Part of our series of articles on How To Grow Your Pet Sitting Business:
It is common for pet sitting and dog walking business owners to get to a point in their business when they are overworked in the field, spending their evenings at a pet sit or at home doing admin work. The days run into each other and you feel as though you are working around the clock, and you can’t remember the last time you had a day off or spent any quality time with your family.
It is at this point that a small business owner must make the decision to bring in help. But if you’ve never hired before, where do you even begin? How do you know who to look for? What qualifications, character traits and availability should you expect from your hires? How will you know who you can trust, especially considering they will be entering your clients’ homes unsupervised?
“How will you know who you can trust?”
The truth is, hiring is a delicate combination of looking at someone’s past and current makeup as well as their future goals—and trusting your instincts. Asking for a resume, for example, allows you to see how long this person has stayed at each previous job. If they have changed jobs every four months over the past two years, will they leave after four months with you?
Attracting the Right Kind of Staff
When you’re first looking to bring on assistance, it’s hard to know where to start. If you’ve budgeted a certain amount for advertising your job post, you may consider job boards such as Craig’s List, Indeed, Zip Recruiter or Glassdoor, just to name a few. If you would prefer not to spend money, you may have free opportunities at a local coffee shop, community center, library or gym to attract a local person. It’s important to remember, however, that if you’re serious about finding good help, it may be worth the financial investment.
In your job description, be as specific as possible about what the job entails and what you expect. Being vague will mean that you’ll need to weed people out by engaging in emailed questions and interviews, which is a waste of your time and theirs. Tell candidates exactly what you’re looking for so they can weed themselves out if this is not the job for them. For instance, if your region experiences severely inclement winters, you’ll need dog walkers who can spend a fair amount of time in frigid temperatures.
“Tell candidates exactly what you're looking for”
You’ll also want to be upfront about how much they can earn working for you. Be realistic and honest—if they will only make $250 per week, job seekers need to know that. You’ll also need to think about the availability your candidates will need to have, while considering other part-time jobs that would work in tandem with yours. If you’re looking for Monday through Friday dog walkers, you’ll likely want them available between 10am and 4pm. That means your staff could be working another job in the early mornings or nights. Or it could also mean they have financial flexibility.
Grad students, for example, may have student loans, financial aid or monetary help from family. Classes typically take place at night so their daytime hours are free, and they may be looking for a more relaxing job away from the mental stress of their studies. For that reason, if you’re located near a college, consider posting your ad on the university job board. Actors, restaurant workers, freelance writers or video editors, parents with school-aged children and retirees can all make viable candidates as well because their days are typically open.
In your requirements list, there are a few additional things you may want to include. Depending on your service area, it may be essential that they have a car or a bike to use for work. Where they live can also be important – you don’t want them driving too far from job to job unless you’re planning to pay for their commute time. They will also need a smart phone so they can access their Pet Sitter Plus Schedule, check-in/check-out and send feedback reports to your clients after their jobs are complete. If you’re hiring independent contractors (ICs), you’ll likely want them to have previous experience since your training, by law, must be limited.
Responses to Your Job Listing
Today’s applicants range from those simply using their cellphone to utilize a “one-click” reply with a preloaded resume, to those who actually take the time to go through your ad and thoroughly respond.
Because your staff must have an attention to detail – they will need to read through all of the visit routine notes to ensure they are following the client’s direction – you should expect them to have an eye for detail when it comes to responding to your ad. If you’ve asked any questions or requested a resume, your applicant should reply accordingly. Additionally, a well-written response with enthusiasm gives you foresight into what their communication style might look like with your clients.
“Your time is valuable, so it's important to get the information you need as quickly as possible.”
Once you’ve narrowed your search to a few candidates, it’s smart to start with a phone interview. Your time is valuable, so it’s important to get the information you need as quickly as possible. A phone interview will allow you to explain the job in further detail so your candidate knows what would be expected of them. Then, having passed your first two rounds of screening, a face-to-face interview will give you a full sense of your applicant. If you’ve settled on a certain contender, be sure to check their professional references and execute a background check before moving forward – these two steps could prove to be critical in identifying your potential hire.
Hiring Your First Staff Member
As soon as you’ve selected and hired the winning candidate, you’ll need to go through the necessary tax and legal steps to ensure they are set up to be employed by you. If you’re hiring independent contractors, they will need to fill out a W-9 form. You will also need an independent agreement form that could help you in the event of an IRS audit.
If you are hiring employees, you’ll need to submit an I-9, verifying your employee’s work eligibility. Your employee must fill out a W-4 and you must fill out a W-2, which makes each party responsible for withholding certain taxes. With employees, you must also report the new hire to the state and obtain workers’ compensation insurance.
These steps are all part of your onboarding process.
Introducing Clients to Your New Staff
One of the hardest challenges in hiring is telling your clients that you will no longer be their pet’s caretaker and a new person you’ve hired will be taking over. Because you started this business on your own, you’ve likely developed personal relationships with many of your clients. They may try to guilt you into staying on as their pet sitter because they do not want anyone other than you, and you should expect that.
If your clients insist that you remain their personal sitter, remind them that your goal has always been to provide the best service in your community, and you can only do that by removing yourself from the field and overseeing the people who are working for you.
“If you're looking to grow your pet sitting company so you can live a freer lifestyle - you must hire.”
Above all, you must do what is best for you and your business. If you’re looking to grow your pet sitting company so you can live a freer lifestyle – both personally and financially – you must hire. In order to grow your business, this mandates that you will no longer be in the field, and instead of working IN your business, you will begin working ON your business. Introducing your clients to new representatives of your company is the first step on that path to growth.
Once you’ve got some reliable staff in the job, your working life will change for the better, and having others to rely on will give you back some evenings and weekends.
This article is intended to provide information and should not be viewed as legal advice. As such, each business should seek legal advice on matters relating to employee-contractor status.