How to build a business that gives you the freedom to travel with Kathryn Cockrell

In this week's episode of the Handling Business Podcast, the fearless Kathryn Cockrell of Happy Hound sits down to tell us that it is possible to own a business, but still hit the road and travel. Kathryn launched her business as a 15 year old after deciding that she wanted to work for herself. At 21 years old, after working 24/7 for many years, Kathryn decided to take the leap and hire a manager so that she could take off on a six week backpacking trip through Europe. She's also volunteered in South America at a foster program and she has grand plans of more travels. Kathryn's new big plan is renovating a vintage Airstream trailer to be her mobile office/ home so that she can travel all throughout the U.S. Kathryn guides us through the process of creating a company that can both help others and provide her with income while she travels the world.

In this episode you’ll learn why a healthy business is one that can thrive on its own as well as tips for moving your business towards self sustainability. What’s the key to creating a brand that can survive on its own? Hiring the right management. Kathryn dives into how she avoids mistakes when selecting people to run her business while she travels and why those hires should not always be the kind of people you might think.

Kathryn outlines how she plans to maintain her level of involvement with Happy Hound while traveling the country in a customized Airstream. Her confidence in her business will inspire you to get out there and grow your company while this episode of Handling Business will help get you there!


SHOW NOTES:

Happy Hound Pet Sitting Co - http://happy-hound-pet-sitting-co.com/

Kathryn Cockrell - https://kathryncockrell.com/


SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook


LINKS TO LISTEN/ DOWNLOAD

Itunes

Google Play

Soundcloud

Conquer your marketing fears with Mike Linville of Black Dog Marketing

Welcome to a very special edition of the Handling Business Podcast! We’re excited to introduce you to Mike Linville of Black Dog Marketing. Mike is a digital marketing expert who’s spent the last 17 years carving out his place on the internet. A Marine with a double major in material science & electrical engineering from UC Davis, found that he enjoyed helping small businesses rise through the ranks of the web more than doing power calculations. Mike takes us on his journey from unmotivated teenager to marketing mad man and answers your biggest questions along the way.

Mike started his marketing journey in the construction industry, providing websites and directories for contractors and home builders. After years of success in that space, Mike decided to focus on helping small businesses learn to grow, which eventually lead him to the pet industry. Now Mike spends much of his time teaching pet industry entrepreneurs how to compete with the big guys.

In this podcast we talk about Mike's drive to help the small guys & why it bothers him when a dog walker who provides a better service can be pushed out by one who is simply better at SEO. We also discuss the pain points of a small business trying to start a marketing campaign and then tackle the first steps of creating a successful strategy. Throughout this discussion, a few key points continue to pop-up; the importance of having a solid plan and sticking to it with patience. You’ll learn why throwing all of your ideas at the wall and hoping something sticks is a futile strategy that ultimately will only waste time, money and resources. Patience in marketing is a difficult practice, but a necessary part of finally achieving results. Mike breaks down why patience is so important and how you can maximize your potential for ROI along the way. Think you’re too small to compete with the likes of Rover, DogVacay and other “big dogs” of the industry? Think again; Mike explains that those bigger guys will never have the advantages of community connection or local neighborhood recommendations. Take advantage of the knowledge that you have of your small community to come up with tactics that your competitors can’t. Is there a magic formula for finding these tactics? Not exactly, but you don’t need to spend a fortune either. Creating a solid foundation to market your business can be easier than you think with the right steps in place.


We like to learn from our mistakes here at Handlr so we asked Mike to break down the many, many mistakes of business owners new to the marketing game and how to avoid them from the get-go. We know that marketing your small business can be intimidating and sometimes a daunting task, but this episode of Handling Business will conquer your fears and give you the confidence to send your business to the top of the ranks.


SHOW NOTES:

Black Dog Marketing - https://www.blackdogmarketing.com/


SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook


LINKS TO LISTEN/ DOWNLOAD

Itunes

Google Play

Soundcloud

Balancing Family and Business with Heather Carhart of Pet Smiles

The Handling Business podcast brings you a new interview each week with business owners and industry experts. We’ll ask about their story, drive, techniques and tips that you can bring into your daily operations. 

This week's guest is Heather Carhart, owner and founder of Pet Smiles pet care in Winchester, Virginia. After years of practice Heather has become a master of balancing children, life and owning a business. We talk about how beneficial it is to teach kids about operating a business and how you can instill entrepreneurial, hard working values into your children at a young age. We also discuss the growing pains that business owners go through as you continue to grow your business and how important it is to let go in order grow. Heather takes us down her path to success, while giving insight into the importance of treating every aspect of business as a relationship that must be nurtured and supported. 
 


SHOW NOTES:

Pet Smiles - http://www.petsmiles.biz/


SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook


LINKS TO LISTEN/ DOWNLOAD

Itunes

Google Play

Soundcloud

Employees VS. contractors? Stephen Kane, small business attorney, breaks it down.

We’re back with Handling Business, our new Business Podcast! Each week we bring you an interview with business owners and industry experts. We’ll ask about their story, drive, techniques and tips that you can bring into your daily operations.  

