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Create a Risk Management System in Your Pet Sitting Business

Over the past few months, we’ve had two scary occurrences happen to Pet Nanny Coach community members. The first incident was with one of our coaches, our head coach, Jessica. She had to fill in to do a visit. Her sitter became ill, so she went to walk an Akita. It was a brand new client, and the Akita ended up attacking her.

Thankfully, she knew exactly what to do and was able to get out of the house, but not without injury. She had to get taken away in an ambulance. She had to have surgery. She has nerve damage. She’s had to go through litigation, and it has been a really eye-opening and scary experience for her, but also eye-opening for the rest of us.

I’ve had my business for 22 years, and nothing of the sort has ever happened. Knock on wood, but it really had us thinking about what we have in place to protect ourselves, our team, and our businesses from this.

The second occurrence is that one of my students has a big business in Georgia. One of her sitters slipped in the client’s garage and shattered her kneecap into three parts. Super, super major injury, which has caused all types of problems with the sitter and her worker’s comp insurance, is a total nightmare.

So we decided to come together in the Multiply Mastermind, sit down, and have a round table discussion. We created a list of what we can do and what we can put in place so that we can protect ourselves, our businesses, and our team from anything like this happening to anybody else.

Know your laws

Preparing as a business owner, you need to know the laws in your state regarding dog bites. You need to know your county laws regarding dog bites, you need to know all the city ordinances in the towns that you service, you need to know the different bite levels, you need to know all the other laws in your state regarding pets, and you need to know what workers’ comp will require from you and the employee in the case of an incident like this.

Create a Risk Management System in Your Pet Sitting Business

So I have an online business hub where I have my business completely organized. This is what I teach my students in my mastermind, and one of the things is having a sitter incident report folder. So if anything happens like this, we will document, document, document.

I want the sitter to video anything that happens. I want them to take pictures. I will put all of that into the file along with any doctor’s reports, anything the client had to say when we interviewed them, and such. If you are organized right from the get-go and have all of this information documented, you will be ahead of the game.

You need to be your staff member’s biggest advocate if a situation like this ever arises.

Create a Risk Management System in Your Pet Sitting Business

Dig down with your client and make sure the pet is not aggressive.

When you go out, have meet-and-greets, and have registration meetings, it’s so important that you try to dig down with your client and make sure that this pet or dog is not aggressive.

So ask, “Has your pet ever bitten anybody? Has your pet ever bitten or gotten into a scuffle with another dog or animal? Has your dog or cat ever shown aggression towards anybody or any animal?”

Ask about resource guarding, but in a way, a client will understand. That’s a term we use in the industry, but explaining, “Is there anything that triggers your dog: food, treats, if the toy gets taken away?” Anything that you can drill down to find out if this dog has aggressive behavior.

Another good question, “Is your dog a talker or a growler?” because there is a difference, and here’s the deal. So at Pet Nanny, Pet Sitters of The Main Line, we don’t take any pets with aggression issues. In my opinion, countless animals need our care and will not cause any issues with my sitter, sitters, or my business.

So I want to drill down, ask these questions, and if we even have a whiff that this dog has any aggression, we’re not taking them on as a client. To me, the liability is not worth it. My sitter’s safety is more important to me than the revenue that would be generated from that client.

Put together a risk management training for your sitters.

In your training for your employees, I highly suggest that you put together a risk management training where you will go through all of this, and explain to them about liability, and explain to them what we’re looking for in terms of liability. It’s not just an aggressive animal. It could be a messy garage, which was the case with my other student’s sitter, who fell and smashed her kneecap.

There wasn’t a clear path to get to the house through the garage, and the sitter got hurt. That is an issue, and that is what your sitter needs to be looking out for, not having lights on the outside and not having walkways cleared for you to get into the house. All these things you need to have in your risk management system when onboarding your new employee so that they are trained and well-versed in risk management. So when they meet with your clients, they know what to ask. They know what to look for.

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2 Tips When Hiring a Manager for Your Pet Care Business

Have your managers take a Strength Finders Test.

After you have had your interviews and narrowed down your pool to a few candidates, I suggest having your managers take a Strengths Finders Test. At this time of this recording, it’s about $50 a pop, but it is well worth it.

What you are looking for with this test is somebody that isn’t exactly like you but somebody that compliments you because you guys will be working together, so you don’t want to have someone with all the same strengths as you do. You want them to fill the holes of things that you’re not good at.

2 Tips When Hiring a Manager for Your Pet Care Business

I remember I hated being the bad cop with my clients and my team of Pet Sitters. I found somebody that isn’t afraid of confrontation and of just following through with our company policies on both sides of the coin, and that just took a huge level of stress off of my shoulders. She can handle it better than I can and how my personality works. So hopefully, that makes sense.

Don’t turn people away until somebody accepts the offer.

I was coaching one of my private students this week. She had narrowed her candidates down to two and needed help deciding who she wanted. We went through the strengths finder and said, “Okay, this person A, over person B.”

So my student went and told person B that she was offering it to somebody else, then offered the job to person A, who ended up turning it down, so she lost out on the other great person who was also a really good fit. This was a very difficult decision for her.

So please remember, don’t turn people away until somebody accepts the offer.

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Don’t Let Anyone Hold the Keys to Your Pet Sitting Business

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.

Don’t Let Anyone Hold the Keys to Your Pet Sitting Business

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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How to Create a Magical Management Team for Your Pet Care Business

Bring somebody who can handle the scuffs and issues with running a service-based business.

Today’s business growth video is to hire a manager who is thick-skinned.
What I mean by this is you want to bring somebody onto your team who can handle the scuffs and the issues that come with running a service-based business.

