I was coaching one of my private students the other day, and she was very stressed because her number one employee had left the company. This girl did all the scheduling, the phone calls, and the email. She would do pet sitting. She would plug in, plug herself in wherever they needed somebody. She was her go-to person.
Then, this person’s life changed out of nowhere, and she had to leave the position. So now my student is like, “What am I going to do?”
We have a long discussion about not letting anybody have that much control in the business. You can’t lean so much on one person because if that person were to go, you’d be left holding the bag.
If they decide to stay, there becomes this weird energy exchange where they feel like they are in charge because they’re doing all of this. I have been here myself, I’ve had many managers, and I know you need somebody else who also knows how to do that position.
So we mapped out a plan for what she would do, and she hired two people, a Monday through Friday person who would work mornings until around four, and then she hired an evening and weekend person. They are both trained to know the scheduling systems and all of the business’s operations, and they will plug themselves in as emergency backups if the pet sitters aren’t available. So we got this up and running. She feels really good about it. Out of nowhere, one of these new hires got really, really sick and taken out.
Now she has this other person that’s able to help her. Again, this is a good reminder of why you need two people to fill this position. You never know what life is going to throw at you. You never know who’s going to get sick, who’s going to have to leave, and you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket with one person.
Trust me on this. Have a regular manager for the day-to-day and then a weekend manager or a headset sitter that will be able to fill in. Don’t count on one person. It never ends well.
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Before you build out any part of your hiring system for your pet sitting business, you need to get crystal clear on the type of person you want to attract to your business and the type of person you want to have as a pet sitter.
Grab a pen and a piece of paper and ask yourself this question, “Who do I want to work with?” Then close your eyes and visualize this person.
How old are they? Where do they live? What is their skill level? What’s their practical experience level? What is their education level? Do you want a person that’s going to do this full-time with you, or are you looking for a person who will do this part-time and has another supplemental income?
What are their communication skills? What tools are they going to need? If you don’t live in an urban area, they’re probably going to need a car, a smartphone, and a computer. Will this person submit a background check? Will they submit professional references?
How do they present themselves to you? When you first meet them and they come to the door, how do they present themselves physically? What are their personality traits?
Get clear on the type of person you want, warm, friendly, detail-oriented, organized. So crystal clear in your brain and down onto papers that you know exactly who you’re looking for.
Now, you might say to yourself, “Colleen, I’ve never hired before. I don’t know who I’m looking for.” Well, if you are a pet sitter, I want you to think about all of the things that make you a wonderful pet sitter.
Why do your clients love working with you? If you are brand new and have no idea, even that, you can ask yourself, “Who would I want to come into my home to care for my pets?”
Who would you like to be your pet sitter? If you have hired before, think about your A players. What made them special? What made you love to work with them? Write it down. At Pet Nanny Coach, we call this building out your ideal pet sitter profile, and it is absolutely the first step you can implement to build your dream team. Don’t skip this part, and it’s way too important.
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I spoke with a pet sitter last week, and she was just distraught about the previous three hires she had made to her pet sitting business. This is what I see happen so many times with pet sitting business owners trying the hiring process. They make the wrong choices, and then they say, “Oh, nope, this isn’t for me. I’m going to stay small, and the business does not multiply.”
So I said to this sitter, “You are learning something, this is a new process, but you need to get better at it.”
Let’s look back and identify the red flags.
Starting with the application, look at what they submitted. Look at the spelling, look at the grammar. Sometimes when I go back, and I’m like, oh, that was not a good hire.
If a pet sitter is going to apply to your company and they cannot take the time to capitalize or use correct punctuation, they’re not going to be a good fit.
Look back and see how they followed the process that you have laid out.
What steps did you have in place for them through the hiring process, and how did they follow it? Did they follow it correctly? Did they have to ask lots of questions? Did they do it incorrectly? Did you have to ask them repeatedly to submit their background check or to submit their references, et cetera? Did they follow the steps?
How do they communicate with you? Go back and read their emails and or text messages to you. It goes back to that application. Are they writing well thought out detailed emails or text messages? Or are they kind of a mess and all over the place? Are they just trying to throw the buck back at you, saying, here you fix this, so on and so forth? Communication is huge.
How do they present themselves at the interview? Sometimes I see people people that show up for a pet sitter interview, and they look an absolute mess. If somebody’s coming to interview for a job position, the least they can do is pull their hair back and put on clean clothes. Suppose they can’t present themselves cleanly and professionally to you at an interview. In that case, they’re not going to present themselves well to your human clients when they go to do registration meetings. Were they on time for the interview? What kind of questions did they ask you during the interview and onboarding process? If the answer’s none, that is a red flag.
Reflect on how you could have missed the red flag.
Did you ignore the red flags? A lot of times, you ignore them. You think this person seems like they’re going to be a really good fit. I’m going to pretend like that email they just sent me wasn’t unprofessional. Or all right, I can get past how they looked, or they were 15 minutes late to the interview.
What could you put in place so that you don’t miss the red flags?
