We recently connected with Sean Stidham and have shared our conversation below.
Sean, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today We’d love to hear from you about what you think Corporate America gets wrong in your industry and why it matters.
Well, it is not only corporate America, but also the city of San Diego and state of California. For example the state gave an exemption to the national apps of Wag and Rover in regards to AB5. If you aren’t familiar with the law signed in 2020, basically it forced almost every industry to become employers and removed independent contractors as an option. The problem with it is that they don’t understand how pet businesses are run. The companies they exempted in our industry are the example of those who violate labor laws and prevent workers from having one job to support themselves on. Say you have a dog walker who comes Mon-Fri and you also want them to stay overnight while you are away. That’s not entirely possible without substitutes or charging the client overtime rates, to which the majority are not willing to pay. Most overnights go into the weekend, so now the worker is potentially working a minimum of 12 days straight. What happens is to give them the higher paying gig, you now have to remove them from their regular visits, so they can have a day off. The clients are not necessarily okay with a substitute in their homes, so they tend to cancel and have to come home from work. It’s not been good for business.
Between lawyers and the EDD, they don’t seem to understand how we operate in this industry. It’s really frustrating and the only one who benefits is the city/state. They’ve restricted how much they can work by removing the option of managing themselves. It’s hard to make decent money now in this field, so workers are harder to come by.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I changed careers when our dog was diagnosed with a rare condition and given no more than a month to live. I thought it’d be temporary and yet he managed to make it another 2 1/2 years. By that time I had owned Little Buddies, hired a team and we focused on regular weekly dog walks and pet sitting. Luckily our first hire also leaned towards the healthcare side of what we do and we built up quite a clientele whose pets needed medication during visits.
I like to look for patterns of what isn’t working and make things easier on all of us. While we don’t specialize in training, we are well versed in behavior issues and partner with the client’s trainers when necessary. So much of that is about training the owner though, not training the pet per se.
When possible we throw dog birthday parties and dress them up for holidays, even the felines. It’s a welcome distraction of late. The pandemic has thrown a wrench into us meeting up as often as we’d like, so now the focus has been more on socializing the pets who don’t see very many humans or other animals. We also partner with a great dog rescue, ARF, who saves them from being euthanized and finding them their forever homes. It’s great to meet up with clients at their events and potentially get some of them adopted.
We often hear about learning lessons – but just as important is unlearning lessons. Have you ever had to unlearn a lesson?
Interacting with clients today is very different than before COVID-19 hit. We don’t know what struggles they have going on at home or to those close to them. I could be more transparent and really talk to them all. That’s not the case anymore. Understandably, the world has become more sensitive and at times reactive. Not everyone is willing to say they overstepped or messed up, so it’s complicated the personal relationship we had. It’s hard to fully explain without getting into specifics. I’ve had to retrain the workers and how to communicate with them. I’ve also had to remind my staff to take a deep breath, try not to take things personally when things don’t go as expected. We need to be kinder to one another, listen more and set boundaries. What we do needs to be mutually beneficial or it doesn’t work.
Do you have any insights you can share related to maintaining high team morale?
Ensuring that they know they are appreciated and thanked for their work daily and/or weekly is a start. It makes a huge difference. Many businesses don’t and they operate on the, “Be grateful I employ you” model. I have worked for some truly repugnant human beings and I remind myself of how they handled certain situations, then do the opposite. Luckily, we have wonderful clients and they help to show how much the worker is valued. If you allow clients to mistreat them, you’ll lose them or they too become problems. I find it is important to intervene before things get out of hand and any feelings are hurt. My promise to our first hire was I wouldn’t let any client talk down to them. Feeling safe at work is crucial. You need to look forward to starting your day without fear of cruelty. Some people feel abusing those in the service industry is a right and I can assure you that it is not allowed at Little Buddies. I want them to end their day happy and excited to return the next.
- Website: https://www.lovelittlebuddies.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/littlebuddies
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lovelittlebuddies
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/little-buddies-san-diego
- Other: Nextdoor https://hartleysnorthpark.nextdoor.com/pages/little-buddies-pet-care-san-diego-ca/
I took all of these.