Lessons From a Dog Walker

In Sydney’s trendy Paddington the cost of walking your dog is $15 for a half-hour walk (inexplicably, $17.50 for a German Shephard). One particular dog walker manages to walk up to five dogs at a time (I am puzzled as to how she collects their droppings). It seems that the Paddington dog walker has transcended the hourly rate treadmill by having her customers pay up-front on a monthly subscription. She has several uni students helping her and thus is able to scale the enterprise and generate a healthy revenue and an even healthier hourly rate for herself.

Our recent survey of bookkeeping firms indicated that the range between the lower quartile of effective hourly billing rate and the higher quartile is more than 400 percent! Why is it that one bookkeeper earns four times another doing the same work? The easiest way to make more money in a trade or professional is simple: get the price right. There is, of course the matter of service offering.

Market price is a myth

Bookkeepers pitching themselves at a market rate are kidding themselves. There is no such thing as a market price: you set the price. What matters is the service offering.

Dog owners love their dogs and are concerned for their wellbeing and do spend money on their pets. Like credit cards and raising children, it’s another lifestyle expense. A deeper analysis of pet ownership inevitability raises issues of nutrition, grooming and training. Walk into any pet shop or vet practice and you are inundated by accessories, chew toys to ensure dental health, and much more. That’s a service provider’s cornucopia.

Re-imagine your service business

Moving beyond an hourly rate for the dog walker or the bookkeeper is about expanding the vision of the service to, for example, “operating a thriving dog lover’s business” which then offers all those add-on extras that dog owners cannot resist purchasing.

Good marketing is about selling the value so ‘premium’ can be sold as a ‘value’ package. The simple half-hour dog walk can be transformed into a premium package offering several walking sessions a week (one-on-one for the premium client), training, select dog food, nutritional supplements, wash and groom.

How do I sell a higher value service?

Paddington dog walkers have as clientele busy professionals some of whom travel a lot, so the add-on service of dog accommodation (kennel service) would open up, not just the extra revenue potential, but also new clientele of the ideal demographic which would be buyers of the premium service. And dog owners all speak to other dog owners about their dogs; referral business then becomes a source of new clients. In bookkeeping, higher value services such as payroll management, debtor management, cash flow projections and the like will deliver value to the client.

A subscription model

Look no further than the accounting software providers to the accounting and bookkeeping sector. Once it was a one-time purchase of software, today it’s all about ‘solutions’. The lesson from successful dog walkers is to find a niche, lean into the opportunity and set the price that values your services well clear of the mythical market price.