CASE STUDY: Pet Sitter Audit on Home Expenses and Mileage Reports

In our Case Study Audit series we will go under the hood of pet sitting businesses and do what no one else is doing in the industry. Find out why companies were audited, how they survived, and their reflections looking back. We are so thankful to these companies for helping us to put truth to all of the rumors that fly around.

Our first interviewee is Mary Anne Johndrow from Daily Leash. She was actually audited on two separate occasions and discusses them below:

BEFORE THE AUDIT:

Do you want this to be anonymous or do you mind telling who you are? Sure!

If yes, what is your name and company name? Mary Anne Johndrow-Daily Leash

When did you start your business?  1986-1998, then restarted 2007-now.

Tell us if you had legal council advise you on how to set up and what was right and proper (accountant and lawyer) No, but I have a background in bookkeeping.

Approximately, what was your annual revenue at the time?  Alternatively, would you consider yourself a small (Under 100K) medium (100-250K) or large (250K+) company?   $60K

How long did you have staff and what made you choose that classification of workers?  I started with staff in 2008, after my audits.

Were you ever afraid of being audited? Was it ever in the back of your mind? Yes, always worried about making an expensive mistake.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR AUDIT:

How were you notified that you were being audited? What department audited you? How long did the entire process take?

[I was audited twice] The first time I received a notice in the mail. It indicated a date to come to the IRS office, and the tax year they were going to examine. It took me many hours to assemble everything I needed (this was before I used a computer-everything was paper and 13 column sheets! I estimate I was in their office for 3 hours.)

The second time I already had all my ducks in a row. I received an IRS notice in the mail that they wanted back-up for a couple of expenses on my schedule C. This time I mailed copies of everything to the IRS office. Weeks later I received a notice that they found everything in order.

What was their reasoning for auditing you? They didn’t indicate a reason either time – they just requested my books, and then requested my expense back-up.

Tell us about the help that you had going through the audit. Did your lawyer, accountant, another agency/advisor help guide you through it? No help – I went by myself.

What did they require from you throughout the audit?  They wanted to see back-up for my schedule C expenses – and they even added everything up to be sure it equaled what I claimed.

How did you feel throughout the process? What impact did it have on your life? Your family? Your business? The first time I was terrified. It took up a lot of my time, and my peace of mind. I was single then, and I stilled worked as I had been.

When you submitted the evidence they requested, how sure were you that you were going to pass through with flying colors?The first time I was not sure I would pass with flying colors, but the second time was not as worrisome because they only wanted to examine specific expenses.

AFTER THE AUDIT:

What was the finding of the audit? They disallowed some of my home office expenses, and then disallowed about $300 worth of mileage expenses.

What to do attribute to the findings? Good defense? Bad record keeping? Out of compliance? Etc?  I did have all my records, and I could discuss any of my company’s expenses. At the time I did not know I couldn’t deduct part of a room for a home office, and I did not know I could not count mileage from home to the first client of the day, and the mileage home from the last client of the day (commuting miles).

If you had to make changes, how did you go about making them and what were they?  I dedicated a whole room to my office, and I changed how I recorded my mileage.

Did you have to pay back taxes, penalties, fines, interest, etc? How were you able to afford it all? How long did you have to pay them? Yes I owed the IRS about $500 and I just paid it. A couple years later I fell behind on my taxes, and it really snowballed into an overwhelming problem. My bank account was regularly levied, and I struggled to pay $200/month back with mounting fines and interest. Finally I submitted an Offer in Compromise and was able to wipe it all clean for about 10% of the total debt – NEVER AGAIN!!

Tell me about how you feel about that audit now. Are you happy or sad that you went through it? Did it make you better? I am happy that I went through with it. It was a hard lesson, but now I know an audit won’t kill me.

What advice would you give to other pet sitters to try NOT to be audited? Keep detailed records of every expense you plan to deduct. Keep your income higher than your expenses (not everyone does this amazingly). Keep up to date with the expenses that are allowed by the IRS – there is so much information available on IRS.gov!

What do you think is the biggest misconception you see being passed around about being audited?  That it means you have done something wrong. You may have been picked randomly, or your return is out of the ordinary.

If you knew then, what you knew now, is there anything you would have done differently? Well I wouldn’t have stressed as much! I would also have educated myself better on what is allowed as business expenses.

