Up next in our Client Spotlight series is Lee Taylor-Belcher and Happy Hearts Pet Care! Located in Ann Arbor, MI – home of the University of Michigan (GO BLUE!), Lee and her team have been providing amazing pet care to the university community and beyond for over 20 years! That means for over two decades, Happy Hearts Pet Care is truly care you can count on! Be sure to take a look at Happy Hearts’ website and don’t forget to like them on Facebook too!
What caused you to get into pet sitting?
When I was a kid my dad owned a couple Texaco gas stations and all but 1 of my 5 siblings are small business owners in our town so you could say I was destined to own my own business. Growing up the youngest of 6 kids, we had a house full of pets. Even my dad had to have his own dog so there were always at least 4 dogs, numerous cats, reptiles, we had lambs, goats, ponies and even a pet raccoon named Francis. As I got older and spent more quality time with our family pets it seemed they all became mine, or maybe I became theirs. Our dogs were my shadow, even protecting me when my older siblings would pick on me! I was the neighborhood babysitter/pet sitter from the time I was about 10 and that’s how I earned money for my pony feed and supplies.
After high school my dog “Sly” and I took an adventure to California for a little over a year then came back home to take some accounting and business classes at our community college. I had several office jobs and eventually became an office manager at a local carpet store. I got married at 20 and took a job as a school bus driver so we would have health insurance and had our first son in ’92. It seemed like every job I had, I worked with people who were not happy and stuck in their jobs because they had so many years in but not enough to retire. I didn’t want to grown old doing a job that drained me so I was always thinking of what kind of job I could do for the rest of my life without hating getting out of bed every day to do it. Since I had summers and all the school breaks off everyone always asked me to watch their pets and it began to dawn on me that the time that I felt the most content was when I was with the animals. I enjoyed my dog walks, being outdoors soaking up some fresh air and vitamin D, I got lots of LOVE from all the pets and I could take my son with me. That’s how it started, in 1994, I was going to be the worlds first professional pet sitter! LOL really! After I got my DBA and Insurance I thought I better get some legal forms made so I found an attorney. She is the one who informed me that “pet sitting” was already recognized as a legit business and turned me on to NAPPS. I joined and read “Sit and Grow Rich”. I joined PSI in 1998 and read “Pet Sit for Profit” too.
What is the most fulfilling part of owning a pet sitting business?
At this point I think what I am most proud of is that I have built the largest and longest running professional pet sitting company in my town and knowing how respected Happy Hearts Pet Care LLC is by my colleagues in the pet industry makes me so proud.
What is the most challenging?
I think the most challenging part of my business is staffing. There is a LOT of business here in Ann Arbor and not enough great pet sitting companies. We have many hobby sitters since it’s a college town but they come and go quickly. We’ve also had 3 longer running company owners retire in the last year and another that has a life threatening illness so she has closed down for now. It’s overwhelming to think about how much business I am turning down since finding staff that I can count on for more than temporary work is hard.
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
RETIRED! LOL not really but I wish. I recently did some webinars with a pet sitting coach to try and help get to the next level in my business. It’s not that I need to make more money, I am doing pretty well, but I figure If I have the best business in town – I need some strategies on how to grow without it being more work for me. So in 5 years I imagine I will have an office manager to take some of the load off my back. I hope to add some goats, chickens and horses to my animal family here at the dog gone farm and I want to be able to travel a bit more often.
What has Time To Pet changed the most about how you run your business?
Lets see. I have been in business for 22 years now. For 21 of those years I used a large desk top calendar to keep my schedule and my staff schedule. Imagine 7 peoples daily schedules written in that tiny block with all different colors of ink! LOL I guess a lot like the TTP calendar but all scribbled up with white out and highlighted. It was getting too hard to keep it all straight so I knew I needed to take the step to find software. November 2014 I signed up with another software company that is highly recommended by PSI. At first the tech support team was very helpful getting me set up with the program but I am honestly a techno dummy so after a couple months I think I was getting on their nerves with my questions and I often just did not get it so I felt like I was bothering them every time I emailed them and the few times I called I could hear the eye roll in their voice. So I stopped asking questions and just dealt with what I had figured out with the software which was only the scheduling part. Still helpful that all of my sitters would get a daily/weekly email with their schedule but there was NO APP so if there was a change in schedule I had to call/text them quickly. My clients liked getting confirmations too but most did not find the software easy to use.
THEN I found “Time To Pet” in September 2015. Mike and Kyle were great to email with through the set up, they transferred all of my data over from the other software and any time I had a question or felt frustrated they responded promptly and never seemed short with me – maybe laughing at me but not annoyed : )
So NO MORE messy desk top calendar. I don’t need 7 different color ink pens. No more spending my Sunday evening talking to all of my sitters for hours. Now I know what and when visits are completed. When I need to pay my staff I don’t have to squint and count each days visits on that tiny desk top calendar to verify their invoice. My clients love the software and are using it to schedule their own visits. We are transitioning to using the software to store client contracts and vet release forms so eventually we wont even need to carry client files with us. I can invoice my clients by email now! (I could not do that with my old software because I wasn’t linked with QB). And my clients can pay on line right from their portal. I still have a lot to learn about how to use Time To Pet features but I am an old dog learning new tricks : )