Pet Care Pro Quarterly - Q1 2021

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IS ODOR A PROBLEM IN YOUR FACILITY? Unpleasant animal-related odors are a common, daily occurrence. Managing them safely and effectively can play an important role in facility management.

Disinfectants and detergents alone won’t remove foul odor.

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• 22 oz Bottle of ODORMED®

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6 Marketing Strategies Traci Bisson


GeoFencing: The Secret to Driving New Customer Calls Market Hardware


Pet Trusts in Estate Planning Andrew Gore


Why Every Facility Needs an Emergency Action Plan Daniel Talbott


HR Insights - Temporary Workers: Pros and Cons Lone Star PEO, Inc


Innovation Success Stories Alex McKinnon & Katy Cushing


Conversations With the 2020 IBBY Winners with Clay Liebrum




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FROM FROM FROM FROM THE THE THETHE PUBLISHER PUBLISHER PUBLISHER PUBLISHER Moving Through Today, Reaching Forward to Tomorrow What do you normally do at the beginning of each new year? Set up the new business plan? Make resolutions about changes in your personal life? Cry over how much money you spent over the holiday season? Reject getting on the scale because you already know….your clothes do not fit anymore! 2020 brought many changes to our lives, both personally and professionally. Now we find ourselves in 2021 wondering when will we have some kind of “normal”. I propose that we stop looking for normal and start taking action to move through today successfully. In order to do that we must look back before 2020. Why? Because how we moved through 2020 depended on what we had already built, both personally and professionally. This is an opportunity to really assess your business from a 365-degree view. Ask yourself the hard questions. Acknowledge what was weak, celebrate what was strong, and then make a plan that is measurable. Remember that old acronym, SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely). Keep the timeframe short. Technology is changing so quickly that keeping to no more than two years for a long-term goal is just about right. The assessment is the key that helps you “Move Through Today”, the SMART goals are what help you “Reach Forward to Tomorrow”. Does your assessment reveal that you do not have a

proper handle on the financials? No problem, IBPSA is here to help you. Do you not know what KPIs you should be watching right now? Maybe you do not even know what a KPI is. No problem, IBPSA is here to help you. Do you have challenges with your facility from a building perspective and you are not sure where to turn? No problem, IBPSA can help with that.

FROM How does IBPSA help you with all of these? THE By building a community where you can ask questions and get answers from other members. PUBLISHER By sponsoring a Facebook group, Thrive, where we deep dive weekly into issues that are affecting you and your business. By fulfilling our mission and being available when you call for help finding an answer, vendor or consultant, you can be assured that the people we connect you with are knowledgeable in the industry. This is the ROI (Return on Investment) on your membership, a team of people who are working to be sure you have access to information you need. This edition features five Ibby award winners that continued to move forward during COVID and started reaching for tomorrow. I hope they inspire you to continuing reaching and improving this year. Thank you for your support of IBPSA as we support the industry.

Carmen Rustenbeck Publisher, Pet Care Pro Quarterly Founder & CEO, IBPSA International Boarding & Pet Services Association


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Kelly Cullum

Kelly is the former COO and Corporate Officer of Biotech/Diagnostic Medical Device Space. Working within the Veterinary diagnostic arena provided the springboard to opening her first facility in 2004 followed by a second facility in 2012.

Mike Hajduk

Mike is the immediate past president of Callahan Roach Business Solutions, the premier provider of flat rate pricing and marketing products in the HVAC, plumbing and swimming pool industries.

Alex McKinnon

Alex has 30+ years of increasing responsibility, with innovation senior leadership roles with Kinn, Gillette, Braun, Bell Sports, Sara Lee, Sylvan Learning Center, Hampton Products International and TopicalNet based in USA, Spain, Germany, and Scandinavia.

Leslie Fleuranges

As founder, owner and Comforter-in-Chief at Tender Loving Care Pet Nursing Hotel, Leslie provides a home away from home for elder, sick, anxious, mobility limited and special needs cats and dogs. Leslie’s entrepreneurial spirit and her compassion for all creatures fuel her dedication to her one-of-a-kind business.

Daniel Talbott

Dan is working to deliver the next generation of analytics platform for occupational safety, risk management and loss control systems. Dan brings years of operational experience managing large IT operations, safety and cyber security for large companies around the world.

