A rewarding venture working with animals
Jayne and Mike’s story
Jayne and Mike Walker, a lovely couple, who were passionate about pets, joined the We Love Pets franchisee team by operating their franchise in and around Didcot, Abingdon and Wallingford in Oxfordshire. Both came from quite different backgrounds, but equally their experiences made them a perfect pairing to be a part of the growing team of franchise owners.
“Mike’s career was mostly spent in telecommunications and he always held management roles. I started off in the pop industry, selling space in magazines and in album manufacturing” said Jayne. “I also spent time as a swimming teacher, nanny, in retail and a dog groomer.
Working around dogs and knowing their behaviour was valuable. The management experience has also been great and has given us a framework around how to organise people. We Love Pets has a template and help and advice on how to do it, but our previous experience really helped with that.”
Jayne and Mike both had stressful jobs and had reached a point in their lives where they wanted to do something that gave them and others joy. Being around animals seemed the perfect resolve. Although running their own dog walking business wasn’t their immediate plan, they’ve not looked back.
“We left our last jobs because of the stress! We were under tons of it. We Love Pets is more relaxed and deadlines are not as strenuous. We Love Pets does have stresses, but it’s a different type of stress because you feel part of the business and you’re happy. If a dogs needs help and assistance you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile and important.”
“I went for an interview to walk dogs for another franchise area.” explained Jayne “We were offered the franchise opportunity instead. Until we were offered the opportunity, it wasn’t something we had considered. We liked the ethos behind the business. I just wanted to be able to take the dogs out for walks and the business allows me to do that. We didn’t want to do group walks and the company don’t do that. We want to provide a personal service that the animals benefit from. What the animal needs is the most important thing.”
Jayne and Mike didn’t go in to running a franchise lightly, they knew they wanted to have a better way of life than they had before in their stressful jobs, but equally they knew that they would need to work hard to continue the work of the brand. But why did they choose to go for a franchise rather than setting up their own business?
“With a sales background, we didn’t want to do something that was too in depth. The reason we wanted to do it was for the animals. By the time we’d set up a business by ourselves, we might have lost the animal side of things. We’re not involved in the legal, paperwork or technicalities; head office supported us with all of that. Without that there would have been a lot more stress and we would have lost focus. We can call someone for support and help with moving the business forward.
We just wanted to have a work/life balance.”
Ongoing support and direction, when needed, has aided Jayne and Mike to grow their business without pressure. They have all the benefits of running their own business, without the worry of being alone when they come up against things they’re unfamiliar with.
“We’re learning that we can’t do everything ourselves. We had lots of support from We Love Pets and they have a huge amount of information on their main intranet page. We have guidance and advice from both Laura and Jo in almost anything we need. We can call them and they’ll talk us through over the phone or visit us at home to run through any issues or progress in the business.
They’re always on hand when we need them. They let you run the business your way, so if you don’t need the support they leave you to run the business yourself. There’s no micro management. If you’re doing well, you can just call them when you need them. They keep an eye on the business without interfering.”
So, after their first year how are the couple finding their new way of life?
“Rewarding – some customers – older couples who don’t see anyone day to day – don’t need a dog walker, but they want the contact.
Jo’s very good at putting across what the business is – things you can share with someone to stop them making the same mistakes as you – saving time. Go for it!“