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Business Women on phone

Why My Pet Sitting Business Needs SOP’s

Would you agree to board an airplane knowing that the pilot was simply ‘told’ what to do? Probably not! It’s not enough to TELL our employees what to do- it’s critical that we have clear guidelines and instructions in place to ensure our operations run smoothly and efficiently.

However, not all businesses are the same and not all standard operating procedures (SOPs) are made equal. It’s essential to have an SOP in place that is specific to YOUR business.

Business Women on phone

While you can model your SOP after other businesses, you’ll have to tweak it quite a bit for the pet care industry. If you simply try to copy and paste everything from an unrelated SOP…well, it’s a bit like wearing someone else’s underwear; it’s way better to have a fresh, clean SOP that’s tailored to your unique business!

As the owner of a pet sitting business, I quickly realized that simply telling my employees what to do was not nearly as effective as having a set of written instructions that they could follow step-by-step. Explaining how routine operations should be performed is crucial for any business, no matter the industry.

 

Wait, what exactly IS an SOP?

Standard Operating Procedures are crystal clear instructions created by a business to help employees carry out routine operations. SOPs aim to keep your business organized, increase the quality output, and create uniformity of performance. Remember, anyone in your organization should be able to understand each individual SOP.

Keep the language simple and take the time to explain key terms. SOPs help to significantly reduce miscommunication and boost overall employee confidence.

 

An SOP typically fails for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Lack of clarity
  • Lack of details
  • The SOP isn’t easy to access

 

So, where do I begin?

An SOP can be anything from creating a new blog post to invoicing a new customer to drawing up a sales report and more! No matter what industry you’re in, SOPs can be extremely helpful to keep your team on track.

Think about EVERYTHING you do for your pet sitting business – from hiring and training to onboarding and offboarding clients, there are so many systems that happen each and every day. The key is to document each of these in your SOPs.

For my pet sitting business, my SOPs are alive…okay, they don’t bark or meow at me! But I treat them as living documents that I can make changes to as needed.

As your business grows, you may want to change how you jump into things and that’s great!

 

SOP

 

Whether your business is brand new or one that is quickly growing, be sure to keep all SOPs up-to-date and easily accessible. From printed documents to online sites, let it be known where all of these procedures live.

Asana or Trello are great project management tools, and also great places to store a checklist with your Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Here, your office staff (or you) can do a brain dump and organize the cards into categories that make sense to you. You can add people to the boards and you can share your thoughts and plans in an easy way.

 

Remember, if your SOP is out of sight, it’s out of mind for your employees

You want to create a space where these procedures live that’s easy to jump to at a moment’s notice.

Once you have clear and accessible Standard Operating Procedures in place, you can let them do the work for you – this ultimately allows you to work on the bigger picture ideas that actually enhance and grow your business!

As a business owner, if you’re looking to scale your business, add employees, and move forward, you’ll want to put together SOPs sooner rather than later. Don’t let everything live in your head – it can get way too chaotic!

Put everything down on paper – real or virtual! Whatever works best for you. Jump into creating SOPs and your future self will thank you– I promise!

 

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About The Author:

Liz Illg Headshot

Liz Illg is the Owner of Puff & Fluff Grooming and Pet Sitting with five locations in the Phoenix area. Not only has Liz turned her passion for animals into a thriving business, but she is also an expert when it comes to creating an environment of growth for your business as well. In fact, as an Operational Strategist, Liz specializes in working with small business owners and entrepreneurs. She can assist with everything from streamlining systems to creating manageable training and operational manuals. Liz received her Bachelor’s in Business from Arizona State University and her Master’s in Education from Northern Arizona University.

How Do You Know If Your Staff Is Retaining The Info In Your Training?

How Do You Know If Your Staff Is Retaining The Info In Your Training?

How Do You Know If Your Staff Is Retaining The Info In Your Training?

 

How Do You Know If Your Staff Is Retaining The Info In Your Training?

 

As business owners, we spend countless hours per day dealing with all things staff. This could range from hiring and training to just answer staff questions through phone calls or text. Managing your staff is a never-ending routine, and I see it leading to burnout all too often. Maybe you’ve even had one of these thoughts cross your mind recently?

