by Nancy Hassel, American Pet Professionals COVID19 is testing us in many ways as business owners by being forced to stay inside, or alter the way we do business altogether, being shutdown and so on. It is inspiring to hear and see all the creative ways that pet businesses are being inventive to stay in business. However, we know these are hard times - our industry, along with the rest of the world, has not seen anything like this. Our industry has persevered through many challenging times in the past 10-20 years, and still managed to grow as a whole. I have watched businesses in the middle of the recession in 2008, grow and ultimately prosper beyond what they could have ever imagined. While what we are going through now, collectively, is very different than anything we have seen before. One thing I would urge fellow pet business owners to do - is to remain professional. Now is the time to show support of other businesses, even if you once perceived them as competition. Now is the time to remain a leader in your business, even if you are a leader of one, how you conduct yourself and your business now, in these difficult times, will reflect on your business as a whole when we are on the other side of this. Remaining a professional, productive, positive and proactive leader in your business is the utmost of importance. Remain professional: What do I mean by that, some things seemingly are thrown out the window, as many of our areas of the industry try to survive. The way we do business shouldn't be comparing what you do, to what other businesses do, and dog forbid using their actual business name negatively on one of your social media posts. In other words, don't call out a 'competitor' and show that you're doing better than them or differently, in the services you are now offering. While this may seem like the time to just post, say and write anything you want, 'who cares we are in a pandemic,' I think two things: 1. If you're calling out another competitor by name about what they don't do, you are reminding your followers of their business, (and why would you want to do that while you're serving your customers?) 2. There could be legal ramifications if you're claiming something about their business that may not be true or putting false information out there about their business. This may seem like the last thing on your mind while you are trying to serve your customers, pay your employees (if you are able to still have employees), and run your business. I get it completely, understand and am very empathic. (My heart breaks for anyone who is going through the most challenging time in their businesses right now.) Many of our members of American Pet Professionals are suffering right now because of people cutting back on hiring them for their services. But I also see our members remaining positive, professional, proactive and coming up with creative ways to serve their customers. But I implore you to be professional, keep providing that same stellar customer service that you have always done and work together in your own communities. Shine a positive light on other area businesses that complement yours, whether they are in the pet industry or not. I know many of you are already doing this, which is so great to see. If your business is really hurting and you are paralyzed in fear of what is to come, you are not alone and we understand as a collective industry. Try to be proactive, productive and stay positive - which I know is not easy. Reach out to someone in the industry, your peers or another similar business that you know will be a guiding light, support or just understand what you are going through. (Personally it took me a few weeks to process this - and there are daily challenges for all of us - no matter what area of the industry you are in. Again, you are not alone.) There are many things you can do, even if your business is slow, including being professional, there are ways to serve that your customers and community will remember you when this passes and we are on the other side of this. Be Proactive: Be a resource for your community. If your business has slowed down and you are trying to figure out a way to stay front of mind for your customers - be a resource in your community. Find out factual and actual information that is up-to-date, and provide it to them via a blog post, on your website, via email, a Facebook Group, live stream (Instagram, Facebook) and so on. Perhaps your local animal shelter is in need of fosters or adopters, let your community know. Maybe there is a pet food pantry to help for those that need pet food to feed their pets, let them know about it. Be Productive: Follow up with your clients. Perhaps you are a pet sitter or dog walker and things have slowed down tremendously, I would still urge you to follow up and check in with your clients weekly. A call, email or text to let them know you're thinking of them and ask them if they need any help. (Some people working from home, kids homeschooling now, and no one has much time for the dog). They may end up hiring you back even if it is a walk or two a week. (Of course, all safety precautions should be taken, and know what you're allowed to do in your town, city or state). Either way, following up will keep you and your business in front of mind to them. Stay active on social media. Keep publishing positive posts, reminding your following of your services, interacting with others on social and so on. Now you have the time to plan out those posts, schedule them and really focus on that part of your business. Pet Retailers: As the wave of pet parents to rush to get pet food and supplies, may have slowed down or have come to a screeching halt in some areas, continue to be proactive on social, create new ways and items (baskets, fun timely spring items, etc.) that can be delievered. Get that online store available so your customers can shop on your online store, and have the items delivered or curbside pick up. Stay in contact with your customers, they will still need food and supplies when their stock runs low - communication is so vital now. Learn something new. Maybe you never had time for that online class to learn more about dog training, dog body language, whatever the topic is. Now is the time to do so. Whether you are purchasing an online course or even just learning on youtube, you can hone in on an additional skill that you can add to your arsenal of services when this passes. Remain positive. I know that is easier said than done, but it is important. Sometimes you need time to take in what is happening and process it, and that is ok, but don't allow yourself to get consumed by it. Remain positive, talk to other business owners, friends and family via a live stream - and help each other with ways to remain positive. And last but not least, remain professional. Your business will shine in your professionalism as you lead by example. I would love to hear from you what you're doing, how you're remaining positive, professional, being proactive and productive, comment below or email us. ]]>
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