Dog Walkers and Pet Sitters

Pay Raises When Your Business Bleeds Red – Business Recovery Part II

by Lesley White, Owner, Peak City Puppy

Note: March is the 1-year mark of COVID-19’s impact on all of our lives. This is the second in a 4-week series on how Peak City Puppy will continue to rise to the business challenge of recovering our small business.

The Team is Our Greatest Asset & Source of Strength

Earlier this month, we announced our approach to recover our business: “We’re starting 2021 in a direction of growth, however incremental. In essence, we’re looking within for ways to recover our business, rather than outsourcing the job. Leveraging what’s made and kept us strong all these years rather than seeking a new and improved identity.

I can not think of a better place to begin leveraging our strengths than with a focus on our Team. In fact, our team is essentially our product and as such, it’s our greatest asset. When someone hears about Peak City Puppy through word of mouth, it’s likely they are hearing about the individual efforts of a team member who made an excellent impression on her customer. Just read some of last year’s reviews of our Team to see how beloved they are by their clients:

What we didn’t expect is that our walker, Nancy, would become such an invaluable part of our family. She loves our dogs like they are her own. Once (she) offered to take our dog to the emergency vet after she got to our house and realized one of our pups wasn’t well.”

– Lisa J., Cary, Google Review 2020

I have been a customer for three years and consider Karen to be family…The dog walks as well as the home pet sitting services are top notch with great communication and updates on how my pets are doing especially when we are on vacation and beach trips.

– Jim B., Apex, Google Review 2020

Retaining Our Team is Vital to Our Success

No matter how much we love our team members however, there’s no denying that COVID-19 took a toll on them in 2020. With company revenues never reaching over 40% of pre-pandemic numbers, our team’s personal incomes were affected greatly. We worked hard to rally our client base in the early months of the pandemic and the generosity shown to the team is a true testament to the relationships that formed long before COVID kept everyone home. Team members’ incomes were supplemented by almost 20% through donations and gratuities from our incredible and supremely loyal client base.

A round of PPP funding helped with direct payments to the team as supplemental income, but by year’s end, we had lost 1/3 of our team due to economic concerns and the need to seek employment that could remain stable. We completely understood.

As a business owner who knows from 13 years experience that it’s SO much better to keep good employees than hire and have train new ones, I had to take action. During our lowest month of the year when revenues fell below 25% of pre-COVID numbers, I announced a pay increase for our dog walking team. It had been three years since our last pay adjustment and though I knew this decision would cut further into our net income (deficit), it was 100% the right thing to do. Team members began seeing their pay increases with their February payroll and several of them reached out specifically to acknowledge the impact it had on their own monthly bottom line.

Building for the Future

Without getting too far of left field, I believe that single decision set our Team on a new course. With motivation renewed and a commitment internally to begin reaching back out to our client base, our revenues in February and now in March are climbing once again. It seems the gamble of paying the team more per visit was well-timed after-all, despite it seeming impossible when the actual decision was made.

Which is why we’re proud to announce, we’re doubling-down even more as we fully commit to the idea that we’re building back better in 2021. Yesterday, I announced three part-time positions to help build out our Administrative team to support the future we’ve designed. We can’t afford full-time salaries yet, but our focus is on promoting from within our own talent pool and developing our team to support some of our core functions: Social Media/Client Engagement; Business Analytics and most important, a Field Manager to provide daily support, training and expertise.

We’ll announce these positions by the end of March and however small they may need to start, the intention is clear: we’re not just planning to ‘recover’ from COVID; we’re planning to thrive as a result of it.

Lesley White is Founder and Owner of a Team of 20 pet professionals who set the standard in dog walking & pet sitting in Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, Raleigh, Fuquay Varina, Morrisville and New Hill, NC. She lives in Apex with her husband, 2 young daughters, adult son and a rescue mixed breed dog named Little Bear.