I’ve always loved the quote ‘Fear kills more businesses than failure’, and team, this situation is no different.
I totally get that times are scary right now for us small business owners, but panic, giving up, spreading negativity and stocking up on toilet roll is not gonna sustain your business through hard times OR do you and your customers any good.
I know lots of you are worried about the financial impact from cancellations, some of you are having to stay at home on ‘lockdown’ already and some of you are understandably worried about actually catching the virus too so I do get that this is a fearful time. Part of this fear is because none of us have ever faced this or really considered this scenario, and why would we, it’s not something that we’ve had to deal with before on such a large scale and so no one really has the answers.
I can’t claim to have these answers for you either but what I’m sure of is that we need to start being proactive, and keeping our businesses going for as long as possible until this is over. (Which it will be at some point!)
In my view, every difficult and unknown situation seems overwhelming and impossible to get through until we break it down. So I’m going to break what we CAN do, down into 3 main areas.
- Protecting Ourselves & Our Customers
- Keeping Our Business going
PROTECTING OURSELVES & OTHERS
So first of all, and I know you are already doing this, is making sure we’re looking after OURSELVES. After all, if we get ill then our options are limited. I don’t need to teach you all basic hygiene so it goes without saying we need to be washing our hands even more thoroughly than usual, using hand soap and antibacterial gel.
I saw a funny quote going round on Insta that said ‘wash your hands as if you just put your thumb through a poo bag’. So true!
Be mindful of what you’re touching when you’re going into customer’s houses or coming into contact with customers dropping off pets to you. If possible arrange for them to drop their pet off in a designated area where they can safely leave their pet and you can then go in and collect them, for example, a porch, garden area, or conservatory.
If you’re touching leads and harnesses, make sure you’re wiping them down or use your own.
Forget the pasta! Get that fruit and veg and Vitamin C down you to fight off those infections and bugs!
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
We need to be talking with our customers and letting them know what our plan is, how we intend to carry on, discuss any safety precautions both sides need to take, and that we’re not panicking (even if we are a bit!). Loads of you have already done this brilliantly by putting out a social media post telling your customers that you’re still working and there’s certainly no shame in asking them to continue to use your services even if they’re at home from work. I’ll bet most of them are still being paid so if it’s safe to do so, tell them you’d love to carry on for now.
KEEPING OUR BUSINESS GOING
I’d say most of us are worried about the financial implications to our businesses so firstly I’d say if you CAN and it’s safe to do so, then keep going, keep earning as much as possible until advice changes. Obviously this will vary depending where you live and your own personal situation so keep that in mind.
IF we are told that we all have to stay home and we physically cannot do our jobs or earn money then here’s some ideas for you. *Side note – I’m no financial advisor and everyone’s situation will be different so take what ideas suit your situation and ignore the rest.
Firstly, are you owed any money from services you have already done? So for example if you usually get paid at the end of month, can you ask your customers to pay you what they owe ahead of the usual pay date? As I said above, this shouldn’t be a problem for them if they are still being paid or receiving sick/holiday pay.
If you’ve already been paid for pet sits where holidays have now been cancelled, can you discuss keeping that payment and then owing them that pet sit for a future date when they rebook their holiday?
Work on your business
Another fave quote of mine is ‘The worst thing you can do is nothing’. Let’s not sit around moping and staring at our TV or Facebook feed thinking this will never end, let’s DO SOMETHING.
Use this as an opportunity to work ON your business. I know how hard it is to keep up with paperwork and admin and everything else in-between whilst you’re out physically doing your jobs so use this time at home wisely. When this is all over you’ll be bang up to date with everything.
Look over your social media pages, your website, do you need to update or re write anything, give it all a new look? Update some old blog posts?
Look over your policies and procedures, how are your T’s & C’s looking, do they need updating?
Could you be doing some online learning, any canine behaviour, psychology or training courses or brushing up on your first aid skills.
Literally anything you usually don’t have time for, do it now.
For more ideas read how to take advantage of a quiet period.
Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you should lose contact with your customers. Keep engaging and chatting with them via your Facebook page or Instagram account, can you even create a Facebook Group for your customers so that you can all chat and stay connected.
Create engaging content – give ideas for games to play inside with their pets, ways to keep their pets entertained, or tips and advice on grooming their dogs at home. Ask people to share pics of their pets and ask what they’re up to and share photos of your pets. Steer clear of sharing negative or scary stories from the media to your business pages.
It’s important to stay connected with our customers so that when this is over we can pick up where we left off. Showing your customers that you’re doing SOMETHING rather than crying into your cornflakes, will show them that you are a proactive business owner and you can take on challenges and even reinforce their trust in you. You may even have a stronger relationship with them at the end of this!
This is also a great time to connect with other business owners. Join local or pet business related groups or come and join the Team Petpreneur community. We need to support each other, share ideas and stay connected so that we can remain positive in this confusing time.
To think about for the future:
So this situation has really made a lot of us consider things we’ve never really had to before. Is it a secure industry to be in? If this were to happen again can I cope financially? So maybe we should be thinking about the following.
Do I need an insurance policy in place like a loss of earning insurance? I personally had this in place as I knew that if I broke my leg I physically couldn’t do my job. This was only £10 a month so I knew it wouldn’t break the bank. It may not cover you for the situation we’re in right now but it’s something to think about.
Do I need to start putting money aside for emergencies? If I can’t afford to do that do I need to charge more?
Check your Government and Local Authority websites for all official advice and guidance. In the UK there is talk of money being set aside for small businesses who are financially effected but as yet no advice on how to apply for this fund at the time of writing. Check here for more info in the UK.
Overall let’s be sensible, proactive and keep communicating with our customers and each other.
I’m here for you if you need me!