 

“Why don’t my staff just know how to do their job?”

“I cannot believe my staff didn’t know how to do XYZ”

“Are they really calling me about such a stupid question?”

“Why don’t my staff have any common sense?”

 

There are a few potential reasons why you and your staff are having this disconnect. First, your staff may not know how to find the information. Or, perhaps maybe they lack the confidence to do what they think is the right course of action. Perhaps they know the answer, but they’re so afraid of upsetting you that they just aren’t 100% sure.

Today we’re going to explore a few proven methods for how you can ensure that your staff is retaining your training materials, which will ultimately build their confidence within their role while freeing up time for you! 🙂

 

Testing & Training

What type of tests do you have for your staff? There are many kinds of tests, but some of the most popular are in-person, written, and on-the-go.

A popular method that I’ve always recommended (and used in my own business!) is to give newly hired pet sitters a written test during their orientation. My pet sitting employee handbook and training manual used to be 60+ pages long, so it really wouldn’t be fair or reasonable to expect them to remember every piece of information on every page. That’s where my 10-question written test came in – to help hone in on those key areas I really wanted my staff to remember.

 

Employee Handbook and Training Manual

 

Another type of test, the in-person test, is perfect to use during training and ride-along. Having a newly-hired pet sitter aimlessly shadowing can be overwhelming without a clear sense of direction. It’s important to be realistic and understand that the human brain is really good at retaining a few pieces of key information, but isn’t always so good at remembering all of the tiny, minute details.

One way to really drive home those important hitters is to come up with a “10 Point Visit Checklist” or something similar that you can demonstrate and walkthrough during your training visits.

Last but not least – testing is not only reserved for new hires! A great method to use for seasoned employees is testing-on-the-go. When you’re asked questions, try to refrain from just feeding them the answer.

I know that can sound a little strange, but always answering every single question point-blank can hurt your staff more than it’s helping them. You want to encourage them to think critically and teach them how to find the answer themselves, instead of reinforcing the idea that you’ll serve as an open-book of information.

 

Check out this example:

Pet Sitter: I need some help – I’m currently at a client’s home and I don’t see one of their cats. What should I do?

You: That’s a great question. What do you think you should do?

Pet Sitter: Well, first I think I should fully search the house, including all potential hiding spaces. Maybe then I can bring out some treats to try and entice the kitty to come out.

You: Perfect – give that a try first and let’s see how it goes 🙂 

 

See how much more fruitful that is for your staff? You allowed the employee to think through the problem and come up with the solution themselves, instead of you telling them outright.

 

Onboarding

Here comes the big question – how often within 3 months are you reusing your training materials? That’s right – I’m looking at all of the people who whip out their employee handbook/training manual for orientation, only for it never to be looked at again by your staff.

I get it – being a business owner is busy.

However, it’s really important to get away from the mindset that training is “one-and-done.” Training is an ongoing, never-ending learning process, so we want to make sure you are consistently reintegrating your training materials into your staff’s routine.

Let’s take a step back and do some thinking.

How many staff meetings do you have per month, quarter, or year? Of these meetings, how big/small are they? Are they mandatory, expected, or optional? What kind of meetings are they? Are they meetings over a meal, or a group Zoom call? How do you communicate with your staff? Do you use email, texting, or Slack?

Take some time to really think about these questions and determine what you’ve found to work and what you’ve found not to work.

To help with this, Liz Illg, pet business powerhouse, and myself are coming out soon with a brand-new series of 12 professionally-shot videos that you can reuse again and again for staff meetings. Stay tuned for more information on this project 🙂

 

Ways To Learn Your Training Info

It’s also important to recognize that people learn in all different kinds of ways. A one-size-fits-all approach is just simply not effective for ensuring your staff retaining your training information. In fact, research shows that there are 7 different learning styles:

