20 Years Of Owning A Small Business: The Ups & Downs

 

Courtney And Bart Jumping For JoyThis past weekend, we celebrated our 20th anniversary of being in business at DogBoy’s Dog Ranch. Being owners of a mom-and-pop small business, especially if you live on the property, there are a lot of ups and downs that come with being an entrepreneur. Over the course of 20 years, you tend to gain some experience and wisdom. If you are starting a new business, considering it, or if you are just curious about the wild world of running a small business, here are some things you could face:

Your Employees Are Like Your Kids…

First of all, all of your employees, especially if they’re younger than you, end up becoming like your adopted children. As you take on the ‘surrogate parent’ role, you start developing parental expectations and hopes for your employees. There’s a certain level of maturity that you’re always hoping to instill in them so they can grow into being full grown adults and responsible people in society. The ultimate goal is for these young people to leave DogBoy’s better off than when they arrived at the Ranch.

You Will Deal with Workplace Drama…

Our staff likes to snuggle on their breaksIn any industry where you have good people working with things they are passionate about there’s bound to be some drama. This definitely holds true when having a bunch of passionate, dog loving people that work for you. Some days bring lots of laughter, and others some tears. We’ve had weddings, divorces, new babies, and seen pets come and go. Honestly, you know, living on the property, especially with the way our buildings are arranged, is kind of like living in a fishbowl.

We have buildings on almost every side of our home. So, there’s always employees walking around our house, within eyesight and ear shot. So, we hear most everything that goes on with our employees, and, many times, they hear most everything that goes on with our family. So, you can’t, you know, have a fight in the driveway without worrying about a customer or an employee hearing you.

Your House And Office Become Interchangeable…

Working From HomeMost people with full-time jobs understand the mentality of trying to not “take your work home with you”. When you live on the same property as your business though, this kind of effort sometimes becomes an impossible task. Owning a kennel, we do A LOT of laundry. If the washing machine or dryer breaks down, then our employees are knocking on our back door asking if they can come in and do laundry at our home. Sometimes it’s, you know, it’s 20 loads of laundry. It just really depends. If they run out of towels, we send some old ones over. If they run out of toilet paper (or we do), we just walk next door and get some.

We have an on-call system with managers that are in charge if something goes wrong on the weekends. But if it’s a serious emergency, the kennel staffers don’t have time to wait for a manager to drive from their house. They still call us, because we’re right next door. So, it only makes sense that we would come over and help them go to the vet or attend to another urgent problem.

In the early years, I even had customers knocking on my door on Thanksgiving day, wanting to drop off their dogs because the kennel wasn’t open and, you know, surely I’m home. So, why can’t I just take their dog?

Now, with all that being said, all the intrusions to our privacy, the sacrifices that we have to make as a family living on the property, and dealing with employees and customers, we do sometimes wonder, you know, is it all worth it?

You’re Only As Strong As Your Team

It’s been a whole 20 years. Looking back on that amount of time, I could fill these pages with endless stories, good and bad. But this past weekend, celebrating our 20th anniversary, really kind of brought it all home. Because, right in the middle of our third annual “Christmas in the Dog Park,” celebrating our 20 years in business, we actually had a family emergency right at the house. My 18-year-old son had a seizure. It was the first one we’ve ever known about formally, and it was terrifying. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do. I yelled out for help and called Bart to Call 911.

The whole familyWithin seconds, my handyman was in my garage trying to revive my son. He ran to get my husband. Bart called 911 and joined my side as we tried to wake up our son. My receptionist ran to the house to see if there was anything she could do, and to let me know what she would tell customers. My office manager took over as “Hostess with the mostest”, and made sure that all the guests were still having fun, and that everyone was relaxed and calm and knew that we had things under control.

We even had colleagues and customers trying to help. I found out later, in addition to our employees truly holding down the fort, my content strategy guy had come by the ranch to say hello, and since we weren’t around he ended up helping my receptionist fix the toilet in the office!

You know, honestly, it wasn’t that every employee came to me to do anything specific, the thing that was so great is that everyone else who was working that day just took care of everything. They didn’t need any guidance to know what to do. They took care of the event, and the event itself went off without a hitch. We were in the hospital being mom and dad and taking care of our son, but we didn’t have anything to worry about by not being at the Ranch because of our amazing team.

Looking Forward To The Next 20 Years

Courtney and Bart on vacationIn the early years, we worked without any breaks at all, and I mean 3 YEARS without a vacation. But over the last several years, we have gotten more and more time away from the Ranch to enjoy life, our kids and each other. And for close to five years in a row we were able to take a month off every summer, because we have a team of people that knows what they’re doing and can take care of everything in our absence.

We can absolutely trust every employee that works for us. They all care an enormous amount about the dogs that visit here and they always do the right thing, every time. We honestly don’t have to worry, and that is such an amazing gift to have as a business owner. It’s wonderful to have a staff full of people that care so much about what they do, and don’t ever require micromanaging for every little thing that comes up.

So, are there cons?

Sure.

Is your privacy affected?

Yes.

Do things not always work out the way that you think they will?

Absolutely.

But, honestly, when it’s all said and done, this is just such a wonderful business to be in and I truly believe we are so, so lucky to have chosen this as our vocation because it is truly a dream come true.

Loving dogs and their people is the BEST JOB EVER. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


All Images property of Dog Boy’s Dog Ranch

Jump by EK Photography

 

By | 2017-08-11T18:54:28+00:00 December 18th, 2015|dog boarding, DogBoys, family, small business|0 Comments

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