Episode 365: What It Takes To Hire 50+ Employees In Your Pet Business with Tiffany Lewis

hiring new talent
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Hey Jumpers! In the business world, few things are as simultaneously crucial and daunting as hiring new talent. If you've ever been in a position where you had to recruit and onboard new employees, you're likely familiar with the mixed emotions of this responsibility. The mere thought of hiring new talent can send shivers down the spine of even the most experienced business owners. But, here's the twist. What if we told you that hiring might not be the colossal, nerve-wracking endeavor it's often made out to be?

In this episode of "Bella in Your Business: Pet Industry Business Podcast," I am thrilled to welcome back  Tiffany Lewis. She is the amazing owner of Pet and Home Care.  Today, we dive into Tiffany’s incredible journey, starting from being a dog walker to running a business with over 50 employees. It's truly inspiring to see her build her empire and find success in hiring new talent.

Tiffany opened up about the challenges she faced when transitioning from independent contractors to having a full-fledged team of employees. She also highlights the significance of having a formalized hiring process and how it has made a huge difference in her business. Oh, and let's remember the perks she offers her employees - they're a game-changer.

If you're a pet business owner or aspiring entrepreneur, this episode is a goldmine of valuable insights on hiring new talent. Tiffany's journey and her tips on managing a team effectively are definitely worth listening to. Trust me, you don't want to miss out on this one!

Topics & Key Points

  • Challenges faced in hiring and transitioning from independent contractors to employees
  • Importance of having a formalized hiring process and employee benefits
  • Tiffanie’s experience of initially hiring friends and the challenges of mixing business and friendship
  • Transitioning from independent contractors to employees and its benefits
  • Tiffany’s  more formalized hiring process
  • Building a strong company culture and its effects on the business
  • Importance of creating a healthy workplace and being a supportive boss
  • Ways Tiffany takes care of her team, such as structured onboarding and providing benefits
  • The belief that it’s not just about the money, but also about taking care of employees.


[00:09] Tiffany’s  journey from dog walker to building a team

[03:05] Transitioning from independent contractors to employees

[05:33] Formalizing the hiring process and employee benefits

[10:12] Tiffanie’s transition from a reactionary approach to hiring to building a conscious culture.

[11:10] The importance of treating employees well

[13:53] Tips for starting a pet care business

Notable Quotes

[05:32] “Switching to employees was a huge benefit because now I have more protection and my employees have more protection, which also makes them more loyal.”

[08:54] “In the beginning, I was just kind of hacking it together, finding people that met my requirements, doing some vetting. And then we would, you know, train them. So the big difference between now and then is our training and onboarding process is much longer now, but it’s good because we’re doing much more vetting.”

[13:52] “Don’t waste time in the paper world, get digital as quickly as you can. Switch to digital right away. Don’t waste your time setting up paper calendars.”

[15:48] ”We’re trying to create a work environment. It’s an independent company type of job. So trying to create a work environment. So we’ve had a few offices over the years. We’ve tried, but then for a long time, we went officeless. But then when the pandemic happened, that was a big eye-opener. I need my team to work together. I want them to feel like they’re a team”

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Welcome to another episode of Bella in Your Business. My name is Bella Vasta. And today we have a special guest for you. I want you to meet Tiffany Lewis. If you do not know her already, she is from pet and home care, and she started walking dogs in the Potomac neighborhood when she was just a junior in high school. With the combination of hustle and word of mouth, her little side gig after school turned into a full-time job. But she doesn’t need to her client list had grown to a point that Tiffany had to hire her first team member and today, pet in-home care employs more than 50 pet sitters resort attendants, and office staff spread out all across Maryland’s Montgomery County, and Frederick County. She’s also joined us here in Arizona for the jump into paradise pre-COVID. And also how to sit in better marketing with Bella. We also love watching her grow, grow, grow, and also be a part of pet care team training. And she was the first person I thought of when I wanted to bring you guys some inspiration about this hiring thing. We all pretty much hate hiring until you figure it out. And then it’s not as big of a deal. And so with Tiffany having so many employees and having such a long time in our industry, I knew she’d be the perfect person to talk to us today. So without further ado, Stephanie, welcome to the show.


Thank you so much for having me back on. I appreciate it.


Absolutely. So why don’t you fill in the gaps a little bit for our listeners? I kind of told them how it started. But tell us a little bit more about how it got started and how you realize that you know you couldn’t do it on your own, you need to start building a team.


