trademarkAre you one of the rare few pet business owners who have a trademark for your pet business?

If so, you don’t need to read this. Run along! Have fun!

But if you don’t have a trademark for your pet business…please do read this. Reading this may save you thousands of dollars – and a lot of heartache down the road. (And we all know how important it is to save money and to be good to our hearts.)

A few years ago I was coaching a woman who had a business name that was similar to a well-known franchise.

I alerted her to this in her coaching session and asked her if she was aware of the franchise and the fact that her business name was very similar to that franchise.

“Oh yeah”, she said. “I know about that franchise but my business is such a small business that it’s not going to be a problem. And my business name isn’t identical so it’s not a big deal.”

I strongly recommended that she change her name because I suspected that it might become a problem at some point.

She decided not to change her name.

She didn’t want to go through the hassle of changing her business name. She also said that it would cost too much to change all her marketing materials.

In the next session I again urged her to change her name.

But she didn’t want to and so she didn’t. (I will usually bring up ‘red flags’ a couple of times in my pet business coaching sessions and after that, I let it go. I’m here to shine the business flashlight for my clients, not cram it down their throat.)

A few years later I received a frantic email from this same woman. The franchise had contacted her and had demanded that she change her business name immediately or they would take legal action against her.

She was scared. She was also angry that this big, horrible (her words, not mine) company was coming after her because here she was a small company and wasn’t competing with them, a big franchise. And her name wasn’t identical. Why would they bother coming after her? (She was pissed. But underneath the anger -as it is for most of us- was fear.)

She lost a lot of sleep for the next few days and finally decided to change her business name. She didn’t want to spend the thousands of dollars to fight this company and both I (and her attorney) told her she would have lost the case anyway, since her name was so similar and they held the trademark.

I’ve had to deal with this a number of times in my own business…

Recently someone was using the phrase ‘six-figure pet business’ in their marketing materials and many of you alerted me to this (thank you, dear ones, you guys are the best!)

I sent an email alerting this person to the fact that I hold the trademark and that using that phrase is illegal. Who knows if this person realized that what they did was illegal (it doesn’t really matter if they realized that or not) but what matters is that I, as the business owner, need to defend my business name, especially if it’s causing confusion for my clients. And if you have the trademark for your business name and someone is using the same or similar name then it’s important for you to defend your business too.

And don’t worry – if you have the trademark for your business name then defending your name will probably come naturally for you as some of our most primal feelings come up when we see someone who is using our trademarked business name. Those primal feelings are usually enough to fuel us to take action!

I had to do a lot of trademark defending when I owned my pet sitting and dog walking business. I had the trademark for my business name and had to ‘go after’ business owners who had similar -or the same- names as mine.

I disliked doing that (one of my least favorite parts of owning a business is defending the trademark, let me tell you) BUT when similar names create confusion for clients (even if the businesses with similar names are on opposite ends of the country) it’s one of those actions that you simply have to take as a business owner.

And this is why when that franchise went after my client, I didn’t blame them at all. Her business name was creating confusion for their company. They had to defend their company. And if it happens to you and your trademarked business name, you will need (and want) to do defend your business too.

So, pet business owners, here are some action steps for you around trademark issues:

1. If you don’t have a trademark, get a trademark for your pet business name. As soon as possible. (And be sure to use a lawyer to set up the trademark because that will ensure that if it’s yours to get, you will get it. Years ago I had the experience of applying for a trademark and my application was rejected. I then used a lawyer to apply for the trademark and they were able to successfully get me the trademark.) Please note that the application approval or rejection process can take many months so you’ll need to be patient.

2. If your business name can’t be trademarked then change your name so it can be trademarked. (The longer you wait, the more painful it will be to have to change your name if someone comes after you for trademark infringement. And when that happens, it won’t be pretty and it will be very expensive if the trademark suit goes to court.)

