How to Start a Pet Sitting Business – The Vital First 8 Steps

Do you love animals? Are you dreaming of a low-cost start up business you can run from home? Pet Sitting may be just the answer you’re looking for. As with any business, the first step to being successful is laying the proper groundwork. It takes much more than having a good idea or having a passion -it takes preparation to beat the odds. Some of that preparation should include the creation of legal documents and service contracts, obtaining proper insurance coverage, conducting research and learning more about the industry. While there is no single way to guarantee success, the following are the vital first 8 steps to get you started in the right direction.

1. Develop a business plan

Preparing a business plan is the first step of starting a successful business. A business plan acts as a road map for your business. It outlines your goals and identifies specific financial projections. A good business plan should help you define your target market, identify your competitors, project start up expenses, illustrate how to allocate resources and give you a realistic timeline. If utilized during your initial business set up it will keep you on track and make you successful in achieving your goals.

What goes in a business plan? The plan should be divided into 4 sections:

1) Description of the business

2) Marketing Plan

3) Finances

4) Management

The plan should include an executive summary, supporting documents, and financial projections.

Consult your local small business administration office or search online for assistance with writing a business plan. They have many resources available to assist ne business owners.

2. Decide on a legal structure for your business

A. Decide how much personal liability protection you need

B. Decide how you want your business to be taxed

C. Research the various types of ownership structures:

a. Sole proprietorship

b. LLC

c. C Corp

d. S Corp

The choice you make will have a large impact on how legal issues are handled. Sole proprietorship is the simplest legal structure but it does not protect your personal assets. Forming an LLC is more complex and expensive. However, it is designed to provide the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies of a partnership. This is a popular choice for sole proprietors who are looking to incorporate simply to protect personal assets.

Use the following resource to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of each and decide which ownership structure is right for you: Legalzoom

3. Choose a name for your business (and a domain name)

Choosing the right name for your business is very important. Choosing the right name can impact the overall success of your new venture. Remember to do your research, take your time and pick wisely.

A worthy name should:

1. Leave no doubt about the industry you support -it should directly relate to your service

2. Be easy to say, spell and read

3. Be memorable

4. Suit your business 5-10 years from now

5. Set you apart from competitors

If you plan on including a website with your new business, you should also consider that when deciding a name for your business. You may visit Yahoo or Networksolutions to see if your domain name of choice is available.

4. Register your business

Every city, county and state has specific requirements about doing business within its jurisdiction. Call or visit your local offices to see what particular requirements and fees exist in your area.

5. Obtain Insurance

Investigate the types of insurance you will need to get your business started. Auto insurance, liability insurance and bonding policies are a must for pet sitters. Often times clients will request to see proof of coverage prior to the first sit.

Auto Insurance – Commercial auto insurance is necessary to protect your business against potentially devastating liability costs resulting from an accident involving your vehicle while conducting company business. Typically, time spent conducting company business is not covered under a personal automotive policy. Check with your agent to see if you need to make additions or changes to your current policy.

Liability insurance – Liability insurance will protect you in the event that unforeseen circumstances arise. Lawsuits occasionally follow events such as dog bites, property damage in a client’s home or a pet passing away in your care. A good liability policy will protect you in such cases. It is a must have!

Use the following resources to decide which organization best fits your general liability needs:

http://www.PetSitllc.com – Pet Sitters Associates LLC

http://www.PetSit.com – Pet Sitters International

http://www.PetSitters.org – National Association of Professional Pet Sitters

Bonding – “honesty insurance” ensures clients you are trustworthy, and if they prove otherwise, the insurer provides them compensation. Bonding policies are necessary for any business where an individual is entrusted with valuables, like the key to someone’s home and all its contents. There are several Bonding companies throughout the country; each providing a different level of coverage. You can locate many of them by performing a Google search or asking your local insurance agent.

6. Establish website/email account and telephone line

Website presence – Establishing a web presence is a must in today’s high-tech world. A website can set you apart from competitors and open your business to a much larger market. Customers will be able to get information about your service 24/7 (even when you are not available). Having an email account linked to your business site is a convenient, low-cost way to communicate with clients.

Telephone Line – It’s a smart idea to invest in a separate phone line for business use only. Purchase a reliable voice mail plan and use it effectively. Your phone is a very important business tool if used properly. Your outgoing message should be professional, include any pertinent details and identify your business to the caller immediately.

