Sometimes the key to making more money is spending less of it.

Earlier, our team here at the Victoria Stilwell Academy offered tips on how to increase your dog training revenue. Now it’s time to take a quick look at your bottom line. Could your business be leaking dollars, drip by drip? We have eight tips that could help reduce your dog training business costs.

1. Run a time audit

The first step to reducing business costs is to use your time well. Time is the second-most valuable commodity of a successful pet professional — next to your dog-training savvy! A time audit can show you exactly where you are investing your hours.

    • Track your time for a month with an app like Toggl or Clockify. Are you investing most of your valuable time in your paying dog training clients, or are you always in your car commuting from session to session, spending countless hours on errands, answering email, or poring over business management tasks? Once you discover what less-important tasks are gobbling up valuable hours, you can take steps to streamline them through reorganization, self-imposed time limits, or by getting expert help.
    • Are those “short decompression breaks” on your smartphone adding up to lost hours that you could be spending with a new client or truly relaxing with a human or canine companion? The Digital Wellbeing app is already installed on your Android phone, and you’ll find Screen Time on your iPhone. Both track and help manage the time you spend on your device, and they are already right there in your pocket.

2. Get a handle on the daily cost of doing business

Knowing how much you spend on your dog training business is the best way to discover if (and where) you are losing cash. If you want to really dig into your finances, you can find a checklist for a small business self-audit, here.

Or, if you’d like a simpler method, buy a notebook and dedicate a month to jotting down every single expense, from monthly bills to the small purchases you cover out of your own wallet. Include non-deductible costs or purchases you tend to ignore, like a super-cheap lunch or that quick stop for a single bag of training treats when you left yours behind. Don’t forget to double check your online buying history for hidden purchases.

When you see your real day-to-day expenses, you can make smart choices to block money leaks. Depending on where you see money dripping away, that could mean choosing one gas station with a customer loyalty discount, buying often-used supplies in bulk, logging even tiny deductible expenses instead of paying out-of-pocket (they add up), using curbside service to avoid in-store impulse buys, or setting a monthly limit on unplanned online purchases.

3. Revisit insurance costs

If it’s been years since you compared the cost of your vehicle, liability, building, or pet insurance, check online and connect with other insured dog trainers to be sure you have the best deal.

Keep in mind there’s more value to insurance than just a low monthly payment.

    • If you’re very happy with your current insurance carrier’s exceptional service, it may be better to enjoy your worry-free relationship than save a few dollars with an unknown company.
    • Check the actual benefits the insurer offers for their price. For example, some auto insurers include as-needed towing, glass replacement, lock-out services, or rental car coverage after an accident. Others do not. It may be worth a few extra bucks per month for exceptional coverage if you can’t afford to cover the full cost of a rental car to keep your business going after a serious accident.

4. Monthly subscriptions: Use them or lose them

You might be surprised at the monthly subscriptions slowly adding to your credit card balance.

    • How often do you use the subscriptions services you are paying for? If you plan to start using that cool video-editing software for future training videos, but you haven’t touched it since you clicked “buy,” consider canceling and re-subscribing when you have the time.
    • When you are tempted by an online service but don’t immediately see a free option on their payment page, run a fast online search for “Does (this app) offer a free version?” to verify. Choose “free” when you can, then upgrade once you’re sure the app is truly helpful and that you are actually using it.
    • Are you still paying for hosting on an old unused webpage? Save the content you need, contact the service provider with any questions you have about the URL, then say goodbye. Even if you decide to pay to keep or forward the URL, the resulting cost will probably be lower than hosting an out-of-date page. It’s also possible the presence of your old site is causing client confusion and lost revenue.

 5. Exchange services with other small businesses

The barter system is alive and well, and your dog training services are highly valued. When opportunities arise, you can create relationships with other local businesses to exchange services rather than paying one another in cash. Think end-of-year bookkeeping services, videography for a training video, pet boarding, and more. Swap only for services that are of real value to you. Be certain to set clear limits on the time both you and your business partner will be investing, so no one ends up coming out on the short end of the arrangement. Attend local business networking events to get to know small business owners in your area; this is a good idea even if you decide not to dabble in barter. Like all income, barter is taxable.

6. Create partnerships

Similarly, keep your eyes and imagination open for partnerships with other pet professionals that benefit you both. For example, a non-competing pet business with facility space – like a dog daycare or private dog park – may be happy to have you hold classes there in return for a special discount for their own customers. You save the cost of renting space and they get a customer benefit that their competitors don’t offer.

7. Take advantage of virtual technology

Reduce your travel costs by mining the public’s new familiarity with Zoom and Skype. Online meetings to onboard new dog training clients or consult with a veterinary behaviorist are more insightful than phone calls and won’t eat up time and gasoline like in-person visits.

And if the pandemic hasn’t already nudged you toward the world of online dog training, consider whether online education is a match for your business. If you are comfortable in front of a camera and have access to a videographer, online dog training will add a valued option for your clients without piling onto your time and travel. If you need a dose of online inspiration, check out Victoria’s dog training playlist here.

8. Use your professional association benefits

Membership with a respected association for pet professionals looks great on your website and helps establish trust with future clients. But the real value from your membership fee comes through the educational and networking benefits that good associations offer. Some associations offer money-saving benefits like insurance discounts, too. Mark your association’s email with high priority in your inbox. Watch for benefit announcements and get those webinars and events on your calendar so they don’t slip by. The education you miss isn’t something you can track like dollars, but it certainly costs you in missed opportunities and lost revenue in the future.

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