At Pet Nanny Coach, I teach my Multiply Framework, and we have three steps to the hiring process. We have the Attraction System. So we’re attracting the right people. We have the Assessment System; we have all types of hoops to jump through to see if they can make it to the other side. So look at that process. What do you have in place to see how they’re going to be as a pet sitter before you hire them? And finally, what does your Onboarding System look like?
Look at your onboarding process.
One I see a lot is the availability. They tell me they’re available here, and then they get started, and then all of a sudden, their availability changes. Is there any way to improve and have prepared this person more so that they could have done a better job for you?
We must go over this ten times before somebody starts working with my company and have them sign an availability sheet. This is what you are signing off on. Then we also go over the long-term relationship that we’re looking for. We’re not looking to work with pet sitters who will use my company as a pit stop. And if you join my team, you are committing to a long-term relationship of working together.
We’re going over it again and again. During the interview process, during the assessment phase, during the onboarding process. It’s setting those expectations right upfront so that they know what to expect.
Be kind to yourselves during this process.
You are going to get better at it, I promise, but it will take a little bit of a learning curve. I’m telling you if you put my processes into place, creating that attraction system, that assessment system, and that onboarding system that all work in conjunction with each other, you are going to create such an amazing team of people that you love working with that are going to take such fantastic care of your clients, both furry and human.
Still, you got to put the work in on the front end. And when you do that, it’s going to take so much of the stress level out of this.
When you get burned, I want you to take the time to go back and look. What were the red flags? How did I miss the flags? What could I put in place the next time I hire to avoid the red flags? Look at the onboarding process. How can you prepare these people so that you know that they are going to do such a great job working for your company at the end of that onboarding process? Take the time and look. I’m telling you 9.9 times out of 10, there were red flags, and we got to figure out how to get better at not missing those.
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I was recently interviewed by Meghan and Collin from Pet Sitter Confessional. What follows is the discussion of a wide range of topics for pet sitters and pet sitting business owners including Employees vs Independent Contractors (IC’s), pet sitting business technology, how to handle price increases and much more.
You can listen to the interview recording by clicking the Play button on the MP3 file. You can also read along with the Interview Transcript below.
Hi, I’m Meghan.
I’m Collin, and this is a Pet Sitter Confessional.
An open and honest discussion about life as a pet sitter.
How do you appropriately use an independent contractor? Have you ever thought about using one yourself? In today’s episode, Colleen Sedgwick, the Pet Nanny, answers some very specific questions about the right ways to use an independent contractor. Many of us are looking for ways to fill temporary schedules and cover more sits during the busy holiday time. Independent contractors may be the way to go for us. However, as always, there are many things to consider. Let’s get started.
I want to say, hi, I’m Colleen Sedgwick. I am the owner of Pet Nanny Coach, and I teach pet sitting business owners how to make $10,000 or more a month in their business. And I’m also the owner of Pet Nanny – Pet Sitters of the Main Line, which is on the main line of Philadelphia, so the suburban area of Philadelphia, and I’ve had my business for 20 years. It was 20 years in June. I’ve been through it, but I’ve created this amazing business that gives me a passive revenue stream, because I leverage myself through my team of pet sitters, my team of managers, and it just serves me and I have a lot of knowledge that I love to share with other pet sitters who want to create something similar for themselves.
Yeah, well you’ve been doing this for a long time and I know you’ve got a lot of insights and so I… We’re talking about the difference of using independent contractors appropriately and what that means. I would love to have you define what the difference is between an employee and an independent contractor.
Okay, so independent contractors, in essence, and for simplicity’s sake, they run their own business. And as a pet sitting business owner, if you are going to use IC’s and use that model, you have to understand that you’re contracting their services to service your customers. They do not work directly for you. They own their own business. They’re responsible for their own taxes, paying their own taxes. They’re responsible for providing their own equipment. And the biggest thing is direction and control. As the business owner, you do not have any direction and control over your independent contractors. The client has the control over the independent contractor. And that is a main shift that needs to be made with a lot of pet sitting businesses that are using IC’s. They are treating them as employees because they are telling them what to do. They’re defining what it is that they want, how they want the job to be done, where in essence, it needs to be the client that is directing the independent contractor. And you, as the pet sitting business owner are the connector. You’re the bridge between the IC and the client.
Yeah, I think maybe… It is confusing because the job gets done, but it’s all the backend work, I think, the unseen relationship that we don’t think about, that where that real difference is when we’re trying to bring people on and hire staff. There seems to be a lot of changes with IC’s, state, national levels. From your perspective, how has it been regulation wise? What changes have you seen and how they’ve applied to the industry when it comes to using independent contractors?
Oh, they’re just much more stringent now. When I started using IC’s… I use IC’s successfully for 17 years. I now use employees. But when I first started contracting independent contractors to work with Pet Nanny, not for Pet Nanny, working with Pet Nanny, it wasn’t a big deal. The government wasn’t sniffing businesses out, trying basically… You’re going to make more money for the government if you use employees. And they got hip to that and they’ve found these small industries like the pet sitting industry that was using independent contractors and they’re trying to shut it down because they, in essence, want to make the most money that they can from you.
I’m a big fan of IC’s. I loved the IC model. Like I said, 17 years of my business, I used it successfully. I just got a little tired of them hunting me down. So yeah, I went through two audits and they tried to audit me a third time. But by then I just said, “All right, Uncle, I’m just going to switch to employees,” and that’s fine too. I have more direction and control, but it’s a lot more expensive to have employees.
