Direction & Control if Using ICs as Pet Sitters

Direction & Control if Using ICs as Pet Sitters

People have strong feelings about using pet sitting independent contractors as employees. I have much information on this subject that I want to share about this as long as nobody emails me or posts crazy things.

I successfully built a high six-figure business, using independent contractors for 17 years. I switched to employees in 2018 because I kept getting audited. They kept coming for me, and I kept winning the audits.

The last time they came for me, they said just one year after I’d already won the previous audit that no record of that audit and that they were going to do it again. It was an exhausting situation, and I didn’t feel like fighting it anymore. I just wanted the monkey off my back. Thus, I let this win, and I switched to employees.

And it’s been great.

There hasn’t been a big difference. I do team meetings, they do marketing for me, and they can have car magnets (not that I use car magnets. If I wanted to, I could have them do that). Employees get the perk of getting benefits now, which they appreciate.

Direction & Control if Using ICs as Pet Sitters


Understanding the direction and control aspect of using pet sitting independent contractors and ensuring you create the correct framework will help you when you get audited.

Your clients direct and control your pet sitting independent contractors.

Your clients ask them to be there at a specific time and have outlined the pet care plan for the independent contractor to fulfill. You are simply the connector between the IC and your client.

This setup is how I won all the audits that I went through. I went through the 20 point checklist as well, had everything set up correctly, etc. You can ask employees to use car magnets, wear clothes with your logo, etc.

If people are using IC’s, I believe it’s their choice and great if you’re using employees.

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TITLE - What To Do When a Pet Sitter Services a Client Without Your Knowledge

What To Do When a Pet Sitter Services a Client Without Your Knowledge

One of the downsides of building a team of pet sitters is when one of your sitters provides service for one of your clients behind your back. I can’t tell you it is not going to happen. It’s more of when it will happen. Here are ways to handle it.

First, evaluate how you feel about the pet sitter.

If this sitter is a good hire, who you enjoy working with, provides fabulous service to your clients, and you don’t want to lose them, I suggest having an in-person meeting.

If they’re an independent contractor, make sure you have their independent contractor agreement. If they’re an employee, make sure you have their signed employee handbook.

Then have a sit-down and go over their job description, expectations from them, and how they breached the contract, what lengths you can go if you decide to pursue this, whatever is mentioned in the contract. Mention you love working with them, and you didn’t want to do this, and that you must come to an understanding.

If this person is not someone you trust and don’t want to work again, have a meeting via Zoom or in-person and let them know what is in the contract, what they breached, and what you’re going to do because of it. At this point, you can decide whether you want to take legal action or not.

QUOTE - What To Do When a Pet Sitter Services a Client Without Your Knowledge_ver03


Don’t go to the client.

You might want to let the client know, in a nice way, “Listen, this is how my business works. It is against our company policy for clients to subcontract pet sitters.”

Thus, you need to decide if this client an ideal client? Is this somebody that you want to continue working with? It’s all about the decisions that you need to make about the people they are.

I wouldn’t like to work with this client again. If this is a client that you usually wanted, maybe you were out of town, maybe there was a reason and extenuating circumstance. They contacted the sitter outside of the company, outside of you, perhaps then you’ll have a different decision. Take note of it on their client record inside your pet-sitting software, and be aware.

Communicate expectations with the sitter.

Tell the sitter what is expected of them, what they signed, and what lengths you can legally go to if you decided. Remind the client kindly about your policies and leave it at that.

Have a system.

What are you going to do when you find out that someone on your team breaches their contract? Have it all mapped out to know exactly what to do, and you don’t have to guess. You’re just following the company protocol.

All right, guys, I hope this helps.

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TITLE - Create a Key System for Your Pet Sitting Business that Works for you

Create a Key System for Your Pet Sitting Business that Works for you

I posted in the Pet Nanny Coach community group a tip of the day: Have your clients stay in control of their keys. This topic gained a lot of passionate responses on both sides. Some people were ‘absolutely no way.’ Others say, ‘Yes, I’ve done this in my pet sitting business, and it works amazingly well.’ While others ask, ‘What do you mean?’

I tried every single key system known to man to keep my client’s keys organized. I’m an extremely organized person, but I didn’t feel safe, and it felt stressful being responsible for 2,000 plus keys every day. It gets worse when sitters are out with the keys, and some even misplacing them. That’s when I decided to create a system for myself and for my business that worked for me.

My clients have three options:

Option 1: Use a lockbox. The kind that realtors use.

Option 2: Use a hide-a-key with a garage code.