Ryan Ainsworth

Ryan has been a veterinarian for 12 years, purchasing his first clinic 6 years ago in Mesa, Arizona. He has since purchased two more. His most recent purchase was Bark Avenue, which has an Animal Hospital, Pet Resort, and a Pet Supply store.

Ron Sosa

Ron is currently responsible for the vision, growth, and economic stability of Bark Avenue Enterprises located in Mesa, Arizona. As the Director of Operations, he is involved in three Veterinary Hospitals, one Pet Resort, and one Pet Supply retail store. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR BOARD MEMBERS, VISIT


PASSIONATE INNOVATOR. VISIONARY LEADER. BRILLIANT CREATIVE MARKETER. Throughout her impressive and multifaceted career, Leslie Fleuranges has leveraged her considerable talents to provide groundbreaking products and services that make life better for others. As founder, owner and “Comforter-inChief” at Tender Loving Care Pet Nursing Hotel, Leslie (along with her dedicated and highly-skilled team) provides a home away from home for elder, sick, anxious, mobility limited and special needs cats and dogs. Leslie’s entrepreneurial spirit and her compassion for all creatures fuel her dedication to her one-of-a-kind business.


Leslie Fleuranges

Prior to opening the nursing hotel in 2019, Leslie spent 15 years at Hill’s Pet Nutrition in Topeka, Kansas, as a marketing, innovation, and product development leader. She identified key market gaps and led a team in the development of innovative new wellness and therapeutic products. While at Hill’s, Leslie worked closely with veterinarians and developed a deep base of knowledge regarding the animal healthcare industry. Throughout her career, Leslie has been a trailblazer in discovering consumer insights and transforming them into products and services that fill a genuine need in the marketplace. Whether speaking directly with consumers or acquiring and synthesizing industry data, her affinity for



insight-driven innovation has empowered her to grow dynamic brands for Fortune 500 companies including Hallmark, Block Drug, Conde Nast, Unilever Lipton, Clairol and American Home Products. Leslie’s entrepreneurial success at Tender Loving Care Pet Nursing Hotel represents a “full circle” milepost in her career. An entrepreneur at heart, she founded Mahogany Curio Collection in 1990. She developed a unique business model and sold limited-edition black art, collectibles, home decor and books. Leslie was cited as “Entrepreneur VIP” by Babson College, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration/Marketing.

Leslie cares deeply about her community and serves as the Fundraising Chair for The Topeka Chapter of The Links, Inc. A lover of the arts, she serves on the Board of the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey. Most recently, Leslie was appointed to the International Boarding & Pet Services Association, the professional association for pet boarding and daycare facilities, groomers, dog walkers, pet sitters, veterinarians, trainers, and other pet care providers. Leslie’s joys include traveling and spending quality time with Mimi, her beloved Lhasa Apso.

When was the last time you drove your car with the windshield painted black? Never, right? That would be insane. However, thanks to COVID-19 pet professionals are navigating their businesses “blind” due to significant changes in the pet industry. As a business owner, you can appreciate the need to understand trends, buying patterns and historical data. This research

is critical to predicting the future needs and growth of your company. Without this information, you are driving in the dark. Almost overnight, the landscape of the mostly recession proof pet industry, was altered so dramatically it left pet professionals wondering what comes next. As most of us struggle to find some type of “normalcy” in our lives, new trends are appearing.



A silver lining in the pet industry? Researchers believe so. In June, Pet Product News discussed how the Coronavirus is boosting business that can be done online or with minimal human contact, including online education and streaming video. Packaged Facts, a leading U.S. publisher of market research, predicts a huge jump in online sales in 2020, to 31% of total pet product sales, up from the pre-pandemic prediction of 24%, with e-commerce continuing to grow through 2024. So, what does all this mean? It means opportunity for the pet services sector, which researchers say took the hardest hit from COVID. As we move forward and work to rebuild the foundation of our businesses, find comfort in knowing that the “pets as family” trend is still strong and growing. With many pet owners now working from home, pet services are not needed in the same traditional way they were pre-COVID. However, there is now new opportunity available for this industry. Here are 6 foundation rebuilding marketing strategies you should take advantage of to pivot your business and cater to the needs of the post-COVID pet owner.