  • Visual/Spatial: Using images or visual cues to process information.
    • Examples: Pictures, videos, and demonstrations.
  • Auditory/Musical: Responding primarily to sound
    • Examples: Audio recordings or audiobooks
  • Verbal/Linguistic: Learns under both verbal instruction and through writing.
    • Examples: Handbooks, training manuals, and tests.
  • Physical/Kinesthetic: Going through the motions of what is being learned.
    • Examples: Hands-on training, ridealongs
  • Logical/Mathematical: Learns through understanding the reasoning behind content and skills.
    • Examples: Dog/Cat behavior guides
  • Social/Interpersonal: Natual group workers that are engaged with others and love working within teams.
    • Examples: Group training sessions and activities.
  • Solitary/Intrapersonal: Individuals who prefer to learn on their own and keep to themselves.
    • Examples: Employee Handbook/Training Manual self-study

It’s important to understand and keep these different learning styles in mind so that you have training content that can meet the needs of any type of learner. A great start is to implement video training within your pet sitting business.  and to develop an employee handbook/training manual.

 

Ask Clients

Another way that we can make sure your staff is retaining information is to simply ask your clients! Here are a few questions that can help:

  • How clean was your house when you returned?
  • Would you recommend us to your neighbors?
  • Was your dog visibly tired after his/her walk?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how safe do you feel with us coming and going from your home?

On one hand, it makes clients feel good that their opinion matters and on the other hand, you are obtaining valuable feedback. Don’t feel pushy asking for feedback! If you do it on a regular basis, it will come to be expected and your clients won’t mind at all 🙂

Overall, pouring into your staff and a fun and resourceful way, not in a dominating way, can go a long way towards training retention. It’s important to recognize that training is not just a 2-hour orientation, but an ongoing process that’s implemented into your long term plan with employees.

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hiring staff switching from IC's

Hiring Staff Or Switching From IC’s Without Losing Your Mind!

One of the scariest things to do as a pet sitting business owner is hiring staff or switching from IC’s to staff. I mean think about it – you’re literally changing the structure of your business. You’re going from hiring people who have their own company, who know how to do a job to someone who doesn’t have their own company, who wants to be trained, who you get to control & check up on. Those personalities are two totally different things.

Today I bring you 6 steps to successfully make the jump from IC’s to staff, designed personally by myself and Kate McQuillan from Pawsome Media. If you don’t know Kate, she helps pet business owners around the world with their social media and marketing in their business. Be sure to check her out here.

Hiring Staff Or Switching From IC’s Without Losing Your Mind!

hiring staff switching from IC's

Step 1: The IRS Blessing

Little known fact: There’s this awesome government program called the Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) that can serve as a HUGE help when making the switch from IC’s to employees.

To simplify it down from the legal mumbo-jumbo, your business pays a small fee and in return you NEVER have to worry about being audited for employment tax again. Consider this as a safety net and an investment for your business. Read more about it on the IRS website, or check out this detailed article I wrote breaking it down for you. 🙂

Step 2: Pricing

You HAVE to figure out your margins.  You deserve to make money – you’re dedicating so much time and energy to your business, that you deserve a handsome paycheck 🙂 If you’re not, let me help you get on track.

People fear when switching from IC’s to staff that there’s going to be all these extra costs, but the reality is you can RAISE your prices and see an increase in business. Seriously! I have NEVER seen a person say “OMG I raised my prices and my business crashed. Never.”

Not everyone has to raise their rates, but that’s when the numbers don’t lie. You have to pay yourself, pay the business, and pay for the labor.

If you’re still unsure how to price your services/figure out your margins to get ready for hiring staff or switching from IC’s, I have an entire guide dedicated to this. Take a look at my Pricing Guide Structure & Strategy, and never be confused again!

Step 3: Building A Team

Gather people you can trust to advise you on payroll, laws, operations, websites, hiring, and cash flow. Without a team in place, you will not be able to efficiently and professionally accomplish everything you need to. The art of delegation will be learned during this step!

You have to evaluate your business and find what your needs are. Picture the perfect demographic of what you’re looking for, and then FIND THEM! You don’t want to compromise – you have to stick to what you need and what you’re looking for. If you do this, finding the right people is as easy as checking off boxes.

