10 things a Directory Model Business needs to be successful

In the latest of the 10 ideas series, I’m exploring 10 things a directory based business needs to be successful.

If you’ve been around some of the business groups on Facebook recently, you’ve no doubt come across someone with a directory site (even if they don’t necessarily advertise themselves as such). For those who haven’t come across them, a directory model is basically a catalogue of related businesses that pay for listing on your website.  Like the old Yellow Pages, or trade directories, businesses pay a fee to be listed, and then higher fees for priority placed listings that will get more attention from buyers. This may include basic static listings for a minimal fee, and then various packages which include upgrades, such as social media posts, blog posts, newsletter mentions, paid adverts on the site, and affiliate programs. Directory businesses will help other related businesses (often called vendors) get more traffic by having a targeted and engaged audience that are interested in the products the vendors are selling. Having started my first business initially using a directory model, I am particularly passionate about helping other directory owners to actually make money from their businesses and making sure that the countless hours of effort, costs, and passion actually add up to a successful business. The tips below are by no means all there is to know, and given that this is a topic I am especially passionate about, I will no doubt return to this in various forms in the future.

So – 10 things a Directory Model Business needs to be successful

  1. A niche area that isn’t overdone.  The golden rule of marketing is to know your market.  In this case, trying to be all things to all people won’t work.  You need to have a targeted niche, without hundreds of competing directories in the same field.  Before buying a pre-packaged business, ask lots of questions – have they made any other related business directory sites you can see?  How many business packages have they sold and in what areas?  Chances are, if they have sold lots of directory sites, there will be multiple sites in your area already and they’ll just repackage the same templates, images, and posts and give it a different spin for you.
  2.  A niche that will actually be profitable.    How can you tell this?  Have a look at the businesses that would be likely to be signing up with you – are they established? what marketing channels do they already use (and how much are they spending on these).  If there are lots of mum-start ups in your area, then chances are they won’t have huge marketing budgets to spend, and will be social media savvy anyway, and will probably DIY over paying you for your services.  If there are a lot of larger corporate type businesses – they’ll probably have established marketing channels that are working for them, so you’ll have an uphill battle to get a wide enough audience to get their attention.
  3. A business owner with skills and knowledge in the areas that matter.  And no, this doesn’t mean a love of organic swaddles, wedding photography, kitchen tools, funky shoes or wooden kids toys.  This means that you know social media and how it works.  You’ve done online marketing or blogging before and you know what it takes to make it work and to connect with your audience. You have a love of selling and sales and convincing people to buy stuff.  And you have skills in developing a business strategy for growth and marketing that you can start implementing straight away.   I see so many directory owners (myself included!) spending years just getting their head around the whole concept of the directory, learning how to manage a website, social media, who their market is and what they need.
  4. Research on your idea.  I cannot emphasise this one enough.  Don’t just research your customers and whether they would use a directory, but would businesses sign up?  Spend some time in as many business mums groups and look up the directories that already exist in your target market.  Start making notes of the businesses that are listed on them. Chances are pretty high that a) the businesses will also be active in the groups, and b) the business will be listed on multiple sites.  For you to have a chance of adding that business to your site, you either need to be more competitive on price (hard with so many free trials) or more competitive on service (consider how much time/energy you can devote to each vendor for the income they’ll bring in.   For example – if you are setting up a local mums and bubs directory – do some research on how many mums and bubs related businesses are in the area already.  How many other directories already exist in the local and wider area – what are their fees, how long have they been around, what can you offer that they don’t?
  5. A well-designed website.  Having a website that uses the same images, templates, and wording as other directory businesses won’t set you apart, and won’t encourage vendors to sign up for your site.  Do your research, ask a million questions, and EDUCATE YOURSELF on what makes a ‘good’ website, what is SEO, what should be included and what questions you need to ask before buying a directory package.
  6. A backup plan – If you’re offering free trials, it can be six months or more before you even see a dollar in income for your site.  Build in other income streams from the beginning that will help you with some cash flow while you grow the directory side (I’ll do another post on this soon).  Don’t throw in your day job just yet, or make plans that will rely on your directory income magically appearing on a certain date.
  7. SUPPORT  – You are the product of the five people you surround yourself with.  Make sure the 5 people you hang out with the most are positive, supportive, knowledgeable, generous and believe in your dream as much as you.
  8. Money to invest.  While many people will try and sell you the dream, and that your investment is ‘only’ the price of the website, the reality can be quite different.  Having a slush fund to invest in top quality copywriting, Facebook advertising, subscriptions to social media management programs, as well as your own professional development will help ensure your directory site can reach a bigger audience much quicker, meaning you can convert more vendors to signing up for a listing.
  9. In an area that you absolutely love.  And will love in 5 years time.  My advice is to choose an area that you could literally talk about all day long because if your business is successful and becomes a full-time job, that’s what you’ll be doing.  Whilst you may have just got married, or had a baby, or taken your kids on an awesome holiday, or love making hand knitted jumpers, or gardening, chances are, there are a lot of mums out there that have had the same thoughts.  And some of them will also be setting up a directory business.
  10. The right mindset.   For me, changing my mindset to even considering running my own business took a huge mental overhaul.  It meant breaking free from the expectations that I had placed on myself, and that society has placed on me as well.  Did I really spend 6 years of my life studying, and a further 15 years working my way up the corporate ladder to just jump ship the minute my kids came along?    Whilst starting a business initially came from a place of needing an option that allowed me to work from home, it was only when I began to take it seriously, as a business, that the big changes came in my mindset.   If you treat your business as a hobby, and a bit of fun, then that’s all it will be.  You need to get real on your mindset, take all the leaps of faith and set yourself up for success with the right mindset before anything else can fall into place.