1. Reinvent your service offering. With emerging trends in online education and streaming video, how can your pet business pivot to reach pet parents where

they now engage? What other talents or expertise do you have that you can tap in to and use to offer something new and unique? A dog walker lost all her clients due to COVID-19 so she decided to tap into her creative side. She now digitally draws dog portraits and sells to pet owners through Facebook community groups. Other pet professionals are catering to seniors and professionals working from home by offering shopping services for groceries, pet supplies, medications and more. Think about ways to creatively offer your services and cater to work-from-home pet parents. If you are a boarding facility or doggy daycare, what can you offer that pet parents would value? Perhaps develop fun canine enrichment programs like a sniff-o-rama session or collaborate with a school and broadcast Zoom sessions of children reading to dogs at your facility. You could also partner with a local dog trainer who could offer recorded training sessions at your facility and broadcast live to pet owners during their lunch break. By differentiating your service offerings and getting creative, pet owners who treat “pets as family” won’t want to miss out on a unique experience for their pets.

2. Harness all that technology has to offer. Technology has played a huge part in helping pet pros adapt their services to



a changing market. Pet sitters and dog walkers offer virtual meet and greets using Zoom. Dog Trainers conduct training sessions online and use scheduling software like Acuity to manage appointments. Pet professionals are learning to create digital courses using platforms like Thinkific, Membervault and Teachable to offer consumable and educational courses and online classes for the market. Download this free Tech Tools for Pet Pros Guide for a list of tech tools and their business applications.

3. Let the media know what you are doing.

into several different platforms at once. They also offer a free version for those just starting.

5. Create content and repurpose. One piece of content, such as a blog post or video, can have multiple applications and repurposing is a valuable part of any marketing strategy. According to ThriveHive, repurposing content not only saves you time and effort, but also increases your online presence, strengthens your messaging, enhances your expertise, and helps you reach new audience members.

The media is hungry for stories on businesses rebuilding and pivoting during these uncertain times. How is your business coping? Are you giving back and helping others? Are you using technology in a new way to meet market needs? Look for opportunities to share your stories and expertise with others. Use this free Media Relations for Pet Pros Guide to learn strategies and receive the tools and knowledge needed to be the next pet professional featured in the news.

For instance, if you go live in Facebook on a trending topic, you could then transcribe the video using, and repurpose into a blog post. Then strip the audio using Online Audio Converter and create an MP3 file that can be downloaded and listened to.

4. Make video your friend.

• Share on Facebook

It’s time to step outside your comfort zone and embrace video. Go-Globe predicted that by the end of 2020, live streaming was expected to account for 82% of all internet traffic. Live streaming into your established profiles on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube is a great place to start. However, a program like StreamYard will help you cast a wider net and reach more people allowing you to broadcast

• Send an e-blast to clients and prospective clients

Additional ideas for repurposing content, include: • Create a news release and send to the media

• Tweet about it on Twitter • Share it on LinkedIn • Create a short promo video to highlight on Instagram or Facebook stories • Link with digital ads • Highlight on your website home page



6. Breathe, relax, you got this‌ Most importantly, take care of yourself. You are no use to yourself or your customers if you are burned out and stressed from pivoting and reinventing. Take time for yourself to enjoy the hobbies and activities that help you decompress. Find other pet professionals in your area and get together to share stories, ideas and commiserate. Provide support and guidance for each other as you determine next steps for yourself and your business. Reach out to national organizations like IBPSA for information, education, and help with your business direction. Remember, you are not in this alone, many pet professionals are struggling to

navigate the dark road ahead. Together we are stronger, and we will weather this storm!

Traci Bisson is a creative coach for pet pros with 26 years’ experience in marketing and PR for entrepreneurs. She is also the owner and founder of It Takes a Village Pet Care, a sustainably focused dog walking and vacation pet sitting company located in Barrington, NH. To learn about her free Facebook group for Pet Pros and to access marketing resources, visit


2020 certainly was the year of curveballs, particularly for the pet care world. When you pair all this uncertainty with an industry that primarily gains business due to owners being on the move or away from home, Plan B turns to C turns to… you get the picture! In today’s world, where in-person interactions are becoming less common, newer and smarter methods must be utilized in order to get your pet care company’s information in front of the pet owners in your area. GeoFencing is one of the most powerful ways to drive up leads and referrals in an efficient and cost-effective way. In short, GeoFencing is the best way for you to hand over your business card – but digitally, on smartphones, tablets and computers! We know that digital marketing tactics are always changing, and it can be hard to keep up. That’s why we’re going to break GeoFencing down step-by-step!