Step 4: Creating A Manual

First you need to decide if you’re going to have one big fat employee manual, or are you going to have an employee manual AND a training manual? What’s even the difference between the two? Are you going to have a training manual for each position (i.e. pet sitter, dog walker, office manager etc.)

Ensure that your new staff will understand the rules and regulations of your company. Outline your exact operations and the philosophy of your business so each member can work harmoniously as a team with consistent service time and time again

These are all important questions you have to figure out before you even pick up that pen & paper. When hiring staff or switching from IC’s, you want to have all of your processes and procedures in place beforehand. This will create a successful work environment for everybody.

Hire for attitude, train for skill.[ctt template=”8″ link=”iK3nf” via=”no” ]Hire for attitude, train for skill.[/ctt]

Step 5: Interviewing

You need to learn how to ask the same question in many different ways to see if their answer changes. But most importantly, if you get it wrong: correct and continue.

Learn how to determine the right type of person for your business to grow with. Determine what interview questions, screening, and hiring processes will bring you the best candidates. This is the toughest part of the 6 steps!

Don’t use the all too common excuses of “I can’t hire” or “Nobody can do it as good as me” Hiring staff  or switching from IC’s to staff is an ON-GOING problem. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You always need to be hiring!

Step 6: Operations

Basically, you have to figure out how to make everything run smoothly. Nobody will want to work for you if they have to ask you questions for every single client they go and see. Communication has to flow through you, the clients, the pet sitter, and even other pet sitters.

You’ll want to have your client feel like you’re at the home and you know exactly what’s going on. That they’re hiring a COMPANY and not just the pet sitter. That nothing’s going to slip through the cracks.

Bottom Line: Operations can make or break you.

Now, I want you to take a deep breath. Is this a lot of information? YES. Does it mean that you can’t do it? NO. I believe in you – which is why I have SO many resources to help you achieve your goals and fit different learning styles.

Download My 6 Steps To Switching To Employees Infographic – FREE!

Employee QuickStart 1:1 With Bella

 

Employee Manuals

The Difference Between A Pet Sitting Employee Handbook vs. Training Manual

One of the very first things that pet sitting and dog walking business owners find themselves trying to struggle through is the pet sitting employee handbook. As well as, the pet sitting training manual. The realization that they need to create this massive document with everything under the sun, usually ends up paralyzing them in fear.

It is information overload.

How are you {the business owner} meant to create a document that is going to include EVERYTHING in your brain about your business… without forgetting a single detail?

employee handbook

ANSWER: You are not supposed to. People go to college for this stuff. Like seriously. They learn how to write technically. They learn Human Resources. We are not meant to be doing all of this!

“Employee Handbooks and Training Manuals are so much fun to write!”  SAID NO ONE EVER! 🙂

 

There Are Too Many Legalities!

There are so many legal policies that you have to include because you are a real life business and wanting to abide by the law. But, figuring out where to start with that can be difficult.

“Equal opportunity employment” is maybe the only thing you can barely come up with in your mind.

Then, you have all these nuances that your company does, it is mind blowing to keep track of them all. So you decide to start writing down everything you do in your day to day pet sitting life.

WOAH! That list gets long, real fast… and then you are left wondering, “Well, isn’t most of this common sense?

The answer is NO.

Further, if you want to properly train the people who you hire, and hold them to your standards, it all needs to be in writing. You can’t enforce a corrective action for an employee based off something you “said.” That could be a lawsuit waiting to happen….

So you are back at square one….

Sigh.

This is overwhelming, isn’t it?

Well, I have good-news! But first, I need to introduce you to the idea of two separate documents.

An Employee Handbook and a Training Manual.

Training Manual & Employee Handbook

The Difference Between a Dog Walking and Pet Sitting Employee Handbook vs Training Manual. 

Wait?!?!? There are TWO documents I need?

If you are thinking that right now, I was too when I first learned about it all. Why not just make one giant document with everything and the kitchen sink in it?

Read on…

Your Dog Walking and Pet Sitting Employee Handbook

Your dog walking and pet sitting employee handbook is the foundation of your business. It is the first company document your new employees read. The contents of your pet sitting or dog walking employee handbook will give your employees a sense of the type of culture you have, your philosophies, your mission, your rules and expectations.