Option 3: Schedule a key pickup and drop off service.

Most of the clients opt for number one or number two. Some prefer key pick up and drop off.

QUOTE - Create a Key System for Your Pet Sitting Business that Works for you


The idea behind is the keys are always returned to the client, and they are not housed in my home office.

Whatever tips I offer for you for your business, do what feels right. Do what feels good. Your business, your rules. You can take my advice, or you can leave it. I’m just here to help and give you some tips on what I do, and what’s worked for me.

 

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9 Steps to Professionally Handle Negative Feedback or Reviews About Your Pet Sitting Business

9 Steps to Professionally Handle Negative Feedback or Reviews About Your Pet Sitting Business

Our brain is wired to protect and keep us safe. When confronted with any type of criticism or negative feedback, we go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. Our mental barriers go up, and we feel it in our bodies. We feel anxious, angry, and we feel threatened. These are all normal.

Below are nine tips on how you can professionally handle negative feedback due to your pet sitting business’s online reviews.

#1 Take a breath. Don’t immediately react.

Take a breath and don’t react. My manager, Michael, gave me a rule to not respond to an email that made me angry for 24 hours. Once the 24-hours lapse, I have a different outlook on how I am going to respond.

#2 Reread the review or email at least three times.

You probably don’t want to but take the time to read it through, make sure you understand it, and let it sink in.

#3 Think of the feedback as a learning tool.

Remember, your most unhappy customers are your most significant source of learning.

Ask yourself, “What did this customer expect? Why did they expect it? Where was the misunderstanding? Why did it occur? What changes can I make to ensure that this never happens again?”

Try to put yourself into your customer’s shoes and viewpoint. It is going to help you immensely.

#4 Compose a professional and polite online response.

Also, include thanks and appreciation in your response for bringing the matter to your attention.

I had a negative Yelp review years ago from a guy who was actually in the wrong. I rose above the situation and wrote an extremely professional response. So many customers called the office and said, “Oh, I saw your response on Yelp. You seem like a wonderful person and I want to work with you.”

#5 Respond offline with a phone call to ask questions and discuss the issues.

Call your customer to have a heart to heart talk and discuss the issues. Once you have resolved the problems, you can post again online and comment on how you agreed to the outcome with your customer.

#6 Request that fake or misleading reviews be removed.

If you believe a review is from a past employee, who is angry with you for some reason, you can request to Facebook, Google, Yelp, or any other review site that it be removed.

I once discharged a woman who was in my Pet Nanny Coach Community Facebook page. She created a fake profile and posted an outrageous review on my page. I contacted Facebook, and they immediately took the review down.

#7 Go the extra mile by sending a care package to the pets.

You may also want to offer a 100% refund. If my company or sitter is in the wrong, I will always give a 100% refund. We also follow up with a care package to the pets.

In my opinion, even if we believe that we were in the right, I still think that having the last touchpoint with the customer be positive.

There will be customers that are just pains in the you know what, and you don’t want to send them anything. That’s understandable. I have not sent the care package as well in other situations.

But in some cases, you might find that it’s warranted and may make you feel better about the situation. It might land better with the customer that’s unhappy so that they’re not spreading negative feedback to other people about your business — something to think about.

You can use a company like sendoutcards.com, where you can easily send a greeting card attached to a care package. Etsy.com is another good way too.

#8 Encourage your happy customers to write reviews.

Create a system out of this. We send out a survey after every single pet sitting service, asking for feedback.

If the feedback’s positive, you can ask then politely, “Hey, would you mind sharing this on Yelp? Or would you mind sharing this on Google? I want to spread the word about my company, and I want to attract amazing customers like you.”

We also have a system where my manager regularly sends a personalized email to two customers once a week. It’s a great way to build up your reviews.

#9 Separate criticism from judgment.

Try not to take it personally. It can be tough since we are animal people. We have a lot of love in us, so when people come at us, we feel hurt, and it’s easy to take it personally.

Do your best to try to remedy the situation. If you are not wrong, know it’s about them, not about you, and just try to separate that. It’ll just be easier on your mind and your soul.

 

Howdy, Pet Lover! Are you struggling with attracting new clients to your pet sitting business? Would you like to have a consistent pipeline of new clients coming to your business? Well, wait no longer, my friend. Grab my FREE report, 125 Ways To Get More Pet Sitting Clients. This resource is 100% FREE and is my gift to you. Enjoy!
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5 Tips To Deal With Grief While Running Your Pet Sitting Business

5 Tips To Deal With Grief While Running Your Pet Sitting Business

Last May, my dad unexpectedly fell ill and ended up passing away in the hospital. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was in the hospital for 19 days, and I was unable to see him during this process. It was a very tragic experience.