Anything else you would like to add?  Keep everything organized – know your numbers – make sure someone else can easily understand your books. If you are sitting in an audit – give them what they ask for, nothing more, and don’t chat. You may say something that leads them down another bunny trail into your books.

MY REFLECTIONS:

First, I was shocked to see that she had been audited twice. Although, as you will see in an audit that will post next week, it isn’t uncommon to be audited AGAIN after you are audited the first time.

I think the part about having good records is defiantly something that you will see as a trend through these case studies.  It makes me think about the pet sitters who do their own taxes and “what if” they make a mistake? Checks and balances and holding onto the records. I know that each year my book keeper gives me a 3 inch binder of all the hard documents printed out from the year. Knowing things like exactly who you met at a business meeting, or which employee you took out for a meal (aka receipts) are important things to track. That could  be a tall order for a business owner who is overwhelmed with all the other aspects of running a successful business.

Sound off below. How do you keep you records? Would you be confident or scared if this happened to you? Don’t forget to also thank Mary Anne for her time and honesty to help shed some light on this important topic! 🙂

 

 

Marketing Problems

What Should I Do When I Get Unqualified Pet Sitting Applicants?

Recently I received a question asking:

“How can I find qualified people? Most who apply are not qualified”

Marketing Problems

I asked the pet sitter to tell me what they mean by not qualified and they told me what they meant below.

Hiring is Tough

Hiring is tough. Especially for our industry. I mean we are not looking for someone to work 9-5 and just be a cashier, right? We are looking for specific people to do specific things and someone who we can trust, that can be professional, and of course understand the people and pet bond. Not to mention, almost on call.

This topic is so mighty that I actually wrote 60 pages and recorded two hours of audio to walk you through the entire process step by step so that you could have the only robust guide on the pet sitting market!

Although as I am helping pet sitters coaching on the phone and in our private facebook groups, I see people eliminating people prematurely sometimes without giving them a chance.

I always compare hiring to dating, and this is the same thing. You could be out there dating and have a perfect list of what you are looking for, but if you are looking for perfection, you may never find it. So… I challenge everyone reading this – what are your must have’s and negotiable?

Let’s take a look at this pet sitter’s “unqualified applicants”

The Unqualified:

(From the pet sitter who wrote me this question)
Here are the common ones I disqualify immediately:
1.  Those that can’t follow the instructions in the job posting.  (ie:  send me your zip code, resume, why you are interested etc).  If all you can do is reply with your resume with no cover email, I’m not interested in you.  If you can’t follow these instructions to get my attention, you are likely not going to follow the clients!
Yes. I agree. To a point. Although depending on what they send you, you could reply and say “I think you forgot to attach your cover letter? (Or resume?)” and see their response. Maybe they did forget. I can’t tell you how many times I have sent an email and forgot the attachment. Now, if they wrote you one sentence and didn’t seem interested, I would just press delete. 
2.  Those that are available between 6am and 7am, or only after 6pm. etc.  I don’t want  a client to have more than 2 pet sitters and me as a second back up, and they need to be flexible enough in their schedule to provide coverage.
Personally, I totally understand what you are saying, and normally I would tell you that you are 100% correct. But there is a thing I call and “insurance policy” pet sitter. Those are the ones, that if a great enough type of personality can really help your business if you are ever in a bind. Generally, though, you are right on with deleting them. You are looking for someone looking for a LIFESTYLE, not a JOB. 
3.   College students.  Their schedules are to erratic and I don’t have time to manage it, and I don’t want to have to introduce clients every 5-6 months to their “new” sitter.
Your systems might be working against you and you are striving for perfection in your company in a way that may not be attainable. Unless you are willing to wait 6 months for someone. In my personal experience, college students are great! They need the money, love the flex schedule, and are usually responsible. I would not disqualify them and again, tell your clients that you work as a TEAM. Unless you are willing to wait up to six months or so to find someone w open availability. What we ask for really is a LOT. This is assuming you do more pet sitting than daily dog walks. 
JazzHr for pet sitters
4.  Those with horrible grammar, spelling, don’t respond in full sentences.
I agree. Delete them.
5.  They had a pet 15 years ago when they were 7.  I feel the best service is provided by those that have current experience in particular with dogs.
I don’t agree. Maybe their situation doesn’t allow for them to have pets? Maybe they have a family member that is allergic? Maybe their pet died and they didn’t want to go through that trauma again? Just having a pet in your home, doesn’t qualify you for this job at all. 
6.  Those under 21 years old (they have to be able to enter a contract on behalf of my company).
Are you looking for ICs? That would be a whole other ball game then and I will tell you to RUN to the employee route. You are too much of a control freak. I can tell that by this list 🙂 I mean that with a happy heart! By your comment, are you saying that you can not enter in a contract with someone under 21? They have to be 18. Again, in my experience, age doesn’t mean a thing. I had a 17 yr old working for me that was stellar! Not to mention, age discrimination is illegal. 
7.  Those that have any dependence on the income earned from pet sitting.
I don’t agree. Do you have any idea if their family helps? If their spouse helps? That is part of the pre qualifications that you can get past when you email them back, “How much do you need to make a month?” How much money will the person make in the job you are offering? Your craigslist add you sent does not tell me anything other than $10-$19 a visit. Which, by the way, would ONLY make sense if you were charging clients $35-$40 a visit. Otherwise paying that much will either put you under or NOT make you any money. 
8.  Those that are willing to drive 25 miles one way for pet sitting jobs! (or anything along that line)
I agree. Delete. Qualifying their area is important and one of the reasons why we seek a resume. If you accept that many will apply who are outside the area, you won’t be as disappointed. In a way, you can’t blame them. They do not really understand what this job entails like we do. So don’t be offended or discouraged. 
I think our (my business peers and I) problem is getting qualified candidates (or in some cases ANY response at all).  One of my friendly competitors says he gets hundreds of applicants a year, but a vast majority of them are highly unqualified.
I couldn’t agree more with this statement. If you realize that you are only looking for 1 out of 100 and expect them to be bad, you won’t get as discouraged. You will also learn that you never stop hiring. You should always be looking. Even when you don’t think you are. There are 12 more places you can be looking for qualified pet sitting applicants other than craigslist. 
So for us, its finding sources outside of Craigslist to find sitters.  It is THE single most frustrating aspect of my business and preventing me from growing it.
I completely understand. Know that you are not alone and it is my belief that every pet sitter with staff feels the same way. So, you just need to know all of the places to look. I can tell you 12 resources you can look for pet sitters and dog walkers outside of Craigslist, but you need to keep an open mind. 