Your employee handbook will also include critical company and legal policies. Including these in your handbook and making sure your new employees fully understand them will protect your company. It’s important to go through your employee handbook with your new employees, not just include it in their on-boarding packet that they will throw in the corner and never look at again.

Your handbook will outline things like pay dates, sick leave, dress code, and other expectations. It is a living document that you will change as your grow and see the need to update, change or add to your policies and processes.

Your Dog Walking and Pet Sitting Training Manual

Your handbook is not meant to be your training manual. However, your employee handbook policies may mirror things in your training manual. The employee handbook contains the policies whereas the training manual goes into explicit detail on items requiring training.

Your employee handbook is not your employee agreement. Like the training manual, you may mirror some items, but the employee agreement is a separate document that goes into explicit detail on things like non-compete/non-solicitation agreements, company property handling and return upon termination, and confidentiality.

It’s a good idea to hire an attorney in your state to draw up the employee agreement.

 

But what about the Employee Quick Start Program?

The Employee Quick Start Program includes the outline of an Employee Manual. It’s like a mini Employee Handbook and Training Manual all wrapped into one. It is a great program, with a great document that has already helped over 100 pet sitters. You could say it’s a good JUMP start to get you going. It is a great option for the first draft of the starting literature for your business. But it is only a start.

 

So Now Let Me Finish This For You…

I have both documents. For you. To download. Right now.

You are happy now, aren’t you? =)  I am all about solving problems, not creating more for you. So let me wrap this ridiculously long blog post by telling you this. These documents that I have made are different from anything else out there.

  • They were written by a technical writer. That is someone who writes manuals like this for a living. Here would be an example:

3.5 Anti-Discrimination Policy / Anti-Harassment Policy

{YOUR COMPANY} management is committed to providing a work environment in which employees are treated with dignity, decency, and respect. To support a discrimination-free work environment, YOUR COMPANY maintains strict policies against discrimination and harassment.

All employees are covered by these anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. Employees are expected to comply with these policies and to take appropriate measures to ensure that prohibited conduct does not occur. 

Acts of discrimination or harassment, or retaliation against any individual who reports discrimination or participates in an investigation of such a report, may be subject to disciplinary measures up to and including termination of employment. (See section 10.3 Whistleblower Policy.)

Benefits of My Documents

  • All downloads come with instructions on how to personalize the documents to your company, find all the places that need your attention (to put in your company info) and how to change the look and feel. Here are the first two paragraphs of that document:

There are certain instances in the Employee Manual and the Training Handbook where you are able to include your Company’s Name, the name of the owner of your business and other details relating to the management and running of your Pet Sitting business. This enables you to personalize these documents to make them specifically relevant to your business.

All instances of information that needs to be changed to personalize these documents are included in curly brackets: { and }. This makes it easy for you to find and replace specific content.

  • The same person that wrote this one page explanation of all the ways to customize the document is also available to help Jump Consulting clients to typeset the document if they run into any margin, typeset, formatting problems

 

  • The industry standard is an Employee Manual/Handbook with everything all in one place. With the documents I am offering, they total over 40 pages each.

 

  • Addendum. The Employee Handbook comes with extras like the “Grievance Form” and Company Property Checklist.
So see? Your entire problem is all solved and you don’t have to worry. Click below to see more of your options. You can have these documents downloaded in 60 seconds! 🙂
Employee Manuals

Want To Take It A Step Further?

I heard pet sitters learning that the Red Cross was going away with their Pet First Aid/CPR first aid classes. That’s too bad because being able to train your staff to know if a pet needs medical attention and assess a situation when you aren’t there is important.

But there is another group, that I feel might even be a better solution than the Red Cross. In the past, you had to carve out hours of a day to go through training and it was often only held once a month, if you were lucky. This program through Pro Pet Hero actually trains your staff online… on their own time. Pretty neat huh? I contacted them and arranged a coupon code for you to use.  CODE: petsitter for a discount off. 🙂 You’re Welcome. 🙂

 

Pro Pet Hero

Employee Manuals

Employee Quick Start Program vs. Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Employee Handbook and Training Manual

employees

The most natural question I get when talking about these products I have is, “Bella, what is the difference between the Employee Quick Start program vs the Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Employee Handbook and Training Manual?”