Thus, the reason I haven’t done a video for some time. I’ve taken some time for myself away from my pet sitting business.

But now, I’m back. I still get emotional, and I wanted to do a video for you guys about how to deal with grief while running a business. Regardless of the amount of pain that I was in, a business still had to be taken care of.

I’m sharing with you what I did to help me get through this and still have my business running while I took a little bit of time for myself.

#1 I communicated with my team.

My team knew what was going on. I’ve talked about the importance of having a team to support me in my pet sitting business. From the moment my dad became sick, I kept my team abreast with open communication. You don’t have to burden your team with too many details, but having that line of communication open so they understand what you’re going through and can step up.

#2 I leaned on my support network of family and friends.

I leaned on the people I needed in my life. I probably could have used a little more support if it wasn’t for the COVID. I would have loved some more support in terms of people coming over.

During the funeral, we were only allowed to have ten people. It meant the world to me when I found all my friends standing there when I walked out of the funeral.

#3 I spoke with a counselor regularly via Zoom.

Due to COVID, you can’t see anybody face to face. I was able to speak with her, and she’s helping me through my grief. One of my beloved students gave me a book to read, and my counselor reads it with me. We’re working through it together so she can help me with it.

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#4 I changed my scenery.

This is not possible for everybody and I get it. But in Philadelphia, riots were going on, and it was too much for my brain and heart to handle. So I went to our family beach house to calm and soothe my soul. If possible, I highly suggest this. I think that’s one of the best things that I did to renew my mind and help me through this difficult time.

#5 I delegated as much as I could to my team.

Some people bury themselves in their work to get through their grief. I’m unable to do this. My mind was just not in it, so I gave as much to my team as possible, and they were helpful.

Thus, the importance of building a team and structure around you. You never know when things like this will happen. Having people, you can lean on and delegate to will make a world of difference. I would have never been able to get through this without them.

Lean on the people around you.
Build that support system.
Build that team.

I don’t wish this on anybody. But this is life, and things do happen. Anyone that’s experiencing any grief or tragedy, this is how I got through it.

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Stop Working In Your Pet Sitting Business!

You will make amazing strides in your pet sitting business when you start working ON your business.

I have some exciting news!!! I have recently taken the next big step in my own pet sitting business…. I have hired a Sitter Manager. Woohoo!

I’m going to rewind a bit to first tell you how I found myself in the position of needing to make this hire for the continued health of my business.

Many moons ago I hired my first “virtual assistant,” whose job title is now, “Client Happiness Manager,” or “CHM” for short.

My CHM is responsible for:

  • Scheduling
  • Answering the phones
  • Client communications
  • Processing new clients
  • Sitter schedules
  • Office administrative support

My responsibilities as the owner were:

  • Marketing
  • Client attraction
  • Client retention
  • Sitter recruiting
  • Sitter screening
  • Sitter processing
  • Sitter management
  • Dealing with B.I.G. issues (Ugh! We hate those, right?)

So, as Pet Nanny has continued to grow by leaps and bounds, my CHM and I found ourselves working around the clock and more importantly, we constantly found ourselves with a shortage of qualified pet sitters. This in turn was stopping the growth of the business. Do you see the vicious cycle here? This is when I knew it was time to bring in additional support.

First, my CHM and I had a sit down and mapped out exactly what we needed the new administrative person to handle. What became crystal clear was that we needed someone who would be responsible for:

  • Sitter recruiting
  • Sitter interviewing
  • Sitter screening
  • Sitter processing
  • Sitter management
  • Vet & pet store relations
  • Back-up to the CHM

In short, someone that would keep our sitter roster, chock-full with awesome Pet Nannies and also serve as the back-up to my CHM on weekends and when she needed some time off. This would then free up my time to beef up the marketing piece and have more time to dedicate to my most favorite peeps… My coaching clients. It would also give my wonderful CHM some breathing room before she went bonkers on me. 😉

So, as you can see, bringing on additional support is going to help me to exponentially grow my pet sitting business.

As pet sitters, most of started our business because we are first, animal lovers. We start by doing the pet sitting ourselves happy as can be because we get to play with pets all day. Then we hit a financial plateau, because there are just so many clients we can squeeze into a single day. Then, in most cases we hit burn out, because running around morning, noon and night, 365 days per year is a recipe for disaster.