Display Ads Even if you don’t think you are familiar with Display Ads (also known as online banner ads), you likely interact with them on a daily basis. Display ads are digital banners that are aimed at qualified prospects as they navigate the internet. A classic example is when you look up a favorite tool on Google, and you suddenly see ads on different Websites (Facebook, ESPN, your preferred news provider) all about that tool and where you can buy it.

Retailers are able to track people that are looking for their products online. By Googling “hammer,” you are highlighted as a possible sales opportunity. Thus, hammer-related ads make their way onto your screen throughout different sites.

Advanced Targeting What sets GeoFencing apart from simple Display Ads is the more targeted approach to who views a specific ad. To execute a GeoFencing campaign, a marketer sets specific location areas, which we call “geo-fences.” While these areas can certainly be broad, you can set your geofence parameters to precisely target a location. You can draw your fence along the edge of a certain neighborhood, down a particular street, and even around a specific home or address! GeoFencing is great because it allows pet care companies to target the areas that mean the most to them. Pet care experts can point to the exact neighborhoods that they want to serve the most. The geofence “activates” whenever someone’s wifi-enabled device falls into your target area - prospects don’t receive any notice about this automated process. In a world where everyone carries their smart phones along with them, this is how smart business operators grow their operation! Sound creepy yet? Well, it may feel that way. But these days, smart service companies are using every tool they can to leverage more relationships and more referrals – you should be doing the same.



Logistics Another highlight of GeoFencing is its relatively low cost to implement. Unlike other marketing models, you do not pay for clicks on your ads. You simply pay for impressions, another word for having your ad appear on someone’s screen. And what is the cost of these impressions? Around $0.01 a pop! That’s right, just one penny. You can keep your costs down even further by targeting specific areas and not casting too wide of a net. This way, there will be minimal wasted impressions! If you aren’t already keeping a list of important addresses, now is the time to start. Think about the locations that you would want to leave your business card at, and jot down those addresses, zip

codes, etc. Consider all the foot traffic places like dog parks and walking trails generate. Now imagine being able to place your pet care services right in front of these owners as they are out with their dogs. With any style of marketing, you get the most out of it when you narrow down your audience and build data on your prospects. While strategies are always changing, the goal of marketing remains the same: get your pet care facility’s information in front of the pet owners who need your services; especially the brand-new dog and cat owners produced in 2020. To drive more referrals and business, GeoFencing is the way to go for the modern small business. Visit to learn more about how we can help you!

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO A Closer Bond Pet Residency Training and how Kinn Kleanbowl is loved by pets and pet trainers. ©2020 Kinn, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Patented.

Pet Trusts in Estate Planning


ack in 2007, the news cycle exploded with the revelation that New York hotel heiress Leona Helmsley had left twelve million dollars of her estate-not to her children or family--but to a pet trust for the care and maintenance of her white, Maltese dog, Trouble. Although this headline-grabbing story was unusual, it did inform the public that pets can be included in a comprehensive estate plan.

“The pet trust will hold the funds earmarked for the pet and provide detailed instructions on how the funds should be used.” As an estate planning attorney, after discussing a client’s goals regarding their assets and who will be the guardian for their minor children, many clients also want to incorporate specific instructions in their estate planning documents to ensure their beloved pets are cared for after the client dies. Pet estate planning has two major considerations: Who should be the caretaker of the pet after the owner dies, and who should manage the funds allocated for the pet’s care. The caretaker will step into the shoes of the previous owner and ensure the needs of the pet are met. Because pets are legally still considered personal property, the client’s estate planning documents officially transfer ownership of the pet

to the caretaker just like other personal property items (i.e. “I give my pet dog, Nala, to my friend, Clay.” ) . The funds allocated for the pet’s care require a pet trust, because legally, money cannot be left outright to a pet. The pet trust will hold the funds earmarked for the pet and provide detailed instructions on how the funds should be used. Most importantly, it will include the designation of a trustee who will manage the funds. The pet trust should also designate alternate trustees if the first trustee is unable to serve, as well as provide how the caretaker and trustee will be compensated. The caretaker and the trustee can be the same person or different individuals. Logistically, it is easier to have the caretaker and trustee as the same person. But having different individuals serve in each role adds a layer of accountability. Further, some clients may elect to designate a third individual called a “Trust Protector” who supervises the whole trust arrangement to make sure the terms of the trust are honored.

