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By Jori Hamilton
Animals elicit a passion in many pet owners. Their loyalty, happy faces, and wet noses bring out the best in us. For some, that passion translates into a full-fledged business opportunity. If your love of animals has inspired you to start your own pet business, you have to remember to focus on the business side of things as well.
Whether you’re interested in dog walking, pet grooming, boarding, training, or selling pet-related merchandise, you’re an entrepreneur who will benefit from small business tips and tricks within the pet industry.
Being an entrepreneur in the pet industry isn’t for everyone, so it’s helpful to understand that running a business is about more than a passion for pets. You’ll also want to focus on hiring the right people for your business. Consistent customer generation tactics will be beneficial for your bottom line, and utilizing the right tools for your business operations can make things go a lot easier. Finally, making sure your business is meeting its legal obligations is extremely important, and you will have more regulations to keep in mind when you work with pets.
Passion Isn’t Enough
Having a passion for what you do is definitely necessary when you are starting a small business in the pet industry. Many people may turn their love of pets into a dog walking or a pet sitting business because they love being around animals so much. However, it’s going to take more than a passion for pets to be an entrepreneur in this niche.
You will also need a passion for business and an understanding of business practices as well. Profit margins, inventory, analytics, customer generation, advertising, and sales are all vital aspects of creating a profitable business. If you aren’t as passionate or knowledgeable in this area, that’s okay! You’ll just need to strive to gain some knowledge about business or hire someone who can handle the business side of things for you.
Hire the Right People
Speaking of hiring, plenty of small businesses start out without any employees, but if you’re in a situation where you need to begin employing people, it’s good practice to hire the people who are right for your business.
This involves finding people who believe in your message, who are passionate about animals, and are willing to work hard. Carefully assess applicants and only hire those who will further your business’ overall objectives. It’s a good investment to pay them a good wage, offer benefits, and create a positive work environment. Though it’s obviously more expensive to offer more in wages, it’s often more cost-effective in the long term. After all, one bad hire can burden your budget more in the long run, chase talent away, and damage your customer experience.
Work on Customer Generation
Customer generation is hugely important for a small business, so it’s a good tip to stay focused on this aspect of business consistently. This includes not only finding customers but keeping them invested in your brand. Marketing, advertising, and social media are all big components of customer generation, so it can be helpful to hire someone to focus on this aspect of your business, or do it yourself. PetSmart, for instance, has been successful in customer generation and retention with their revamped advertising and loyalty programs.
One great way to stay relevant with potential customers is to be consistent when offering content and to try offering something for nothing. For instance, as a dog walking business you might consider offering your first walk free. Get involved within the pet community in your area, and find your customers by being present at relevant events to get your name out there, like pet expos or dog competitions.
Utilize Tools for Operations
There are plenty of small business tools to make work processes easier if you know what they are and how to find them. It may take research and trial and error, but it’s good to do the legwork in order to find the tools that work best for you. For instance, cloud computing is efficient and more cost effective. It’ll also help to make things more mobile and flexible for you and any employees you have.
You can also try different POS systems, time tracking apps, online filing systems, and chat programs. Many tools offer free versions for you to try and an upgraded paid version if you’re interested. Talk to other small business owners, check out your competition, and do your research in order to find the tools that will work best for you.
Make Sure You’re Legal
It might seem obvious to make sure your business is meeting all of its legal obligations, but it’s often a difficult process to navigate. There are fees, rules, and regulations from a federal, state, and city level you should be looking into, especially when living creatures like pets or people are involved. Your small business will need insurance, and you may have an entirely different set of regulations and policies to be aware of when you’re working with animals and when you have employees.
You can work on navigating through these laws and regulations yourself, or you can hire a lawyer to help you. Though the cost may be higher, it might be worth it to ensure you don’t find yourself in a legal situation later on.
Though each location will have its own set of regulations, as will the type of business you are starting, some pet-specific business regulations you can expect will include:
- Safety regulations
- Immunization requirements
- Specific certifications
- Sanitation requirements
Entrepreneurship is not an easy career path. Building something from nothing and working to make it profitable involves a lot of long hours and, often, a lot of time with your finances spent in the red — but for those in a pet-related small business, the perk is working in a field you’re passionate about. When you’re fulfilling business needs, finding the right people to hire, generating customers, finding the right business tools, and navigating the legal side of things, working with furry faces and wagging tails can help to get through the hard parts.
Jori Hamilton is a writer from the pacific northwest. You can follow her on twitter @Jori Hamilton and see more of her work at writerjorihamilton.contently.com.