Mother and son – and business partners – Laura Laamans and Craig Laamans often meet wonderful people who take their passion for pets and launch a business. Whether they are a veterinarian opening a practice, or someone changing careers to establish a pet lodging facility, many find themselves in the same situation: they can’t compete without lowering prices and destroying the revenue base they need to provide great services. This is where the Outstanding Pet Care Team excels with expertise and technology to help these business owners to succeed – and guarantee that success in writing. They were gracious enough to sit down with us and share some of their insights.
Craig: You build it and they will come. That may have been true 20 years ago, but the industry is now highly competitive. It is essential to convert prospects to happy paying clients. Many times a lodge owner will get a phone call from a pet owner who only asks two questions “Do you have space?” and “How much is it?” The lodge owner says “Yup” and “$50”. The pet owner hangs up – and the pet lodge owner has lost the opportunity to get that client because they didn’t explain how they deliver amazing care. You have to get enough calls and you have to connect to those callers’ emotions. It is an emotional industry. Once you connect, you can have a customer for life. Providing great pet care is expensive and likely more expensive than what the customer might expect. This makes it even more important that everything is consistent: branding, images, messaging – helping to convey the value you bring. And allowing you to charge properly to enable you to have everything you need.
Laura: We are finding the new business owners coming in now have more of a plan. They are mature and typically have worked in another career, maybe as a lawyer or similar corporate role. They are better capitalized, have done their homework – including running feasibility studies – and more. We enjoy helping these owners take it to the next level.
Laura: The owners are lovely people who adore pets. They’ve made the decision that they don’t want to be stuck in an office job but surrounded by pets. But they struggle to have a plan and once they open the business it can be chaotic. Phones are ringing, there’s a pet parent crying in the lobby, you are trying to manage staff and day-to-day business. It’s easy to get sucked into the operations level but hard to get the big picture. They are concerned about stepping back to assess. They want to be sure any changes are harmonious with providing amazing care.
Craig: Undercapitalization. Lack of money is one of the biggest challenges in the industry. They don’t have the money to make the necessary investments to move the business to the next level. Instead they are making short term choices that cost them in the long run. They’ve got the wrong systems, they aren’t doing enough advertising or not paying enough to get quality people. The cycle is hard to break without capital. If you do have capital, you have the opportunity to make the right choices.
Laura: Business partnerships can be challenging. Not delineating each person’s role/responsibilities can derail success . Each person needs to know their lane. Have mechanisms in place to hold each accountable. Have goals and steps established to achieving them.
Craig: Partnerships can also be productive if you are aligned with complementary skills sets. If you can find that, you can be successful. You can revisit the initial stages, setting expectations and documenting agreements in writing. Minimize future issues with solid planning. If you disagree, it can lead to staff confusion and to customer issues.
Craig: We have the privilege of working together with complementary skill sets. I admire her. She’s passionate and talented and has a unique skill set. Laura has a great sales background. She has a great way of identifying obstacles, then expressing how to overcome them to clients. I handle a lot of the financial aspects/guidance. Laura is focused on growing the business.
Laura: Craig is very talented in analysis and understanding what they need. He becomes a trusted advisor and our clients know we have nothing but their best interests at heart.
Craig: We get up every day to help clients live their dreams. They just need the expertise and help to succeed. They don’t have the tools. They aren’t making the money they need. They’re stressed. Some are ready to sell because of that stress, but it’s not financially viable. Yet they are so passionate about pets and their pet families. We can help them achieve their dreams.
Laura: We have annual agreements with our clients. We work fast – we are East Coast people – but not frenetic. We want it to be calm, thoughtful and comfortable. Some have been with us for over a decade and enjoy a great quality of life.
Laura: A lender. You need someone to help you be better capitalized and one who understands the business. You need someone you can call to brainstorm with about opportunities. But you also need to be ready to have that discussion at the moment they are ready to brainstorm with you. That means having your financial statements ready to go. This includes our own business. We take pride in having our documents ready to go and that facilitates the paperwork process. We have adored working with Schwanda (Flowers at First Financial Bank) and her team. They’ve been very receptive to helping us move our opportunities forward, for example our own pet lodging business Wiggles. Once you have the kind of money it takes to operate or make improvements, you could spend hundreds of thousand s of dollars – or more – on making the building ready to bring in revenue. This should not be cash. This should be business revenue/capital available to you via a lender.
We really value our relationship with First Financial Bank and think others will too.