“Organizations should provide specific instructions, including sample language that attorneys can incorporate into a Will or Trust...” Unfortunately, many times there is not a plan in place and the pet ends up at the city pound or a shelter. A possible solution


Pet Trusts in Estate Planning

would be for shelters and adoption centers to develop programs in which a person can bequeath their pet to the organization contingent upon a donation from the pet owner. The amount of the donation typically increases with the age of the animal because of the difficulty in adopting older pets. Organizations should provide specific instructions, including sample language that attorneys can incorporate into a Will or Trust, for individuals who are interested in the program. The instructions should be posted on the organization’s website.

and behavioral traits that will help match the pet with a new family. As the popularity of pet estate planning increases, facilities should be aware of the mechanics of pet trusts and encourage clients to put a plan in place.

***Andrew Gore is an attorney based in Richardson, Texas. This article is for informational purposes only and not to provide legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice concerning any particular issue or problem.

Additionally, if possible, the organization should provide a questionnaire for the pet owner to complete which would provide the organization important information about the pet’s name, medical history,

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e generally cannot predict when something unexpected is going to happen. I am a firm believer that If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail. These words may seem harsh, but you must have confidence that your employees know what to do when the unexpected happens. I am not talking about “Did you pack your rain gear?” In this article we are going to discuss situations that need your guidance on how you want your employees to respond. HOPE is never a good strategy. Train your employees before the unexpected happens, so you know your facility is prepared to respond the way you want them to respond.

your records stored on an offsite server or do you need to take a backup file with you when you leave work?

In the “Health & Wellness” article written by a mystery writer in our last issue of Pet Care Pro, topic number two was safety, specifically weather safety this time of year. The author took the position that everyone has an Emergency Action Plan and have trained their employees on it. You never know when those high winds or a dreaded tornado might hit your establishment. Is your Emegency Contact List up to date? Do you have pre-arrangements for where your clients could be placed at other facilities should yours become unable to be occupied? It is important that you have your client and staff contact information current. The last thing you need is to not be able to get a hold of Fluffy’s parents to let them know she is ok after a storm. Are you prepared for what is needed from your facility should there be a disaster overnight, even if you are a 24-hour facility? Are

“IBPSA just released an updated Emergency Action Plan in the store that includes all of these topics.”

You need to know how to contact your customers and employees in the event there is an emergency. It is important that you communicate your Emergency/ Disaster Plans with your staff and train them with constant reminders as necessary. You might even let your clients/prospects know you have emergency plans in place. It might make them feel better about leaving their fourlegged loved ones with you!

Actions taken in the initial minutes of an emergency are often critical. When a warning is sounded, do your employees know what to do? When should they call public emergency services? Do they know how to provide full and accurate information to help the dispatcher send the right responders and equipment? An employee trained to administer first aid or perform CPR can be lifesaving. Actions by employees with knowledge of building and process systems can make a real difference for everyone before help does arrive.



Safety Consultants will tell you that an important step for any facility is to develop an Emergency Action Plan that describes what to do in specific situations and where to go. Document and share action items for specific situations in your facility. These action items should be designed so that anyone in the facility will be able to follow these directions, get assistance or know how and where to evacuate to a safe place. Many situations require different types of responses. Without a published Emergency Action Plan you are relying on individual responses as your safety strategy. Make sure your employees take the lead in any emergency and deliver clear, concise communications to ensure your customers and employees know what to do.

customers to consider what you are doing as best practice and feel safe visiting your facility during this time. WORKPLACE ACCIDENT

Every facility should have a written plan that outlines what to do during a workplace accident or if someone needs medical assistance. Does your facility have first-aid kits and other safety devices available? Does everyone know where to find them? Have you trained your employees on basic first aid and about personal safety? Do they know how to dispose of any trash that contains blood or body fluids? Do you use an Accident Report Form to make sure you capture vital information at the time of the incident? EMERGENCY EVACUATION

“Make your facility a source of knowledge and show leadership to your customers.” INFECTIOUS DISEASE

One of the most devastating things is an infectious disease pandemic. Communications is critical during this period. Become a resource to your pet owners. Post information that owners are concerned about, such as infectious disease and what it means for their pet. Make your facility a source of knowledge and show leadership to your customers. Do you have basic prevention measures and controls displayed? You want your

