Meet Clare Marsh from PHG Guildford & Godalming who went from accountancy to pet sitting!
When did you first start as a franchisee with Pets Homes and Gardens?
I started working for PHG at the end of 2012, initially as a subcontractor for Felicity, the then-owner of PHG Guildford & Godalming. I took over the business in 2015, just after I got married – it was quite a summer!
What did your life look like prior to becoming a franchisee? What were you doing for work?
I was an accountant (which has proved to be very useful to looking after the day-to-day book-keeping!). I’d been doing that for about seven years, including spending three years doing my first qualification, and I’d reached the point where I was considering moving on to the next step and becoming a Chartered Accountant.
What struggles were you facing?
I’d been feeling unhappy and unsatisfied for a while, but it took a chance conversation to make me realise that I hadn’t really chosen that career – I’d just stumbled into it, and it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was depressed and frustrated, and the idea of spending another forty years doing the same thing really didn’t appeal!
How did you feel when you first decided to take the plunge and become a Pets Homes & Gardens franchisee?
It wasn’t a particularly difficult decision for me, because I’d spent several years doing the practical side of pet-sitting by then. I did feel quite nervous about running it, because I’d never had to do the administration side of things before, but I already knew that I loved the work and it made sense to take it on completely.
Was there anything you were nervous about when you started as a franchisee?
I was worried about dealing with all of the inquiries, and whether I’d be able to make a good impression on people.
Do you remember your first client? Or a client who particularly stands out in your mind?
I still have a photo of my first PHG dog! Dear Jake was the perfect introduction for me – an elderly, gentle yellow Labrador who gave me confidence while I was quite anxious about being in charge of someone else’s animal. I still have a great fondness for Labs, which I attribute to him.
Can you describe a typical day for you as a Pets Homes & Gardens franchisee?
I generally start early with cat visits, move into dog walks and sitting in the middle of the day, and then have another round of cat visits in the late afternoon or evening – sometimes both. Trying to work out the best order to do all the visits in can sometimes be tricky, but I generally manage to work out something sensible.
Did anything surprise you about becoming a Pets Homes and Gardens franchisee?
I hadn’t anticipated how attached I’d get to my clients – both the animals and their owners. I’ve been really touched by how willing people are to make me a part of the extended family and how appreciative they are.
What’s the best thing about being a Pets Homes and Garden franchisee?
I love meeting new people – which is an odd thing to admit, given that I worried so much about it initially – and forming new relationships with them and their pets. But unquestionably, the best thing is the sense of providing a valuable service. The cat snuggles are great, too!
What’s been your biggest challenge as a franchisee and how did you overcome it?
When I first started pet sitting I couldn’t quite believe that people were paying me to do something I loved so much, and I found it hard to see myself as having a proper job. But over time I’ve come to realise how much it means to people to have someone trusted in their lives looking after their pets, and that’s helped enormously with my sense of self-worth.
How has your franchise grown or developed over your time with us?
I still have my monthly schedules from the very beginning, and it’s really encouraging to see how month by month they’ve got fuller and fuller. I particularly enjoy seeing the same names popping up regularly, and it’s always lovely when a new client turns out to be a referral from someone else I look after.
What do you think you’d be doing now if you hadn’t taken the plunge?
I suppose I’d be Clare Marsh, ACA. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now!
What impact has being a franchisee had on your life; for example has your career change been positive for your family life, income, mental health?
It’s definitely made me happier, and I’ve gained a lot of confidence along the way. I’ve had to work on getting the work/life balance right – still a work-in-progress at times – but generally it’s been really positive for me and my husband. We get to have lunch together most days, which wouldn’t happen if I were stuck in an office somewhere, and he enjoys helping with the visits during the school holidays.
What would you tell someone thinking about starting their journey as a PHG franchisee?
I can’t claim that you’ll be a multi-millionaire but it’s a very rewarding job. I’ve never regretted making the switch. Just keep your fingers crossed that we don’t have another global pandemic any time soon!