Walk us through what an audit looks like. You’ve gone through two, almost were going through a third. What are they looking for? And what do people need to have on hand if they do get audited?
Oh my goodness. Yeah, that was a very scary situation, the first one, but I had everything. I knew what I was doing in terms of how my business was set up using IC’s. You have to make sure that your IC’s are paying their own insurance. You’re not paying their insurance. In essence, they need to be giving you their pay… What would you call it? Their time sheets and their invoices to you, which I did. I was able to utilize through my software, but basically they were submitting their time worked through the software, so I was able to show to the government that I was not… that they were invoicing me. Let’s think another one. So, it was the insurance, it was the… Oh, that they were using their own equipment, that they’re paying their own taxes, that I was not defining when they needed to be at a client’s house, that the client was the one doing that. That I wasn’t providing them with any type of handbook or any type of instructions, detailed instructions on how the job was supposed to be done.
And yeah, the big thing I’m going to say… There wasn’t any vacation time they could schedule. They were in charge of their own calendars by blocking out when they couldn’t work, we call it the Do Not Schedule system. So, the sitters would go in and block out, basically manage their own calendars. And when they were available, the program would know, and we would go ahead and schedule that. Those were the big things.
Yeah, well, it sounds like a lot to keep track of and some people may see that and go, “Wow, that sounds like a lot of headaches.” How did you make that work so successfully for 17 years and managing all of that?
Being very, very organized. It’s one of my superpowers. I’m gifted with that. A lot of flaws, but that’s one of my superpowers. You just have to stay on top of it. You have to make sure that your language is in line with what the government wants. And you have to be very careful with… I know a lot of pet sitting business owners are using IC’s and having them wear shirts with the company name on it. Absolutely no, no. No car magnets, no handbooks. You just have to be really diligent about how you’re communicating with them and how you’re presenting them and how everything is organized on the backend. In terms of… and using your software program. The IRS, the two audits, they had no problem with the invoicing coming through the software program. And that was really helpful in keeping track of a lot of this.
Yeah. Well now, when it comes to hiring, I know hiring is a big topic right now for a lot of people and they’re really struggling to figure out how to hire good people. And if they’re interested in hiring an independent contractor, how do I, as a business owner, set standards, then, of who I’m hiring and not be imposing on that individual. Because they’re an independent contractor, they’re running and operating their own business. They’re going to have their own policies. How do I hire an independent contractor appropriately with the right ad and make sure it’s communicated well?
Yeah, well, you’re, in essence, the customer. So, you can pick and choose which service you choose to contract to represent your company. Just making sure the language, like I said, you don’t send a job description. You don’t have an application on your website. You have a questionnaire. Being very careful about the questions that you’re asking on that questionnaire. Second thing is, you do not send them a job description. You send them, what I call my working with Pet Nanny, where basically I’m telling them about my business, what we do, our standards, the services we offer, how they would work with your company through an independent contractor status. And then when you interview them, or I wouldn’t even say interview. When you meet with them to discuss the opportunity, you go over that in detail so that they understand what the relationship is, what their responsibilities are as being an IC. And that’s it. Again, you just want to make sure that relationship is very clear from day one.
Yeah, well it sounds like, again, getting back to what exactly it is. It’s two businesses coming together to agree on a set of operating procedures that they both feel suits them best. It’s not one telling the other how to operate and vice versa. It’s going, “Okay, here are my five things. What are your five things? Do we agree on these? Okay, great.” And then we can move forward. And if not, you can’t impose on them. I think that’s, again, where we get this confusion of what exactly that relationship is.
Yeah, exactly. You guys have to be on the same page on how the relationships are going to work. What we do, did, I should say, at Pet Nanny, when I was using IC’s. We have what’s called a resource center and it’s basically educational materials that the independent contractors could access on how they can become even better pet sitters. And basically, what that included was everything about my company, how I liked it to be run. And they would go in and read the resources. And if they were in line with the same values and how they were going to provide service, it was a go. And if not, it’s not. It’s not a good fit.
Yeah. Again, and not viewing that as a training opportunity, but just, “Hey, do you agree to these terms? Yes, no.” And then move on.
Right. Are we in line together with how we’re going to provide pet care to our clients?
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I have a feeling people listening to this may feel like we’re being very pedantic about the kind of words that we’re using. It’s just all semantics. But as you’ve experienced, these kind of wording and these really help define the relationship and to when people come in and when you do get audited or how you operate, like… All of these ways of operating are extremely important.
Absolutely. Yeah, it was a very stressful situation going through those audits. And if I had been… I guess if I had lost the audit, I guess that’s the way you would put it. I would’ve owed a large amount of money in back taxes for all the year… I mean, I would use over 40 IC’s. I was using over 40 IC’s a year. And if they had been defined as an employee classification, it would’ve been a big deal, which was very scary, very stressful, but both audits, they found that I was using them appropriately. But they just kept coming for me. And I thought, “Nope, I’m just ready to move on.”