7. Prepare Service Contract and Important Forms

Service Contract – A written service contract is a necessary tool. It outlines what services you will provide to the client, what fees you will charge for those services, what is behavior is expected of the client and/or pet, when payment is expected and what happens if payment is not made in a timely manner. A service contract formalizes the client/sitter relationship and ensures you have a shared understanding of the services you will be providing. Do NOT provide any service without a signed contract.

Veterinary Release Form – This form serves as written permission for you to seek medical care for a pet in your custody when a client cannot be reached during a medical emergency. Important document you won’t want to do business without.

8. Advertise

Advertise, advertise, advertise!!!! Advertising is a big key to success! Advertising promotes your business to a wider market. Advertising allows you to build your company’s brand. The more familiar your target market becomes with your brand, the more credibility your business establishes. The more trusted your brand, the more clients you’ll attract. The following examples are a few of the low-cost things you can do to get your advertising program started:

Design a memorable Business Card

Deliver fliers to local vet offices, groomers, pet stores, trainers, shelters, etc. (Maybe doughnuts, too -good to establish a relationship and referral base)

Design a Logo – create a brand for your company

Local Newspaper ads- advertise only in the areas you’re interested in working

Telephone directory listings

Submit a press release to local media – free and very effective

Send direct mail postcards

Host or plan a pet event with other pet vendors (Halloween pet costume contest, open house, pet first aid class, etc.)

Magnetic car signage – advertise to the locations you visit most

Participate in community parades

Send out quarterly newsletters

Canvass your local area with door hanger ads

Following these steps will start you on the road to success – the rest is up to you – Good luck!

Business Planning

Planning is the first and the most crucial step for starting a business. Business Planning lays down step-by-step procedure by which would function. The various functional requirements of business-marketing, finance, human resource and production, provide information to all the concerned people like employees, venture capitalists, etc. and it also draws a read map to help the entrepreneur run the business successfully. It is known to be the most crucial step in the successful running of the business because a well planned business venture carefully scans all the possible opportunities and threats, understand the demands of the market and arranges for the best possible resources which finally lead to the success of the business.

What is Business Plan?

It is outline of the business giving details of the finance, assets, staff, products or services and markets. It guides the entrepreneur, it identifies possible problems and it is also used in funding applications. The business plans sets out how to owner of a business intends to realize its objectives.

The business plan serves several purposes:

Enables the entrepreneur to think through the business in a logical and structured way and to set out the stage in the achievement of the business objectives.

Enables the entrepreneur to plot progress against the plan.

Ensures that the resources needed to carry out the strategy and the times when they are required are both identified.

Preparing the business plan ensures that the entrepreneur has thought through the crucial aspects of the venture.

It is a means for making all employees aware of the business direction.

It is an important document for discussion with prospective investors and lenders of finance.

It links into the derailed, short-term, one-year budget.

A good business plan would document short-term and long-term goals of the business and establish specific tasks for achieving theses goals. Planning is the process that never ends for a business and is extremely important in the early stages of the business. However, business planning and is extremely important in the early stages of the business. However, business planning is an ongoing process and it should be updated regularly to assist in forward planning, the challenge for the entrepreneur while preparing a business plan is to communicate his ideas and identify gaps in management information about their business, competitors and the market. For any organization, various functional plans-marketing, financial, human resources, production-have to be laid down, even though all the functional plans serve different purposes and all theses plans provide guidance and structure to the successful running of the business.

Preparing a Business Plan:

A business plan has to be in accordance with the organization in question, its situation and time. However, a business plan is not just a document to be produced and filed. Instead, business planning is a continuous process. The business plan has to be a living document, constantly in use of monitor, control and guide the progress of a business.

Before the preparing the plan, the entrepreneur should:

Review previous business plans (if any) and their outcome. This review will help highlight which areas of the business have proved difficult to forecast historically.

Be very clear as to objectives on which their plans will be based.

Set out the key business assumptions on which their plans will be based.

“Take the critical look at their business. The classical way is by means of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (SWOT)” (*1)

Business planning process

As discussed above, a successful entrepreneur lays down a step by step plan that he/she follows while starting a new business. This business plans acts as a guiding tool to the entrepreneur and is dynamic in nature – and needs continuous review and updating so that the plan remains viable even in the changing business situations. The various steps involved in business planning process are:

Idea Generation

Environmental scanning

Feasibility Analysis

Drawing up a Functional Plan

Project report preparation

Evaluation, control and review.