You are going to have a team of people that are going to be going into your clients’ homes. You are dealing with human beings, your sitter team, and your client roster. Things are going to happen.

I, myself, am an extremely emotional person. I get upset, and I’m a people pleaser. When I started hiring, I would bring in people who were just like me, which wasn’t a good fit for the position. I needed someone with a little more like… wasn’t afraid of the confrontation.

How to Create a Magical Management Team for Your Pet Care Business

When I found that person, she’s been with me for 12 years. Her name is Sue, love her dearly. She is soft, warm, kind, and loves our team and clients, but she’s also not going to put up with a lot of BS from either side.
So if we have a client trying to cross boundaries, it will not happen.

If we have a sitter making mistakes, stepping out of line, or not following protocol, uh-uh, she’s not going to put up with them. She’s going to call it out. She has this ability, something that I necessarily when I was in the management position, didn’t have. I was way too nice when I was in that leadership role. She fits in perfectly because she has thicker skin than I do.

Take a test, and you come up with your five biggest strengths.

There’s something called You should look into it, take a test, and come up with your five biggest strengths. The idea is that when you’re hiring, you’re not looking for people with those same strengths.

You’re looking for people that have strengths that complement your strengths. This is how you create an amazing management team.

Try to fill the holes.

What do you wish you had in terms of disposition, communication skills, and whatever that you would like to see in your counterpart? That is how you make magic happen with your team members.

Don’t hire people that are like you. Hire people that are going to compliment you.

In the managerial position, where you’re going to have hiccups, there will be problems because you’re dealing with human beings. Having someone that has a thicker skin, that isn’t afraid of confrontation, that isn’t afraid to stand up and implement and enforce your policies and procedures, you’re going to have a much nicer experience, I promise you. Learn from my mistakes.

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Can my Independent Contractors Wear Clothes with my Business Name and Logo?

Today, I’m answering a question from the Pet Nanny Coach community Facebook group member, who asked if her independent contractors are allowed to wear clothes with her pet sitting business name and logo on them.

Can my Independent Contractors Wear Clothes with my Business Name and Logo

The answer is absolutely not.

The reason why is because they are not classified as employees. If they were employees, then yes, you could have them wear whatever you want them to in terms of having and showcasing your pet sitting business name. You could have them use card magnets.

But if they’re independent contractors, they are independent of your company. In the eyes of the government, they are their own business and, therefore, should not in any way be affiliated with your company. They are not eligible to wear clothing with your pet sitting business name and logos on it.

I want you to be very careful with this. I do not believe that the benefit of having your sitters wear this type of clothing outweighs the risk. Trust me on this.

I’ve been through two audits. This was a very stressful subject in my life for many years. I won those audits, thankfully, but I know myself when it comes to independent contractors. So please take my advice. Don’t go down this road. The risk to your pet sitting business operations being interrupted is not worth the reward that you may get from your independent contractors wearing clothing with your business name and logo on it.

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The 1st Step You Need to Take When You’re Ready to Hire

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?

The 1st Step You Need to Take When You're Ready to Hire


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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What to do When You Get Burned by a Pet Sitter on Your Team

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.

QUOTE - What to do When You Get Burned by a Pet Sitter on Your Team

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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Create Systems from Your Mistakes

One of my dear students had a horrible thing happen to her this week. She was house-sitting for a current client that had an aggressive dog. She knew the dog was aggressive, but she had been house-sitting for the dog for two-plus years.

The dog loved her. She got a little too comfortable. She was playing with the dog and hugging the dog, and rolling around with the dog. Out of nowhere, this dog bit her horribly. I saw the picture, I about died. I immediately called her to make sure she was okay, and we had a discussion.

She was like, “This was my fault. I let down my guard. I knew this dog had aggressive tendencies. However, I just got too comfortable.”

Use the incident as a learning lesson.

My suggestion was to, one, really help yourself emotionally, obviously, to get over the pain of the incident. But then to use it as a learning lesson for herself and her team and create a system through mistakes and accidents. So what do I mean by this? When something terrible happens in your business, it’s awful. It feels like a punch in the gut, but you need to get into the practice of creating a system from what you learned from the incident.

Create a system from what you learned. Have a meeting with your team and present the protocol.

In this case, I would have a meeting with my team. I would explain in detail what happened. I would show them the picture of my injury, and I would say, “Okay, here is the protocol. Here is a reminder that this is how we deal with dogs that we have that are aggressive.”

Now, in my case with my business, I would no longer service the dog. Okay? To me, it’s too much of a liability with my pet sitters to have them in a home with a dog that could hurt them. That might be something that you might change.

You might have a new policy in place where you’re going to say, “Okay, no aggressive dogs whatsoever are going to be on our client roster.”

In this case, I know this pet sitter well, and this business owner, and I know she’s probably not going to give up this dog, so she will likely have the policy where she’s going to be the one that’s going to take care of it. But then she’s going to know our boundaries, and she’s going to be reminded, “Okay, this is what you do when you go into a client’s home with a dog that has aggressive tendencies.”

Turn the things that happen in your business into systems.

Create Systems from Your Mistakes

It’s taking any simple thing that happens in your business and turning it into a system, turning it into a policy, turning it into a procedure to make your business better, to make your team better. Having regular team meetings to discuss the mistakes or the accidents and the new streamlined system in place is imperative for you to grow your business. I do this in my life in general, not even in my business.

When something happens, what’s the system?

How can I make this reasonable moving forward, too, so it doesn’t happen again? That is my advice for you today, guys. Create a system policy or procedure out of a mistake or an accident, and your business is going to be better off.

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