An audit, is that something that is triggered at tax filing? Is that just a random audit that you happen to get picked up in? Or do you feel like those are more targeted these days?
I think one thing that was triggering them onto my business was that people that were independent contractors were then filing for unemployment. Let’s say they had a full-time job and then they were in IC for my company. And then they would file for unemployment if they lost their job, their full-time job. And that was getting the… having the government notice what was going on. And they came in and they said, “All right, let’s just make sure these people are really independent contractors.” So that’s a very important point when you are working with IC’s. They cannot file for unemployment. And make sure… I mean, crystal clear, because that’s a huge trigger.
Right, for you and for them. Again, I think a lot of that is educating ourselves on what an IC is, but also educating the IC on what an IC is a little bit, about that they really are running and operating their own business.
Yeah. And that they do also have the ability to work for other companies as well, not just yours. So, that’s another perk of having employees. They can be 100% a representative of only your company. Where independent contractors, they have their own clients. They can work for different companies. Make sure that they understand that as well.
Now, when it came to paying them, I know there are different models for paying staff. Are you able to pay an independent contractor per hour or does it have to be per service?
You could do it per hour. I always did per visit. And now that I’m using employees, in Pennsylvania, you don’t have to pay for mileage and drive time. It’s a write off on their state and local taxes. So, I do by visit, but in some states where you have to pay for that time, you might want to do an hourly rate versus the per visit pay model.
Yeah. That gets into a lot of things that you are required to cover. When it comes to things as a business, what am I required to pay for, for an IC versus an employee? You’ve made that transition, so what are you paying for an employee versus that you weren’t paying for in an independent contractor?
Okay. Well the biggest things are the employment taxes. I need to withhold. I use Gusto for my payroll company and we withhold their federal, state and local income taxes from their paychecks. We withhold their FICA taxes. We withhold their unemployment taxes based on their pay and we’re also responsible for workers compensation. This really adds up. Now, if you have an IC, you’re just paying them the gross amount of your agreed upon percentage. So, let’s say you’re paying them 50% of every assignment. At the end of every two weeks, we would do a direct deposit. And that would just be the gross number that would be automatically deposited into their accounts. And then, they were responsible for filing their taxes through a 1099. And they were responsible for their own car and their own gas and all of their own supplies. Which, being a self-employed person, that’s a write off for them. So, they need to keep track of all of this.
Wow. Now, if you have independent contractors, do you, as a business, get in trouble if your IC isn’t doing those things?
That’s a good question. I’m trying to remember. If they don’t file?
I don’t recall ever having an issue with that, but that is a really good question. I also want to just mention, Colin, that to everyone that’s listening, I am not a lawyer. I am not an accountant. And I just want you to all definitely… If you are trying to decide between which business model that you should implement in your business, definitely talk to a lawyer and an accountant in your state. I’m just giving you my experience with having IC’s versus employees.
Yeah, exactly. I think that’s a really, really good point to note, is that not just at the federal level, but at the state by state level, there are very key distinctions on what we can and can’t do and what we should, and shouldn’t be doing with our staff members. So, while we can get some general direction from talking with other people, it really does behoove us to go and talk with local business groups in our tax and in our attorney, for sure.
Yes, exactly. I meant to mention that at the beginning. [crosstalk 00:16:30]
Better late than never. It’s always good. In your mind, who should be using, or in what capacity should independent contractors be used in pet sitting? Is it a model that can work for people or should we really be focusing more on employees?
Yeah, this is where people are going to be like, [inaudible 00:16:53]. In the pet sitting industry, people have such strong opinions about this. I don’t understand why. If you like using IC’s, great. If you like using employees, great. I love the IC model. I would’ve used IC’s forever if the government was not hell bent on me switching their classification. With the last audit, when they tried to audit me the third time, I had five years safe harbor after winning the audit the year before. And my accountant said, “You’re not able to audit her again.” And they said, “Well, she needs to… We don’t have any record that we audited her last year, so she needs to prove to us that she was audited.” I mean, have you ever heard of something so crazy? So my accountant had to go to the basement, pull out all of the information and literally deliver it to the IRS office.
And I thought, you know what? They’re just going to keep coming for me. So anyway, that was my point. I love IC’s. You can use them legally like I did. And probably not have a lot… if you don’t have a ton of people like I do, you’re probably not going to… they’re not going to be sniffing you out. But you have to be very diligent on how you’re using them. Everything that we went through, if you’re willing to do all of that, great. If you want more direction and control, if you want them wearing shirts, if you want them wearing car magnets, if you want to have team meetings, if you want to have in-depth trainings with them, that’s an employee relationship. So, it just depends on what kind of relationship you want with the people that are representing your company.
Yeah. Does it matter to your clients how you communicate who your staff members are? Or did you ever communicate to your clients, “This is an independent contractor for me versus an employee model.”
No, that was not told to my clients, I don’t believe at any time. When we did switch to employees, we did frame it as these are the benefits now. “We are switching from using independent contractors to employees, and this is why this is so great for you.” Basically saying we can have more direction and control. We can monitor them much more closely. So on and so forth. We sold it to our clients when we made the switch, that it was a good thing.
Did you have any existing staff members that were hesitant to become employees when you made that switch?