3. If you have a trademark and someone is using your name (or a very similar name that could cause confusion), contact them with a friendly email first. I know, I know. Believe me, I know. It feels like someone is stealing your business name -and they are and yes, it’s illegal- and you are probably angry about that but do give them the benefit of the doubt. They may not know that your business exists. They may not be aware that you hold the trademark for that business name. (It’s unlikely in this age of powerful search engines but you never know.) Assume their innocence. Keep the email short and sweet and write something simple like: “I’m not sure if you are aware or not but I hold the trademark for ______ (your business name). Your business name is identical (or very similar) to mine and is causing confusion for my clients. Please change your business name by _______ (date). Failure to do so will result in legal action. Thanks.”

4. If the ‘friendly email’ doesn’t work then you’ll want to hire a lawyer to send a ‘cease and desist’ letter to them. (My fiance’ is a lawyer and he tells me that in the legal world those ‘cease and desist’ letters are called NastyGrams.) 🙂

trademark 2If you need to send a ‘NastyGram’ or need to have a trademark attorney set up your trademark for you, I recommend searching online for “low cost legal aid” or “Pre-Paid Legal” and your town to find an inexpensive attorney in your area who can help you.

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Proud

A couple of weeks ago I tagged along with my guy on a business trip of his (one of the perks of him having a corporate job). We were at a beautiful spa resort enjoying an all expenses paid work trip and I was in heaven. Heaven!

One night we had dinner with VIPs from Sam’s Club, Best Buy, Farmers Insurance and the Today Show.

Sounds impressive, huh? Don’t go there yet….

I had a beloved pet business coaching client recently say to me with more than a bit of shame: “I am just a dog walker” and I became a lioness defending her and the pet profession.

She said to me, “I live in New Jersey and ‘rank’ is very important here. When I tell people I am a dog walker they roll their eyes and look down on me.”

We talked about ‘rank’ in our call and what I told her during her coaching call is that being in the pet business is a very noble and profound profession.

Anyone who goes to ‘rank’ isn’t someone we would want to associate with anyway.

And what I want to tell her after that dinner with those VIPs is : “I am so touched, moved and inspired by how incredibly human and wonderful and ‘non-ranking’ these top-ranking executives are that I met that night.”

I was at dinner with the Today Show executive and he cried as he looked in my eyes and told me about being in New York on 9/11 and how he lived right down the street from the World Trade Center and how his apartment was filled with smoke for days and how terrified and sad he was.

And then there was the Farmers Insurance guy who talked so lovingly about his new Ridgeback puppy; he was so happy and excited about his new pup that his eyes were shining bright.

And the ‘high ranking’ Sam’s Club executive who shared about her teenage son who is a good kid and she talked about him with such pride (it was so very, very sweet).

Oh and the Best Buy lady got teary when she told me about the daughter she adopted from Guatemala when she and her husband were having a really hard time having their own kid (and of course when they adopted their Guatemala baby she promptly got pregnant).

I walked away from the lovely, lovely dinner that night with these ‘high ranking executives’ with a deeper awareness of how we are all just people trying to live our best life in the best way we know how. No one above or below (although it may seem that way at times).

We are all just tender folks having a human experience. greatness

If you are feeling shame that you are ‘just’ anything: Let the shame go. It doesn’t serve you.

You are not ‘just’ a dog walker (or a pet sitter or a dog trainer). You are a business owner and an amazing human being. Claim what you do and hold your head high. Taking care of pets is a noble profession.

Warmly,

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I have always talked about how using pet sitting software is essential if you want to achieve balance in your pet sitting life. Today the key question is still “How do you decide what pet sitting software is right for you?” Today we interview Richard Booty, the CEO of Pet Sitter Plus. pet-sitter-v2

We are happy to have Pet Sitter Plus as a sponsor of the Prosperous Pet Business Online Conference.

Q. Richard, please tell me a little bit about Pet Sitter Plus?

A. Pet Sitter Plus is a global brand of software serving the USA, UK and Australia. Our aim is always to deliver an innovative software product whilst setting new standards of support for the industry.

Q. When there are many brands of software around today, what made you decide to start Pet Sitter Plus?

A. In 2009, my wife was running a pet sitting business with software that was not working. The supplier did not really have the time to talk to us so the relationship was challenging. We asked ourselves four questions; a) Is this software reliable? b) Can we get world class support? c) Do we like the software? d) Do we know where this software is headed?  The answer every time was no so we set off on a quest to build a unique software product that could be delivered with world class support.