This week we sit down with Stephen Kane, a small business and startup attorney, fellow at the Stanford CodeX Center for Legal Informatics and founder/ CEO of ArbiClaims, an online dispute resolution platform. His extensive resume also includes former time at O’Melveny & Myers and Lex Machina, a litigation analytics platform that sold to Lexis Nexis. Stephen continues his work as founder and Board member of GRID110, a 501c3 working partnership with the LA Mayor’s office to build up the startup community in downtown LA.           


Stephen calms our fears and explains why small business legal issues aren’t so scary after all. He details the key steps to protect your small business today, as well as the various stages of your business that will need specific legal action. This must-listen episode will outline the most commonly overlooked steps to legal security and will give you the tools to walk away confident in your small business.          


SHOW NOTES:

ArbiClaims - https://www.arbiclaims.com/

Stephen Kane Law - http://www.stephenkanelaw.com/

GRID110 - http://www.grid110.org/


SOCIAL MEDIA

Twitter/ Linkedin - http://linkedin.com/in/stephenlkane

Instagram - @stephenlkane, @arbiclaims


How to Create a Multi Million Dollar per Year Dog Walking Business w/ Lauren Cora

Handling Business Podcast - Lauren Cora

Introducing Handling Business, our new Business Podcast! Each week we will bring you an interview with business owners and industry experts. We’ll ask about their story, drive, techniques and tips that you can bring into your daily operations.

For our very first interview, we're excited to introduce you to Lauren Cora, the owner and operator of Dogs Deserve It. Founded in 2009, Lauren quickly grew the company to employing 70 walkers and five in-house managers taking care of 300-400 dogs per day. Staying on the forefront of the industry has been Lauren's goal from day one and she’s done just that. Along with introducing staff tracking, Dogs Deserve It was one of the first dog walking businesses to provide its walkers with salary and benefits.

In this podcast we’ll ask Lauren what it takes to find and hire a great team, what drives her to innovate, and her secret to keeping customers happy.

 



Cash is NOT king. Why you should accept credit cards

When asked what most business owners would prefer as their sole type of transaction, most would claim cash as the best. While cash has it’s benefits, it’s part of the old world. Don’t believe me? Just ask this Gallup poll that says only 24% of the US is using cash for most of their purchases. This number is down from 36% just five years ago. With advancements like debit and credit cards, smartphone pay systems and even chip implants embedded in your wrist (not kidding, google it), fewer and fewer of us are carrying any cash at all. Consider the future & you may just realize that cash will soon be a thing of the past all together. Recently  India took a controversial step of banning large currency and suggesting that all citizens use credit cards & mobile payments instead.

 

Small businesses who do not take credit cards stand to lose customers as each day passes. While it may cost you more to take cards, those fees are significantly overshadowed each time you lose a customer. Though you might be frustrated by the decreasing number of cash customers, remember that it also creates opportunity. Taking credit cards allows customers to be put on recurring bills or pay you even when they aren’t physically in front of you. Setting up your business on Handlr, for instance gives customers the ability to pay you automatically. Automatic payments lead to increased purchases from customers who don’t need to think about payments.


The technological advances of recent years have enabled small business owners level the playing field with their large competitors. Credit card processing is one such area where small businesses have no excuse to lose to their competitors. Make sure you jump on the bandwagon now or risk losing your customers!

Why a Facebook page isn’t enough

We often come across small business owners who don’t have a website for their business. The usual excuse? “Why should I pay for a website when I have a perfectly good FB page for my business?”. This is a limiting & troubled train of thought.

 

1. Believe it or not, a lot of people are not on Facebook

Take myself as an example. Years ago I decided to delete all of my social media accounts as I wanted to spend less time on a computer and more time focusing on my goals. This does not apply to my business life as I still maintain FB, Instagram & other outlets for businesses that I am apart of, but I’m a perfect example of someone who doesn’t use FB in my personal life. The same goes for many of your potential, and existing clients. We may be in the era of social media but using it as your sole means of reaching customers is going to limit you more than you may think.

 

2. You won’t be taken as seriously as your competition

One of the biggest red flags when we receive a Handlr partner application here in the office is if the business applying does not have a working website. Whether we like it or not, this is true for the majority of customers. It’s more prevalent in some markets than in others, but it’s almost always there. A real web presence in the form of a full threaded website or even just a simple landing page will provide confidence in a customer or business partner that’s considering your business. 

 

3. SEO

How do you find the answer to anything these days? What about looking up that business that you saw an advertisement for? Or that dog walker you saw wearing a company T-shirt? Google. Yes the wonderful, magical world of Google. The answer to any question we desire is at the end of a search button. It’s one of the most amazing things about the age we live in. So just how does this magic work? Well, anyone who has attempted to dabble in SEO will tell you that search results are dependent on an ever-changing, extremely complicated algorithm set by Google. It can be immensely difficult to climb the ranks of a search, and can easily cost you a lot of money. A sure fire way to climb the ranks? A website. While your Facebook page may show up in some search results, a website simply works much, much better. Add in a few meta tags and you just might be surprised at how high Google ranks you.