And it is a pretty good question too!

So here, I will do my best to break it down into an easily digestible explanation. I understand these documents can be confusing by themselves.

But out of the gate, let me make this clear: It isn’t one or the other like the title of this article might suggest.

In fact, if you have the Employee Quick Start, the Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Employee Handbook and Training Manual will only enhance what you already have. The Employee Quick Start has a manual that is an outline but you still need to write. The handbook and training manual are already written FOR you. 🙂

It is perfect solution for the business owner who just doesn’t have the time to think and research what needs to be included, write it all out, and then produce the documents.

The Employee Quick Start:

Often times, when a pet sitting or dog walking business owner is ready to take the JUMP and bring on employees, it is a confusing and monumental project. There is confusion on things like, how much do employees cost? How much should I pay? Do I have to pay by the hour? How do I train them? How do I conduct or know what to ask on an interview? Where can I get an employee manual? How do I monitor the employees, and a lot, lot, more.

The Employee Quick Start was created with all this and more in mind. It has everything from A to Z that a pet sitter or dog walker would need to consider as they venture into having employees. Topics like: Pricing structure, building a team, employee manual outline, interview process with questions and an application, ways to transition your clients from you being their pet sitter, to your staff, and how to become a manager of your business instead of a worker are all explained in a step-by-step fashion.

The Employee Quick Start does contain an employee manual outline, with thought-provoking questions designed to get the reader thinking so they can start writing. It is like a handbook and manual in one, addressing some policies of your company AND how to do the job.

It is also offered in downloadable format or 1:1 on the phone. 

Employee Quick Start

 

Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Employee Handbook and Training Manual:

The Employee Handbook is extensive – covering all the most important things that a handbook needs. It is very “legal” and “corporate” addressing everything from your mission to whistleblower policies, while containing definitions, Workplace, Hiring, and Continued Employment Policies, Code of Conducts, Employment Duties, Work and Compensation Policies, Employee Information, Leave Policies, Workplace Safety, Disciplinary Policies and Procedures, Separation of Employment, and an Index. With over 40 pages.

Employee Handbook

The Training Manual explains things such as how to scoop litter, different types of leads and how to walk dogs, and specific tasks that need to be done at visits and a lot more. It tells you HOW to do the job of a pet sitter and dog walker. Some sections include: Pet Visits, client communication, keys, pet sitting for a cat, walking dogs, and more. It is also over 40 pages.

Training Manual

Wondering About The Quality of Writing?

This document was also revised by a technical writer and edited over and over again through many months of creation. The purchase of one or both these documents come with explicit instructions on how and where to easily insert your company information throughout the pages.

Get Both Documents at Once

I offer a special discount when purchasing both documents at once! Just click the picture below to buy them both right now.

Employee Manuals

A Common Problem With These Documents and Solution:

If you are like me, sometimes when you receive a document and try to edit it, the margins get all wonky and no matter what tricks you try, things just don’t line up looking all “pretty.”

I anticipated that you might have this problem and solved it for you before you even knew you had it. I have landed an incredible deal with someone who can typeset the entire document for you when you are done adding your logo, company information, and anything else you might want to add to it.  This is the same person that I have used for this project and they are offering an incredibly affordable rate of $25 for 30 minutes of typesetting your documents.

Ready To Exhale?

There aren’t many options out there that will knock these two tough topics off your to-do list out there. I mean, the pet sitting and dog walking industry is pretty unique, right? No HR company is going to understand how or what to tell people about the nuances of our businesses like how to scoop non-clumping litter and where it goes. (Just thinking of that makes me chuckle). So take it from me, someone who had a pet sitting company for 14 years… I know the anxiety you are feeling. I know that cursor just antagonizing you blinking on your screen… Let Jump Consulting help!

If you have any more questions, just post them in the comments below. Chances are, if you have a question, someone else did too! 🙂