Author Topic: Need advice from property managers and dog walkers: Dog Walking business  (Read 1304 times)

TheGadfly

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I am trying to think through the implications of starting a dog walking service that operates exclusively in my 200 unit pet-friendly apartment complex. I work from home, have dog-walking experience, the demand is there, and there currently are no dog-walking services that operate in the complex. The only thing that I'm having trouble figuring out is how I can enter client apartments without the need to pick-up/drop-off keys everyday. In my mind, the only way to make my service competitive (and efficient) is to offer the convenience of skipping the key-exchange part.

Bottom line, I need to get a master key for the complex.

I know this is possible since there are other apartment buildings in the area that contract with dog walking businesses. Dog walking is offered as another amenity and the dog walkers can charge a premium ($25 for 20 minutes) because no annoying key exchange is necessary.

Property managers: What would it take for me to set up this sort of arrangement with the management company? Can I get some sort of business insurance or background check that will help prove that I'm legit? Of course, I can easily make my business look professional by setting up a website, etc. What types of things would make you uncomfortable handing over the keys to an independent contractor? What would put you at ease?

Dog walkers: Is this arrangement possible? If so, how did you "sell" it to the management company? Is there a work-around? What am I not thinking of?

Thanks!

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SC93

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I'd say GREAT if you can work that out with your apartments but if you can't, just get a key from the customer. I've bid thousands of people for house cleaning. I'd go in, they wouldn't know me from Adam. Take me on a tour of their house..... now mind you I'm a male and most of the time the female would be the only person home while doing this..... I would present them with a bid sheet, they would choose which plan they wanted to go with..... Now they would give me a key to their house (sometimes worth $100,000 and sometimes worth several millions of dollars). They would ask me if I needed to be paid right then or should they leave it on the counter and if they had a security code they would give that to me. I'd know every little thing and all the secrets about their house and I've only met this person 10 minutes earlier. So I'm guessing that with you living in such a small complex, you could easily get the key from your neighbors.

My guess is that you are making a much bigger deal out of it than they will. Relax.... do you know what happens if you get 3 calls and none of them want to give you the key to their house? Nothing.... no one died. But really, giving someone a key to do a service is not a big deal. It's done millions of times in the US every day. You can go to the apartments if you want but personally, I'd just go directly to the customer.

Here is how I kept up with the keys we had. They were on a key chain that had a number on it (nothing else, just the customer number).... let's say 26. So now, in my computer I had the customer and the information and the key number.... 26. So even in order for us to know who the key belonged to, we had to get in to the computer. That way if you lose it, you don't have Cindy Maer 2601 S Main street Apartment 3 on the key chain. 110% safe.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2017, 10:37:07 AM by SC93 »

TheGadfly

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I'd say GREAT if you can work that out with your apartments but if you can't, just get a key from the customer.

Thanks for sharing! So if I understand you correctly, you made copies of your customer's keys? And they were cool with that? Did you charge to make the copy or did they just give you a spare?
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SC93

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They always gave me a copy of the key.

And then on top of that, my girls (I always had 12-15 working for me) would have the key to get in their house in order to clean.... and sometimes the alarm code and sometimes the garage code, the dogs name, the cats name, know when they are going out of town and when company is coming over. Maintenance people have a key, the bug guy goes in to the apartment alone, the office people give you 24 hours notice when they do a yearly inspection so they are in your apartment probably when no one is home.... most people are used to it. If you don't act nervous about it, they won't be nervous about it. Go in with confidence with your service, your price, your dependability and your having a key to their house and you will do fine. You might be nervous on the first few but you will get used to it. Personally, no matter what business I am in, I always take control of the situation. Be the person in charge and be so nice they can't tell you "no".

PDM

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You might be able to use something like this:
https://www.walmart.com/ip/MaxWorks-70466-Easy-To-Use-Push-Button-Key-Safe-Storage-Shackle-Lock-Box/139532350

Provide each client with a box (maybe for a fee?) and they lock their door, put the key in the box, set the code (which you both know) and attach this to their door/rail somewhere. You then walk their dog, and leave the key back in the box for them.


HipGnosis

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you can get copies of keys now just by taking a picture of the key with https://www.key.me/

SC93

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But why do either of those things and make it so complicated? Within 10 square miles of my house there are probably 1000+ people that get their house cleaned every day and almost all the cleaning people have keys. Don't make things complicated, people go in other peoples houses all the time. Make this a fun thing and relax about it. If you want complicated you can get a job with the government.

Miss Piggy

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You are way overthinking this. And no property manager in their right mind would give a private dogwalker a master key that works for every apartment in the complex.

My dogwalker has a key to my house, plus the back door code. She's also insured and bonded (whatever the hell that means to me), and made a point of including that information when we first met. In 8 years, she's never given me a reason not to trust her.

If you end up getting a bunch of keys, please do your customers a favor and avoid labeling them with customer's last name, apartment number, or any other easily identifiable information. That makes it too easy for a thief to raid a ton of apartments if they somehow get a hold of your key ring with all those labeled keys.

SC93

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"She's also insured and bonded (whatever the hell that means to me)"

Having been on thousands of house cleaning bids I laugh when people say they are bonded. Maybe 1 in 1000 even know what that means. And less than that could tell you anything about it. Here is how being bonded worked when we had a girl steal some jewelry. The police interviewed her, she said she didn't take it. The police asked the home owner if they had any video of it and they said no. Police said there was noting they could do. No one was convicted of the crime and the bond paid $0.00. But nowadays more and more people do have video. Way back in the day before we had people working for us our insurance guy told us that it would be silly to have a bond on ourselves. He said if either of us stole anything we would only be screwing ourself; meaning that if we ran a business like that, we wouldn't be in business very long anyway. We actually dropped the bond after that theft. When I was on a bid and the few people that would ask me about being bonded would always get this response..... do you know how being bonded works? 100% of them didn't so I would explain how it worked for us in our experience.... and they moved on. We never lost 1 job because of not being bonded.

PoutineLover

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I wouldn't want a dog walker to have a key to my apartment just because he worked for some of my neighbors. Any building manager who let you do that would be irresponsible. If someone wants to hire you, they take responsibility for whatever access you have to their apartment. Whether that's a box with a code, a key you have, etc. Having a key to the whole building is completely unnecessary.

SC93

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Re: Need advice from property managers and dog walkers: Dog Walking business
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2017, 08:52:25 AM »
Since you are focusing on such a small community I bet you could also bring in more cash by offering litter box clean up.

ahoy

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Re: Need advice from property managers and dog walkers: Dog Walking business
« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2017, 02:11:28 PM »
I have my own small dog walking/pet feeding for cats and other animals business.  I have keys to my owners homes and alarms codes where needed.  The owners have no problems giving me a key as it is necessary.  Sometimes, I will feed a cat(s) when they are away for a few days or a few weeks.  They hand me their key and I give it back to them after the job is finished.   The system works fine and no one has ever questioned it.

I don't think a master key would be good.  You shouldn't have access to apartments that you don't need to go into.  I do like your idea of just walking for your building though.   I have absolutely loved doing what I do until this past week, as I picked up another on-going dog walking client and it was a very tiring week!   I  think the fun can go out of it if you are too busy and not all dogs behave.  I am not a dog trainer but I am having to teach myself this.

ahoy

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Re: Need advice from property managers and dog walkers: Dog Walking business
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2017, 02:16:11 PM »
Just to add on. Not sure if it clear above.  For my on-going clients I have got keys and I keep the key until they no longer need me.