Drawing functional Plan:

After positive result form the feasibility study, functional plans are drawn up. Some scholars and writers prefer to include feasibility study with functional plan but the two have been taken separately. Whereas only after the feasibility study can one go into the derails of drawing up functional plans which would determine the strategies for all the operational areas : marketing, Finance and production.

Marketing Plan:

Marketing plan lays down the strategies of marketing which can lead to the success of business. These strategies are in terms of marketing mix (product, price, place and promotion). From the market feasibility study and marketing research, potential/ present demands of customers are determined which helps in understanding the profile of customers and hence help in laying down the strategies for segmentation of the market, identification of the target market laying down strategies for target market.

Production/ Operation plan:

The production/ Operation plan should include strategies for the following parameters:

· Location and reasons for selecting the location.

· Physical layout

· Cost and availability of machinery, equipments, raw material

· List of suppliers and, if possible, distributors

· Cost of manufacturing

· Quality management

· Production scheduling, capacity management and inventory management.

· Changes in above in the case of expansion of business.

Financial plan:Financial plan indicates the financial requirements of the proposed business enterprise such as:

Projected cash flows

Projected income statement

Projected break-even point

Projected ratios

Projected balance sheet

Project report preparation:

A successful project report must achieve the following objectives:

Be appropriately arranged, with an executive summery, a table of contents and its chapters in correct order.

Be the right length and have the right appearance.

Give a sense of what you and your company expect to accomplish.

Explain in quantitative and qualitative terms, the benefits to the user of your company products and services.

Present hard evidence of the marketability of the products and services.

Describe the manufacturing or operating process and associated costs.

Contain believable finical projections, with key data explained and documented.

Show how investors can cash out in three to seven years, with appropriate capital appreciation.
Advantages of business planning:

Potential benefits realized from the development of a business plan include:

· Improved understanding of opportunities, problems and weaknesses.

· Greater control over the organization.

· A valuable source of information about your business that may be required by third parties.

· Improved use of your company personal resulting from participation in the business planning process.

· Increased employee motivation.

· Increased profits and sustained growth.

How To Research Home Business Ideas

Starting a business from home can be a profitable and flexible way to earn a living. Most people, however, do not have a good idea what kind of business they want to start. With a little effort, these individuals can learn the proper way to research for home business ideas through various resources that are readily available. Information is the key to good business practices, and finding a good business idea through proper research is the most effective way to be successful as a new business owner.

By conducting good research through online and other resources, individuals will be able to find an idea for an at home business as well as learn how to start and maintain it. The easiest and most effective way to search for ideas for a home business is online. There are several reputable sites that are great resources. It is important for individuals looking for online resources to make sure the sites are legitimate and do not require any money. Most costly, illegitimate sites are filled with empty promises and usually do not offer any helpful insight into looking for business ideas.

Homebiztools is a helpful site that links people to various articles and blogs written by professionals who have expert knowledge on starting a home business. The site also offers business resources with access to e-books and newsletters that explain how to start a home business, as well as give advice on promoting the business and making it succeed. AHBBO is another helpful site that offers a variety of tools to help individuals research home business ideas. They categorize business ideas in alphabetically to allow users to browse with greater ease. The site offers over 130 home business ideas that do not require a lot of money to start, which adds to the appeal since many of the advertised business ideas are scams for other companies to get money. With the variety and legitimacy that this site offers, it is a clear front runner for researching good home business ideas.

Entrepreneur.com is another online resource that individuals can use to research home business ideas. They have how-to guides to teach individuals how to start a home business with greater ease. Entrepreneur also provides the basics of starting a business, which gives readers a good place to start their home businesses. One of the most interesting aspects of this site is the many success stories of individuals who have used their advice and have went on to start and maintain successful home businesses.

At-HomeWorks has good ideas for home businesses in various different industries. They suggest starting home businesses that are good for stay-at-home moms, as well as retirees. Since they focus their business ideas on a variety of different groups, it makes for a better and more informative site. People who use this site will be able to spend less time looking through ideas that will not work for them and can focus on the ideas that will.

Although starting a home business can be difficult, coming up with a good home business idea can be an even bigger obstacle. If individuals can learn to take the time to research legitimate business ideas online, they will be better prepared and more ready to start a successful business venture. By doing the proper research, individuals will learn the advantages and disadvantages of various industries and have a better chance at starting a successful home business.