Do your employees know what to do if there is a fire or when an emergency evacuation is necessary? It would be wise to have an Emergency Evacuation Plan posted in every room showing the locations of safety equipment and exit routes to gathering points, and procedures to verify that everyone is out of the building for first responders. You absolutely need to have an Emergency Evacuation Plan explaining to everyone the most direct egress or escape for people and pets to get away from any area that contains a threat, or a hazard to lives and property. Everyone must understand these procedures and practice them in advance. Planning is critical for everyone’s safety. Make



sure everyone knows where to gather in case of an emergency evacuation of your facility. Have an emergency contact information list of important names and numbers posted in plain sight. This could save a lot of time, stress, and perhaps even lives or property, by having this available at the time of an emergency. SEVERE WEATHER

As the earlier article discussed, one of the more common situations every facility must deal with is severe weather. Weather takes on different forms throughout the year, like severe storms or tornados, winter weather, or excessive heat during the summer. Any of these situations can cause serious risks or injuries to people and pets, alike. Do your employees know what to do when weather advisories are issued? Your preparedness and responses are different for each of these situations and following guidance can help avoid potential risks and hazards. GAS AND POWER ISSUES

Knowing what to do if you have a utility outage or a toxic chemical release at work is key to keeping employees and pets safe. If your facility uses gas, it is critical that everyone follows your action items for a gas leak which can be a serious health concern and even a threat to life. It is important that you have a plan for each area of your facility. If the power goes out, a dark room may cause the anxiety levels to rise quickly. Having a plan of action will help make sure your employees understand what to do. Procedures like checking batteries

on emergency lighting so they work when you need them reduces stress. Instructions to keeping doors closed on refrigeration equipment and how to turn on/off generators helps keep everyone safe. Do not let things that you cannot control cause you to lose customers because you appear to be without guidance in situations like this. Demonstrate to your customers that you are a professional organization and have trained employees to manage situations and maintain safety for everyone.

“Train employees on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable conduct.� DANGEROUS INTRUDER

Some situations can be dangerous, like a robbery, workplace violence, or a bomb threat. Armed robbery is one of the most serious and potentially dangerous crimes today. You should train your employees on what to do if this happens in your facility. Your primary goal is to keep yourself, employees, and guests safe in the event of a robbery. Explaining to everyone in advance of how to respond and stay calm will reduce the risk of turning this into a dangerous emergency. Make sure everyone knows how you want them to act to help de-escalate the situation in order to keep everyone safe. It helps to make sure everyone understands your policies on providing a working environment where all employees, guests, and animals are safe and free from violence. Train employees on what is acceptable and



what is not acceptable conduct. If you have talked about situations before they occur, employees will be more prepared to deal with any specific situations when or if they occur.

“Planning is critical for everyone’s safety.”

chemicals have utility and benefits in their applications, they also have the potential to cause adverse effects.

“It is your responsibility to make sure all employees are trained on how to respond in emergency situations...”


Does your facility have written procedures of what to do if you have a missing pet? Most facilities have precautions like safety gates and doors to separate rooms to help keep everyone where they are supposed to be. But situations do occur. Do you have action item lists that you follow immediately when you have a pet reported missing? A quick response is required, and it helps to engage everyone quickly. Do you have documented procedures and processes to help recover the lost pet. It is also important to document what happened and learn how to avoid similar incidents in the future. It can be very damaging to your reputation if word gets out that the same thing happens all the time. Be pro-active and own the responses for your facility. CHEMICAL SAFETY

Last thoughts about preparing for possible situations in your facility. Today, chemicals are an important element of sanitation and cleaning in our environment. Chemicals are used daily, from cleaning fluids to pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and paints. While these

As stated earlier, you do need a formal Emergency Action Plan that is specific to your facility and unique to your location and services. It is your responsibility to make sure all employees are trained on how to respond in emergency situations and know where the emergency contact phone numbers are posted. IBPSA just released an updated Emergency Action Plan in the store that includes all of these topics. REVIEW YOUR PLANS

Hope is never a good strategy. Take time to review your facility plans and use the facilities review sheet that is included in the plan to increase safety, knowledge, minimize risk, and potential exposures. It should be a requirement in your facility that everyone understands what to do if an unplanned emergency occurs. If you have recommendations of situations you would be willing to share, please let us know and we will provide periodic updates to this topic in the future.



iring temporary workers is a growing trend among employers. While the majority of temporary work continues to be traditional blue-collar and low-level office jobs, demand is also growing for short-term managers,

financiers, computer experts, engineers, teachers, nurses and other specialized trades or professions. Hiring temporary workers rather than employees can be a cost-effective decision, but also carries significant risks for employers.