At first, yes, but we had a team meeting and I had graphs and I had all the explanation of how this was going to go and at the end, because they weren’t paying self-employment tax, they would actually net more at the end of the year. It may look less paycheck to paycheck, but by the end, when all is said and done, they were actually going to net more in income. And they were like, “Okay, that’s fine. That’s great. More money, that’s better.”
Now for you though, it did require absorbing some more costs. Was that switch associated with a price increase or did you just bite that a little bit and move on?
Yes, we definitely did a price increase. I have a whole plan that I teach my students for those that are switching from IC’s to E’s. But I had a whole plan where I was able to… From what I implemented, it was not as big of a hit as I had anticipated. I still look at that every month, I look at the payroll reports. I’m like, “Ouch.” I mean, it’s expensive. It’s expensive, but you can raise your rates. You can negotiate the pay with the employees. There’s lots of things that you can do to offset the costs of bringing on or transitioning to employees.
Yeah. Again, finding out what’s going to work best for you and seeing where those numbers line out. I think procedurally, we’ve mentioned that with employees, you can direct them a little more. You have more control over their schedule. And I do want to talk about that for just a little bit more, because I feel like that may be something that people get hung up on, is how exactly do I schedule my independent contractor? I know you’ve mentioned you had times where they would list they weren’t available, but it sounds like an awful lot. I’ve tried to schedule a meeting with three people before, and it took nine months to find dates that worked for everybody. How did you ultimately make it work scheduling wise and make it consistent for your clients?
I just utilized the calendar in my software program. So, they would just go in and block out whenever they couldn’t work, and then you would go in and say, “Okay, Collin [Funkhouser 00:21:23] needs three visits a day tomorrow.” And I would go and pick the IC, and if it said unavailable, I would move on the next IC. And if they were unavailable, you’d go on the next IC. And in terms of them meeting with clients and such, I really stressed the relationship between the sitter and the client. So, “Your Pet Nanny will be calling you within 24 hours,” and then they would find a convenient time. I didn’t really micromanage that process in terms of registration meetings, pre departure meetings, meet and greets, all of that.
Because again, I know you mentioned this earlier, but again, you were directing that client, independent contractor relationship and focusing on their-
… And you’re just coordinating and matching them together.
Correct. I always… and something else that I always… We have a primary sitter. So, if you’re the independent contractor that was assigned to this client and that relationship was created, I always would try to schedule that IC first based on their availability. And then I would move down the down the list if they weren’t available.
Did you ever have an independent contractor come to you with changing their policies or how they wanted the relationship to work for you, that you then had to let them go because they wanted to operate in a different way?
Yeah, absolutely. And then it’s just, “Okay, well, thank you very much for your service. I will no longer be assigning any jobs to you.”
And was it just as easy as that to fire somebody? Or how do you even term firing an independent contractor? Is it the same process?
It wouldn’t be firing, it would just be the end of a business relationship. So again, I’m not their employer, so I can’t fire them. I just will no longer assign any jobs to them, contract any work to them. And that’s it, and that’s just the end of the relationship.
Do you have an example of something that they came to you or not really?
Their availability. So, basically, you have an expectation of availability. I say that to all the people that I meet with, employees or independent contractors. “I don’t want to waste your time. You don’t want to waste my time. This is when the clients are going to need service. If you’re available, great. But if it’s going to be here and there and you’re never available, I don’t want to waste your time, don’t waste my time,” type of thing. If it gets to a point where they’re constantly changing when they’re available and they’re never available to work, I mean, I just call it a day.
Yeah. It’s too much headache to bother with at that point. And you can move on to somebody else.
Exactly, exactly. And that’s the biggest sicking point I could think of, in terms of anything that happened with independent contractors. I’m trying to think. I mean, gosh, 17 years, I’m sure I have some great stories, but I’m drawing a blank.
What about pricing? Because if they’re their own independent business and you’re your independent business, if they decide to raise their rates or have an expectation of higher pay, how do you handle that?
I have never had that situation because we had the agreed upon percentage and they signed the agreement. And if they did want an increase in pay, that would be a discussion. And if they were an amazing sitter that I was willing to do that for, then I would consider it. And if not, again, I would call it a day.
Right, because again, we’re looking at from their position too, they’re an independent contractor. They could go and find another company to partner with other than your yours to charge higher rates for and see… kind of like placing out bids for the pet care, to see who can get the best rate for them.
Great, sure. And they have every right to do that.
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So, because they have every right to do that and they have managed that client relationship, many people who are hiring are concerned of their staff member stealing clients or bringing them under their own. Was that something that you could manage with an independent contractor? Or how did you go about making sure that they didn’t run off with a client?
I was hit hard by this. I had an independent contractor once who worked for me for years and years, who I trusted implicitly and then found out that she was stealing clients behind my back. It ended up being about $5,000 a month in revenue. It was a really big deal. And then, I was going to bring her to court, and then I found out that my independent contractor agreement, that had a non-compete clause in it, would never hold water in court. So basically, non-competes don’t work because it takes the right of work away from somebody. And Pennsylvania is a right to work state. So that was a big learning lesson through that experience. Moving forward, basically, whenever I am onboarding a new sitter, I would just make it perfectly clear that they would sign a non-solicitation clause versus a non-compete.