Consider changing your help wanted advertisement.


Here is an actual advertisement I found on Craigslist: 

  • People and pet friendly personality
  • Current experience with dogs, whether volunteer, professional or with personal pets
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Mature and extremely reliable
  • Flexible and consistent schedule.
  • Quick learner, detail oriented, able to follow instructions, natural drive to exceed expectations
  • Stable work history which demonstrates ability to work unsupervised
  • Cell phone (with text and/or email preferred)
  • Internet connected computer with printer
  • Neat in appearance
  • Reliable personal vehicle with valid driver’s license and auto insurance
  • Able to make a one year commitment
  • Age: Unfortunately, due to insurance and other requirements we must fulfill, this position is not appropriate for those under 21.

If you meet these qualifications, please email the following information: (Due to time constraints we can only respond to those who do)

  • A brief description of yourself and your pets
  • Why you are interested in the position and what skills/experience you have to offer
  • What days and times of the week you are available
  • Your zip code and nearest major cross streets
  • Your resume or work history for the last 5 years if no resume is available

General Responsibilities:

Typical pet sitter responsibilities: Walk dogs, pet waste pick up and disposal, refresh water, feed pets, clean litter boxes, play with cats/dogs, rotate lights and blinds, bring in mail/newspaper. Some pets may require medication. Most visits occur between 7am and 8:30pm, some weekends and holidays. Number of visits/week 0-25.

Typical dog walker responsibilities: Walk/play with dogs, pet waste pick up and disposal, refresh water. Some may require a meal and/or medication. These occur primarily Monday-Friday between 11am to 3pm, sometimes weekends. We prefer candidates be available all weekdays during this time. Number of visits/week 0-25.

This advertisement is so detailed it could be for some job with a PHD. I think the writer totally missed the boat on this. What is reliable? What is quick learner? What is neat in appearance? Mature and reliable? Assuming that someone has pets? I think the entire thing is a turn off and a drag to read!

So What Should You Do?

