So there we were, floating on a rainbow filled with golden retriever puppies. The pet industry was booming and we were adding customers and bookings everyday. My kennel software informed me that spring break was booked out and we had a lovely 50 person wait-list going. Coming into 2020, we all felt that we could continue plugging along and there were hugs all around...
Then the news started rolling in, and kept rolling in. Every day seemed crazier then the last. Corona was on it's way and I remember holding onto some hope that it would be a blip in what was going to be a promising 2020. Cancellations started coming in and the tough decisions about how to plan staffing, finances and what to shut had to be made.
Next was the fun news that our state had a "shelter in place" order. Safety in our society is crucial and I fully support sacrifice for the greater good. That being said, owning a dog kennel, daycare, and grooming facility which relies on the travel industry meant staring down the barrel of an ever worsening situation, which made for some long nights. In a matter of a week I saw our kennel spring break reservations go from a 50 person wait-list to having 2 total dogs scheduled for boarding. Watching friends and family talk about Netflix and chilling their days away, while watching the thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears I spent building my business melt away was beyond disheartening.
My daily solace was going to our industry groups and seeing I wasn't alone. Everyone in our pet facility owner family was going through the same emotions, financial troubles, tough staff layoffs etc. The other best medicine was to get back to what I loved, the dogs.
Beyond more time playing with dogs, this downturn has created a lot of downtime. Netflix naturally calls our name and sitting on the couch and relaxing seems more and more like a good idea. For us kennel, daycare, groomer and training center owners, this simply is not an option. Now more than ever it is incredibly important to double down and work to find ways to improve our business. Many people are getting those projects that have been put off for far too long done, many are dreaming up new services to offer, and many are reworking their business plan and changing their business to a whole new model. Some great organizations like The Dog Gurus and National Kennel Sales & Appraisals have put on some great virtual seminars on how to better your operations.
The lesson here is that coming out of this "shutdown" one thing is evident: business as usual is no longer a thing. Recovering from this downturn, those businesses who look towards the future, find ways of separating themselves from others, get leaner, and find more meaningful connections with their customers are going to be the businesses that come out stronger than before. We have a decision to make: we can succumb to the fear, or rise up and get stronger. Our industry is full of resilient leaders who are ready to retool their operations and come back better than before.
When looking at your operation one central tool can have a major impact on almost every aspect of your daily operations: your kennel software. Many people I talk to think of their kennel software as just how they manage their reservations. If this is how you feel, then you definitely need to use this time to think differently about kennel software. Yes your kennel software should manage your reservations, but it also can help your pet business by managing your customer interactions, manage your customers food, medications, and items, manage your playgroups, employee task lists, communicate with employees and connect with your customers via social media.
There are two different types of kennel software: Cloud based software and Offline software. Offline kennel software typically has a large one time fee, and then a monthly "maintenance" or "data storage" fee. Many people falsely believe this is the cheaper option because they have a little to no monthly fee. This gives people a false sense of cost saving because these offline kennel software options provide little automation and require your employees to do a lot of work. What these pet business owners save in software costs they more than pay for in personnel costs. When coming out of this shutdown you need to think about getting your company lean. By trying to save on monthly software fees and paying your employees to do things your software could do is stepping over dollars to make dimes.
Cloud based software solutions began being offered in the last decade. It started out as a couple big companies making big advances from the offline options. Over the last decade many people have jumped on the bandwagon of making kennel software. In 2016, I rigorously searched for a cloud based option that would fit my business but became extremely frustrated. It seemed as though many of the kennel software options were created by people who had very limited to no actual pet facility experience. I went to an IBPSA conference and listened to the creator of one of the biggest software companies in our industry. His opening line was, "You guys know more about dogs than I do. I can't even make a dog sit." This is supposed to be a leader in the industry and I am supposed to trust him with the lifeblood of my business and he is boasting about having no dog knowledge? No thanks!
Many of the cloud based kennel software options are very similar and are lacking one major feature: a fully integrated mobile app that can be used by customers, employees, and owners to check on the business. Many claim to have an app, but are in fact, just "portals". These are websites that are mobile friendly, and lack many of the features of a true mobile app. Being a resourceful pet business owner I knew there had to be a better way. After two years of working with developer friends, we created Paw Partner . Paw Partner is a fully integrated software and mobile app that is used by kennels, dog daycares, groomers, and trainers to optimize their business and better connect with their customers.
Using Paw Partner at my facility, I have been able to lower my personnel by $28,000 per year (pre-covid), and raise my add-n sales by over 30%. U.S. consumers are using their phones more for everything they do, making reservations for hotels, planes, restaurants, rental cars with their phones. Naturally they would also like to make their reservations with you on their phone, so why not let them? With Paw Partner your customers are able to make reservations with a free mobile app 24/7, can manage their own vaccines, can see photos of their pets and message directly with you. Our email and call volume has dropped by over 90% and our customers love being able to connect with us on their schedule instead of playing the constant phone tag game. Paw Partner has helped us get leaner with personnel in a significant way and helped us to connect with our customers in a more meaningful way. Our new social platform lets our employees share photos with our customers directly. We no longer have to pay an employee to constantly download photos and re-upload to Facebook. Paw Partner automatically alerts the customer they have a new photo. Connecting better with our customers has helped us keep our loyalty and daycare reservations strong during this downtime which has helped to retain key staff.
Times are tough, and you have a lot going in your life both personally and professionally. I get it, I do too. You can either use this time to binge watch Tiger King and wallow, or you can get proactive and make your business better. Control what you can control. One big way you can make real change in almost all aspects of your business is to look at your kennel software and ask yourself, "will this make my business stronger?" Doing what you did pre-covid will not get you back to where you were or better than you were. You need to find what makes you different and better. With this down time, you have the perfect opportunity to implement the changes that will make your business the best in your market. Not only will Paw Partner make your business and life easier, but it will increase your customer loyalty, decrease your expense and increase your profit margin.
Our plan was to release Paw Partner nation-wide at the IBPSA conference this fall. After seeing so many people struggling and looking for answers of how to come out of this shutdown, we've decided we can help. To help all of our fellow pet facilities, we are giving Paw Partner free for the next 6 months. This will get you instantly leaner and help facilitate the change you need to come out stronger than you were before. Contact us today and we will show you what kennel software made by actual kennel owners looks like.