And the difference is, if you ever want to start your own pet sitting business on your own, by all means, I wish you the very best of luck, but you cannot do it with Pet Nanny clients. That would be against your non-solicitation clause. If you do, I will take you to court and you will be charged $2,000 for every single client that you solicited from my business. And I had a lawyer. I mean, when I tell you the amount of money I spent getting this independent contractor agreement updated after the first experience, and I’m serious, I’m a hundred percent serious. So, I let them know, “Do you understand?” “Yes.” And I had them actually initial right there on the clause. And then at that point I let it go. I really don’t stress about it. I used to make up the most crazy systems where I would be checking on these people. And I just don’t stress about that anymore.
Yeah. You brought somebody on to help you, so you didn’t have stress. And then to spend your time sitting there stressing about them is a little silly. You need to build your processes, make sure that agreement and that relationship is good and you’ve agreed upon the same conditions. And then you do have to step back and go, “Okay, I got to trust this, and know that I’m protected if something does happen.”
Right. And here’s the thing, you’re a business owner and you’re a human being. Things are going to happen. Not everything is going to go perfectly, but I always try to look like that experience with the first IC I just told you about. What can I learn from this to make it better? What system can I create from this to make my business better? If you have that mindset with your business and pitfalls happen and road blocks come up, but you can take something away from everything that happens, you are going to create an amazing business.
Yeah. Mindset is so huge regarding everything that we do, whether from the big things, to the small things, hiring staff, and then our own relationship that we have with our clients too. If we are approaching problems or even opportunities with the wrong mindset, we’re not going to get to where we ultimately want to go.
No, no, exactly. I try to keep a positive mindset. I pull one of these cards every day. What’s today’s? “When I’m tuned into the energy of abundance, I become abundant. I just put it right here on my desk. I try to stay positive every day. [crosstalk 00:29:27]
Yeah, you’re just trying to… We talk about the power of words in our life and the mindset that it gives us. The words that we speak when we speak abundance, it’s not like we are necessarily magically manifesting anything in our lives, but we look for more abundance. We look for those opportunities. We look for things that we have agency and control over, and that just changes our entire outlook.
Well, so reflecting on 17 years of working with independent contractors, what’s some advice that you would give, maybe that we haven’t discussed, that you would really recommend somebody do or somebody use before they enter into that relationship with an independent contractor?
I think meeting with an accountant is really important. Understanding exactly what you can and cannot do as the business owner, while contracting IC’s. Making sure that you have everything documented. Making sure that you have an iron clad independent contractor agreement with that non-solicitation clause. Making sure that you’re making everything perfectly clear to the IC as they’re being onboarded with your company. So, basically, information, getting organized and making sure that you understand exactly what you can and can’t do.
And again, because that does… that’s going to depend on states and that’s going to depend on how you want to operate your business. I think that too, of what do you want your business to do and how do you want to be operating it?
Exactly. You can create any result that you want in your business. What do you want your business to look like? Clarity equals power. So, write it down. If you could create your dream pet sitting business, what exactly does it look like? And then from there, you can decide, what relationship you want with the team that you build.
I know you are a big reader. And so, I did want to ask you what book that you’re reading and what recommendation you’d have for people for more resources?
Oh my goodness, yes. We do a book club with my students every month and the book that we just actually scrapped this month’s book, because it was terrible. I’m not even going to say it. It was called The 5 AM Club and it was just bad. So we’re like, “All right, we’re going to get rid of that.” So, we’re actually reading, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza. It’s all about meta-physics and your brain and creating the reality that you want. I mean, it’s some deep stuff, but I love all that stuff. And I loved You’re a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. I thought that was one of my favorites. I have the audio book and she just makes me laugh and she’s hilarious, so listening to it. And then she also has a workbook that goes with it. Filling out the workbook in the morning was something that I really enjoyed, so I highly recommend that book.
Awesome. I really appreciate those. It’s something that I feel is a very simple step that we can do in our business, is just read and read broadly and get connected with more ideas because that’s going to help us be, again, have more clarity and understanding of what we want. Whether we are running with IC’s or employees and knowing those distinctions. And then, just being able to think outside the box in some scenarios too.
Yes. Two more. I’m going to say, [inaudible 00:32:38] my head. Absolutely a staple for businesses, small businesses is The E-Myth Revisited. That’s talking about how as the business owner, you’re not supposed to be the technician in the business and creating systems so that the system runs the business, the person runs the system. Huge. And then the book Traction, we also did that with my mastermind a couple months ago. I mean that was gold for any business. So Traction, The E-Myth Revisited, You’re a Badass at Making Money, are my top three right now.
Perfect. Colleen, I really appreciate you taking time today to break down some misconceptions about using independent contractors and how to make it work for us and make sure it’s what we want in our business. But I know it’s a big, big topic in that you’ve got a lot of resources and knowledge on it. So, how can people get connected, pick your brain and start looking at all that you do?