Sure. Well, it was the late 90s when professional pet care wasn’t a thing yet. And I kind of fell into some a dog walking gig. And that led me to overnight sitting. They didn’t want to take overnight sitting on as a service. They thought it was too much liability. And they handled all those plants to me. So here I am 1617 years old, sleeping house to house caring for all these different animals. I loved it, I got to hang out in nice houses and get paid to sleep basically. And that’s really what started the business wow, there’s a huge demand for not only overnight care but pet sitting and dog walking in my hometown of Potomac, Maryland. So while I was in college, I was you know, hustling on the side doing the pet care. And then it got to the point where I dropped out of college, I did not graduate. I was so busy. And I just came to realize that this is what’s important. And I’ll go back to school. Well, I never did. I just started hiring. Yeah. When you started hiring, did you immediately go to employees? Was it ICs? How did you know who to hire? Like, were you scared? Like what was? Do you remember what that initial hiring was? Like? Absolutely. So at first, I would not think it took me to forget which year it was you might be right about 2002 when I was working on Easter because, of course, I worked every day. And I had 30 visits that Easter. Oh, my word. This is not possible. I can’t see my clients, so I better start getting some help. So quickly, I realized that yes, I need help. And
I started with my friends, which you know, is great in a way because I knew I could trust them. But also, as you probably all know, when you mix business and pleasure, it usually does not end up well. So I had some friendship struggles because people don’t like being told what to do, especially when they’re your friend. So we moved past that I started hiring friends friends and their relatives got some distance. And yeah, we started as independent contractors. My CPA back then was like, yeah, it’s a gray area, you know, it’s fine. And I believed him. And so 567 years, I only hired independent contractors. And then it all happened one day when the hammer came down, an independent contractor that quit, because her car broke down. She couldn’t work and filed for unemployment. Well, the flag was raised. You’re not an employee, but we think you should have been an employee. So after a very long, expensive investigation and lots of fines, I switched CPAs and found a guy who knew what he was talking about and then moved everyone to employees. I thought that was the end for me. I’m like, I can’t afford this. This is so difficult. People don’t want their taxes taken out. No, I was wrong. We did pull it off. We could afford it and people love being employee
You don’t want to have to worry about their taxes at the end of the year. So it turned out that switching to employees was a huge benefit. Because now, you know, I have more protection, and my employees have more protection, which also makes them more loyal. So, in addition to having employees, we have a whole slew of employee benefits. And so that is helping keep the team and grow the team, we really can retain and recruit top-level talent because of our benefits and you know, employee status.


I think that’s amazing. I’m, I’m gonna go off script here with you because all of that was just really great. And I know, you know, people are hidden in fear a lot, right? Like either they throw away they throw around the word audit, or people are knowingly operating with ICS not sleeping at night, wondering like, what’s going to happen? And here’s proof right here. You guys like this isn’t a mythical creature. This is an actual person on my podcast right now, who has also been audited and realized that they needed to switch and I think something you said important, Tiffany, that I think a lot of us fall into is, well, my CPA said it was okay. Well, okay, is your CPA also going to pay those back taxes, penalties, and fines, and also go through the audit with you and not charge you for it? Like, are they going to stand behind that word? Like, you must have felt pretty like, like, caught with your pants down? And like alone when that happened? Like thinking like, but I followed your advice. It was disappointing. It was scary. You know, he said, this gray area, but then quickly, I realized it’s not gray. If you’re telling someone what to do, where to do it, and how to do it. That’s an employee. There’s no getting around that. And I was doing that. Yeah, here’s where you’re going. Here’s what you’re doing. And here’s how you’re going to do it. Right. And it’s and it’s this big debate that also people say you know about the rover, they’re like, they’re not a pet company like no, they’re not. They’re an app company. They just connect people to pets, and that’s it. That’s it. They don’t claim that they’re pet sitters, you know, and I think a lot of people miss that. And that’s why they’re able to have independent contractors because they don’t control any of it. Okay, anyway, back to you. So you realize that hiring friends wasn’t going to work. So then you started, you know, the second best, the second-degree, the third-degree friends of friends of friends. When At what point did you start kind of formalizing your whole hiring process? And? Do you remember like how long it took to like interview onboard hire? until like, what it’s now can you tell us about the antithesis of like the development of it?