You want this to be an advertisement! It is your job to qualify them. How about appealing to the readers emotions? Narrow down the type of person you would like (Like a stay at home mom?) and talk to HER. (Is that is who you want)
Try mixing it up a few times. If you are dropping a flier off at the vet or groomer than make it specific to the audience reading it. Make it sound like the best job in the WORLD! Your only job here is to get as many people as interested to contact you. YOU qualify them. Not some advertisement.I think that is where many pet sitting business owners miss the boat. They try to let their job description do the qualifying for them when in all honesty the most qualifications should be:
1 – Area applicant lives
2 – Hours of availability
3- Amount of money needed a month.
I talk a lot about this in Lesson 3 of the Employee Quick Start Program. 
Everything else is subjective and that is what you have interviews for. I have said it before, and I will say it again.
It is pet sitting, not rocket science. So, this defiantly is one of my longest blogs, but hopefully you got a lot out of it. Sound off below. What do you think? What are your tactics?

How Is The Workman’s Compensation Premium Determined?

workman's compensation

I called up my business insurance broker and asked: What determine your Workman’s Compensation (WC) rate? Is it only your state rate or if you have injuries on the job does it go up?

  1. The Workers Compensation rates differ from State to State . If you think of workers compensation as a major medical policy the better the benefits the higher the premium . So States determine the coverage’s under their State workers compensation benefits act . The companies calculate the rates on the coverage’s afforded under each State’s workers’ compensation benefits based on the classification of your particular business/occupation /duties .
  2. In addition all the companies have their own rates so this is where you get one premium quotation better than another companies .
  3. How they classify you business ( under what code ) makes a difference .  We use the 8831 kennel code for pet sitters and other companies use a different code . Sometimes the rates differ by $ 5.00 or more . ( kennel code being the lowest of the two ) .
  4. Injuries /claims.  Any premium below $ 5000.00 will have a merit mod attached . The merit mods are as follows :
  5. Lost time claim    1.00 merit mod
  6. No loss time claims   .95 merit mod
  7. Two or more loss time claims   1.05 merit mod

You take the merit mob times the base rate to determine the actual rate per $ 100.00 of payroll.

If your premium is over $ 5000.00 then you get into the experience rating and that is done through a rating service that most companies use . This would be too complicated to explain here in an email .  But over $ 5,000.00 in premium and a bad loss experience your mod could go to a 1.50 or 2.00 and basically you would be paying 1.5 to 2X the standard rate . Most pet sitter’s premiums are under the $ 5000.00 annual premium .

 

Dennis A. Stowers, CIC
Mourer-Foster, Inc
615 N Capitol Ave
Lansing, MI  48933
Direct (517)346-5230
Fax 1-517-371-7121
Toll Free 1-800-686-2663
email: dstowers@mourerfoster.com

Should I Give My Pet Sitting Employees A Phone For Company Use?

It has been brought up time and time again, “Should I give my employee a phone for company use?”  We are talking specifically employees right now because if it were an independent contractor, you would not be giving them any equipment to use.

The con’s to giving a company phone to an employee:selling on the phone

  1. The extra monthly cost.
  2. The cost of the phones.
  3. Repair of the phone if it breaks.
  4. Possibility of personal usage.
  5. Another “thing” to track, manage, and train on.
  6. Possibly loosing the device.
  7. Initial cost for the phone(s).
  8. Staff might still get calls for pet sitting after they leave you.

The pro’s to giving a company phone to an employee:

  1. An always track them by the phone’s GPS
  2. Always have contact with them via email, text, or phone.
  3. You can use the cost as a business expense.
  4. You can ensure that everyone has the apps you need for your business.
  5. The employee doesn’t incure any costs.
  6. Don’t have to worry about them going over in minutes or text messages.
  7. When they leave the company, you have the phone back in your possession and can forward calls.

Every business is different. Some have extra cash flow that they want to have write offs for. Some can’t afford anything extra. It is really a balancing act when deciding if you should get your staff phones.

Personally, I think a business should reimburse for gas before they go getting phones for everyone. There is also google voice where you can assign google numbers to each of your staff so when you part ways you can disconnect the google number from their cell phone.

Clearly, there are a lot of options out there and it is up to you, as the business owner, to decide what is best for your pet sitting company.

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pet sitting business coaching

How Do I Tell My Pet Sitting Clients I Won’t Be Their Pet Sitter?

I recently asked a question to a group of pet sitters that had staff, “What is holding you back from taking days off?” The answers were all quite similar.

“My pet sitting clients don’t want anyone else other than me.”

Oie! That is a doosey, right? I remember being in this same exact position. I was afraid my pet sitting clients would get upset and leave my company if I “broke up” with them. Although, lets take a closer look at this.