Q. What does world class support mean to you?

A. Many pet sitters have tried and failed to make software work for them and we think this is mostly down to support.

We wanted to create a world where support was more freely accessible so we set out to recruit a team of expert sales and support coaches that were uniquely skilled in their roles. Our team consists entirely of pet sitters who have benefitted so much from using Pet Sitter Plus that they have joined us to help spread the word. This unbelievably valuable team of experts helps us to deliver exceptional, one to one product training absolutely free of charge.

Q. You say people should ask the question “Do you like the software?” Isn’t that a bit obvious?

A. Yes I suppose it is a bit, but the serious point is this; when you have found a good fit for your business, focus on the question “Do I like using this software?”. By that I mean – Is it well designed? Easy to use? Fast? Intuitive? Because if it’s not, then it’s unlikely that it ever will be.

Q. How do you communicate your future vision to your clients?

A. Our clients join us for a journey and trust us to deliver the future. At Pet Sitter Plus we always have our next 10 product releases planned out in some detail for anyone who wants to know where we are headed.

Our aim is to be a supplier that you can talk to and trust. It’s easy to say, hard to do, but based on the reaction from our clients, every bit worth the effort.

Visit Pet Sitter Plus at www.petsitter-software.com

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The Prosperous Pet Business Conference still has one more week to go. So far, we’ve had 10 speakers for you and there’s still 10 (yes, ten!) more speakers to go. Facebook Banner Conference Dates

Thanks to all of you who have sent us emails and posted comments on the speaker video pages. It’s been so sweet to receiving emails from around the world from pet business owners who are learning, growing and shifting the way they do business in order to create more ease and joy.

I wanted to share just a bit from of a couple of emails I recently received so, wherever in the world you are watching, you can realize that pet business owners from across the globe are watching along with you (even if they aren’t beside you).

Here are two email snippets:

“Thank you for this opportunity to listen to these great speakers. Especially here in Finland, where pet business is very small and not considered a ‘real business’, this gives me hope and trust to follow my own path.”

“Thanks a lot for helping me access the videos. They are amazing and very useful. Thanks a lot for doing this. Great effort. I’m in India.”

Pet business owners from around the world, unite!

We have two videos available for unlimited viewing (the rest are 24 hour viewing only and you can get the conference video package for unlimited viewing).

Click for the interview with Victoria’s Stilwell.

Click for the interview about marketing your pet business with me, Kristin Morrison.image-kristin-coaching

I hope you enjoy the rest of the conference,

Kristin Morrison signature

 

 

 

 

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Business Insurers of the Carolinas was the insurance company I used when I had my pet care company before I sold it. In the 18 years that I was in business, I had to file one claim and they were wonderful, quick and helpful. Working with them made a painful process (using insurance for a client claim) a lot less painful than it might have been.

Here’s a little about them so you can get to know their company:

Q. Can you tell me information about your agency?bi logo 8-06 final

A. At Business Insurers of the Carolinas, we pride ourselves on offering the best service in the industry to the pet care professional. We understand the unique exposures that pet care providers have and make sure there are no unforeseen gaps in coverage leaving your business exposed. We have specialized in the pet services industry since the early 90’s.

Q. What type of pet services business do you insure?

A. We offer insurance for Dog Walkers/Pet Sitters, Boarding Kennels/Daycares, Trainers, Groomers/Mobile Groomers, Pet Taxi, Pooper Scooper and Veterinarian’s.

Q. Do you only offer insurance through associations?

A. We do offer General Liability Insurance and Bonds at discounted rates to association members. The association policies offer the broadest coverage in the industry for the pets and property in your care-whether in your client’s home, in transit or at your home. We also write insurance with several national insurance carriers as well that do not require an association membership.

Q. What types of insurance do you offer?

A. We write General Liability, Business Property, Workers Compensation, Commercial Auto, Inland Marine (Equipment), Umbrella and Bonds.

