All small service businesses have a lot in common. My wife and I ran a popular local dog-walking company for three and a half years, servicing hundreds of people and doggos. There is a surprising amount of cross-over between dog walking and IT services. Here’s what we learned.

1. Standardization benefits everyone.

Small businesses must be efficient with our time and systems. Consistency across clients means sticking to our rules and policies. In IT this means we can be sure clients are covered by all necessary technical services (including security), and that we can do a lot of work behind the scenes. In the dog-walking world this approach kept our dog walkers organized, and above all, safe (both for the dogs’ sake and their own).

2. Good customer service is key.

We all want to be heard, and we all want reassurance when something goes wrong. IT/tech support is a customer service field. Solutions to questions that come in to our help desk can range from simple fixes to a longer term look at bigger issues.

And when we ran the dog-walking company, it was the same thing. Sometimes a simple request, sometimes a more panicked message would come in from a client about how their dog had seemed to be quite sick when they left for work that morning.

Acknowledgement of the issue or concern is key, as is keeping a level head and always being friendly and fair. Clients regularly show their appreciation for this approach.

3. Transparency helps build trust.

When we ran a team of professional dog walkers, we were sending our staff into people’s private homes. And, we were coming and going with their cherished pets. This required a huge amount of trust on the part of our clients. Some would have security cameras set up, helping them ascertain whether we were trustworthy. However, we also felt we were able to build trust in our company by providing a regular report. Every time we entered and left someone’s home we recorded it on an app. This way, clients had a timed record of their dog’s walk (complete with cute photos and anything of note about the walk itself). Doing this took the mystery out of our service.

At our IT company, we also strive to be transparent. It’s why we openly advertise our services and pricing. It’s also why we share our high level security standards. We believe that writing this blog with articles like “Finding an IT company you can trust” (full of questions to ask potential IT partners) also helps with transparency. Though in IT we are not in your home, we still have to build trust so you know we are taking good care of your business technology.

4. Creating good quality jobs is important.

This is more of an internal policy, but it connects with customer service and company trustworthiness. In both IT and dog walking, we learned that staff retention, productivity, and loyalty go hand-in-hand with client satisfaction. Therefore, rather than seeing staff costs as a line item to be minimized, we see these as an investment with long-term benefits. So we look at each job we create from the employee’s point of view. Fair pay, work perks and benefits, good vacation, a decent sick day policy. Because of those policies, employees stay with our company longer. This pays off for us and our clients as well.

5. Torontonians love dogs.

So this is a general statement and only really applies to the dog-walking side of things, but I think we can all agree that Toronto is a dog city. After all, sometimes dogs know just how to put a huge smile on our face at the end of a hard day.