 

4. But I don’t have the skills!

One of the biggest reasons many small businesses don’t have a website is the challenge of getting started. Many of you think you need to hire a specialist charging $200 an hour to build you a custom HTML website. Simply not the case. Websites like Squarespace allow you to use beautiful templates to quickly and easily create the website of your dreams at very low costs. Their simple tools can be used by anyone to create a website in just a few hours.

 

Ready to get started?

We highly recommend https://www.squarespace.com/. If you need help getting started, let us know! We are happy to guide you through the process and even create web pages for you!

How to Prepare a Health & Safety Policy for Your Small Business

Did you know that it is a legal requirement to have a health and safety policy in writing if you have five or more employees? Did you know that if your policy does not contain the right information, a health & safety inspector could shut down your business on the spot? Did we just scare you? Well don’t worry, we’re here to help you put together a policy that includes all the right stuff!

The Main Components

Your policy should be broken down into three main sections; Policy statement, responsibilities and arrangements. Below we will help you understand what each of these cover, take notes and try to focus on how these apply specifically to your business.

 

Policy statement

Treat this as your mission statement or opening address. This is a statement of intent on your part to commit fully to the health and safety of your work environment. This should be signed & dated as a sort of agreement or pledge that you will hereby adhere to your own policy.

Use this section to cover the key ways that you plan to keep your employees or anyone involved in your business safe. Remember that your policy does not just cover employees, but also extends to clients, contractors, and anyone who works with or for you. This will include things like emergency plans, safety equipment in your workplace, proper training and precautions for the use of machinery or other risky workplace endeavours and so on.

Lastly, the Policy Statement should outline how you plan to implement these safety and health precautions. List how you will introduce them to your staff and train them on these new policies.

 

Responsibilities section

This should set which personnel within the company are responsible for which areas of health and safety. Choose who in your staff will take on roles to ensure that every aspect of your new policy is put to use. One employee may be in charge of safety in the office while another may oversee first aid & emergency preparedness.

It’s obvious that all of your staff should be aware of their own obligations to know and adhere to the safety policy of your business, but it doesn’t hurt to write this into the document. You should also include your plan to encourage your employees to both read and follow these rules. This will keep you out of trouble in the event of a disaster.

 

Arrangements section

Arrangements should be your most detailed section. You will include your exact plans of what you aim to achieve and how you will achieve it. The “arrangements” you have made to manage the safety and health of your company as a whole will be given in detail. This is where you will need to spend some time thinking of the particular risks that your staff, customers and contractors are exposed to. These are unique to your business and every scenario should be considered. If your business services pets, you may need to review all of the associated risks of contact with animals. Or if for example your business uses heavy machinery, you will need to outline why and how each machine can be dangerous. Then you will explain how you will minimize those dangers, how you will train your staff to minimize the risks of using said equipment, and how you will both be prepared & handle an instance where things go wrong.

Unfortunately there isn't a one-fits all solution for this, so think very hard about every aspect of your business and how it should be integrated into this policy.

 

What else should you consider?

 I know that we have mentioned the importance of detail here, but we also want to remind you to keep it simple. There is a difference between being detailed and getting obsessive. It can be easy to start writing down everything under the sun that could happen at your workplace, but stick to the main risks and don’t over complicate it. Also don’t finish your policy, stuff it in a drawer somewhere and forget about it. This is something that grows with your business, and as such you should be prepared to update it any time you change something at work. Purchase new equipment? Bring out the policy. Offering some new services? Bring out the policy.

 

Make this policy an integral part of your business

The most successful businesses treat safety and health with the utmost respect. Weave this policy into the very construct of your business and make sure that it’s a part of the way you and your staff conduct themselves on a daily basis.

4 Pointless ways you're wasting money

 Owning a small business isn't cheap by any means. There are hundreds of things to spend money on, and keeping track of all of them can some times feel like its own job. While the importance of budget tracking is a no-brainer, it can be easy to overlook items that you assume are necessary. You may be spending that hard earned revenue on things that seem unavoidable, but in reality are just slowing your business down. Let's take a look at 5 things that are draining your budget for no reason:

Phone Plans
 As a service business, you and your staff are going to need smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets to get the job done. While modern tech has made doing business easier and more efficient than ever before, they come at a price. It's no secret that cell service providers are some of the best when it comes to gouging every penny possible from customers, it doesn't have to be this way. Call up Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint or whatever carrier your staff uses, and talk to them about your wireless plans. Chances are you are over-paying, or even paying for the wrong plan. If you're willing to argue a bit with your provider, you can almost always decrease your bill. Threaten to leave for a competing carrier and you'll have a lower bill by the end of today.

Bank Fees
 
Does your bank statement typically have more fees than actual transactions? You're not alone. Banks are another business keen on scraping every nickel out of your business. But remember, just like you would do anything to keep a customer, so will they. Go in to your bank with the attitude that you deserve better, and you'll walk out with less monthly fees. For example, ask about what it would take to get free checking for your business, you may simply need to maintain a monthly average (which you might already be doing!). 