A. You can reach the Pet Services Department by calling (800) 962-4611 or via email bic@business-insurers.com. Please also visit our website at www.business-insurers.com to learn more about the insurance we offer. You can also submit a request for a quote via our website as well.

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Hi there, pet business owners!

I wanted to share with you that we are so happy to have Pet Sitters Associates as a Platinum Sponsor for our 2015 Prosperous Pet Business Online Conference!

Don’t know who Pet Sitters Associates is and what they do?

This information below will help you get to know this GREAT company:

Q What is Pet Sitters Associates?psa_web_logo

A. We started Pet Sitters Associates in 1998. Our philosophy has always been to help individuals throughout the United States start up their pet care businesses at the most affordable rates possible. Pet Sitters Associates proudly offers membership benefits that include pet business insurance administered by RPS Scobie Group and underwritten by an AM Best rated: A (Excellent) Insurance Company.

Q. What is the cost of the basic membership, which includes liability insurance?

A. The cost is $190 for membership and insurance through Pet Sitters Associates. The membership and insurance is good for one full year from the time of joining and can be effective immediately at www.petsitllc.com.

Q. What are the member benefits?

A. You will gain access to a library of resources including our customer checklist and archived newsletters, quarterly newsletters, and the option to be listed on one of the largest online pet business directories and pet business liability insurance.

Q. What is the cost if we have additional partners/spouse/employees?

A. The cost is $90 for each additional person on your policy.

Q. What type of pet care business does the basic liability cover?

A. It covers pet sitting in the pet owner’s home, pet transportation, pet walking, and pooper scooper services.

Q. What if I bring animals into my home?

A. Members need to purchase the optional pet daycare coverage to extend the liability insurance to cover incidents at their home or pet daycare operation. The cost for this additional coverage is $155 and can be added for up to 3 employees/ICs.

Q. Do you offer a bond?

A Our Broadened Property Damage/Bond coverage costs an additional $100. This coverage provides $10,000 per occurrence or $25,000 of insurance coverage annually for the theft, breakage, and mysterious disappearance of the personal property of the pet owner while under the care of you, your employees, your independent contractors, or your incidental helpers. Please note if you do not purchase this additional coverage, there is no coverage under your basic membership policy for loss, damage, or theft of the owner’s personal property.

Q. What if I do any housesitting without animals?

A. You would then need to add the house sitting coverage for an additional $100. House sitting without pets present cannot exceed 45% of the total pet care business revenue.

Q. What about grooming?

A. Pet grooming coverage for an additional $50 would need to be added. This coverage provides basic insurance for individuals who cut hair or nails while pet sitting. If you are only bathing and brushing pets, there is no need for you to purchase this.

Q. Do you have any type of coverage for Obedience Training?

Yes, our dog obedience training coverage costs an additional $155. If you are only offering basic dog obedience training (sit, stay, come) when provided in direct conjunction with your pet sitting work, you are already covered under your basic membership insurance. This coverage is for those who offer training outside of their pet sitting work. This policy does not provide coverage for protection, guard, fighting, attack, or police dog training.

 

To find out more and sign up for membership today visit Pet Sitters Associates online today: www.PetSitLLC.compsa_web_logo

 

 

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Hi there dog walkers, pet sitters, dog trainers, pet groomers, and doggy day care owners, CORRECT_speaker_box_2015_rev

The Prosperous Pet Business Online Conference has started! And guess what? It’s FREE (yes, free!).

And it’s online so you can watch, listen and learn from top pet business experts from wherever you are in the world. We have attendees from Korea, UK, Australia, etc. It’s a very international group and we welcome you all.

We also have many top pet business experts speaking including Victoria Stilwell, Patti Moran from Pet Sitters International, Ian Dunbar, Andrea Arden and me, Kristin Morrison! Plus many other speakers. So many good ones. 🙂

Victoria Stilwell has kindly offered her video free for unlimited viewing so check it out by clicking on her name. All the other speakers will have 24 hour viewing for free and if you miss the speaker dates, no worries. You can purchase the pet business conference video package for a low price for a limited time.

See you at the pet business conference,

Kristin Morrison signature

 

 

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