As we hit the beginning of November it’s time to start planning for the usual annual holiday downtime. Other than much needed days off, how should we prioritize annual administration tasks? What gets us the most bang for the time spent?
Get holiday/thank you cards and gifts ordered
Even if you’re not comfortable sending out cards wishing clients a happy holiday, you can still send out thank you cards. “Thank you for making this year so special.” Why send out cards? Those clients you worked with back in March may be having new problems or may have neighbors who are getting a new puppy. Getting your name in front of them again encourages referrals. Watch for deals on printing websites such as VistaPrint and FedEx/Kinkos.
Send thank you gifts to clients and veterinarians with the largest referrals. A gift basket with healthy snacks that can be shared by the veterinarian team or family can be cheap and easy to make. Delivering gifts in person allows you to see if referrers need more cards, brochures, or are planning any events that you might be able to participate in.
Review accounting software and systems to prepare for tax time
Tax time is typically a busy time for dog trainers since it follows on the heels of holiday puppy season. Taking the time to review your system, whether it’s working, and whether there is a better alternative can save you hours in the next year. How are you tracking your income each day? How are you tracking income and expenses? How are you tracking client packages, discounts, and referral bonuses? If you have a sliding scale of rates, which one did you charge most this year? Are you decreasing your income more than you think? Are items you supply such as treats really eating into your bottom line?
The best accounting system to use is the one you’ll actually use. If you find yourself trying to recreate income and enter receipts weeks after you’ve earned or spent the money, your system isn’t working. If your system requires hours of work each week, it may be time to spend some money on an automated or semi-automated system such as Wave, Xero, QuickBooks or Godaddy Bookkeeping.
Are you saving for retirement or emergencies? This is an area most dog trainers neglect. Just do it. Even $10 a month in a savings account is better than nothing.
Review time-tracking, scheduling, and client management systems.
Are you spending hours each week sending reminders or calling clients to remind them of appointments? Are you entering appointments in multiple places? Have you missed multiple appointments this year? How do you track client applications and waivers?
There are as many systems as there are dog trainers. The one to use is the one that saves you the most time and gets you where you’re supposed to be at the right time. Online forms built into your website can save you some typing, and most forms can forward to a newsletter email list through Zapier.
There are numerous CRM’s (Customer Relationship Management systems) out there. Some are as simple as a spreadsheet, and some have the ability to send reminders, schedule appointments, and store homework. Popular paid solutions include Evernote, Nimble, DogBizPro, SuperSaas, Google for Work, Highrise, and PocketSuite.
How much time are you spending doing individual homework instructions for each client? Should you spend some time building your own library so you can just copy/paste/individualize for new clients?
Review website design, keywords, and search engine optimization.
If you haven’t done it already, first on your list is to set up a Google Search Console account. Formerly known as Webmaster Tools, this service will tell you how Google sees your website, from the density of important keywords like, “dog training,” to which page people leave your website from. The last page they see is important. For example, if visitors are getting to your Contact page and then bailing, your form may be too long.
Is information easy to find? How far into your website does a visitor need to go to find scheduling times, group class start dates, registration, and pricing information? Is your location and phone number on every page? Does your layout and content look professional?
Google yourself. What page of Google does your business appear on? Who are your biggest competitors and how do they rank higher? Check out their keywords, descriptions that appear on the Google search results, page titles, etc. They’re doing it right. Take notes and see how to incorporate some of those ideas into your own website.
Make plans and goals for the new year.
Will you be giving yourself a raise? If so, is it in-line with your competition? Will you announce it on your website or just charge new clients the new amount and old clients the old amount? While it may seem nicer to grandfather in existing clients, the more charging tiers you have the more difficult it is to track exactly how much you’re making each week.
Are you planning a certification or organization membership or do you really want to go to a conference? Work on your budget now so you have the money to do it. Conference registration costs are about $40 a month without airfare and hotel. Can you set aside $5 per client hour for ongoing education and certification costs? How will you remember to do it and put those funds in a safe place?
Are you low on veterinarian referrals? How can you make yourself more desirable and promote yourself to that group of people? Spend some time setting up a plan and the materials you’ll need to introduce yourself.
Can you pivot by adding a new service? Could you be making some money on retail sales? If you’re always sending links to online sources for treats, harnesses, interactive toys, treat bags, etc., does it make sense to do a minimum wholesale order and charge retail prices at the client’s session? The client gets the item right away, and you get a little extra money. Warning, this will usually require a wholesaler’s license and more accounting due to taxes. It may not be worth the headache, but it’s something you should review.
Catch up on learning. Are you behind in some of the newest techniques and training protocols? You might consider signing up with Tawzer Dog DVD Rentals for a few months to catch up. You can also read some of those books you purchased through the year and incorporate them into new training plans for next year.
What items are on your “to do” list for the end of the year?
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