If your pet sitting clients threaten to leave your company, wouldn’t they be in the same boat of having to find someone else to trust? The key to all of this is that they trust you, so show them how to trust your judgement on who you have hired.

Ok, so we established that objection is just a myth! Here is your rebuttal:

Tell the client, “If you were to go find another company, you would have to work up a whole new trust with them. In this case, I am sending someone who has gained my approval and I would never do you or your pets wrong.” Read more

What Questions Can’t I Ask At A Pet Sitting Interview?

Did you know there are certain questions that you can’t ask during a pet sitting interview?

If you do, and a person wants to report you, they can report you and your business to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(EEOC)?

Questions about Race, Color, Sex, Religion, National origin, birthplace, and age are all off limits. This might seem easy and straight forward enough, but if you have ever asked the following questions, you might have opened yourself up to a lawsuit:

 

pet sitting interviewDescribe to me who you live with (to see if they were a Mom or will be trying to bring their children on jobs)
Where are you from?
Asking where or how they learned their foreign language.
If they have a spouse, if their spouse is employed, how much their spouse earns (I could see pet sitting interviews going down this road to see if the applicant needs supplemental income and has another source of a provider at home)
Can not ask if they have children or about child care arrangements.
Can not tell them they have to work certain holidays or ask them about their customs around holidays.

The Fine Line

It is a very fine line you can walk because you are not allowed to ask these questions at a pet sitting interview, yet if they are worded another way, you can. Tricky, huh? I am offering you this blog pot as a guide and a way to start the conversation with yourself, office manager, hiring manager, etc. These are fundamental things that you need to be aware of if you are interviewing in your pet sitting company for staff.

Great Resources I Recommend You Check Out:

You may have been in violation. However, for some of these, there are ways around these questions if you ask them in a proper manner. The University of Albany has put together a really great document that breaks down the differences between Legal and Illegal Interview Questions.

Here is a great story that CBS did in 2011 that could cost your company 1 Million Dollars!

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What Questions Can’t I Ask At A Pet Sitting Interview?

Did you know there are certain questions that you can’t ask during a pet sitting interview? If you do, and a person wants to report you, they can report you and your business to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(EEOC)?

Questions about Race, Color, Sex, Religion, National origin, birthplace, and age are all off limits. This might seem easy and straight forward enough, but if you have ever asked the following pet sitting interview questions, you might have opened yourself up to a lawsuit:

 

  1. Describe to me who you live with (to see if they were a Mom or will be trying to bring their children on jobs)
  2. Where are you from?
  3. Asking where or how they learned their foreign language.
  4. If they have a spouse, if their spouse is employed, how much their spouse earns (I could see pet sitting interviews going down this road to see if the applicant needs supplemental income and has another source of a provider at home)
  5. Can not ask if they have children or about child care arrangements.
  6. Can not tell them they have to work certain holidays or ask them about their customs around holidays.

Two Women Shaking Hands In An Office

There Is A Fine Line When Asking Pet Sitting Interview Questions:

It is a very fine line because on one hand, you are not allowed to ask these questions, yet if they are worded another way, you can. Tricky, huh? I am offering you this blog pot as a guide and a way to start the conversation with yourself, office manager, hiring manager, etc. These are fundamental things that you need to be aware of if you are interviewing in your pet sitting company for staff. I know a lot of us can be chatty cathy’s and naturally (as if we are having a regular conversation) we could say something like, Oh I love accents! Where is your’s from?  or What types of things do your family do to celebrate Christmas?  or What would you do with your newborn/child if you had to run out and do petsits?

 

A Great Resource I Recommend You Check Out!

You know me…. I don’t like to just talk about things, but I like to point you in the right direction to have the resources at your fingertips. Michigan Tech has put together a really great document that breaks down the differences between Legal and Illegal Interview Questions. Go ahead and check it out.

If you don’t take it seriously, this story that CBS could be you and could cost your company. (and a mear 1 Million Dollars!)

