or feeding your cat then please do get in touch!