Introduction Spending your working days in a job that is enriching personally and rewarding financially is sometimes difficult to do. For an animal lover, or specifically a dog lover, a dog day care may be just the answer for you. Just loving dogs, however, is not the only requirement for success in your decision to start and run your own business. Knowing about dogs, working with employees, understanding the business aspects and developing relationships with the dog owners are all necessary if you strive to do well. There are also health and legal responsibilities and knowing how to turn a profit.
Your own characteristics will also come into play. Having a strong work ethic, the energy to put in some long days, and relational skills with people are important. The physical ability to manage a facility, and the knowledge to make management decisions based on financial and legal issues all are part of the job. The difference between high quality service to the dogs and their owners, and a minimalistic attitude toward the work, can make or break the business.
Learning about available funding, goal setting, organizational structures and matching the needs of your community will also affect the outcome of your dog day care. To start and keep any business profitable, requires continual learning about current technology, the profession, and your customer's needs. In this case, your customer and his dog's needs.
According to Claire Brough, an animal business specialist who currently writes content for Animal World.com, the pet industry has held its own through the latest financial crisis and is on track to continue this trend for the foreseeable future. Brough shares that this is the result of increased pet ownership, increased humanizing of pets, and the increase in disposable income since the economic downturn reversed direction. People are treating their pets more like children, and in doing so they tend to buy more specialized food, products and services.
Personal or Financial Reasons for Opening a Dog Day Care: Your desire to become a dog day care owner very likely stems from your love of all things dog. You have probably had experience with various facilities, products and services. This knowledge is helpful but it takes more than that to find success. You must also have a grasp of the cost of time, money, and energy in starting up such a venture. Or possibly you have watched the trends. You've noticed a need for such a facility in your community and though you personally are not a huge dog lover, you like dogs and see this as a way to invest money, make money, and financially profit by starting your own business. Some people enjoy the challenge of creating a business, being their own boss, investing in a good idea and taking it to the pinnacle of success. Another reason you may have decided to go the route of a dog day care is that you need income, you know about dogs and business, and you've seen a need for one. Those things are pretty motivating. Another reason may be that you just need a change of pace, a new direction.
Whatever has produced the energy to pursue this track, and however much of the desire arises from personal goals or financial goals it must be met with clarity. You need to be clear about what is required to understand the opportunity, do the work, and manage beyond into the future.
Opportunity: Just wanting to start a business and loving dogs is not enough to provide stability in this business. There has to be a need. If there are three other dog day cares in your area, you will be in competition for their customers. Unless those facilities have deficits in the areas of services, business management, or relationships, it might be a bad idea to introduce a fourth facility. However, if those facilities are not meeting the needs of the community in most of those areas, then there just might be an opportunity to survive with a fourth business.
You can't simply think you know about how successful you can be. You have to be sure. If you aren't aware of the risks involved in your personal plan for this, then you will fail. You must prepare to ethically move into the market with your eyes open, fully aware of the demands. That is the only way to achieve your goals, which must include profitability. There is a big difference between an entrepreneur, a hobbyist, and a volunteer. An entrepreneur invests himself into a business to make money. A hobbyist spends time doing things because of the enjoyment alone. A volunteer invests himself into a business to help others profit in some way. And though volunteering is an amazing thing to do, it will not provide financial security for you and your family. So before you work hard for profits that are not financial, make sure you can afford to do so. In other words, if you want and need to make money, then you have to do your due diligence and be smart about each step of this process.
Knowledge Needed:As you perform your research, observation and examination, you must pay attention to the specific needs of all types and sizes of dogs, and all variety of pet owners and what they want and need. Facilities often have specialty services like vet or vet assistants who can give the dog maintenance care, treat illness, and clean teeth. Some also offer grooming services which you can add on to your dog's stay. These range from baths, trims, nail and care, to specialty haircuts. Others have socialization programs, training, and obedience classes. Some facilities offer diverse environments for the dogs. For example, dogs can have a place to go for a quiet rest, a place to get outdoors, a place to play with other dogs indoors, and optional frills like water play areas, pools for dogs, playground equipment and walks in the neighborhood. Some dog day cares have a focus on canine fitness centers that give your dog the exercise and play needed for good health. Still others refer to themselves as boutiques or resorts or spas. There are many ideas to think about and though it might not be wise to start on a grand scale, all possibilities have to be considered.
