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Pet Indies Share What New Skills They’ve Learned During COVID-19

From tech and cleaning to the more personal, owners and managers have been busy learning during the pandemic.

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IN PART TWO of our COVID-19 Impact Survey, we asked Brain Squad members “What new skills have you learned as a result of this crisis?” The answers ranged from the practical, such as cleaning and improving technical skills, to the more personal skills, such as managing anxiety and practicing patience.

Here is a sampling of answers to this question:

TECHNOLOGY

“The importance of bookings, and utilizing my staff and mobile technology to spread out staff onsite.” Lindsay Loehden, Hyline Hotel for Dogs, Everson, WA

“How to set up online ordering and add curbside pickup as an option to our website upon checkout.” Julie Johannes, Powder Hounds Pet Supply, Bigfork, MT< "More practice on my technology skills." Hope Garlick, Little Paws Of Hope, Westbury, NY

“Customers love the videos I create about products that are posted on Facebook and Instagram.” Colleen O’Fallon, Sweet Paws Bakery, Gainesville, FL

“Ecommerce, curbside pickup, delivery, Facebook Live, promoting products and services in a completely different way.” Taylor Gonzalez, Three Tails Parlor and Pantry, Columbia, IL

“Facebook Live.” Amy Schiek, Lucky Dogs, Skaneateles, NY

“Taking electronic payments through my credit card processor via text or email. I have gotten much better at posting pictures of products in the store.” Victoria Park, Park Pet Supply, Atlanta GA

“To be silly on FB Live.” Diana Farrar, Fifi & Fidos Pet Boutique, San Antonio, TX

“Virtual onboarding.” Asha Olivia, Hoby Dogy Pet Care, Boca Raton, FL

“How to get all our UPCs into our new electronic platform and connect pointy to our Google account.” Stephanie Steelman, Wings Wags and Whiskers, Amarillo, TX

“We’ve always been flexible about shifting how we do business, and this has really helped. Pushed our Facebook Lives, too, and got in front of our customers almost daily.” Jeff Jensen, Four Muddy Paws, St Louis, MO

“Better web management and social media skills.” Jennie Dudley, Hairy Winston, Mt Pleasant, SC

“Using Stories on Facebook and Instagram; they’ve been powerful in getting the word out. Finally using Canva.” Michael Morris, Charmaine’s Pet Spa, Peoria, IL

“I’ve learned that people really do respond to our postings on social media. Pictures and videos and owner speak really to talk to those who are looking for a good dog day care. I haven’t always been the hugest fan of putting myself out there, but day in and day out it is confirmed again that being the face of my business really works.” Angela Pantalone, Wag Central, Stratford, CT

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PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL STRENGTHS

“Resilience. And the ability to redirect on a dime.” Johnna Devereaux, Fetch RI, Richmond, RI

“No new skills, but have sharpened all existing, especially patience.” Toni Shelaske, Healthy Pet Products, Pittsburgh, PA

“I have learned how to act quickly on our feet, including making decisions about what services to offer and how to safely offer those services. I have also learned how to manage our spending better during a time like this.” Natalie Bosch, Albany Pet Hotel, Albany, OR

“The art of dealing with difficult customers.” Bob Bianchi, Blue Ribbon Koi & Marine, Catharpin, VA

“Not that I was a person who panicked before, but this really confirmed that panicking helps nothing. Keep a clear head, thinking things through will prevail always. Panicking makes you make quick decisions that you might regret later.” Paula Gorman, Pet Supplies ‘N’ More, Muskego, WI

“I’m a mom, I can multi-task already, but all of this really time management, whether it’s working with less staff or manning multiple phone calls because of the higher than normal volume of calls.” Ramie Gulyas, Follow Your Nose, Evanston, IL

“Bob, weave, pivot. Setting up new procedures daily and refining them as needed.” Beth Staley, Happy Dog Barkery, Downers Grove, IL

“Dealing with severe anxiety.” Hope Saidel, Golly Gear, Skokie, IL

“Adaptability.” Claudia Loomis, Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies, Stewartsville, NJ

“Prioritizing tasks and managing anxiety.” Rhonda Hobbs, Gurrs & Purrs, Deland, FL