 

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I Love Having Pet Sitting Employees and Independent Contractors Becasue…

Recently I asked my private facebook group called I Own A Pet Sitting Company With Staff why they loved having Pet Sitting Employees and Independent Contractors. This is a few of their answers:

  • I love having staff because I can rest when I’m injured!
  • Allows us to get away.
  • I love having staff so that I don’t have to work today. Just 1391608_peoplebeing honest!
  • So I can stay in on a rainy day (like today) and spend time with my own pets:)
  • Allows me time for my personal life, even when it isn’t fun personal stuff. I have a pet at home on a feeding tube this week and it would have been hell handling his frequent care if I also had clients to service throughout the day.
  • Because I can get out of town to visit family.
  • Not having to do overnights!! Staff does them.
  • still blows my mind that I am able to make money “without doing anything” (aka laying with my dog in bed with my laptop and coffee)
  • I LOVE having staff because I got to take my first vacation in three years!!! Two weeks of bliss in Prague and Krakow, having fun with my husband and no worries!
  • I love my pet sitting employees because I get to stay at home and prepare for baby (she’s 1 week past her due date) and go out to lunch with my husband! And I come back home to find an email from one of my sitters to a client from “her dogs” talking about how much fun they had on their beach field trip today! It talked from the pups perspective and included some adventures and other friends they met there. And, my sitter found a heart shaped rock on the beach and left it for my client. Geez how sweet!!! This is one of my most awesome clients too who has been with me for years. Yay!
  • I love my IC’s because the work they do allows me to grow my business, which in turns allows me to give them more work.

 

How Real Are These Answers?

These are all ACTUAL answers from pet sitting business owners with independent contractors or employees across the country. Quite amazing, huh

I personally would have to agree with everything they have said. It allows you time to not be tied down. It gives a business owner choices in what they want to do. Work in the field, market, blog, spend time with family, travel, etc.

If you are wondering how can you get to this place, I would love to talk to you and help you achieve all your goals. I have a four week class that I can teach you step by step what you need to do in order to have employees.

In the meantime, if you have staff, tell me below why you love having them and what it enables you to do in your life.

 

Related articles

 

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10 Tips To Be A Successful Pet Sitting Employee

One of the toughest things to do is explain to your new hire what it really takes to be successful as a professional pet sitter. In order to help bridge this gap, I went straight to a former employee of my old pet sitting company and asked her this same question. Below, is an articulate list of what it really takes to be a successful professional pet sitter. It’s so good that I had it in my training manual and suggest that you share it with your staff too.

Take a look…

Bella with her staff.

Bella with her staff.

1. Common sense goes a long way.

If you ask most hiring managers what they look for in potential employees one of the most common responses will be common sense. That means being able to differentiate a situation that is outside your expertise from merely looking around a little extra. Now sometimes clients enjoy us asking questions, it shows we’re taking initiative with the care of their pets, but you need to read the body/text language that you are receiving as responses and think back to how they acted at their consult. You can’t teach common sense, you either have it or you don’t, so if you aren’t able to gauge things on your own or make educated decisions with your own resources then you need to hone those skills.

2. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Hopefully, we all heard this growing up; just as your parents told you growing up, this is a key to gaining new clients and keeping them. To be a good pet sitting employee, you must always treat the clients in the highest standard.

3. Remember that 99% clients look at their pets as children.

In some cases they ARE their children. Your position as a professional pet sitter is that of a  babysitter or nanny; they are not “just” animals. They are left with inheritance, have grooming bills that total more than you spend on your own hair in one year, and much more thrills to make their life comfortable. These pet parents won’t bat an eyelash to spend money on their fur kids.
jump-consulting-initial-consultation

4. Kindness goes a long way.

I go out of my way to do “nice” things for my clients. Making sure that the house is left at least how they left it is vital. Take out your trash and make sure you haven’t forgotten anything-double checking never hurt anyone.

5. Constant Communication!

Talk to your clients. If something cute or funny happened during the day, shoot them an email or a text and be like “so and so did this, I bet they wish you were here to see” or something cutesy that connects the pet to the pet parent and makes them feel appreciated. Check with your own employer’s policies for contacting the clients. Yet again, you know your clients (if you don’t WORK ON IT) and you can tell what is too much communication or not enough. If they text you back “k.” they probably are busy and just do the standard nightly communication. It’s up to you, to work on this and connect with your pet parents.

6. Be friendly yet professional.

It’s not hard to start a friendship with some of your clients, but remember you work for your employer. You are always representing the company first and foremost as a professional pet sitting employee. Don’t let your guard down and become too chummy because you may lose respect or credibility in the client’s eyes. This does not mean be cold or rude if they offer you things they necessarily shouldn’t. Example; one client offered for me to stay during a few of her get-togethers that were wine and cheesecake parties. I declined but still stayed and socialized for a few minutes WHILE doing so I had both dogs in my lap getting attention. Therefore I was doing my job and not being rude by brushing off her invitation. You can work around this and do it in your own style but remember you’re at work, even if you’re having fun.

