In these busy times, hard-pressed hounds know the value of a good holiday. And where better for a reviving doggie break than the Country Dog Hotel, Somerset’s ultimate canine rural retreat.
Property queen Sarah Beeny and accountancy guru Bobby Lane stopped off to check out the hotel’s business pedigree.
Puppy love: Sarah Beeny and Maple with Becky Linnell and her canine pals
The pair have been touring Britain as part of a campaign by accounting software expert QuickBooks to help small business owners prepare for the launch of the government’s new Making Tax Digital initiative. And this time, they took along an expert consultant for added input, Sarah’s cheeky cockapoo puppy Maple.
We all love a little luxury, and dogs are no different. At the Country Dog Hotel, owners Becky Linnell and Mike Walton like nothing more than rolling out the red carpet for their canine guests.
VIPs – very important pooches – are chauffeured in from their city pads to enjoy bracing walks in the Quantock Hills, home-baked biscuits from the hotel’s Aga and pamper sessions in the spa bath while listening to soothing Classic FM.
Frankly, it’s the least a dog deserves when the family are off on hols and need a bolthole for Fido.
The whole hotel experience gets a massive paws-up gets from Maple, Sarah Beeny’s six-month-old cockapoo. She has joined the TV star on the road as Sarah promotes the changes facing small business owners as a result of the government’s new Making Tax Digital initiative.
“She certainly doesn’t get this level of luxury at home,” Sarah laughs, as Maple snags a doggie treat. That’s exactly the reaction Becky, 38, hoped for when she opened her dog hotel three years ago.
Paws up: Becky Linnell and Mike Walton are running their dream business
“I love dogs,” says Becky, who owns four rescue pups. “I’ve worked with them for 15 years. Even when I was on holiday in Thailand, I volunteered with a street dog charity.”
It was back home, after spotting a gap in the market for top quality dog boarding, that she and partner Mike found the perfect farmhouse and the Country Dog Hotel was born. Now they have their dream home and business all under one roof.
“We treat our guests as part of the family,” Mike explains. “We get dogs howling at the back door to come in, not go home!”
Certainly Sarah, like Maple, is impressed. “It’s so comfy here, I only wish they did B&B for people as well,” she says. But while Becky and Mike aren’t thinking of catering for humans any time soon, they do have expansion plans. They have just been granted planning permission to build a dedicated doggie spa in their grounds and they hope to open Country Dog Hotel branded salons around the country.
“At the moment, as well as standard grooming, we pamper our dogs with Quantock mud baths and facials,” says Becky, who has an impressive array of framed dog grooming and canine first aid certificates on the walls. “With a dedicated spa building we can offer treatments to non-resident dogs as well.”
It’s a plan that has (four) legs according to Bobby Lane, especially given that the pet industry is a very healthy growing market.
“The Country Dog Hotel is a great business but the problem Mike and Becky have at the moment is that they’re restricted by space on the number of dogs they can host,” he says. “Working out how they can expand and build the brand by generating revenue through other streams makes sense, especially as people are very willing to spend money on their pets.”
Bobby is also impressed by Mike’s sensible approach to accounts. He says the couple are well set up with all the right systems in place for growing in the future.
Digital Tax: what you need to know
Spend more time on what matters most
Did you know that online accounting software can save you up to ten hours a month? Spend the time you’ve saved perfecting your craft, creating new products or expanding your services. Whether you’re in the business of pampering pooches, or pursuing something entirely different, the right tools can remove the headache from financial management and allow you to focus on what you enjoy most.
Tap into smart tools
The secret to making sure your start-up doesn’t stall is understanding your cash flow. Enjoy the peace of mind of always knowing what you owe and what’s due to you by tapping into the power of accounting software. With your financial data at your fingertips, you can make smarter business decisions.
As a small business, the last thing you want is to get on the wrong side of the law. HMRC’s Making Tax Digital for VAT is in force from April 1. If you need to comply, you’ll have to use software such as QuickBooks to submit your VAT return. Remember when choosing new accounting software to make sure that the provider offers great customer support too.
For more information visit quickbooks.co.uk
Bobby explains: “The new Making Tax Digital legislation that’s being brought in on April 1 means that all VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover above £85,000 must file their accounts electronically. Luckily Mike’s already using QuickBooks, an HMRC compliant provider, so the changes should be straightforward for the business.”
It wasn’t something Mike thought about when they started out. “At the time, we more excited about buying the house and getting the hotel up and running,” he admits. “But we employed an accountant who recommended QuickBooks and I’ve been using it ever since. After a two-hour course I was ready to go, and now I do all the day-to-day accounts while our accountant does the end-of-year stuff. It has made everything really easy for us. I file receipts as I go so it never turns into a huge chore.”
Bobby’s advice for the proposed expansion into spas is to put together a business plan for the next three years, while Sarah recommends employing a business adviser one day a month.
“Sometimes when you’re busy running a business it’s hard to look at the big picture,” she says. “In the past I’ve found that speaking to someone who isn’t directly involved can bring a helpful new perspective.”
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The real secret of the couple’s success, however, is clear – their dedication to dogs. And as she scoops Maple away from the toasty tweed dog bed in front of the Aga to head home, Sarah’s sure this is only the start of great things for Mike and Becky.
“This is the best sort of business as it’s driven by passion,” says Sarah. “They are really enthusiastic, energetic and they obviously dote on dogs,” she says. “It’s the perfect recipe for success.”
While some might say it’s a barking business, it’s clear the Country Dog Hotel is best in show.