Sure, yeah. In the beginning, I was just kind of hacking it together, you know, finding people that met my requirements, doing some light vetting, and then we would, you know, we would train them. So the big difference between now and then is our training and onboarding process now is much longer. For I’m way pickier, we’re doing way more in-person training. And thanks to pet care team training, we also have that online aspect. So the process is much longer now. But it’s good because we’re doing much more vetting, we’re trying to weed out those people that are not going to last, you know, we have jumped through a bunch of hoops, not as many groups as you had recommended, because that was a little too many. But we’ve found a sweet spot where we’re making them want the job. And then once they come in the doors, I know we’re welcoming men with our employee culture, or getting them that in-person training, online training. So in the end, they are now a professional pet sitter certified professional pet sitters and certified in pet first aid and CPR. So yeah, back in the day, it was a big struggle. I was kind of, you know, didn’t have a process.
Where are you doing? What were you doing? Sure. So I would go on Craigslist, I would go on care.com. And I would scour those places for people posting resumes. And then in return, I would post ads, and get people in the door, we would do either a phone interview or an in-person interview. And that was I’m like, Alright, like you, we’re gonna throw you out in the field, you’ll shatter those people. And we’ll get you going. Yeah, but now we have handbooks to read. You know, of course, the online training, and now we have our app for there to do their work, we use the time to pet so we got to train them on that. So there’s just a lot more involved now, which we like because it’s creating that culture. It’s showing them that you know, we’re serious, this isn’t some side hustle, and we’re trying to give them a career in the pet care world. So the new system seems to be working and all of our added benefits are attracting and retaining our people. So things have improved and a lot of that was your help over the years. So thank you, Bella.


Well, you did all the work girlfriend and I just I love and I want our listeners to pick up on it like, Okay, this is what she was doing. And it wasn’t working. And when she when she made the switch, or she she tweaked it, or she improved it, it helped. And so like, what exactly like did you go from to like, what would you what you how would you describe the before and after it seems like or what I’m hearing is that it would be more like reactionary, like you’re going out and just trying to find anyone out there that you could have. And now you’ve made a conscious decision. And we talked about this actually, with Becky Lee, a couple of episodes ago of this podcast to a conscious decision to build your culture, how you figure out what your culture was, and how you wanted to get that all integrated into people, I guess just time and figuring it out and listening to my team and kind of seeing who we are what we are and just developed it over the years.


And, yeah, we’re just trying to, you know, bring people in and show them like a healthy workplace. We’ve had a lot of people come to us from like, really bad work environments. So I love being like a supportive Boss, I’m here for my team. And that’s one of the things I learned over the past few years. With this program I took called Goldman Sachs, 10,000 small businesses that it’s, it’s the people, that’s what matters, it’s the people that can go for clients that can go for employees, but for me, I put my employees first, and then they do a good job taking care of my clients. So that’s what I’ve come to realize is is treating my people well giving them a nice structured onboarding, you know, we gear everyone up with all of our swag, another new thing we’ve implemented as leash belts, so we give every single employee a leash belt, so no dog can escape them. And it’s just it’s working out. Because you know, of course, too, with pet care, a lot of people are working independently. So we don’t always see each other. So we do try to do parties a few times a year. And we do little things like send out birthday gifts through Snappy, and that always surprises my team. And I just love that. And, you know, we always do Christmas bonuses or holiday bonuses. And I give raises once or twice per year for every single employee. So that keeps people interested, throws more money, and they’ll stick around. Yeah, yeah. So but is it? Is it? And where is that line? More money? And they’ll stick around? But how much money? Because I also see who would what would you say to the people on the other end of the spectrum that are maybe paying like 70%? Because they think they have to keep people and that’s how they’re going to do it. But they’re not showing any care and concern? Because I think we can go overboard to what would what would be your advice there? Where’s that line? Well, I think the balance is don’t just focus on the percentage they’re getting per visit. You know, we look at the whole picture because of course, they’re getting those benefits, we do a 401 K with an employer match, we’re doing a partial gas reimbursement, we’re doing 40 hours of paid time off per employee. So their per visit may not be as high as someone offering 70%. But they’re getting so many more benefits with it, that it makes it more worthwhile. And then over time, you know, rewarding them with a higher visit, higher pay per visit, keeps them happy. But yeah, if we were doing 70% of visits, we couldn’t stay in business because we gotta be able to afford to run the company by showing that we care.


