A Startup Primer for new Kennel Owners
So, you want to run your own business? You’ve paid your dues and are ready to take the plunge. Congratulations. Running your own kennel is noble. Not only is it exciting to be an entrepreneur in general, but working with dogs can be one of the most rewarding careers.
But do you know where to start? Operating your own business isn’t just management. You don’t just assign your staff their tasks before heading home for the day.
There is a lot to do. You’re going to be working long hours and there’s a good chance you’ll fail.
You don’t have to become overwhelmed, however. Let me help.
When we first took over our kennel, it had been operating for over a decade. Unfortunately, it had been in decline for several years. It took a lot of work to build it up to where it is today. Some of the decisions we made were good and others not so good. That hard work taught us a lot about operating a kennel. Here are the four pillars we’ve come to rely on.
In the beginning, it was just my wife and I. We didn’t have enough clients to even think about hiring employees. Even so, these questions often applied to us and then when it was time to expand, we relied on them to get the right team.
- What training do you and your staff have?
- What experience do you and your staff have with dogs?
- Can you trust others to operate your business?
- What kind of leadership style do you use?
When hiring an employee, you can’t overstress that having dogs, even having many dogs, isn’t the same thing as having experience with other people’s animals. After going through hundreds of resumes and dozens of employees, we made the decision only to hire people with at least a veterinary technician diploma. The single biggest thing we look for when we’re adding to our team is to add skills we don’t have; not replicate ones we already do.
Customer Centric Approach
A customer-centric model puts the customer at the centre of every decision you make. The process is designed to build trust and loyalty among your clients. In short, genuinely treating your customers first will lead to more referrals.
- What services do you offer?
- What are your hours of operation?
- Will you offer a shuttle service?
- What marketing will you use? Social? Web? Paid or organic?
When you operate a dog boarding facility, you have two clients; dogs and their owners. That means the experience you craft has to be for both.
While many will equate operational efficiency to financial terms, I look at the organic elements that go into your costs. Answering these questions will help you work better, faster, and easier.
- Is the kennel already built?
- Will you have cages, suites, or communal areas?
- Will you have outside runs and an exercise area?
- Do you have a customer relationship management program?
Defining how your kennel physically operates will define how you interact with your clients. Even though you may be purchasing an existing kennel, that doesn’t mean you have to operate exactly as they did before you.
One of the most difficult things people deal with when they start their own business is the financial side. When it comes to the dogs, you know their stuff, but doing the books or ensuring you have all the permits can be taxing when you need to be working in the kennel. Often, it is this side of the business that keeps entrepreneurs working late nights.
- What is the best business structure for your kennel?
- Do you have a team of professionals? Accountant? Lawyer? Bookkeeper?
- Do you have sufficient insurance?
- Have you set up proper government accounts for payroll and taxation?
While you can take care of many of the financial elements yourself, it helps to have a team you can rely on to get advice from when you need it.
It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers yet. We continue to learn things every day. What’s important is that you are open to trying and learning new things.