7. You work for your money.

If this is just a job and you’re not going to put much effort into it then that reflects on the amount of clients you receive and people requesting you. I have had my car for three months and I have put 5300 miles on it. Those are all work miles since I bought this car for work only. There are times I’m working at 5:30 in the morning because that’s what has to be done for the safety of some of the pets walking in the morning (with the heat rising) or because there are more clients then usual so my sleep needs to be sacrificed in order to make sure all clients get quality time.

8. Be sociable and sell yourself.

If you’re at a consult or even a repeat client’s house be friendly. There is nothing worse and unsettling for a parent then someone that is disinterested in your “child”. So ask questions, show interest, relate to them and their pets. You’re doing a consult with a Golden and you grew up with them, “Oh yes I love Golden’s, I grew up with them my whole life and they are the best breed, yadda yadda”. Going along with number six though, we all need to walk that line of being sociable and friendly yet professional. Also try not to ramble during consults!

9. Prepare before hand.

Before every consultation I look over the client’s information so I can remember it. I also have notes and questions prepared so everything is organized for the meeting. OUR CLIENTS LOVE ORGANIZATION.

10. Make sure to always communicate.

With your employer to make sure everyone’s schedules are correct, especially if a client says something about a schedule changing or something that sounds different than what’s in the computer. It’s your responsibility to have them contact your employer and to let them know in general. We’re all adults and need to be responsible for ourselves, no excuses.

If you would like to hear what it feels like to be a pet sitter, I interviewed another pet sitting employee on Bark Soup, a radio show with Josh Cary and I. You find a link to it here and learn more about it here. TIP: Start at the 7 min mark!

Now it is your turn…

What do you think are good tips and tricks for your employees? Comment below and let me know!

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Audit Case Studies - Pet Sitting

Pet Sitting Consultation’s Secret Weapon – The Brag Book!

A discussion was sparked in my private pet sitting group about “What Is a Brag Book?” It occurred to me that many may not know so here is an overview.

Benefits of Your Pet Sitting Company Having a Brag Book:

 

  • It helps create the same experience for every client.
  • Gives you something to write “on”
  • Proves you are who you say you are.
  • Other pet sitters don’t usually have it.
  • Great way to show off in a professional way.
  • Great tool to hold the papers you may leave behind with clients.

Two Women Shaking Hands In An Office

Two Women Shaking Hands In An Office

How Should You Create One?

There is no right and wrong way to create the brag book, you just want to make sure that when you create it, it can be duplicated for each staff member you have.

In fact, many companies like Shutterfly, Costco and Walgreens will all create impressive looking books. My suggestion, design one and then wait for them to go on sale.

Or if you prefer to do it yourself, go to your local office supply store and grab a 1/2 inch three ring binder with a plastic cover on the front. Also a packet of plastic cover sheets that have three hole punches on them. Next, print out your logo that takes up an entire page and slip this in the cover of your binder. This will now be your official brag book cover.

Inside…you can have whatever you want:

  1. Certificates of Membership (past and present) to national organizations.
  2. Awards or Recognitions your company has received
  3. A copy of your bonding, insurance, workman’s compensation.
  4. News clippings or articles you have written for local media.
  5. Highlights of certain services (Like a page that says DOG WALKING and a picture of you walking a dog with three bullet points of the benefits.)
  6. Pictures of your staff with pets (not just pets)
  7. Maybe a page to highlight something that is different about your pt sitting service?  (Pet taxi, grocery shop, referral program)

The main idea is that you can o whatever you want with it. When you have staff it acts as a guide to make sure that every new client has the same experience or that the pet sitter doesn’t forget to tell them something.

These brag books are also highly effective to have on your booth during a event or while meeting with other business owners such as veterinarians.

So now, I want to hear from you!


Do you have a brag book? What is in yours? Are you thinking about getting one? What will you put in there? Do you think they are effective or ineffective?

the-brag-book

I Could Have Lost My Business If I Had Independent Contractors When This Happened:

As I continue to build up all the articles on Employees I came across this situation that really happened. But first I am going to remind you oof my own personal story, before telling you this pet sitter’s story.