Subscriptions
 Subscription models are designed to get you in the door and then let you forget about that $10 a month you have been paying for the last 3 years. Take a close look at your next credit card statement and make sure you aren't paying for any subscription services that you haven't used in months. 

Tax Penalties
 This one is all down to organization. Luckily, next tax season is a full year away. Take a look at our last blog post with some great tips for tax season here. Now use those tips to get organized and be prepared ahead of time for next tax season. Pay all of your taxes on time and you'll save a big chunk of change on penalties and fees this time next year. 

 

Tantalizing Tax Tips From Handlr!

Be Aware of “Ghost Assets”

Ever heard of a ghost asset? Didn’t think so, but chances are you have a few haunting you right now… A ghost asset is an asset or inventory item that “Cannot be accounted for because it is physically missing or rendered unusable.” Huh? Don’t worry, here is an article that explains what you just read. Luckily, if you’re a service based business, you probably have a lot fewer ghost assets if any at all, but this is still something that can come back to haunt you, pun intended. If you discover that you do have ghost assets, make sure to focus on a better inventory management system in 2017 to avoid future problems.

 

The age of software is here, use it!

As a Handlr user, you’re already ahead of the curve and taking full advantage of the amazing benefits software can give your company. Have you taken the same approach with your accounting? Why burden yourself with all the complications of doing your own taxes or accounting tasks? There are so many great companies offering tax and payroll software these days. While Quickbooks has been the long-time tried and true favorite, you have many options. Explore what is right for your business and use these tools to save yourself a huge amount of time and headache. But be careful; don’t use tax software as an end-all-be-all. Having your own business accountant is still highly recommended. But having all of your data already in an easy access system will help your accountant give you the best returns and deductions possible.

 

Don’t forget about your retirement!

Just because you own your own business doesn’t mean you should neglect a proper 401K or IRA. Especially considering that these are both tax deferrable, meaning you dont pay taxes on them until you begin to withdraw from the account. This is a great way to reduce your yearly tax payments. Make sure you discuss with your accountant how much you should be putting away and what kind of fund is right for you. We know that running a small business can take up all of your time and energy, but don’t forget why you started the business; someday you’ll want to cash out and buy that boat!


 

Deduct, deduct, deduct!

Handing over your hard earned cash to the man each year instead of handing it out to employees, spending it on the business or treating yourself can be a hard pill to swallow. Remember that among all of the tax rules and regulations there are a ton of reasons to deduct from what you owe, making that pill a bit easier to get down. Work with your accountant to make sure you make the most of your potential deductions. Car expenses, home offices, travel and even meals can all be cause for deductions if used for business. Did you realize that your startup costs can also be deducted? Deductions can be easily overlooked and are often purposely hidden. Having a good accountant will undoubtedly lead to more deductions. Take advantage!


 

Tip for next season; Prep as you go!

Prepare as you go. Don’t wait until the last minute to tally your expenses or review your financial records or receipts. Every year you think to yourself “If only I had kept better track of all of this”. You’re probably digging through a shoebox of receipts thinking the same thing right now. Recording business expenses related to travel, meals, gas, mileage, etc will go a long way at this time next year.  But don’t just stuff receipts in your pocket, carry a small notepad and jot down your expenses as you go. At the end of each week input them into your trusty accounting software and be done with it! You’ll be so glad you did a year from now! Remember that life is about rewarding the future you!

 

Our favorite places to get branded promo-material (Swag!)

It’s a new year, a fresh start and a new opportunity to sell, sell, sell. In the past, we have given you advice on the best kinds of promotional materials to use for your business. Branded gear or “Swag” can help promote your business in any situation and offer free advertising when put to use. Now that’s all good information, but you might be asking, where do I start? Recently we were asked about our favorite places to get branded material made, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the best options.

If you are ready to start promoting your brand with gear but aren’t sure what kind will be best for you, check out our previous post on the subject here: http://www.myhandlr.com/handlrblog/2016/6/27/10-promotional-branding-materials-that-you-can-order-right-now

Below we have created a list of top sites to help you get the kind of high-quality promo swag your business deserves.

 

Vistaprint -  You’ve probably seen the ads for Vista Print, and although they are a big company, they still offer a huge amount of customization and selection. Even if you decide against other promo gear, having a huge stack of brochures is a must for any small business. Vista Print is a great place to get those!

Just Buttons - Don’t let the name fool you, Just Buttons also does stickers, and they do a great job. High quality vinals and stickers are hard to come by. Buttons and stickers can provide a cheap solution for the kind of free advertising that comes from customers wearing your buttons or putting stickers on their cars. Consider this for your next trade show.

Startup Threads - Startup Threads is a newer company that offers a great solutions for those needing to ship a lot of branded material. Not only will they produce very high quality shirts, but they

RushOrderTees - As the name implies, this is a great place to get shirts in a rush. Depending on size, they can get an order out within 3 days which is incredible.

Moo - Our favorite place to get unique and beautiful business cards. These are an obvious must for your business. If your old cards are feeling out-dated and tossable (as in potential customers tend to toss them in the trash!) it may be time to get some cards that make your business truly stand out from the crowd.

