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The Perils of Shipping Animals and — Oh My! — Taxidermist Referrals?

We answer your most pressing questions.

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I have a small grooming operation. What’s the protocol when you’re busy and the phone rings? Answer the call and put it on hold, or let it go to voicemail?

This is really about personal preference. But Pauline Blachford of Pauline Blachford Consulting prefers the latter for two reasons: The customer you are serving at the time the phone rings (or even the pet you are working on) deserves your undivided attention. “This also breaks the train of thought of the service provider and causes a disconnect between the two,” she adds. When it comes to voicemail, the greatest fear for incoming callers is that they never know when their call will be returned.

Blachford recommends the recording say something like: “Thank you for calling ABC Groomers. We are presently taking care of another client. Your call is important to us. Please leave your name and number, and we will get back to you with the hour.” In committing to an hour, it sets the precedent that every team member knows that responding ASAP is the top priority.

The banker who has always handled our account and knows our business is moving to a larger lender. Should we follow him or stay with our existing bank, which has treated us well?

It’s never just about the bank or just about the banker. The most important thing is that your banker has influence within his or her institution. He needs to be able to get things done, either through his professional credibility, knowledge or connections. Talk to the banker. Ask him if he feels his new bank will be the right fit for you. Shifting a business account is not like transferring a credit card debt. It’s a significant process. But then a well-connected banker as also a crucial team member of any growing business.

Is it absolutely necessary to reconcile our books to the last penny? It seems a lot of effort for not much point.

There are some areas where you can disregard small discrepancies, but when it comes to reconciling the bank account to the general ledger, you need to be “bang on all the time,” says David Brown of the Edge Retail Academy. It primarily has to do with security: A common embezzlement technique is to skim small, seemingly random amounts of cash from revenue. Over the years, these mysterious discrepancies can add up to tens of thousands of dollars.

Can I send by mail any animals, like a small turtle? I mean, it will be in a proper crate.

Turtles no, but there are a number of “small, harmless, cold-blooded animals” that you can legally mail, along with bees, fish and live adult birds. As you can imagine, there’s an exhausting list of rules and restrictions governing such shipments. (Read the U.S. Postal Service guidelines here: ppmag.us/11910). But given all the requirements and, moreover, the risk to the animal itself, you’re better off legally and morally to let customers pick up pets or deliver them yourself.

Much sales advice recommends role-playing exercises, but my sales staff members always slink away when I suggest them. How can I get them to play?

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That may be because the focus is negative, says sales trainer Dave Richardson. Make role-playing positive and fun. First play the role of the salesperson and let your salespeople critique you. Then, when it’s your turn to play the customer, instead of saying, “Here’s what you did wrong,” start off by telling the person what you felt they did well and what you would change if you had the opportunity. Always finish on a positive, encouraging note.

A taxidermist asked if we’d provide referrals. I’m not sure it’s something I want to be associated with. What’s your view?

Well, it’s a growing market and you’d probably be providing a service to people who don’t think they can physically part with their beloved pet’s remains. Perhaps you could consider providing a discreet link on your website under “Other Services,” and you may find it bringing in a new clientele. Another option is to call around to your local jewelers and see if they do lab-grown diamonds made from the cremated ashes of the pet. Memento mori!

Since launching in 2017, PETS+ has won 16 major international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact PETS+'s editors at editor@petsplusmag.com.

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