At Patriot Software, we’re committed to providing accounting and payroll software that lets small business owners keep their time and money for what they love: running their business!
Our #PatriotSpotlight customer success stories celebrate and inspire U.S. small business owners across the country. For our January small business spotlight, we spoke to Michael Gee, co-owner with his wife Renee of Tennessee-based mobile pet grooming company, Zen Dog Mobile Spa.
Zen Dog Mobile Spa has been in business since June 2018, and before that was a brick-and-mortar business since 2001. With two state-of-the-art mobile salons and the only NDGAA Certified Master Groomer in the area, Zen Dog Mobile Spa delivers a stress-free grooming experience … for dogs and their owners!
What gave you the idea to start a mobile dog grooming business?
We had owned a brick and mortar for 17 years (Renee opened it in 2001), and it was the premier boarding and grooming facility in Tennessee. We’ve always had a waitlist—we were booked a year in advance—and decided to reduce overhead and workload and go mobile.
So, we bought two mobile vans for my wife and me and the groomer who has been with us for 12 years. We’re still booked a year in advance with an extensive waitlist!
Can you tell me a little bit about what you do?
Dog grooming—but more than that. It’s a convenience-based business. We pull up to the house either in the driveway or street (whichever is most level). The owner either hands us the pet or provides a key or code for us.
We have state-of-the-art mobile grooming salons and offer one-on-one time with the family pet. There are no other barking dogs, we have a quick and easy turnaround, and owners don’t need to fight traffic to get to us.
We take all that stress and workload off the owner’s shoulders and more importantly take the stress off of the pet. An hour later, the pet is done and we are on our way with little interruption to the client’s day.
What’s your favorite part of owning Zen Dog Mobile Spa?
The freedom to set your schedule as you need to is my favorite part. Now that we’re mobile, we can start our day when we want. We have time between clients (when we’re traveling) to sit down and relax, rather than standing at a table for eight hours a day. The flexibility is through the roof!
How many hours do you typically work per week?
Before, when we had a boarding and grooming facility, we worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week.
Now, with the mobile spa, we probably put in about 30 hours a week but still get the amount of business done as we did in the shop.
What are some of the biggest challenges of being a business owner?
In our kind of business, scheduling is one of the biggest challenges. Unlike the brick and mortar—everything is time-based, so scheduling is my number one headache. I started scheduling four and a half months ago and just finished a week and a half ago. Our clients book a year in advance!
We have to set up the schedule. Our area is not small, so we have it divided into five areas. We have to figure daily routing to determine what is your best, easiest route for a day to go from your first client to your last client to reduce gas use in the most time-efficient manner.
I ended up doing spreadsheets and maps. Now, I’ve got it down to a 3-mile radius each day (down from 10).
How does Patriot Software help you run your business?
With Patriot, I just plug in numbers every two weeks and payroll is done. Takes no time whatsoever. Everyone here is based on commission—they give me their totals, and all I have to do is open Patriot, put in the numbers I need to put in, hit a button, and print off W-2s. Patriot does all the tax forms for us.
We have three employees, so it takes me a minute to a minute and a half every other Friday to run payroll. That’s a time-saver that I can just not beat. And, it’s a headache I do not have. I’ve done my own payroll before, and I’ll never go back to it!
What are you most proud of when it comes to your business?
Our reputation and our standing in the community. Anywhere we go, I run into a client who goes out of their way to talk to us.
Ninety percent of the time when I get a new client phone call, they’ve heard about us from someone who’s using us. They know that there’s a wait, but they’re fine with it because they want to get in to see us. Our best advertising is word of mouth, followed by the mobile salons with their graphics!
We have a 99% repeat customer base. Once our customers see the quality of work our groomers do and the quality of our vans, they come back. It’s all about appearances, and you cannot get a better one than our state-of-the-art mobile spa.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Free time? What’s that?
We have our own home gym and workout every day—my wife competes in women’s physique. I also ride Harley’s when time permits. We have eight dogs total: French bulldogs, standard poodles, and pugs. That’s our little family. Ah! And a cat too!!
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to people thinking about starting a business?
Let me grab Renee on that one…
You’ve got to look at it in the long-run. You can’t expect your business to take off immediately. It’s like raising a child—you have to nurture it, baby it, raise it. And, you have to love what you’re doing. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you’ll burn out and then you’re just wasting your time.
You must love every aspect—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and (going back to the baby analogy) be willing to change the business’s diapers to keep it going.
If you nurture it and put everything into it, it’ll thrive. And people will know you love your business and it’s your baby rather than just a shop. You can tell the difference between the businesses that are dirty and unfriendly and working for a paycheck vs. the ones that love what they do.
We’ve put everything we have into our business and continue to put everything into it. The minute you slack off … there’s someone else waiting behind you to take your spot.
Connect with Zen Dog Mobile Spa online: