Everything is all right there. It’s on my phone. I can edit stuff on the go, on my phone. I can send contracts. Even if I meet someone in person and talk to them and do a consultation, I can still follow up by sending them the contract right through my phone. So it’s made it a lot easier.
PocketSuite Animal Trainer Pro
Pet Pro, Michelle Martiya, is a Positive Reinforcement Dog Trainer in Florida. Her experience training dogs, horses and exotic animals virtually and in-person makes her a great asset to the PocketSuite Pro community. Michelle talks to CEO, Chinwe Onyeagoro, on the importance of seeing people bond with their animals and her favorite animal.
How are you?
So Michelle, let’s start at the beginning. Where did you begin in terms of your animal training career? Then how did you get to the point where you launched multiple businesses?
Yeah, sure. I was a dog groomer, actually, for 20-something-odd years.
And got burnt out and bored and needed to do something else to breathe some life into it. I came across a dog training course and figured I’d try that out. So I took the course and it was a distance learning course through Animal Behavior College. I went through that and did my mentorship and got certified as a dog trainer, and became obsessed with animal behavior. From there, I took every course and webinar and seminar and every possible thing I could find, to further my education and branched out into other animals. Now I work with almost all species except primates and birds. I don’t work with those, but everything else is pretty much a go for me.
That’s pretty amazing, from dog grooming to all of that. So can you give us a rundown on the range of animals that you’ve worked with?
Let me see. Favorite?
Zebra. Are you kidding me? Where did you go? Did someone have a zebra as a pet? Or did you work with a zoo?
The first one was somebody’s pet. I’ve worked with two or three others that were pets. Then I’ve done a little bit with somebody in a zoo. I think they were in Israel. I don’t even know.
Yeah, another country. They had two male zebras, so I was coaching them for a while. That’s been my favorite, but I’ve worked with horses, of course, donkeys, mules, dogs. I’ve worked with foxes.
Foxes? Are people trying to train foxes to do something in particular?
Well, a lot of people have pets. Usually when they have exotic pets, it’s just getting them not to bite. That’s probably the biggest thing.
Then crate training. That’s also a really big thing for a lot of exotic pet owners. I’ve worked with camels. I’ve worked with porcupines.
Wait, did you just say porcupine?
Oh my gosh, this is just blowing my mind. How did you do that without being poked?
She’s actually really sweet. Her issue was she would charge the door whenever anyone tried to come into her enclosure.
Oh, you’re kidding.
Yeah. It was really scaring people. We taught her to station herself behind a cement block, so when someone would come to the door, she’d go to her block instead.
So she still had that enclosure. She created a new boundary. You should have a reality show where we could see that process in action. That’s amazing!
So you’ve chosen the positive training path. We talk a lot with animal trainers and the choice between positive training, the balanced method, and so forth. Can you share with us why you chose positive? Also who are some of the organizations that help you stay on top of your game in terms of trends in the positive training space?
Pretty much the only organization I’m really involved in is the Pet Professional Guild.
Pet Professional Guild. Okay, great!
Because they’re probably the only ones who are strictly positive reinforcement.
I use positive reinforcement because to me it’s the most humane method of training. It opens a whole door of communication between you and the animal. So it’s more about the relationship rather than “do this or else.” Positive reinforcement works with every species. So I can go from working with a dog to working with a porcupine without changing anything that I’m doing. Whereas some of the other methods people employ, you can’t put a good shock collar on a dolphin.
Yes, I would hope not. We love Niki Tudge at Pet Professional Guild. So glad to know that she’s been a critical part of your success.
Can you talk to us about your automation journey? We’ve been talking to solo service professionals, micro-service professionals around the country about automation, and they often tell us it’s a scary word. We try to make it less scary by showing them the businesses that have embraced automation and what it’s done for them. How did you initially run your business and how did you onboard clients? How did you get them to schedule appointments and collect payments? Where are you now in terms of the process that you’re using with clients?
Before, everything was done over the phone, as far as setting up appointments. I still like to talk to my clients over the phone, but it was a lot of texting back and forth to set appointments after that. So once I got the initial consultation, then it was always a back and forth, trying to set up appointments. Probably the biggest thing for me was contracts because I would work with a client and forget to have them sign my contract. I was trying to get away from paper contracts because I have to print them out and take them with me.
So I was looking for solutions for that. Again, I’d forget or it just seemed like too much trouble. I’ve tried software. I’ve tried a bunch of different things. I’ve always wanted to automate, but for a while I was using Acuity. It’s pretty good. But I had to log onto the computer to be able to do anything. I’m not sitting at home. I probably do more virtual than in person, but still I’m not usually home when I’m doing it. So that was a big thing for me. With PocketSuite, it made everything just easier. Everything is all right there. It’s on my phone. I can edit stuff on the go, on my phone. I can send contracts. Even if I meet someone in person and talk to them and do a consultation, I can still follow up by sending them the contract right through my phone. So it’s made it a lot easier. One of the things I was really reluctant to put together before was classes because of, again, the contracts, the scheduling, the whole thing, and now I’ve set up some classes.
Because it was really, really easy to do. I don’t have to think about it. People just sign, click that button on my website, and it takes them right to PocketSuite. They register for the class they want, they fill out the contract right there. I can talk to them directly if I need to text them through there. It’s just made my life a lot easier.
So what have you done with all this new-found time that you have now that you’re not doing the back and forth texting and the paper contracts?
You’d think that I’d have more time, but all I did was write more blog posts.
Well that’s positive!
Yeah, basically the same thing, just more of it.
Would you give us a rundown of the different brands that you run and what each brand specializes in? How did you make the decision to separate it into different brands versus rolling it up into one umbrella brand?
Yes, I have basically three businesses.
I have my dog training business and I have horse equine training. So that covers horses, donkeys, mules, zebras, any mixes of the above and exotic pet training. I originally had them all on one website, but people don’t do well with a lot of choices and they get confused when they’re looking at all of the stuff to choose from. My clientele is different for each species. Like my dog training, they all want in-person.
My exotic training clients pretty much all want virtual.
Oh, interesting. So you don’t even have to go on-site for the exotic.
Coaching virtually. It’s better because otherwise we tend to waste a lot of time building a relationship with the animal. Whereas if I’m coaching them virtually, then they’re with their animal and the animal’s not worried about me. Then horses go either way. I have some people that want in-person and some people that are happy with virtual.
What are the names of each brand, the dog training, the equine, and exotic?
So the dog training is Essential Animal Training. That was the original name. The horse training is Essential Equine Training. And then the exotics is Exotic Pet Training.
Very nice. And what’s your catchment area? Is it a zip code or is it a region?
In-person training for dogs, it’s strictly my local area and the surrounding areas. For horses, I’m willing to go a little bit further. So I kind of keep it within a three hour radius.
Then virtually across the country and exotics are pretty much the same. If it’s in-person, then it’s local within two or three hours traveling distance and virtual all across the country, the world. I’ll work with anyone, anywhere.
Nice. So that’s where you were working with someone in Israel.
Yeah. I don’t remember where he was, but I think it was Israel. They had a very small zoo and they had two male zebras there and he was having some trouble with working with the two of them together.
How do you stay in touch with clients once you’ve done the essential training? What’s your strategy to stay connected to see how they’re doing? Any sort of advice to other animal trainers who are trying to figure out how to sustain the community of clients that they’ve worked with over time?
I’m still working on that one. I do follow up, I’ll text clients or message them in some way and say, “Hey, how’s everything going?” But I need to figure out a better strategy for that. One of the things I’ve actually been thinking about is creating another form in PocketSuite for off boarding people. How do they like the service? Is there anything that they didn’t like or that they really liked or try to get some testimonials that way.
Awesome. If you ever want to talk to folks about building communities and getting social with clients, let us know. We have a lot of folks in our community that have done that really well. We could put you in touch.
Final question before we go into the lightning round, what should we be looking forward to? As you think about growing your business, you’ve already got three different brands. What’s the big vision for you as to where you want to go with all of this?
I really want to focus on virtual coaching. I really want to focus on equine and exotics. Probably phase out dog training over time, because I’ve worked with dogs forever, more than-
20 plus years, right?
Yeah. I’m going on about 26 years now. Quarter of my life.
Quarter of a century. That will be the end of an era.
So, that’s where I’m headed. I want to work mainly virtually coaching people. I like the coaching aspect. I like seeing people bond with their animals as opposed to me bonding with their animals.
Well, we look forward to more stories about all the exotic animals that you’re working with around the world. So we’re going to go into lightning round, where we want to learn a little bit more about you as a human being rather than a human doing. Because one of the things that we want to promote is when you work for yourself you can live a great life. Let’s show what living a great life looks like for you. First question is, what are you streaming on Netflix, Amazon, anywhere where you stream cool shows or movies?
I like psychological stuff. So on Hulu, I was watching Prodigal Sun.
Oh, I haven’t heard of that one.
It got axed, they’re not running anymore. There was only one or two seasons, but that was kind of mind-bendy, crazy. Let me see what else. I watch a wide variety of stuff, but I do like anything with mind games.
Psychological thrillers. Awesome. What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Oh no, I love it. Because work is fun, right?! I don’t need a vacation from it.
I’m not big on vacations, weekend getaways maybe. Even now, I haven’t been anywhere in a really long time.
Well that’s says something because you’re still smiling. You’re enjoying life in the context of the work, too.
Yeah. I like being home. I like hanging out. I like to be off. But when I’m off, I’m usually going and doing something. I’ll go kayaking to look for wildlife.
It’s always something animal related.
You can’t get away from what you love. Final question. What upcoming things can we celebrate for you? Anything coming up for you that we can celebrate and where should we celebrate you? Is it on Instagram, on Facebook? Where should we go to keep track of all the cool stuff that you’re up to?
I’m glad you’re recording some of this stuff.
Oh yeah. A lot of videos and a lot of tutorial type videos.
“Essential Equine Training” on YouTube. Okay, cool.
Most of my stuff is under “Essential Equine Training.” And then the dog training is under Better Dog Behavior on both Facebook and Instagram.
“Better Dog Behavior.”
Yeah. And the exotic training, I do have a Facebook page, Exotic Pet Training, but I’ve been a little slower to get that going.
Well, you’ve got a lot of balls in there. I’m really impressed with all the positive solutions that you’re delivering in the world. Michelle, thank you so much for spending the time with us. It’s been a joy to learn about your story and to hear some of the cool stuff that you’re doing. Thanks for sharing with our community, folks who are just getting started or looking to take their business to the next level. I’m sure we’re going to have lots to reach out to you about in the months to come.
Thank you. And thanks for having me. This is fun. This is the first time, well, second time I’ve done this on Instagram. It’s kind of cool.
Well, it was magical, thank you.
Bye Michelle. Thanks so much.