Here are the top 10 essential traits for running a pet sitting business. I haven’t included animal lover… we’ll take that as assumed!
- Dogged determination.
This is an important character trait in setting up any business as your resolve will be tested over and over again. No-one can cover all bases and get things right 100% of the time, but our mistakes are particularly challenging when there is no shared responsibility. As the business owner, you are the place where the buck stops and you’ll need determination just to keep going at times.
- Great organisational skills. Clients value reliability and time keeping, neither of which is easy to achieve consistently within a frenetic daily schedule. Sickness, injury, vehicle malfunction, unforeseen occurrences, accidents and the need for time off all crop up from time to time to derail your best made plans. Clients will inevitably want to make last minute bookings and cancellations. I recommend purchasing pet business software as soon as you can afford it (from the beginning if possible), as an ultra reliable electronic member of your team.
- A robust self esteem. Your success relies on your ability to believe that you can do this – and you can! When I started my business in 2011, I wasn’t fluid in many of the skills I would need to succeed. Accounting, advertising, marketing, team building, branding, unique selling points, business software, contracts and so on, were all words without a great deal of meaning to me. I was, however, certain of two things, which have made all of the difference. Firstly, you can learn what you need to know, with the right resources – and by doing – and secondly, if something doesn’t work for you, there is always something else to try. Never stop learning and adapting and you will make it happen.
- Great time keeping skills. This is one of our clients’ primary concerns, and one of the recurring reasons why clients leave one business for another. A half hour visit, is a half hour visit and just as you don’t leave after 25 minutes, you shouldn’t get into the habit of staying for 40 minutes. Once you have a busy daily schedule, time keeping for you later clients will depend on you keeping to the schedule with your earlier clients, so it’s a good habit to get into. Time keeping isn’t just about giving the agreed amount of time to any one client’s pets, it’s also about being there when you said you would be there, and that is very important to many clients.
- The ability to forgive mistakes. We would all agree, I am sure, that we are human and imperfect and that mistakes do happen in every sphere of life, including our work. Owning a pet services business will require you to forgive mistakes – both large and small – and move on, because there isn’t time or space to harbour resentment. You will be faced with your own mistakes, which are always best admitted and dealt with. Go easy on yourself, but take the time to tweak your methods or practice to prevent the same things happening again. Your team and your clients will also make mistakes, but there is little point in harbouring resentment, as you only ever really have two choices; build good will with your team/clients or let them go.
- A good honest relationship with the weather!
Anyone considering working for a pet services business that includes dogs, needs to honestly appraise how you will feel about hours of walking in rain, snow, wind, and full sun. You should also consider your relationship with mud! The only thing certain about our weather is its inconsistency and capacity for extremes. Since walking dogs is a non-negotiable part of this work you need to be sure you’re up for it, and the same applies to all members of your team.
- A willingness to subject your home to some wear and tear. If you wish to provide pet care services within your own home such as home boarding or day care for dogs and small animal boarding, you can be certain that there will be mess. At best this will be mess that’s easy to clean up, at worst your lovely plants will get uprooted, a dog will chew your skirting board or scratch your expensive flooring. It’s inevitable, so if this horrifies you it is probably best to stick to walking, home visits and house sitting.
- Enjoyment of driving.
Okay, well maybe tolerance would be a better word. Not only will you have to drive to book clients in, but you’ll drive to provide any of your services that are not home based. You’ll drive in all weathers and in a variety of local areas, so a good navigation system will serve you well. You’ll find yourself frequently dealing with road works, delays and time pressure. If you’re likely to find this very stressful you might want to consider only offering home based services. If your house proud *and* prone to road rage, perhaps a career rethink is in order!
- Patience. Your need for patience begins with all your dealings with the animals themselves. All animals have the potential to be frustrating (lack of training, toilet accidents in the house, the destruction of something you value, reactivity and irrational fear) but they usually can’t help any of it and still need a calm and steady response. Co-workers, busy roads, other dog walkers, constant rain, mud and constant interruptions can similarly try our patience. Whilst we all lose the plot from time to time when things get particularly stressful, you really don’t want to be living with constant stress and frustration.
- Calmness in a crisis. Though rarely tested, this trait is a great asset because occasionally you will face situations that cause panic to rise within you, at the very time you need to keep a clear head. The worst pet sitting experience I have ever had was when a young, untrained spaniel I was walking stuck his head into a bush and came out disconnected from his lead, as the clip had caught on something. We were in a satellite village on the edge of a busy city, right next to the airport, a metro line and a dual carriageway, and he was off! He ran madly without any consideration for his environment and despite a number of people stopping to help, he actively avoided all of us and just kept zigzagging over roads and into fields. It was almost impossible to even keep sight of where he was, let alone keep up with him. After about 45 minutes of chasing we did manage to corner him… and that’s another story. The point is that you just need to keep going no matter what life throws at you, and being calm enough to leave your number with people you pass who might then be able to tell you where he is – and such like – is crucial.