I know that a lot of the tips above are negative.  And with good reason.  I hate to see people get ripped off.  And I hate to see businesses target a very vulnerable group of people, mums with young children, who don’t want to return to their day jobs and are looking for a way out.  These businesses take thousands of dollars from families who have most likely come out of a period of maternity leave and surviving on one income.  They invest their savings (or worse, borrow the money) to be sold a dream that turns out to be a fiction.  They’re given examples of other successful businesses that have done it.  They have testimonials that are given under duress, and the threat of business ruin if they complain.  They take advantage of the desperation and dreams of mums, and in many cases, shatter them to pieces.  Only the strongest (or most independently wealthy) will survive more than one year.   Statistics show 75% of businesses fail within 5 years, and the major causes are the skills of the business owner and their ability to strategically run and manage a business.

 

Got an idea you want me to brainstorm for you?

If you're feeling stuck for an idea - whether it's a new business, a decision you need to make, or a content plan you're after - let me know and I'll add it to the list.  Be sure to leave your details so I can let you know when it's done.

What is the 10 Ideas Project? 

Inspired by a TEDx talk given by James Altucher, I am on a mission to make myself an ideas machine.

Every day, I will write down 10 ideas for different things.  These might be business tips, inspiration, content ideas, strategy ideas, things I love, things I hate, and all the millions of ways that I can think of to inspire, motivate and encourage mothers who want to change their lives, by either getting a new job, a new career, start a business, or grow their existing business.   They’re quick, flow-of-thought pieces that map out the 10 first things that come to my mind on a particular topic.  Some days, I’ll expand on them.  Other days, I’ll keep them short.  Some days they’ll be great and some days not so much.  Other days, I’ll make them pretty and use lots of pictures and headings and lovely things.

But I’m making it my mission to keep writing and keep on getting better at them. If you’ve got a topic or idea you’d like me to brainstorm ideas on, please let me know.

I’m always on the hunt for new inspiration.  I’ll be posting them here, and on my other site, Employment Avenues.

If you love my ideas, please tell me (and the whole world), I love to hear your thoughts.  If you think my ideas are terrible, please tell me that too, and I’ll keep trying to get better.

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10 questions that you should ask yourself before buying a dog washing business.

10 questions that you should ask yourself before buying a dog washing business.

I’m setting myself a challenge to come up with 10 ideas per day.

So, for this first post, I’m brainstorming 10 questions that you should ask yourself before buying a dog washing business.

A lovely friend of mine recently told me she’d seen a fantastic idea for a dog washing business franchise that’s for sale. It was a very convincing sales prospect, and they made the offer sound fantastic. They were opening up a new region for this franchise and it’s going to be awesome and they would make all this lovely money just washing dogs.

So I started thinking about is what makes someone good at dog washing? And what would make someone successful in purchasing a dog washing business?

10 things to consider before buying (or starting up) a dog washing business
1. EXPERIENCE
What experience have you had with dogs? have you ever washed a dog before and what sort of dogs have you washed? If you’ve only ever washed your family pet, who knows you, I imagine it’s very different washing big dogs and small dogs in a cramped and unfamiliar environment. And the experience would be very different to washing your family’s small terrier out in the backyard, hosing them down with a bucket and some shampoo. Then there’s how much experience you’ve had with doggy skin conditions, clippering a dog, or nail and ear care that would go along with the job.

2. TIME
How much time do you have, and how much flexibility do you have for appointments? Depending on the clientele, they may prefer late nights, weekends or middle of the day. There would be a period of time when you would probably not be able to take extended holidays without getting staff in, so you don’t lose regular clients.

3. RESEARCH THE MARKET
Your local council should be able to provide some information on pet ownership in the area – or the ABS. Or look up your local dog parks and pay them a visit on the weekends – take note of the types of dogs, are they big/small, are they generally well groomed?
Consider the socio-economics and culture of the area you’ll be working in – are there lots of apartments (meaning smaller dogs and maybe less room for washing) or bigger backyards (bigger dogs and families who will do the washing themselves).

4. COMPETITION
How many dog washing companies are already in your area? How established are they? What sort of marketing are they using? What prices are they charging? How would your business be different to what dog owners are currently using?
Give some of them a call and check out their availability – are they free any day, or can’t squeeze you in for a month? If you call three places and they all have lots of available spots, then maybe there isn’t enough work for everyone.