Okay, well you can go to my website at petnannycoach.com. There’s tons of free resources there. I also have a bundle created for your listeners today, Colin. If they go to petsittingfreebie.com, they’re going to get three resources. The first is the COVID Recovery Report. How to Get Your Pet Sitting Business Back and Multiply it After COVID 19. Then we have 35 Marketing Strategies for Pet Sitting Businesses and 37 Systems for Pet Sitting Businesses. So again, that URL is petsittingfreebie.com. And then, also if anyone’s ever interested in chatting with me about your businesses and coming up with an action plan, you can go to meetwithcolleen.com.
Perfect. And I will have all of those links in the show notes so people can click right to those, get those resources and start learning from all that you have to share. Again, Colleen, I really appreciate you coming on the show today. Thank you so much.
Absolutely. Anytime, anytime Colin.
My biggest takeaway from my conversation with Colleen, is the fact that terms and conditions matter, who knew? When we don’t understand what kind of control we want to have and when we don’t communicate that effectively to those that we’re hiring, we can wind up in trouble. When Colleen outlined all of the things that you can’t do with an independent contractor, you really have to make sure that what you are looking for is an independent contractor. For one off jobs, temporary positions, or filling in last minute booking, they may really work out well for many of us. The problem is, is that most of us tend to have bigger plans beyond that, or we get stuck using them and it just becomes something about what we do and we look up and we might get audited after a while.
You can still legally use them and we think there are places where they are still totally appropriate. Let us know if you’ve ever used an independent contractor and what does it look like for you? We want to thank our sponsors, Time To Pet and Pet Sitters International for making today’s show possible. And we really want to thank you for listening and for all the work that you’re doing out there and getting ready for the busy holiday times and making your business the best that it can be. We’ll be back again soon.
In short, you want to target people who don’t need your business as their sole source of income. It’s just not going to be enough for people to live on. If you do hire these individuals, you can expect a large amount of turnover.
Ideas for people who have other sources of income:
Have another part-time or full-time job that won’t interfere with their pet sitting duties.
Teachers make excellent summer pet sitters.
Stay at home Moms or Dads
Depending on how old their children are. Those with very young children don’t usually work out.
STEP 2: Manage Their Expectations by Writing a Detailed Job Description
Write a written detailed Job Description explaining exactly how the position works.
In the Job Description make note of who the position IS a good fit for.
In the Job Description make note of who the position is NOT a good fit for.
Reiterate all of the points of the job description during the face to face interview.
Ask them point blank:
Do you understand that I can not promise you a certain amount of business?
Do you understand that you will be building your book of business by absorbing the new business that is coming into the company and that we do not have a crystal ball that will tell us how quickly that will happen?
Do you have the availability and flexibility to be a part of a team like this?
So there you have it. Two simple tips that will help the process of going from an independent pet sitter to hiring that much easier of you!
TIP: If you would like some more step-by-step information on when to hire your first pet sitter and how to do that exactly click on over here. This video and post will help you.
Your Homework Assignment:
Create an Ideal Sitter Profile so you can become crystal clear on the type of pet sitter that you want to attract to your business.
Write a Detailed Job Description that you can email to prospects that explains the position and manages their expectations right from the start.
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Are you confused about which step you should take next in your pet sitting business? Should you market or hire?
First, you need to identify what stage you are in with your business and then you’ll know which course action you should take to move to the next level of success.
Are you a “Build-Up Betty” or a “Build-Up Bill”?
If you are in the building stage of your business, you are most likely in the first few years of your business. You may be pet sitting part-time and want to transition it into a full-time career, or you may be doing it full-time, but need to increase your consistent revenue. Yourbiggest need right now is getting clients and bringing them in consistently.
If you are a Build-Up Betty or Build-Up Bill, you need to market your business first!
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
Send out a Warm Letter
Create Referral Partnerships
Write a monthly Ezine
Attend Networking Events
Post to Social Media
Are you a “Multiply Mary” or “Multiply Mike”?
If you are in the multiply stage of your business, you have an established business. You have clients, you’re making money, but you do everything yourself and have no time to grow your business substantially, not to mention having any time for yourself. Yourbiggest need right now is leverage. You need to start building a team and create systems and practices to multiply your income and work less.
If you are a Multiply Mary or Multiply Mike, you need to hire first!
I’ve received a flood of questions from you guys saying, “Colleen, oh my gosh, I have more clients than I know what to do with,” as probably you’re experiencing. You’re seeing that people want to go away. They want to vacation, and they need their pet sitter.
The problem is with companies like myself that employ a staff of sitters, many people are being paid not to work by the government. So people don’t want to come back to work. They’re going to make more money on unemployment than they are than coming to work.
So it’s been challenging. And part of this problem too is that part of the process for them to stay on unemployment is that they have to apply for X amount of jobs. So I’m sure you’re receiving a ton of applications through Indeed or Craigslist because that’s part of the process of being able to keep their unemployment. So you think you have all these excellent prospects, and then none of them pan out.
So I decided to get creative and think about ways outside of the box for hiring pet sitters for my business.
1. I reached out to all of my friends, family, and current pet sitters and asked them to post for me inside their Nextdoor apps.
We have a large service area. So as you know, if you have the Nextdoor app, you can only utilize the app if you live in that area. So, my friends and my family all offered to go in there and post for hiring pet sitters for me. Awesome.
