Whether you are just entering into the pet sitting and dog walking industry or been here a long time like me (17 years!) I bet you wonder about the state of the industry and where we are headed.
You might wonder if all businesses are like yourself?
What the effect of Rover and Wag will have on the industry as a whole?
I bet you wonder if you are making enough?
What the “industry standard” is and how you measure up?
Whatever the case might be, I see a major shift happening that no one is really talking about…
I also want to know what you think as you read what I am about to write so please, comment below or on the original post and let’s have a conversation about where YOU think the industry is going and how we can help shape it.
But first… I must put out there that like attracts like.
With everything I will say, my findings MIGHT be skewed only because the type of sitters I have been lucky enough to attract are real go-getters. They are business builders, get knocked down 7 times and get up 8 types of people.
They fail and learn from it.
They aren’t paralyzed in fear and they tend to have a great group of support around them. They are about efficiency, processes, and systems.
So here I tell you – my thoughts and insights are shaped by these incredible business owners and what I have personally witnessed as possible.
They are my inspiration and hope for the pet sitting and dog walking industry’s future.
The Consumers Are Changing From Baby Boomers To Millennials
According to Mintel, pet owners are spending 86 BILLION dollars on their pets. When I first started in the industry the surge was from the Baby Boomer segment, now it is transitioning to Millennials. This is a very important change that is necessary for any pet business owner to acknowledge. The buyer habits and behaviors have shifted with technology and the independent pet sitter and dog walker need to take notice.
Did you know that 3/4’s of 30 something-year-olds have pets? While American’s might be holding off longer to have children, as many pet professionals know, pets are often the “first child” before settling down and having two-legged children. The consequence of this is a huge market share that doesn’t like to talk on the phone, wait for responses back, and loves to do everything on the phone. Passive websites are a thing of the past and the buyer journey has to include the buyer as an active participant.
This is a huge point that we need to understand. There is a major shift in the way people research and purchase goods and services and it is something every pet business owner should reflect on how they are shifting to this change.
Want to learn more about this change?
How to Hire Millennials (podcast)
5 Things To Consider When Choosing Software For Your Pet Business (blog)
Cutting Expenses By Getting Pet Sitting Software (blog)
There Are A Lot Of Pet Sitting And Dog Walking Businesses For Sale
One quick search on bizbuysell.com and you will see that there are many pet sitting and dog walking businesses all over the country up for grabs. I feel like I have a front-row seat because many investors call me and ask to help them evaluate the business they are interested in purchasing.
I see this trend happening a lot now for (what I believe) to be many reasons:
1. With Rover and Wag making a splash… I see some companies that are just rolling over and giving up on the business. Believing that it is too hard and that they can’t compete.
(Which couldn’t be further from the truth BTW)
2. Our industry is growing up. No longer are we in the infancy stage like when I started my own company back in 2002. We are all grown up. Some business owners that started 10, 15, 20 years ago are ready to get out and as a result, they are selling.
3. The pet industry is booming and year after year becoming larger and larger. Investors see this and are willing to take $100K or $200K out of their retirement to purchase a business that they know they will make their money back in about 1.5 yrs.
4. Pet sitting and dog walking business owners are looking to scale fast and one of the best ways I see them doing this is acquiring other businesses. It is how Chunsoon Li, Randa Clark, Crystal Hammond, and Mark Shaver are doing it.
Want to Learn More About Buying and Selling Your Business?
How To Sell Your Business (podcast)
How To Find The Market Value of Your Pet Business (blog)
Everything You Need To Know About Buying and Selling Your Business (product)
Rover And Wag Have Entered The Room
I know that as a pet sitting and dog walking business owner, you dislike all the irresponsible Rover and Wag pet sitters. It is undeniable the number of accidents and pet deaths they are bringing along in addition to undercutting some pet sitting businesses prices.
Although it is important to remember that not all of them are bad and there are some responsible sitters on those apps. In fact, if I were to start my business today… and not really known where to turn, I just might have listed my services on there too.
But here is why their splash is exciting to me and something for you to think about:
1. They have raised $310.9M in ten rounds of fundraising. That is insane! What they can do with that money shows in their national print, TV, and social media campaigns. What they have essentially done is educate the entire USA about our profession and that we exist. I feel this is a major reason why our industry has spiked in the past two years. Like it or not, they have educated the market on what a pet sitter does.
2. Rover is a technology company. They have encouraged many professional pet sitters to get software of their own and whether anyone believes it or not, I really think they have helped raise the bar when it comes to the user experience and being able to “go digital” and sign up online.