5. MONEY
Don’t get caught up in the magic turnover figures presented. Consider the expenses of the business, how much you personally need to make to survive and how much time you have free.
If you know you can only work x hours per week, then you can work out how much you need to be charging per dog to make your desired income.
Consider all the possible expenses – insurance, advertising, council registrations, business registrations, consumables (shampoos), tools, water, electricity, signage, uniforms, promotional materials, freebies and promotions. If it’s a franchise, you’ll have additional costs from the franchiser too. Once you have added all these up, divide that by 52. That will give you an idea of how much you need to make per week to cover your costs. Divide that figure by how many possible dog washing hours you can do.
For example – $1000 per week expenses/40 hours dog washing @ 1 hour per dog = each dog costs you $25 to wash. If you only get to wash 20 dogs, then each dog is going to cost you $50.

Once you’ve worked out your costs, then consider how long it will take you to make a return on your investment, so to have paid off the business start up costs. If you’ve paid $50,000 for the business, you would need to be making at least $1,000 additional to your costs per week to get to a point where you’ve paid off the costs and are making a profit.

6. MONEY 2 – Costs and clients
Consider what your ideal client looks like – wealthy, time poor, pampered pets. Does that describe the majority of pet owners in your area?

Building on from how much the service cost you to run, you then need to start thinking about how much is the market willing to pay. This is also part of your competitor research – what are other companies charging? How often do these clients return? How many regular clients would I reasonably get.

7. PRICING
What pricing structures are other services using? Do they account for the size of dogs? Extras like clippering? How could you structure a package to maximise your value to customers, while making a profit?
When you consider how much people are charging – consider how often they getting their customers back, so for someone just getting their dog washed – how often would they get their dog washed? is it a weekly thing? Or a monthly thing? Or a seasonal clippering? Or more often during winter if the dogs like to go and play in the mud, or less in summer if they go swimming a lot.

8. When buying a franchise in particular – Look at the statistics and case studies provided – Consider
What area were they working in? Is this area similar to the one you’ll be setting up in?
What’s the culture of that area like – a lot of older people who might have money and less physically able to wash their dogs? Or a lot of young families who may be willing to wash the dog themselves?

9. QUESTIONS
You can’t ask too many questions – Go to the council and ask what their regulations are – can you put the water in the storm water drain? Can you park on the kerb? Can you use certain types of shampoos? Can you run your generator any time of day? What insurances and licences do you need?
Go to the state government and find out their regulations and registering a business. Find out about advertising in the local area – what are the best ways, what are the costs?

10. YOU
One of the most important things before all of this is to consider why you want to start a dog washing business.
What is it about you about the washing that lights you up that excites you that motivates you?
Is it that you’ve seen a gap in the market and you seen that you can do this dog washing business better than anyone else that is out there?
What will make people come and use your services is you and your point of difference and your passion for the industry.
I imagine someone starting a dog washing business would be the person who has a beautiful dog for themselves, no matter what size, but that they love to groom that dog. They love to put ribbons in her hair and putting little jackets on it and clipping her toenails and tying bows in it.

You would be doing all the dog grooming activities that you’ll be doing in your everyday work and you love doing that so much that you offer to do that for your friends and it excites you. You make time out of your busy day to groom your dog and to wash your dog, and take care of your dog. You do all this because you love it and you can see the benefits of doing that for your dog.
Having that natural passion, skill and interest is what would make you a successful dog washer.
If you’ve never held a dog in your life, if you’ve rarely touched dogs, and don’t pat every dog you see on the street, if you’ve never held a pair of clippers, and rarely even do your children’s hair, or offer to walk the family dog, then I would suggest you reconsider 100 million times before going out and purchasing a dog washing business.

Stay tuned for 10 ideas of different businesses that dog lovers can start that aren’t dog washing.

What is the 10 Ideas Project?  Inspired by a TEDx talk given by James Altucher, I am on a mission to make myself an ideas machine.  Every day, I will write down 10 ideas for different things.  These might be business tips, inspiration, content ideas, strategy ideas, things I love, things I hate, and all the millions of ways that I can think of to inspire, motivate and encourage mothers who want to change their lives, by either getting a new job, a new career, start a business, or grow their existing business.   They’re quick, flow of thought pieces that map out the 10 first things that come to my mind on a particular topic.  Some days, I’ll expand on them.  Other days, I’ll keep them short.  Some days they’ll be great and some days not so much.  Other days, I’ll make them pretty and use lots of pictures and headings and lovely things.  But I’m making it my mission to keep writing and keep on getting better at them.

If you’ve got a topic or idea you’d like me to brainstorm ideas on, please let me know.  I’m always on the hunt for new inspiration.  I’ll be posting them here, and on my other site, Employment Avenues. If you love my ideas, please tell me (and the whole world), I love to hear what you have to say.  If you think my ideas are terrible, please tell me that too, and I’ll keep trying to get better.