Get to know your customer. The human ones and the animal customers. Knowing an owner's expectation and what is good for his pet is imperative. Some people have specific ideas about the places they board their pets, but are willing to pay for those choices.
Awareness of supply and demand in an area is essential to your success. There are many levels of a business. They range from a grand scale center down to a boutique dog day care. You may want to focus on small dogs if available space is limited or expensive in the area where you want to be. Another path you could take is a care center to take in ill dogs or those recovering from surgery while owners work. The options are limited only by your own thinking. There are always needs for very short term care and very long term care, for aggressive dogs and timid dogs. Dogs differ from each other as much, if not more than, children differ from other children. Decisions about what you should do are ahead, so visit, explore and seek knowledge before anything else. Find out everything you can and then research more.
Don't miss checking out home day cares. This might be a better fit for you than paying for a facility. You can even hook into on-line reservations sites like DogVacay.com or Rover.com. On these sites, you can put in your zip code and find care for your dog right around the corner. Another source to both find and advertise a stay for home care is your vet or your pet store. You will find people in the animal industry ready and willing to help each other. The income is less for an in home site, but the day to day cost is less as well. There are many facets of this business to consider. Take your time to make up your mind about the best way to begin this adventure. You want to match the business to your strengths, knowledge, finances and business knowledge.
Most people know that chocolate is not good for dogs, in fact it can poison them. It is the caffeine and Theobromine in chocolate that is the culprit. In milk chocolate those are found in lesser amounts than in dark chocolate or powdered chocolate. Your dog, depending upon size can tolerate small amounts, however very small dogs will tolerate only very tiny amounts. It is better to keep all chocolate from your dog. The way dogs process food is different than humans and feeding them a quality dog food diet is highly important. If you think there is even a possibility your dog has ingested chocolate directly or indirectly, get help immediately. The longer it stays in the system the less reversible the damage. Don't wait until you begin to see symptoms. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and an increase in temperature, reflex response, rigidity, breathing, heart rate, low blood pressure, seizures. Eating chocolate can result in coma or death.
Call Pet Poison Hotline
Summary: There is a lot to consider when you begin to think about opening your own dog day care. To begin with, you need to know how much real need there is where you live. If there is no need, or the competition you'd have is holding their own, then you must reconsider your plans. There are always places for smaller and niche markets. Boutiques, special services for certain breeds that are more difficult, aggressive, small or timid dogs often need care that is different. There may simply be dog services that your area is lacking like no grooming and bathing care. If there is no need, you will not find success. That is the number one consideration.
If there are other centers but your assessment tells you people are not happy with them, they are failing because of bad management or have health issues, then this might be your opening. Consider carefully.
You may be itching to write a business plan, rent a great space, or hire help, but if you don't go through the steps to determine the best fit for both you and the community you want to serve, you really cannot make plans. And, just because you are a dog lover is not a good enough reason to focus on such a business. This business like every other business requires some knowledge beyond the specialty of dogs. It would be a shame to work so hard on your background work, start the business and mismanage it or get into legal trouble because you had no clue about the laws. If you are not good with management or relational skills with people, you might want to hire someone to do that for you, or consider a partnership. The best way to find out what your community needs or can support and that matches with your own talents, is to observe, ask questions, read and learn. Dog owners will be more than willing to tell you what they want and what they would pay for those services.. The cost some dog owners are willing to pay does not match up with their laundry list of what they want in return at a dog day care. Ask, listen and learn those things.
Giving your brain time to process the information and time to consider the options is important. When you are beginning a business, large or small, it takes your money, time, and effort. If you don't go through the proper channels at the proper time you are wasting each of these. You might even consider working in a facility to find your affinity for the job. Determine what you can handle, learn and enjoy. Only then will you be ready to develop your plan. The plan should be a work in progress as your collect information and long before it is put on paper. Even at that, the plan should always remain open to shifts as you work through the specifics for funding, location, size, services, legalities and supplies.
If this is what you want to do, do it right the first time. People will rely on you and your center to do and be what you advertise. If you can't do it, don't market it. Good business management hasn't changed since the beginning of time. Trust and honesty will carry you further than a fa ade of greatness.
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