Lob - BONUS - Lob is a mailer service that lets you send branded mail out to mass listings. Use this to reach out to customers in your Neighborhood. Tell them how easy it is to book you on Handlr!

 

Is a paperless office a better office?

    Advancements in software and a growing concern for the environment have pushed many businesses to go paperless. Going paperless, in addition to helping the environment, can provide huge benefits to your small business, some obvious and some hidden. Those who have taken the dive to all digital can attest to the power and efficiency of utilizing software to automate your daily struggles.

    Accounting and HR have long been an automated process for most larger businesses, and the software has become so inexpensive that even the smallest companies can afford it. Companies like Gusto have you covered there. What about those pieces of paper so important that you legally can’t be paperless? Believe it or not, even legal documents can now be taken care of digitally. Hellosign is a favorite of all of us at Handlr for it’s free service and ease of use. Now instead of mailing out documents or waiting days to meet in person, we can sign documents in a matter of minutes, even if the other party is across the world. What you might ask, about the more day-to-day tasks that require a personal touch?

   Take for instance, the small business owner who spends hours each day, tracking down customer payments, then bringing checks and cash to the bank each week. What could they do with that time if this process was automated? How much could they grow their business with those extra hours each week? Take into account the Business owner who uses up valuable time each day writing out, updating, canceling and re-writing the schedule for each employee. What if this could be done automatically? What if the customers themselves could book appointments without ever calling up? You’d be hard-pressed to find a business owner who wouldn’t eagerly spend that time acquiring customers and increasing revenue.

   But just how feasible is it to get rid of that pesky paper? Removing pen & pad from your daily ritual can be a daunting task for anyone. This is especially true for business owners running a tight shift, where even the slightest deviation can cause hiccups. Well, Handlr was created specifically for the small business that wants to save hundreds of hours that can better be spent growing their business each week. Our FREE software can automate your scheduling, payments, customers and team. Your customers carry the extra cost and will be happy to do so as they gain access to an app that gives your business the same technology as Uber. Customers will pay a few extra dollars to book themselves into your schedule, receive GPS tracking and updates as well as automated payments.

  If you are desperate to go paperless and save yourself thousands of hours next year, but are hesitant about using Handlr, give us a call or schedule a demo today! We are happy to answer your questions and give you a demo of how our software works. 

Make 2017 a huge success! Our Elves are here to help!

It’s that time of year again, when the “I’ll do it next year”s start barreling toward you like a freight train. Putting off your goals for the new year always seems plausible, but in reality you’re likely to end up with more to do than ever and just as few items crossed off your to-do list. Before you know it, it’s March and nothing has changed!

 

We know that you're already really busy running your business and that the holidays can add extra stress, but that's why our Handlr elves are here for you! We can set you all up on your spiffy new Handlr dashboard so that it's all ready for you to ring in a big new year!

 

Get set up on Handlr now before the rush of the new year, and save yourself hundreds of hours each month by automating your booking, scheduling, team management and payments. No more frantic, pen-to-paper schedules and no more tracking down checks from your customers! Start the new year with a fresh plan and a fresh way of doing business!

Contact us today at hello@myhandlr.com to get started. Or if you're new to Handlr, apply Here.

 

Did you know? - Quickly creating availability using Handlr

In our recent Feature Highlight we covered how easy it is to share photos to social media using the Handlr platform. This was one of the features that we realized our customers had been under-utilizing, many of whom didn’t know how to access it. After talking with more of our customers, it became clear that this isn’t the only feature many of you need help with. So today we will be highlighting one of our best features that is being under-utilized; the Team Availability Calendar.

This incredible tool allows you to quickly setup each of your team members individual availability in seconds. Whether your team members tell you when they want to work or if you make up their hours, this tool has you covered. Simply click on a day, choose which services that team member can perform and the zip codes they can perform them in. Next select the days of the week they work, a date range, and then finally choose the hours they can work. Select a long enough date range and your team members availability will be set for weeks to come! Many of our customer even set availability for their team members months in advance so they can focus on other aspects of running a successful business like marketing and client acquisition.

Now that you have open availability on your calendar, tell you clients to simply drop themselves into your schedule by booking you on the Handlr App! Now sit back, relax and watch your business run itself!

 

Sharing Photos to Social Media is Quick & Easy on Handlr

Every part of Handlr was designed to save you time. From our amazing Team Availability calendars to our automated payments, Handlr is the best way to put your business on autopilot and make running your business a breeze. With thousands of customers and small businesses around the country using Handlr every day, we have had a chance to really get to know just how our awesome customer use our software.

It has become clear to us that many of you may not be using all of the features we offer, and may not even know they exist. One of the biggest features being underutilized is the option to share your photos on social media platforms. Doing so is quite simple with Handlr and can be a great way to increase exposure and connect with your customers. Showing current and potential customers photos of how your business operates will give them a better understanding of your daily operations and show them you truly care about what you do.

To share a photo to social media from the dashboard, simply navigate to your Company Profile. From there simply scroll down and choose a recent photo to share. Click the photo and choose one of the sharing options at the bottom. That’s it!

We recommend posting photos at least once a day to all of your social media outlets as consistency is key when it comes to marketing.