Study after study shows that the user wants to be involved more and more in the process and Rover is giving that to them every time. Professional pet sitters are increasing this trend by allowing their prospects to sign up with them online and get a leg up on their social media by using video and all the incredible tools we have access to. I see a lot more professional pet sitters and dog walkers really caring about their social media presence and website now and really stepping it up notches!
Gone is the time of a basic Wix website that you create yourself for a top rated and performing digital storefront.
3. Consumer behavior has developed into asking Google everything. Did you know one of the most popular questions Google is asked is “should I text him back?”
From “How much does a pet sitter cost in CITY” to “Pet Sitter reviews in CITY” I believe that Rover and Wag have gotten the public to think about this with their top rankings in most cities. They got the public to wonder about this and then they start researching online. Where I see some professional pet sitting and dog walking companies fall short is by not answering the Big 5 on their website.
Marcus Sheridan explained in great depth on my podcast, Bella In Your Business what the Big 5 are. One of my clients was able to take her brand new website from Barketing Blog and get to to the #1 spot of one of the most competitive markets in just a month because of this strategy I told her to use.
4. More people than ever are starting pet sitting and dog walking businesses. Initial thoughts by the defensive business could be “Great! This means more competition, Bella.” Although if you realize that 6 out of 10 households have pets… there really is more than enough to go around and it fills the gap of those who need cheap pet care.
In the words of Michelle Obama… “When they go low, you go high.”
Ok, so that might not have been what she meant, but many startups do start very low and don’t have the impeccable customer experience that I know your business already brings. So in essence… this gives you a reason to have the top-notch prices in your area.
You also should keep in mind that only 50% of new businesses last more than 5 years according to the Small Business Administration, which helps add businesses to the selling market and goes to show that you shouldn’t be comparing your well-established business to that of a startup who probably isn’t even charging enough to stay in business in five years.
Everything is relative.
Want To Learn More About This Topic?
What Type of Pet Sitter is Best For Rover Websites? (blog)
What’s The Difference Between Rover Sitters and Professional Pet Sitters? (blog)
What Type of Insurance Does A Rover Sitter Need? (blog)
Regulations Are In Full Effect
A necessary evil that happens when something gains popularity, like the pet sitting and dog walking industry, is that it draws attention. Regulations are popping up all over the country making it harder and harder to just do whatever you want when it comes to your business.
- Minimum wage is going up in many states, therefore, affecting many overnight services.
- Accumulated sick day pay is happening in many states causing business owners to factor in this extra pay.
- Many cities are putting limits to how many pets can be under one roof.
- Some states are being required to pay for cell phone usage like California and Illinois.
- A massive tidal wave is happening where business owners are reclassifying their sitters from ICs to Employees. They are realizing that the safest way to grow is with employees, and the only attractive way to sell one day is with employees.
It is because of this interesting shift that we are working hard behind the scenes on a major project for all of you looking to switch from ICs to Employees in 2019.
Sign up to be the first to get the step by step instructions on exactly how to do this:
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Want To Learn More About This?
Is Dog Boarding In My Home Legal? (blog)
Should I Switch From Ics to Employees? (blog)
Which Costs More? ICs or Employees? (blog)
6 Steps To Switch from ICs to Employees (Freebie)
Pet Sitting And Dog Walking Businesses Are Growing At The Fastest Rate Ever!
I have never seen pet sitting and dog walking businesses scale so fast in the 11 years I have been consulting. It is incredible how many people are acquiring smaller companies or lateral companies to grow their empire. They are accomplishing this a bunch of ways:
- It is equally exciting to see people hiring multiple people at a time instead of just hiring one person at a time reacting to an open position they have in their company.
- Another change I see is that when people move out of their territory, they are keeping their old territory and running it remotely while opening up a new one. Or, they don’t relocate but just open up a new territory to expand their kingdom.
- Some members in the Jump Mastermind have hit their last year revenue by mid-2018 while others have figured out membership modules that are just increasing their profits.
It is really so exciting to see all the ways businesses are flourishing, despite what some naysayers might say about the tech companies.
The Use Of Software Is (and Will Continue To Be) at an All-Time High
Pet care companies that use software have the benefit of increased productivity, with their time being spent on the money-making aspects of the business instead of performing tedious and repetitive tasks. For larger companies, this can lead to the need for fewer office employees, while for smaller companies you may have more free time. Allowing clients to add their own information and schedule not only saves you time, but it also lowers the frequency of errors as the client immediately sees the same thing that the company sees.
Adam Smith, Co-Creator/Developer, Precise Petcare
To be taken seriously online in this industry you really need two things: A great website and that website to be connected to the software.
As millennials come into the largest buying power, they want to do things online. They want to have an experience online that solves their problems and doesn’t take forever.
