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Starting a Successful Pooper Scooper (or Other) Business

Date Added: February 08, 2013 11:01:10 PM
Author: Pooperoni Admin
Category: Learn

Original article by Matthew Osborn, exclusively for Pooperoni.com

GETTING YOUR BUSINESS MIND RIGHT

Over the past 25 years of running my own businesses, especially in the 15 years that I’ve concentrated on helping others get started on their own, I have been asked many times what I think are the most important things for starting a successful business. Here are some of my ideas about fundamental attitudes that will help you get started on the right foot.

FIND A NEED AND FILL IT. I think this is essential when you’re first deciding what kind of business to start. Find a problem you can solve for people. Nobody‘s going to be your customer just because you always wanted to own your own business, but lots of people will gladly pay you for making their lives easier or helping them obtain something they want. Your solution to other people’s problems is the value you create. Be crystal clear about what you are going to do for people in exchange for their money. All businesses, even non-profits, are ultimately a matter of offering to solve problems for other people.

KEEP COSTS LOW. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” By starting small, using guerilla marketing, and bootstrapping your business, you can avoid the crippling debt that kills so many dreams. Maybe for your first few orders you can use your car rather than buying a truck right away. You might make use of a local instant printer’s service to make up copies of a book a few at a time as the orders come in until you sell enough books to have the cash to order a larger print run. You may need to start your business part time while you keep your old job to pay the bills. You can start to cut back on the hours at the old job and gradually acquire better equipment and do more advertising as you see more money coming in from your business.

SET A PRICE. A lot of people have trouble setting a price. But if you don’t have a price, you can’t make an offer. I see a lot of new businesspeople afraid of charging too much, and so they end up charging too little. Charging too little benefits no one in the long run, because it won’t produce enough cash to stay in business. A price too low will make you resent you’re the work you’re doing, even when you are working for yourself, and won’t provide the funds you’ll need to buy better equipment, obtain proper insurance, or maintain reliable transportation. It will make you unhappy and undermine your ability to make customers happy. Sometimes a higher price will even produce a greater number of sales because people think a very low price means poor quality. Charge enough to make it worthwhile to stay in business. Also keep your prices simple and easy to understand. Having to look through a spreadsheet of options and variables, or having to compute some kind of complicated formula, makes it difficult to buy from you. People just want to know how much it’s going to cost. Have an answer ready for them.

MAKE AN OFFER. Daydreaming can be fun, but until you actually offer someone something to buy, you’re just fantasizing. Making an offer to a real human being is what will make your business a reality. Put an offer in front of people. A lot of people are going to say “No.” That’s OK. Your offer won’t be right for everyone. But it will be right for some people, and you’ll get to that first “Yes.“ And baby, there’s nothing like the feeling of making that first sale in a new project! It’s exhilarating, and it drives you on with renewed energy to make more sales. Let people know about your new business! Hand out lots of business cards. When you meet people and they ask what you do, tell them about your business in one simple sentence. Take out a classified ad in the paper and put a listing on Craigslist.org. Put business cards or flyers on bulletin boards and ask if you can leave cards on counters at related, but not competing, businesses. If you’re selling to businesses, make some calls, write some letters, open some doors and start talking. Learn to write a simple news release and send it to your local newspapers and radio and TV news programs. Be ready with your price when people call, and be ready to set an appointment or ship the order.

DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU WILL DO. When you do what you say you will do, customers are happy. If that means double-checking your work and it takes longer than you thought it would, do it. If it means filling an order even though you couldn’t get the product at the price you thought you could, fill the order. Maybe it will mean a job on which you don’t make a profit. Maybe you’ll have to re-adjust your prices after this, but do the thing you told the customer you would do at the price you said you‘d do it for. The customer shouldn’t have to worry about your problems. This will differentiate you from most of the businesses out there, making you reliable and trustworthy. And when you do a little bit more than you lead them to expect, they are delighted. So never over-promise! In fact, you should under-promise and over-deliver.

MAKE IT EASY FOR PEOPLE TO PAY YOU. Will you take a check? Certainly! Cash? Of course! Send a Paypal invoice by email? No problem! Credit card? Uhm… You might have to tell people that they can use their credit card to pay you through Paypal or 2Checkout.com or Stripe.com or one of the other online payment systems because getting your own credit card merchant account with the big banks might not be so easy, and there are some pretty tough compliance issues when it comes to handling credit card numbers yourself. But Hey! Where’s there’s a will, there’s a way. Paypal.com and Intuit’s GoPayment.com offer a free device you can use with your smart phone that lets customers use their credit cards to pay you anywhere you happen to be. Whether it’s as simple as taking cash on the spot, or setting up accounts with third-party services so that you’ll be ready when it’s time to get paid, do everything you can to make it as convenient, simple, quick, and easy as possible for people to give you money.

ADAPT, WORK AROUND, AND UPGRADE YOUR SKILLS. If it were easy to run a business everyone would be doing it -- and everyone’s not doing it. Some people see an obstacle as a reason to stop and give up. Business owners know better than that. A obstacle is something to get around, climb over, or obliterate. When some plan doesn’t work out the way you thought it would, find workarounds or alternatives. For instance, right after I started my service business my car died and I had no way of getting to the customers‘ yards. (I actually thought about using public transportation to get to the sites!). So I made a deal with a friend: I’d read him a list of stops over the phone, he’d write them down and run the routes and I‘d pay him half of the money. That kept the business going until I could replace my car. You will also likely find it necessary to increase your knowledge and skills as you go along. You might need to learn to use new software to increase your efficiency. You may need to learn to fix your trucks. Maybe you’ll put a giant map on the wall and use pins to mark clients’ locations to visualize the best routes. Maybe you won’t do any of those things, but you will have to overcome your own obstacles, so keep your mind nimble!

USE THE HELP THAT IS AVAILABLE. Find and use the resources that exist to help you with business. Use the public library and ask the librarians to help you find answers you need. Your state’s Secretary of State or Department of Commerce can help with clarifying what, if any, licenses or permits you may need and direct you to other programs to help you. Make use of the of the Small Business Administration’s free S.C.O.R.E. program. The SBA also has a page for you to enter your location for links to resources in your area - see http://www.sba.gov/licenses-and-permits. You might use services other businesses offer, such as bookkeeping and payroll, for instance. I found that a payroll service could help me comply with employment taxes and bookkeeping requirements at a lower cost than taking the time to do it myself, literally! In the hours it would take me to do it, I could be out earning more than it cost to pay them to do it.

KEEP AT IT, EVEN ON BAD DAYS. Just because you’re working for yourself doesn’t mean there won’t be any bad days - there will be. Know your priorities and focus on the work. When I’d been in business for a few months I got sick. I couldn’t take time off because I was the only one to do the work. So, sick as a dog, sopping wet and shivering in the cold rain, I was out there working. I thought, “Why the heck am I doing this?!” But I knew the answer. I kept repeating to myself how much money I was making per hour, over and over and over, like a mantra. It was more money that I could make at a job, and I was doing it for survival. I was doing it for that week’s groceries, and to buy my little girl some shoes, and to build something of value for myself and my family. If you haven’t yet learned how to say to yourself “It’s only pain,” when getting a job done is more important than the discomfort of doing it, well, starting your own business could be the experience that teaches you how to do that.

MATTHEW OSBORN has been called “America’s doo-doo guru.” The founder of Pet Butler in Columbus, Ohio, in 1988, he’s the author of “The Professional Pooper-Scooper,” a startup manual for the dog waste removal service business. Matthew moderates Scoopers & Friends, a free forum where scoopers exchange stories, suggestions, and information, at http://www.Pooper-Scooper.com/discus.