 

10 Ways to Handle the Busy Holiday Season

By Britt Alwerud

The holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but for many pet sitting business owners, it can be the most stressful. After years of getting frazzled around the holidays, I decided to organize and prepare my business for the holidays so that I could spend time baking ginger snap dog treats and snuggling up by the fire with my dogs and family - instead of constantly worrying about my pet sitters and stressing about the schedule. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way…

 

  1. Send out a friendly email reminder to your clients a few months before the holiday season to remind them to book their holiday pet sits and walks early. This is a great time to let them know about any holiday surcharges or extra fees.

  2. Prepare your schedule and gather your pet sitters’ availability ahead of the busy holiday season. You can automate this process by using the pet business app called Handlr that I built for my business DogZenergy. I was overwhelmed by constantly being on the phone and struggling with the schedule, so I decide to build an app for my clients and pet sitters. Instead of playing phone tag, going back and forth between your client and staff to cover the pet sit visit, you can use Handlr to organize all of this for you. You just need to collect your staff’s available dates for pet sitting and then your clients’ can book your pet sitters just like they would book a hotel online. They can see the available dates and then book the start and end date. You get notified of the booking, your pet sitter can see the pet sit dates on their app and your customer will also see the visit on their app. This way, everyone knows the dates and time of the scheduled appointments.

  3. Give your customers the gift of peace of mind this holiday season. Traveling for the holidays is fun, but can be stressful for your clients if they are worried about their pets at home. By giving your clients an app to GPS track their pet sitter, they will have confirmation that their pet is being well cared for. The Handlr app keeps track of check in and check out notifications for you and your client so that you can both confirm that your pet sitter completed the visit for the full amount of time. You and your client will also be able to see photos and chat messages being sent by the sitter and you can both respond. You can take a quick look at your dashboard to see that all of your pet sitters are where they are supposed to be at all times. You’ll also receive a rating for each pet sit visit, to make sure that your client was happy with your service.

  4. Give yourself the gift of automatic payments. Never send an invoice ever again. As soon as your pet sitter checks out of a pet sit visit, your client’s credit card will be charged automatically and will be sent to your bank account. You will never have to go back through your schedule to tally up all of the visits for all of your clients or scan a huge stack of checks ever again (or lose one!). By automating your scheduling, client requests and payments, you will save at least 6 hours every week that you can use to spend time with your family and friends during the holidays.

 

 

 

  1. The holidays are a perfect time to show your clients your appreciation. Thank you cards for Thanksgiving or treats or toys for your clients’ dogs for Christmas and Hanukkah are a perfect opportunity to let them know how much you care. A holiday card addressed to your clients’ dog is always a fun laugh too!

  2. Get involved with your community. People are out and about enjoying community holiday festivals and parades. Festivals that have booths that support local charities are a great way to give back to your community while getting the word out about your local business. Christmas parades are a great way to invite your clients to bring their dogs and join you in the parade. It’s a ton of fun for the whole family!

 

 

  1. Network with local businesses by hosting a holiday party or drop off a nice gift basket, holiday card or baked goods. This is a great way to thank them for their referrals.

  2. Host a holiday party for your staff or if you really like putting on your party hat, host one for all of your clients too. They invite you into their home everyday, it’s a great way to invite them into yours.

  3. Put aside funds for holiday bonuses for your staff. There’s quite a bit of change over in the pet sitting business industry, but if you have holiday bonuses that your staff can earn if they stay with the company long enough, it’s a great way to incentivize them and show your appreciation.

  4. Schedule time for yourself. Block out an afternoon or a weekend to bake, wrap gifts, go ice skating or read a book. Protecting your happiness and warming your heart during the holidays will spill over and make you an even better business owner for your clients.

 

Happy Holidays to you, your family, your fur babies and your clients from all of us at Handlr!

 

 

 

Britt Alwerud lives in Los Angeles, CA with her menagerie of furbabies - two Goldens, Daisy and Taj, two cats, Tiger and Monkey, two horses named Gracie and Moo, and a chameleon named Larry. Britt owns DogZenergy in San Diego, CA. Now she’s the full-time Founder and CEO of Handlr. Learn more about Handlr by clicking here or email her at britt@myhandlr.com. You can also find Britt on Instagram @doggonetechgirl or follow Handlr on Twitter @myhandlr for weekly business tips.

 

November Tips To Help Your Business Finish 2016 Strong

With the election over and the year almost complete, business owners everywhere are focusing on what’s to come in 2017. While concentrating on how to improve your business next year, it can be easy to lose track of the current one. Finishing the year strong is extremely important in small business and it’s never too late to make changes that can lead to a great finish and an even better 2017.

Keep your customers in your pocket.

The busiest time of year for everyone is the holiday season. This includes your customers, and in the midst of all there is to do, it can be easy for them to slip through the cracks. Make sure you put in the effort to stay connected to your clients and keep your business on their minds as we transition to a new year. One of the best ways to do this is by sending out Holiday “thank you” cards to show your clients just how much your appreciate their business. If you can afford to do so; adding a gift certificate or coupon for the new year will give them a reason to come back as soon as the new year has started. Try not to make this move seem to sales-ey or too pushy, just remind your customers how thankful you are to have them in your life and they will come back time and time again.