The answer to this very common problem is to remove yourself from doing the actual pet sitting. In other words, “stop working in your business and start working on your business.” This is how you will be able to expand your business and make a lot more money in this industry. Another perk… You have your sanity and your free time back. Check… Check!

For those of you who are yelling at your computer right now, “But I started this business, so I can work with animals!!!!!” I get it. It’s a tough decision, but the honest truth is that you will most likely live the scenario I explained above until you make the jump from “Pet Sitter” to “Pet Sitting Business Owner.” I do have some good news for you though. If you insist, you can be the “permanent backup.” Meaning, if a sitter gets sick or has an emergency, you can fill in for them. Then you can get your animal fix. Sound good? 😉

pet sitting business

Your Homework Assignment: Take an assessment of your pet sitting business…

  • Are you doing all of the pet sitting visits, dog walks and house sitting stays on your own? (You shouldn’t be.)
  • Are you dedicating 4 hours per day on marketing your business? (You should be.)
  • Would bringing on additional pet sitters or office support help you to actually grown your business and make more money (I bet you it would.)
  • Is it time to bring on some support, so you can stop working IN your pet sitting business and start working ON GROWING your business? Food for thought.

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Creating Boundaries and Expectations With Your Pet Sitting Customers

I speak with many pet sitting business owners on a weekly basis and something that most all of them have in common is their lack of creating boundaries and expectations when setting up a pet sitting business.

Case In Point

I spoke to a very smart and ambitious owner last week who told me that her dream is to build a million dollar pet sitting business. She then told me that she emails and/or texts all of her customers every Sunday night to see if they’re going to need service for the upcoming week.

I explained to her that setting up a pet sitting business means she must set her business up now for where she wants to take it. Meaning, if she had a million dollar business would she be able to personally text and or email every single customer to see if they need service? No, of course not! She could maybe automate it, but most definitely would not have the time to do it herself.

Creating That Expectation With Her Customers

She is also creating an expectation for her customers. Let’s just say the business grows to a point where she can no longer continue sending out the personal reminders. Her customers are going to be like, “Hey! Where’s my reminder text?” because that is now the expectation that she has created.

My Experience With This

I have personal experience with this exact issue. I once had this very high-maintenance client. My Client Happiness Manager found it easiest to reach out to him on Friday afternoons to see what he needed for the following week, so she didn’t have to deal with a Saturday or Sunday phone call from him. Well, one week she forgot to reach out. The client called on Monday morning frantic about his dogs and was very upset that he did not receive his reminder email. I mean, really?! As annoyed as I was about his attitude, it was our own fault for creating that expectation. I then stepped in and kindly explained to him our actual procedures for scheduling. He responded that if he didn’t receive the reminder from our office that he would take his business elsewhere. I said, “good riddance!” No, I didn’t actually say that. I wanted to, but I took the high road. I expressed my disappointment, but wished him and his pups the best of luck. They can now be someone else’s headache. I know that sounds harsh, but I’m telling you, if you start “unleashing” these types of negative, heartsick clients, you will make room for more of your ideal clients.

Unleashing negative, heartsick clients, you will make room for more of your ideal clients. Click To Tweet

I just went off on a bit of a tangent there. Back to boundaries and expectations…

How to Create Boundaries and Expectations

If you want your clients to communicate with you via email, don’t text them or accept reservations via text. Kindly explain to your customers that text messages sometimes fall through cracks and that you would prefer they use your online scheduler or email.

If you don’t want to be on call 24-hours per day, don’t answer the phone or emails in the evening. On your voicemail message include your office hours and when callers can expect to hear back from you. For your email, create an auto-responder, which includes the same info. Turn on the auto-responder at the end of the day and set a reminder to turn it off in the morning.

setting up a pet sitting business

The Downside of Doing “Extras”

I tell our sitters to please be careful with the extras they provide, because what will happen when the next sitter goes to their home? The client is going to expect the extras for which their new sitter isn’t obliged to provide because it’s not part of her job description.

Summary

You must create clear boundaries and expectations with your customers, so that you can leverage your time, your business and your sanity. This will allow you to manage many more customers and provide them all with a level of service that is top-notch and replicable.

Your Homework Assignment:

  • What expectations are you creating with your customers? How can you manage your customer’s expectations better?
  • What boundaries would you like to set?
  • Next, send out an email or snail mail letter explaining when and why your procedures are changing.
  • After your letter goes out, enforce your boundaries!

TIP: Remember…

“Those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.” Click To Tweet
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