I am happy to say that I am starting to see pet sitters finally invite the viewer into the process on their site. They aren’t just talking at them or creating an online brochure, but really speaking to their avatars, solving the unique problems, and inviting the viewer to take action that will make them feel like they are able to check “pet sitter” or “dog walker” off their never-ending to-do list.
Some are even starting to show-and-tell. They are finally starting to show the consumer the experience they will have on their cell phone when service is being provided. Whether this is IG stories, FB Stories, showing what the updates look like, sending a GPS map of the walk, only using GPS tracked collars… pet sitters are keeping pace ever-changing technology and it is becoming a real disruptor in their local markets.
My Predictions for 2019:
- Companies are going to get even larger and things like benefits will become more and more talked about.
- The middle sized businesses will shrink slightly because they will get burnt out, stall out, sell, or on the opposite side… grow bigger.
- Companies will start to develop their own software apps specialized to their own companies and going outside the mainstream industry choices.
- More regulations coming down the pipeline for the proper classification of workers will be coming as our political climate continues to heat up, causing more companies to switch from ICs to employees.
- Online user experience is going to become one of the most popular selling features and is what will really start to set companies apart online. In the past it was a blog, software, or video… but this is all the “norm” so it will be important to have all that AND a great online user experience.
How Can You Achieve All Your Dreams With No Sunlight?
We have all seen the experiment online where one plant was ignored and told negative things and another plant was given attention and spoken positive messages too… right? In this experiment, the negative comments plant wilted and the positive comments plant flourished.
Your brain and your business is the same exact way.
In order to achieve what you want for your business… you need to surround yourself with those positive comments. Surrounded yourself with people checking in with you daily and giving you encouragement and there to guide you. The pet sitting and dog walking industry isn’t going to get easier as it grows. It will become more cutting-edge, more innovative and larger. Where many used to strive for a six-figure company… more will be striving for a seven-figure business.
I am already seeing it happen and I am excited to be cheering you on.
Let’s do this together.
What Do You Think?
Comment below, I would love to hear what you think. Tell me what I might have missed, what your predictions are, or if you think I am off my rocker! *haha* What has been your experience and where do YOU want to be in 2019 with your business? How do you plan to achieve it all and what changes have you seen in the industry?
Great article! I’m pumped for the new year!
Great article, Bella. A lot to think about
So glad it got you thinking! – Bella 😉
Me too!!!! -Bella 🙂
This article was spot on! Thanks so much!
Thanks Wonder Woman 😉 – Bella
What an awesome article! I just had a similar discussion with my millennial daughter last night about getting more on board with people like her. Meaning, those who only use social media to find services and read reviews. So true about more and more younger people adopting pets as their first responsibility before having children. This article is right on the money, in my opinion.
Adriana, Thank you for that vote of confidence! I couldn’t agree more! And what the baby boomer business owners need to understand is that this is happening. Do they want to be the “leader of the pack” in this innovation or do they want to be one of the last ones? I saw this in 2008 when I was telling everyone to get on Facebook for their business…. I am telling you – consumers WANT to be apart of the process. 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to comment! – Bella 🙂
Great article! I think most of your predictions are spot on except for companies developing their own software. I come from a software engineering background and building a system like Time to Pet or Scout is a huge undertaking and very expensive. I can’t see companies being able to invest the capital and all of the other tangible and intangible resources to undertake that task, while still being able to grow and run a successful pet care business.
Hi Matt! Thanks for your comments. Totally see where you are coming from. I don’t think it will be mainstream but I know two of my clients who have a partner also in software engineering who are currently creating apps for their business and do plan on offering them to the public. I also know two currently on the market – and that is how they started. So I agree and disagree with you. LOve that you commented. Nice to E-meet you! – Bella
Thank you for your insight, and Happy New Year! I agree with the market shift. Is the answer then to create an app and/or to have a website that allows for online customer scheduling, etc. ? I feel like with this shift, there comes less of a personal experience between new worker and client. Does that mean that going are the days of clients being connected with petsitters via word-of-mouth. How much weight are Facebook reviews still carrying with this shift? With this too, I’m still unsure of where the market is moving as for HOW customers are being attracted to those new apps and websites? What is attracting new clients to a business? Is it just whatever is popular and widely used among peers/ seen on social media, TV, etc. ? I’m intrigued by this digital era! Thanks!
Hi Benny! Thanks for your comments. I really believe it is the EXPERIENCE on the website and throughout the sign up process, and service process. I also believe that businesses will have to start really providing value when they aren’t servicing the client and become a value/educational hub in their community. To the point that it is a no brained to go with the company. But def. the copy and experience on the website matters. SOOOOO Many pet sitters websites are selling the industry and I could copy and paste what they say on their website and stick it on someone else’s. So individuality and experience is going to rise. – Bella