Keep costs low.

Holiday season spending is the easiest thing to do, both in our personal lives and in business. The sales, deals and opportunities, presented to us this time of year can be overwhelming and often impossible to pass up. That being said, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the spending spirit and land in 2017 with wallet regrets.

Take hard look at your “musts” vs “wants” for not only the final stretch of 2016 but also for the new year. Cutting costs is the easiest way to cut stress and can benefit your business in almost every way. Starting 2017 with a good ration on your profit and loss statement will be the best gift you’ve ever given yourself.

Up-sell!

Use this time to remind customers of other services you may offer. Clients that have stuck with you all year have proven their loyalty, not it’s time to show them what else you can do. Send email reminders and post cards about opportunities that they may be interested in. If you’re a Handlr user, send some snapshots of the various services you have listed on the app, reminding customers that you have more to offer than what they are used to.

You can take this a step further by creating holiday or New Years specific services that will “last for a limited time”. Don’t worry about seeming too pushy, just remember that you’re offering services to your clients that can help save valuable time during the busy season.

Automate everything.

Think about how much time you spend managing your scheduling, your clients and your team. Chances are, instead of spending your days growing your business, marketing and bringing in new clients, you’re trapped at a desk and on the phone while you constantly play catch-up. Take a moment to review just how much time you could save if all of these processes were automated. From accounts payables to billing to team management, your days can be better spent. to customer data entry, look for ways to save time by streamlining tasks.

Handlr can help you with all of this. By automating your scheduling, allowing clients to book themselves into your schedule, giving you free tools to manage your team and providing customers with an incredible experience that includes GPS tracking, notifications, cant and automated payments. You can set up your schedule once and never look at it again.

Think about your future.

Our last point brings about the topic of your future. A new year should not be about starting fresh with a clean slate. It should be about building on what you have created and using your experience to grow yourself and your business. Don’t get caught in the mindset of starting a new, this is the wrong attitude. Instead, learn from the mistakes you made this year. What were your biggest flaws? What drove away customers? What took up valuable time that could have gone elsewhere? Follow up with the things that worked; a great marketing campaign, a special deal that brought in clients, etc. Use these to plan ahead and get yourself ahead of the curve.

Handlr can help get you there, as you’ll spend less time in a frantic struggle with your daily operations and more time focusing on the big picture. Our amazing tools are free to use and the cost of our incredible customer features are covered by your clients. Talk to us today about joining the Handlr community and make 2017 the best year your business has ever seen!

5 Practical tips for staying... practical.

Operating a small business, especially when just starting out, can be the most daunting task of your life. It can also prove to be the most rewarding. In order to guarantee this reward, you must make practical & thoughtful decisions while treating every problem you face as delicately as an egg. Practicality is king, and all too often the stress and flurry of starting a business can lead to hasteful decisions that leave practicality in the dust. We’ve compiled 5 tips for that highlight practicality when making initial decisions for your new business.

 

  1. Hiring? Sacrifice numbers for reliability – manpower is indeed an integral part of the success of your business. But focus first on hiring competent employees with whom you can absolutely trust. You’ll be surprised what a few hard working, intelligent individuals can do when tasked with a job normally requiring more manpower.  You do not need to hire hundreds of employees – just a few that you can trust to finish the tasks at hand.

  2. Rent a small office that can serve its function – Please, please don’t make the same immature mistake many startups of this day do; renting a huge, modern office full of pool tables and flat-screens, for your company that has yet to make a dime in revenue.  It’s best to rent a small office so you can do your work more efficiently. Working from a home can also provide the bare-minimum needed to focus just on getting your business running. This is especially true if your startup has taken funding.

 

  1. Don’t discount  Outsourcing – There’s a reason all of the major corporations use labor outside the US for manufacturing; it’s CHEAP. But don’t think that just because you don’t manufacture a product that you can’t take advantage of outsourcing. Tasks such as graphic design (company logo), website design and promotional videos can all be handled overseas. It may take a bit of searching but quality work can definately be had for a fraction of what it would cost in the US. Check out Fiverr.com for anything you might need.   

  2. Assess the competitors – Don’t ignore your competitors. If they’ve been in the business long enough for you to know about them, they are doing something right. Read all of the material you can find on them, learn about how they do business, watch how they market themselves and take note of what works & what doesn’t. How do you do this? Simply look at their business from an outsider's perspective, remove yourself from your business owners thought process and ask yourself how you would think of them if you were just a regular customer.

  3. Analyse your growth and learn from it – Take regular and detailed notes of your growth. You should analyse your marketing efforts, techniques and basically how you handle your business and the results that you achieved from it. Look back at what has worked in the last week, month and year. Question why these things are working or not working, don’t simply shrug them off as a win or loss. It is not enough to see growth. You must continuously seek strategies and plans that will improve your business.