2. Reach out to past pet sitters and inquire if they want to come back.
I reached out to all of the past sitters that I loved working with and said, “Hey guys, we are hiring pet sitters. Do you have any interest in coming back?” We got a few interested parties from that one email.
Reach out to the current customer base and inform them you’re hiring.
All the clients that have come to work for me have always panned out to be the best pet sitters on my staff.
So I reached out to the current customer base saying, “Hey guys, we’re hiring. This is why we’re so awesome. This is why you would love to join our team.” And we got some interested parties that way.
Go to local Facebook groups to post for pet sitters.
This is one of the easiest ways to find people. I found a girl in my neighborhood that’s going to do house sitting during August.
Go to Facebook, type in your service area, look under groups and all the different groups that have your service area name in them. Join them and ask the admins if you can post for pet sitters.
Some will say no, and that’s okay, but there will be some that will say yes. And then make that a regular part of your recruiting plan—a great, great way to find sitters.
I also want to let you know this is coming to an end. All of this unemployment stuff will be coming to an end shortly. I know in Pennsylvania, it’s going to happen in September. I can’t wait. So just so you know, it’s coming to an end, but in the meantime, try to get creative, try to think outside the box, try these four strategies. And I wish you the best of luck.
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I work with many petpreneurs looking to scale and multiply their pet sitting business to six figures and beyond. One of the steps in the multiply formula is to hire a team of heart-centered pet care professionals to take stellar care of your pet sitting clients.
Hire a team of heart-centered, pet care professionals.
Now there is something really important about that step, and it’s the heart-centered pet care professionals that are going to take stellar care of your pet sitting clients. You do not want to hire people who will go out and take poor care of the clients obviously or miss visits, but guess what? This happens all the time because you are not hiring the right people, and you don’t have the right systems in place so that you’re attracting and onboarding the right people to your pet sitting business.
Years and years ago, before I had all of this thought out, I had some real losers on my team. I could bore you for hours with some stories. I seriously should write a book about some of the things that have happened on my watch by people I employed.
I’m not saying that I’m absolved of all sin when it comes to this, but I do want you guys to learn from my mistakes. It would be best if you started with mapping out a system where you’re going first to attract the right people to your business.
Map out a system to attract the right people to your business.
Think about your attraction system. What are you putting out there to get people to apply to work with you? Do you even have an ideal sitter profile where you have written down all of the attributes you are looking for in a pet sitter?
If you already have a roster of sitters, think about your A+ ones. Who do you love, and what makes them great? Write it down; this is a manifestation tool.
Then in all of your marketing, your Facebook ads, your online ads, or anything you’re using to get the word out about the opportunity to work with your company, this is the language you want to use to attract the right people to your company business.
Prepare questions & expectations to know if they are a good fit for your company.
Then is the hiring system. The whole process of when you meet and interview them. What kind of questions are you asking them to find out if they will be a good fit for this company? And are you setting expectations about what you’re looking for in the people?
It’s not just about, “Are they going to be a great fit for the company?” It’s also about, “This is how we do business around here. Are you okay with this?”
For example, you are setting the expectation of availability. Yes, this is a great job, yes it’s flexible hours. Yes, if you’re an IC, you create your schedule. However, we do expect availability. If you take off every single weekend and every single holiday, this isn’t going to be worth your time or mine.
If you tell me that you’re available 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday to do mid-day walks and then two weeks after starting, you tell me you’re not available or only available for an hour of that time, you’ve now just wasted my time. I could have passed up an excellent candidate.
So right from the start, this is what is expected. This is the position that you’re applying for; this is the expectation of availability. Plus other expectations of what you’re looking for.
Then if they go onto the onboarding stage, what’s the process? You need to have a system in place where you’re evaluating them. Does it take them two days to return an email? That isn’t going to change after you hire them. They’re going to show you right from the get-go how they communicate. Trust me, it’s not going to get any better.
So map out a system. What are you going to have set up in place that will allow you to evaluate how they’re going to be as pet sitters when you hire them?
Have a system in place to evaluate them.
Finally, when they are hired, how are you going to manage them? How are you going to see if they’re happy? Do they have too many visits, or do they not have enough visits? What is your stay in touch system that warns you if they have one foot out the door?
Nothing is worse than a sitter calling and saying, “I’m giving you no notice, and I’m leaving tomorrow.”
Keep in touch with your sitters. Make sure you have a communication system in place, so you know and are evaluating, “Is this person happy? Are they happy with the position?” Because if they’re not, you want to make sure that you have your eyes out and look for another great person to replace them.
I’ve had some real doozies in my pet sitting business over the last 18 years, but I can tell you now, since I have learned all of this and I have created an attraction system, a hiring system, an onboarding system, and a management system, I have a fantastic team of pet sitters. I’m not even kidding.
Yes, here and there, some less than stellar people have slipped through the cracks. I have about 40 pet sitters on staff, so that will happen from time to time. But I would say, for the most part, I have an amazing, stellar team of pet sitters.
Howdy, Pet Lover! Do you want to have all the pet sitting clients you need? This resource is 100% FREE and is my gift to you. Enjoy!
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