“Learning to say ‘NO HOARDING.'” Nancy Okun, Cats n Dogs, Port Charlotte, FL

“Adapting.” — Jocelyn Turner, Woof Woof Pet Boutique and Biscuit Bar, Bristol, RI

“Drinking and praying more! Does that count? : )” Janet Cesarini, Pupology, Georgetown, TX

“Staying disciplined when working from home!” Keefer Dickerson, Nashville Pet Products, Nashville, TN

“Being fluid and adjusting in a constantly changing environment is a skill unto its own. Being able to recognize and react quickly and efficiently to the changes has been a life saver for us.” Chris Guinn, Dog Krazy, Fredericksburg, VA

“To look outside of my normal realm for income opportunities. This experience has solidified my belief in diverse income streams.” Brigid Wasson, First Street Pets, Cloverdale, CA

“How to nicely harass local officials.” Charlsye Lewis, Metro Animals, Fort Worth, TX

“Meditation to help relieve stress.” Danielle Wilson, Bath & Biscuits, Granville, OH

“Waiting!” Susan Wrublewski, Frisky Fido, Framingham, MA

“Laser-focused on the short-term.” Kimberly Barnes, New England Dog Biscuit, Salem, MA

“More intense networking — reaching out more to my peers and fellow businesspeople. Cleaning — everything.” Dani Edgerton, Paws on Main, Columbiana, OH

MANAGEMENT

“Crisis management and better leadership skills under pressure. My confidence feels stronger during this time of uncertainty as a result.” Julia Rohan, Rover-Time Dog Walking & Pet Sitting

“Through communication the staff may actually realize I care more about them than just being employees.” Paul Lewis, Birds Unlimited, Webster, NY

“Not really new with communication, but new with how to manage distance communication effectively.” Cecelia Michaels, Lickin’ Good Whole Pet Food LLC, Park Rapids, MN

“We’ve had to learn to say no. Many customers still wanted to come on site and wanted to be here often. It’s hard to teach our customers a new way and even harder to say no, but we managed to do it and we feel we were successful at reaching a new way for now.” Sal Salafia, Exotic Pet Birds Inc, Webster, NY

“Calm our clients and keep delivering.” Jodi Miranda, Paw’d Pet Supplies, Coral Springs, FL

CLEANING

“We always had a clean store, but now we have become so much more cognizant to cause and effect that I see us remaining diligent and continuing with the new and improved regiment.” Kimberly Gatto, The Wagging Tail, Las Vegas, NV

“Enhanced sanitization procedures. Telephonic order processing. Order staging and tracking. Deliver service.”  Robert Durham, Willis Feed Mill Co, Willis, MI

DIY

“How to sand and paint displays.” Corey Heenan, Corey’s Canine Creations, Altamont, NY

OPERATIONS

“We can do a local home delivery system.” George Parente, Dogs & Cats Rule, Newtown and Maple Glen, PA, and Pennington and Princeton, NJ

“Picking orders quickly.” Paul Steinberg, Noah’s Ark Pet Shops, Southbridge, MA

“Having to process orders in stages in the front of the house.” Pennye Jones-Napier, The Big Bad Woof, Washington, DC

“Delivering using a route planner, also organizing the delivery.” Rosi Ladouceur, Barrkhaven Pet Boutique and Spaw, Ottawa, ON

“Filling out forms.” Robert Feller, Verona Veterinary Medical Service, Verona, WI

SALES

“Upselling on our phone orders, asking if we can pull treats or chews while we pull the food.” Karen Conell, The Bark Market, Delavan, WI

FINANCIAL

“Taking a deeper look at our finances.” Diane Groff, Other End of the Leash, Durham, NC

As of May 1, 139 owners and managers have responded to part two of our COVID-19 Impact Survey. Stay tuned for more results. Join the PETS+ Brain Squad to take part in surveys. To hear more from your independent pet business peers, join our Facebook Community.

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What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and you’ll get a free T-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and have your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

Pamela Mitchell is the Editor-in-Chief of PETS+. She works from her home office in Houston, TX, with Ty the Boston Terrier as her assistant.

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