Business Owner, Mum and Wife…
Exhausting just thinking about it isn’t it. Tracey is all three and doing them all exceptionally well, and even finds time for herself and her husband.
Tracey joined the growing list of We Love Pets franchisees in August 2014 as the Reading East branch owner, she was 32 years old, with a new fiancé and sleep was something she took for granted. Move forward 3 and a half years and her and her husband, Rob, now have their first baby, William, and she’s still managing to run the business.
‘The great thing about the job is that it’s really flexible, so I can work when it suits us all best.’
How long did you have off after having William?
Before having William I walked lots of the dogs myself. I’ve now taken a step back and am managing my wonderful team of walkers who are also now covering the walks I used to do. We’re really lucky at We Love Pets to have supportive fellow franchisees, so my lovely colleague Amy at Reading West covered my management role for a short while so I could recover, find my feet and get back into the swing of things (obviously I return the favour when she wants to go on holiday, which works well for both of us). Now, William loves to visit pets with me where customers don’t mind and I am safe in the knowledge that I have a great team taking care of the dog walking and boarding.
Have you had to scale back the business? If not, how come?
Not at all, because the team has carried on walking all our regular dogs and visiting pets. I took a step back from this early enough before having William to know it was going to work without me and that we had enough cover. I didn’t take on any new customers for a while to make sure things didn’t get too much, but I’m now growing the business again.
What does your ‘typical’ day involve?
6.30am: (OK, sometimes that’s wishful thinking!) William wakes up and gets into our bed so I can sneakily try to close my eyes for a bit longer!
7am: William and I have breakfast together. We feed my own cats. William’s obsessed with them. I’m not sure they are quite so enamoured!
7-8am: Playtime at home
8.30am: Cat or pet visit. Getting William out of the house early to feed animals is always interesting. I feel like I’m packing for a week away! He loves guinea pigs the most – he squeaks back at them when they come to say hello!
9-10am: Maybe few key swaps (I like to switch customers’ keys between my team occasionally so I can bump into them and have an informal chat every now and again).
10.30am: Baby group/swimming/some kind of activity to wear William out!
11.30am: William’s nap time?? I don’t even know when it’s meant to be!! Admin time!
Lunchtime: William’s lunch and sometimes we meet a friend for lunch too.
Mid pm: A walk for a bit of fresh air. Or if it’s team 1-1 time I might meet one of them for coffee…William comes to take the minutes.
Late pm: William’s nap time. Check emails whilst trying to clear up the mess William has probably made!
5pm: William’s dinner time.
6pm: Bath time (William’s, not mine)
6.30pm: William’s bed time. We survived!
Evening: Rob and I have dinner together, we might watch TV or have a glass of wine and a catch up. If I need to work I try to do it on a Monday when he plays football. Sometimes I might pop out to visit a customer once William’s asleep. Most customers like to meet in the evening after work anyway.
Have you had any time off since returning to work after having William?
Yes – we had a lovely week in the Lake District before Christmas as a family, and I didn’t work over Christmas. Christmas is a great time to have time off as the regular dog walks are quiet with most customers at home spending time with family and their dogs!
Of course it’s never easy adjusting to a new person in the house, how long did it take you to get into a new routine?
Routine?! What’s that?! I’m not sure we really ever have…but babies do sleep eventually even if their nap times don’t work out to plan, which is when I do a lot of the admin. Luckily William at least has his bedtime pretty much nailed, so we do have the evening to ourselves again. I try to do as much as I can during the daytime, and then perhaps once a week I spend an evening working, plus I do the team’s rotas sometime on a Sunday. The great thing about the job is that it’s really flexible, so I can work when it suits us all best. I prioritise the day to day running of the business, then catch up on the weekly and monthly tasks when it fits best.
Have you had to outsource a few more tasks to give you some extra time back?
I will be getting back into some walking at some point, but for now having left it to the team, it’s freed me up enough to be able to manage all the running of the business myself – things like the team’s schedules, customer enquiries, accounts, invoicing etc. As long as you’re on top of things it’s not too onerous.
Does William join you on any customer visits or walks?
My insurance doesn’t allow me to walk dogs with William…nor would I want to in case of any problems, plus I’d want to give 100% attention to the dogs. But he likes to come on small animal visits and he’s joined me on a couple of customer visits. They’ve all loved him!
Do you share childcare or does William spend time with family / day care?
Rob runs his own business too and often works weekends so sharing childcare is difficult, but we’re lucky enough to have my mother in law nearby who helps with regular childcare and also ad hoc bits when needed. It’s working well at the moment.
What are your three top tips for Mums thinking of starting their WLP franchise?
- You can make the franchise work around your family life – work/life balance is SO important.
- Don’t try to grow too quickly too soon…I believe growth has to be sustainable so make sure you have a great team and the right customers and add to them when it feels right.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The wider We Love Pets team has a wealth of knowledge and experience and can help you build the business. It’s definitely worth taking the plunge!