How to take the stress out of going it solo

Are you a solopreneur? Few will ever understand the challenges associated with running a business by yourself. Those of you who are self-employed, will understand the struggle of constantly having to work smarter than everyone else in order to only work a little harder than everyone else. The truth is, even if you’re working smarter, you’re still working harder than everyone else. This tends to lead to stress. A lot of stress. It can seem like you never catch up while the rest of the world gets to take a break now and again. Shrugging off the stress and staying physically and mentally healthy are crucial components of running a successful business.  

 

Avoiding stress is important in any business, but as a solo professional, it’s absolutely vital. Here are some key ways to deal with stress as a solopreneur:

 

1.Take care of your boss.

That’s you after all. It sounds so simple and obvious, but taking care of yourself is something that is easy to put on the backburner when business calls. This is not even considering the outside factors that make going solo in business so difficult; balancing family, friends and work is easier to do when the work is split amongst co-workers. Not having co-workers means you’ll be doing all of the balancing. So make sure your work is balanced with a healthy diet, a good night's rest and plenty of exercise. You’ll feel much better, have more energy and get stressed less.

 

2. Work ahead

It’s not always easy to do, but it certainly always pays off. There will always be something that comes up; whether you get sick, a family emergency occurs, impassable weather or any number of alternatives will constantly throw themselves at you. If you’re constantly battling to just keep up, any of these will throw a wrench in your plans. Work ahead so when the inevitable happens, at least you’ve done some of the work to keep yourself ahead of the curve.

 

3. Increase your financial flexibility

As a Solo-preneur it’s more than likely that you’re working on a tight budget. Bootstrapping is great, but be conscious of the realities of running a business on a lean stack of cash. If at all possible, build yourself a buffer of finance in case of emergency. Whether you can take a loan or have to scrimp and save, work towards a safe-box for rainy days. This will dramatically reduce stress as you won’t constantly worry about paying that next bill or employee.

4. Take time off

If you listen to podcasts and attend speeches from successful entrepreneurs, you’ll often hear them talk about the endless hustle and how working 18 hour days for 5 years straight is the only way to make it. Don’t let these book-slinging know-it-alls fool you. Everyone needs a break, and whether the ‘hustlers’ of the start-up world admit it or not, they take breaks too. Giving yourself a vacation to look forward to will give you an end-goal to work towards. You’ll work harder just knowing that you have a break to look forward to. If you don’t plan some time for yourself, you’ll get caught up in the “this will never end” mindset and that’s the easiest place to give up.

How to come equipped to any Trade Show

Fall is often considered "Trade Show Season" for the service industry, chances are you are considering, or have already planned to attend a trade show. Getting ready for a trade show, especially if it is your first, can be intimidating. If you can pull it off though, trade shows can bring enormous potential to your business. Go in poorly prepared and chances are you’ll walk away with a look of solemn disappointment on your face. One of the worst feelings in business is standing in an empty booth while your potential clients head to the competitor's booth across the hall. Creating a professional booth is not just a good idea but an absolute necessity. That being said, here are a few things every booth should have:

Thought-out Marketing Materials.

Don’t leave your booth visitors empty handed - bring well-designed and beautiful pamphlets or brochures to explain what makes your business unique. A big stack of business cards is also a must for customers that want a more direct connection with you. . After these items are taken care of , you’ll want to focus on the extras; swag-bags, hats, mugs, key chains, these are all great give-away items, but you’ll likely see tons of them.  Try to come up with a unique gift to give to those that come and talk with you. Something that stands out in a crowd of cheap pens and branded water bottles. This will not only leave a lasting mark on the customers but also give your booth a must-visit vibe. Raffles and contests can achieve this same effect but again, be careful not to repeat the same washed up techniques of your competition. You want to give away something that everyone will want, but no other booth has. Customers will see this as a sign that your business offers the same.

A professional, eye-catching booth.

Ensuring that your display draws in passersby is often overlooked and underutilized. Don’t count on your product or service alone to bring in visitors. Large, bold and professional signage along with out-displaying  your customers with a big screen TV or projector is a sure-fire way to draw the crowds. EZ-UP tents are popular for a reason, this is a great, albeit expensive option for upgrading a standard booth. However your local sign shop should be able to provide you with some great looking pop-ups at a reasonable price.

A Solid Pitch.

We’ve talked about getting customers to your booth, now to the most important part; keeping them there. A good, solid pitch should be at the core of every business, and if you don’t already have one down, setting up your booth might be the least of your worries. A great pitch will take 30 seconds to one minute and give your customers a reason to stay and ask questions.

Confidence

Always bring a big dose of confidence to the table. If you’re not confident in your company, visitors will smell it a mile away and not even approach your booth. Set a goal for the trade show, prepare a pitch and execute. Treat this as seriously as a job interview and you’ll be in a good place.

A Reliable Team

While going it alone at smaller conventions is doable, it looks unprofessional and leaves customers that are waiting to talk with you out in the wind while you pitch someone else. Having a reliable, confident team improves your chances of making a sale while showing customers that you have built a foundation of employees that believe in your company. You’ll cover more ground and answer more questions, but make sure your team is up to the task. Each of your team members is a representation of your company, so they must look the part, act the part and know how to talk with clients.