- Posted by Gilleen Witkowski
- On September 22, 2017
- 0 Comments
- Andrew Patricio, BizLaunch, business, dog-walking, Enterprise Toronto, fight for $15, Gilleen Witkowski, pet care, small business, Toronto, Toronto dogs, Walk My Dog Toronto
I started Walk My Dog Toronto with zero hands-on business experience. The City of Toronto runs an intensive small business course taught by Andrew Patricio from BizLaunch. This summer I finally got some of the business education I so needed, and these are the lessons I took away:
- The point of running a business is to make money
The goal of making money can be an uncomfortable concept for the socially minded. Yet it’s completely true. Every calculation and decision must be made based on this. Without sustainable profit, the business will inevitably shut down. The bottom line isn’t everything, but it’s an important starting point.
- Be obsessed with your ideal client
You must think every single day about your ideal client. You need to get inside their heads. Then you need to channel your inner Mad Men and craft your sales message in a way that will appeal to them. Would literally anyone buy your product or service? Probably not, so you have to get specific. You have to think about your ideal clients’ hobbies, habits, and values.
For example, our ideal clients love their dog like a first child. They work during the day so they need pet care, they like ordering and paying online, and it’s important to them to hear about their dog’s walks and know that their dog is happy.
There are lots of people who are looking for our services and we are on a constant mission to get to know and reach out to them.
- Figure out what makes you different and why people like your stuff
You do not need to reinvent the wheel. Not everyone should develop a mobile app to try to sell for millions. We need old-fashioned products and services too. But, look around at what’s being done and aspire to do it better. Let people know what you’ve improved. In our case, what sets us apart is 1) we act professional; 2) we show up when we say we will; and 3) we prove it with a GPS-tracked map and email report every time.
Snapshot of the email clients get after a dog walk:
- Treat your employees with respect and pay more than minimum wage
You have to spend money on good people. Our teacher Andrew highlighted smart hiring practices and how to become an empowering company where people truly want to work. He recommended always paying more than minimum wage, even if it’s just a small amount more.
We have paid what we understand to be the minimum living wage since the day we started. We talk about it because labour is our biggest expense and we are still getting off the ground (see point 1) – but it’s worth it. To Andrew’s point, paying just a little more shows respect on our part, and is good motivation for our employees to always do a great job.
- It is who you know – so get to know people
You’re not born with a golf club membership in hand and you don’t count your ancestors among the first lieutenant governors of Confederation – now what?
You can still get to know people who will guide and help you in your business ventures.
If you want to be successful, you need to reach out to successful people. You learn from them, and opportunities are more likely to present themselves. Requests for a coffee or chat, attendance at networking events a couple of times a month, and showing support for others’ businesses and projects go a long way.
And endeavour to count other business folks and entrepreneurs among your friends, as they know what you are going through.
- Get organized and plan ahead
This is the part about putting all these lovely ideas into practice, because all these things make sense in theory but don’t actually happen unless you plan.
You do not have the memory of an elephant.
Our teacher Andrew swears by the calendar, because if a task isn’t written down with a date, time, and notification alarm, it’s not getting done. And he’s right. In small business, you get busy very quickly – with your work, with clients, with staff, with sales and marketing, with business planning and process, with education, etc.
Every little thing that you need to do must be written down in that calendar, because “as soon as I have time…” never happens, and the meetings and tasks that you have been “meaning to do” pile up.
This is a blog post for another time, but an absolute 100% must in terms of deadlines is getting your finances in order and your taxes submitted on time.
- Success is possible for all – and happiness is a choice
See point 5 – it may be a struggle, but you can succeed in your business. The challenges of the day to day can suck you in. But always look at the big picture. If you have a dream, an idea, and you plan ahead, if you work hard and you have some luck on your side, you have a good chance of building your business into something that will make you proud – and wealthier, too.
Our teacher Andrew put forth that personal happiness is also about perspective, that it comes down to a choice. The long view on happiness, or fulfillment, or contentment is something with which we must all contend, and those things look different to everyone. I think it makes sense to say that if we endeavour to be happy and successful in life, we’re on the right track.
Walk My Dog Toronto offers dog walking services and in-home pet care services in downtown Toronto. With easy online booking, we walk your dog while you are busy or at work. We give your dog love, socialization, and exercise, and we keep in touch with you every step of the way with our walk tracker.