If you are reading this and are either:

(a) Trying to decide which way to go
(b) Have Independent Contractors (ICs)

Then this article is for your eyes and brain. Please read this and understand the financial implications that a company incurs when choosing to have independent contractors. Especially in the pet industry. Pets that my own staff had been visiting every day in the middle of the day, every week, had a moment and SNAP causing over $29,000 in medical bills. I would probably be out of business if I had independent contractors when that incident happened.

Read more about it here.

MYTH: IC’s cost less.
FACT: The cost of your labor is 100% dependent on what you decide to pay. (*This all goes out the window if your IC gets hurt)

MYTH: I will only get good workers if I pay a lot of money.
FACT: If you pay a lot of money, you will attract people who are motivated by money.

As Paul Harvey used to say…and now, the rest of the story
told from a fellow and very well respected pet sitter in California:

If a company “hires” staff as IC’s, even if the IC has their own medical coverage, you, the employer, can still get into hot water.

Here is a real example of what happened to a pet sitter I know in California. This pet sitter hired employees. About 4 years ago one of her employees was going out to get the client’s mail, slipped and fell. Long story short, she broke her leg in two places, needed surgery, was in a skilled nursing facility for about 4 months.

Now, the owner of the pet sitting company did not offer health insurance (nor are they required to offer health insurance in case anyone is wondering). Yes, the employee had her own medical insurance.

Had the employee put this through her own medical insurance, the second her insurance company learned it happened on the job, they would be going after the pet sitting company for reimbursement.

Because the owner of the pet sitting company hired employees, she had them covered under WC, as required in the Sate of California. All of the injured employee’s medical bills were covered by WC .(I don’t know what the final bill was on all of this, but the first bill for just the first 3 or 4 days of hospitalization was over $10K). Also, one of the provisions with WC is that an employee cannot try to later sue the employer for their injuries.

Had this employee not been covered by WC, the employee could sue the owner. Even if the employee’s own medical insurance paid for her injuries, they would turn around and go after the owner of the company for reimbursement. The owner of the company would easily have been out of business in a heartbeat.

I would think long and hard, especially in the State of California, before anyone decides to classify their workers as IC’s. The State of California has previously told me “pet sitters” are employees and not IC’s. The State of California does not care how the IRS views it.

So you see, this is why it i very important to seek wise counsel.  When I coach pet sitters I tell them they can answer their own question about the IC v Employee debate by simply answering this question:

How much risk are you willing to take?

If you can answer this question, there your answer will be. No matter how many documents you have ICs sign, no matter how much you call training “suggested procedures” it is a matter of time before something happenes in your business where you are forced to prove yourself in a court of law. Whether it be the state or feds, their sole job is to get you to say something wrong to incriminate yourself. Personally, I don’t want to take that risk. Personally, I want the control in my business and that is why I chose employees.

So tell me below, how does this information make you feel?

What Kind Of Boss Are You?

So this week I had a interesting conversation.

One of my good friends was speaking about how much they HATE THEIR JOB.

I don’t just mean like I can’t stand it. I mean like day in and day out HATE it.

You know…after church on Sunday their anxiety starts setting in because they are dreading having to go back on Monday. They spend their entire Sunday despising the next day.

Each work day, they come home from work thinking, “Is it Friday yet?” Just so they can be caught in the rat race the following week again.

What a horrible life! Read more

3 Reasons Why You Need To Trust Someone And Hire Them!

“But I don’t trust anyone to do as good of a job as I do Bella. I do 110% and no one will do that as a worker for me, or I will have to pay them a lot of money!”

There you go again with the stinking thinking! It isn’t that you can’t trust them. You can’t trust yourself to make the right decision.

Did you read me right?

First of all, you can’t give 110%.

You can only give 100%.

That is all you have to give.

So right there, it is telling me that you are already exaggerating your problem.

You don’t want someone as good as you. If they were as good as you, they would take your business. Here are 3 area’s I think every employer needs to address within themselves to help them push past the barrier that is preventing their business from growing. Read more

It Costs To Have Pet Sitting Employees: Payroll Taxes

Various Federal Reserve Notes, c.1995. Only th...

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One of the first objections I hear when talking about employees is “They cost a lot.”

I was even one of those people at one time. But guess what?

Having a business costs money, and you have to spend money to make money.

In a world where everyone is sue happy and the government is teaming up with the states and coming after businesses who misclassify workers because they need money, do employees actually cost money or do they save you money and your sanity?

Stay with me here… we are about to go on a journey. Read more