It’s not just the money, we’re supportive, and we’re flexible. And so I think our team appreciates the flexibility and we’re understanding so we you know, people are humans things happen. So we’re trying to you know, we work with our team when they’re having issues. Yeah, that’s beautiful. Now Tiffany, talk to your talk to your younger self when you first started what are the top couple tips that you would give yourself don’t do that that was a big mistake. Well, certainly independent contractors. So if I could go back in time I would have started with employees. Another tip would be to not waste time in the paper world and get digital as quickly as you can. You know, when I started internet was barely a thing. So we had to be paper. But as the internet and technology improved, we improved our systems. And now we finally you know, with time to pet we love it because we have the app and we’re able to do everything digitally. So I think that’s a big one you know, switch to digital right away. Don’t waste your time setting up paper calendars.
Vitals, can handing people recept a printout every single form here’s your schedule.

I’d say another big tip is to push for keyless entry, managing all the customer keys, is so hard. Even today we push for lockboxes and we can’t get everyone if I had just started like this is how we do it probably would have been a lot easier. And then, you know, keeping the team as a team, you know
cuz it’s an independent company type of job. So trying to create a work environment. So we’ve had a few offices over the years we’ve tried, but then for a long time we went office LIS, but then when the pandemic happened, and once we were kind of getting out of the pandemic, that was like a big eye opener, I’m like, no more isolation. I need my team to work together. I want them to feel like they’re a team. So we opened a great administrative office in Urbana, where my admin team works. So that’s like really increased productivity and camaraderie. And now we actually have a real place to like interview people and onboard
those people working at a coffee shop, I’d say you can fuck it up, get an office, have a real location, and then you get the Google My Business for it. So yeah, it’s a win-win. I love that. That’s all great. Okay, as we close out, I want to talk more about you just hit on isolation. And I know that the Goldman Sachs program also helps you too.


Can you tell us a little bit more about just speaking to isolation, this is the time of year that it’s pretty tough for a lot of people. And we’re pulled in so many different directions. And it’s hard to keep a positive mindset about our business. And people aren’t necessarily looking for jobs during this time, you know, but, but speak to us about isolation and how you have ebbed and flowed through that and realize that, like you just said, you know, you wanted an office?


Sure, well, the pandemic is tough in terms of isolation, as everyone can probably relate. And I’ve had a hard time trying to run the business from home, not feeling connected to my team and my customers. So I felt isolated. My team, I think didn’t make me feel as much, especially those working at the kennel. But being able to be around like-minded individuals, even if it’s not your like team, I think is important. So the program of Goldman Sachs, 10,000, small businesses that I took back in 2021 was such an incredible experience. And now I have this whole community of entrepreneurs that I can lean on. Anytime we do networking events, we refer each other to business, and I can bounce ideas off people. So I believe in having a strong network of, you know, like-minded individuals, entrepreneurs, business people, and even your employees nearby. So you can feel the community, because, without community, there’s nothing. So you know, I would say get out there network if you can. And if you’re a business owner that has at least one employee, you earn at least I think it’s 75,000 a year, and I highly recommend the 10 KSB program, totally free for four months of intensive business learning, and you walk out of there with so much knowledge and connection. So that was one thing that helped me skyrocket the business back in 2021.


It was remarkable on the outside watching you do that, and watching the transformation and the changes it was it was cool. And you’re not who you used to be after that program. It’s just It’s beautiful to watch from afar. So you guys go check that out, we’re gonna put that in our show notes as well. If that feels too big for you, you could also join in the mastermind. This month in the mastermind, we’re talking all about hiring we’re having Che come in to talk all about what to do when your job badges are not working. So you’re not going to want to miss that if you’re trying to hire and banging your head against the wall.


Tiffany, I want to sincerely thank you for your time today. You did not have to do this. And I appreciate you being a leader in the industry, just helping encourage people because it’s one of the plateaus that some people get to and then they just stop growing their business because it’s too hard to get through. So I know that you’ve inspired some help in some people today. How can people cyberstalk you check you out and see this amazing company that you have built? Sure, thank you. You can always visit our website, pet and home care.com All of our social handles at pet and home care. And of course, we’re on LinkedIn too. I’d love for you to link in with me. I’m Tiffany Lewis, and we’d be happy to connect and share resources. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on Tiffany y’all remember when life gets you down?


Always keep jumping. We’ll see you again next episode. Bye now.

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