A little over six months ago (okay, exactly six and a half months ago, to the day, but who’s keeping track?) Matt and I opened this little operation that has been consuming our every thought for the better part of the past year. Then we stared at the phone for a while…. “RING!”, which it eventually did. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, and it’s not even close to being “settled” yet. But still, it seems like we’ve come a long way in a short time… so I got to thinking about the things we’ve learned so far:
1. The internet is kind of amazing. In a crazy, sometimes scary sort of way. We started right off the bat with a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account. Our first emergency call was from a woman who found us on Facebook. We hadn’t even opened yet – unfortunately, we were still in NY. (Thereafter, we made the disclaimer “OPENING AUGUST 1st” a bit larger…) The other day, we got a call from a woman with a dog she wanted ultrasounded for pregnancy… we had a discounted rate for mare ultrasounds for the month of February, and she’d found us on Google. (We didn’t think to make the ad specific for equine ultrasound… so we did it, and gave her the discount – creativity wins!) Once, we wrote a blog on a new equine drug for Cushing’s Disease, and tweeted it to the universe… it ended up on Equus. (You’re welcome to read it here, if you’re interested.) Really, internets? :-) Awesome.
Do you know how Search Engine Optimization works? I don’t really either, but Matt’s working on it. Basically, there are all these programs that “crawl” over your website, and the rest of the internet, trying to find out what’s on your website, and how “informative” it is for people searching for that exact information. The more times other people link to your website, the more “official” and “informative” the content is perceived to be by these programs, and the more likely someone will find it in a search. And there are very specific things you can do to make the programs “like” your website, and promote it. (Sincere apologies to any real SEO people out there reading this, including my sister…) So, SEO is super important if you want to be “Google-able”. Which we do.
Anyway, there are people out there you can hire to figure out all this internet stuff, but we’re do-it-yourselfers (read: we don’t have the money to hire someone to do this stuff for us…). So we are learning all about the wild world of the internet. And it’s a jungle out there, friends.
2. I actually like accounting. This is going to come as a huge shock to anyone I went to college with, since I spent all 4 years running away from any “social science” that had anything to do with money. Econ? Accounting? No, no. Give me archeology, social psych. But when I actually had to do it, it’s not so bad. We bought Quickbooks (on the advice of our CPA, who also graciously gave me a crash course in how to use it), and I promptly spent two days entering every single receipt we had collected over the start-up. And it was fun. I know, I know. It’s the obsessive-compulsive in me.
3. You need a red light in a dark room so you can see while developing film. But not just any red light. I’m a little ashamed to admit this one. But, who thinks of these things? In a world where most things are digital (and digital things are expensive, and you are poor…) we had to relearn some things in order to use our regular old “plain film” radiograph processor. We understood the concept behind a darkroom, having worked in more than a few before. So Matt built a beautiful dark room in the basement. Not a crack of light comes into that baby. (Anyone who knows Matt at all is not surprised by this.) But, to see enough to develop film, you need some light. Specifically, you need a red light. The lights are red because that wavelength is not absorbed into the film, and doesn’t expose it before you can get it into the processor. Great. But in any darkroom we had ever worked in, the red light is just there. Where do you buy one? ::shrug:: So we went to Home Depot, and they had a red light. It happened to say “Mood Lite” on it, but we figured, it’s RED, so it’s worth a shot. We took a few test shots, and developed them in our new little darkroom. They came out BLACK. As in, completely overexposed. Hmm. Surely our technique wasn’t off by that much. Ever the scientist, Matt took a few more test shots, then developed them in complete darkness. They came out fine. Woops! Turns out, you can buy a special red light made just for darkrooms on the internet (see #1). Unfortunately, it’s WAY more expensive than the one from Home Depot. Oh well.
4. GoogleVoice is the answer to all your answering-service woes. (See #1). I’m kind of afraid to share this one, too, but mostly because my deep-seated fear is that Google is going to figure out how amazing this service is, and start charging for it. GoogleVoice lets you set up a phone number which exists only on the internet, which can be forwarded to any number(s) you want. The number can have its own voicemail message. When someone calls it, it will ring to the phone(s) it’s forwarded to, and you have the option of answering it, or sending it straight to voicemail. Once someone leaves a message, you get a text message transcript, an emailed transcript, however you want to set it up. Did I mention it’s free? Yeah… Score 529 for the internet.
5. Amazon.com can sell drugs almost cheaper than I can buy them from a distributer. There is something wrong with this picture. I didn’t actually learn this recently, but it was cemented the other day. We don’t order a lot of small animal medications, but sometimes we do order Heartguard or Cosequin for people (okay, mostly family so far). The other day I ordered Cosequin for my mom’s dog, and sold it to her for my cost. She searched online and found it for $2 more than that. So much for a good deal! Obviously these companies are making a profit, so they must be getting the drug for much lower than I can. What gives? Pretty soon you’re going to have vets not carry any medications, script everything out to pharmacies, and charging more for services just to make ends meet. It’s a whole ‘nother blog topic, probably. But it gets me peeved.
Alright, I think that’s all the tidbits my tired brain can come up with. Time for sleep, and cuddling with kittens, for tomorrow is another day (and rumor has it, we get to play with the new Powerfloat tomorrow morning! Hurray for dentistry!)