There are many beneficial aspects of hiring temporary workers, including the following: • They are usually cheaper because they do not receive benefits, nor are you required to pay workers’ compensation, employment taxes or unemployment premiums for temporary workers. • If using a staffing firm to procure workers, the staffing firm is typically responsible for recruiting, placement, training, payroll and supervision of the temporary workers. • You can use them to respond to fluctuating staffing needs, such as an unexpectedly busy period, seasonal needs, employee absences or special projects. • They allow you to respond strategically to economic or productdemand cycles, instead of hiring several workers and then laying them off months later. • Hiring temporary workers could be a recruiting tool to test the abilities of potential employees, then permanently hiring only the ones who perform well. • You can use temporary workers to fill vacant positions while searching for fulltime employees. • They can be a conservative way to rebuild your workforce following an economic downturn.


Be sure to examine the risks and potential downfalls of hiring temporary staff, including the following: • Hiring temporary workers often means establishing a shared-employment relationship with a staffing company (“co-employment”), which presents several risks.

• The staffing company should be exerting primary control over the temporary worker, but sometimes that line can become blurred. If the distinction between employees and temporary workers is not kept distinct enough, you could be liable for unexpected responsibilities and costs (workers’ compensation, employment taxes, unemployment premiums, benefits, etc.). • Hiring temporary workers that are their own bosses eliminates the risk of co-employment but presents the risk of misclassification. Misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor can result in major penalties, plus the requirement to pay applicable employment taxes, workers’ compensation, and overtime. • Productivity may not be as high with temporary workers. • Staffing agency fees may offset money saved. • There may be workplace tension between employees and temporary workers who do similar work but for differing pay and benefits, leading to poor morale. • Temporary workers have less loyalty to your company, and are more likely to leave for a slightly better position or salary.

This information is geared toward leased employees and independent contractors. It does not apply to common law employees that work for a short period of time. To learn more about ways to manage your workforce, contact Lone Star PEO, Inc today. PET CARE PRO QUARTERLY | Q1 2021 | IBPSA.COM/PETCAREPRO | 29

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s your Boarding business down significantly vs. last year, and are you looking for ways to profitably grow your overall business? Would you be interested in launching a new service offering that will take care of the greatest unmet needs for dogs and clients in your region? As you probably know, across

most of the USA COVID-19 is creating a puppy boom, and many of these young dogs need training to ensure they stay happy in their homes. In many places, demand for training is outstripping supply. Furthermore, arguably the best form of training is Residency Training, aka Lodge & Learn or Board & Train.



Despite the attractive revenue and profit opportunities with Residency Training, most facilities still don’t currently offer this service. I interviewed pet care industry pioneer Katy Cushing to share some valuable insights to educate you on how and why to launch Residency Services.

Tell us the story of why and how you started A Closer Bond? When I was 14 years old, I had to give up my dog Patches as it bit a neighbor’s kid as it was not properly trained. At that age, I decided I wanted to become a dog trainer so that I could keep my future dogs. In 1988 I went to training school with Scott Mueller and learned there are many preventable behavior issues and problems linked to lack of social skills that can be prevented or cured by training. So, I decided to start a Closer Bond in 1994 to train dogs to help dogs to stay in their home. It is clear that dog training to help dogs is my passion, which has led me to founding and achieving an extremely successful pet care business in Palatine, IL with two locations. Our success has been so pronounced, we have started to train dog trainers, and will be opening up a school for dog trainers in the near future.

Tell us why and how you started to offer Residency Training, aka Lodge & Learn? I call it Residency Training as our facility is like a house, and they come here to learn from us. So many pets are given up on or euthanized due to lack of early socialization and training, and

dogs deserve the best education. It’s challenging for pet parents to train their own dogs due to a lack of time, knowledge, and patience, combined with inconsistent expectations. Furthermore, it is easier for a dog to be reliably trained by one person who is consistent in their training approach. Any training is a plus. Group training is too generalized, and doesn’t target or solve individual behavior problems. Private classes are better, but they don’t provide any solutions with social development, which is key. Residency training gives the trainer the time that is really needed to provide a dog the right education patiently, without worrying about life’s other stresses like pet parents do. In Residency Training, dogs can also learn faster and benefit significantly from a consistent lifestyle at A Closer Bond as opposed to a drop off program where the dogs are spending days here and evenings at home.

Do you have a story you can share with us about how Residency Training truly turned a dog’s life around? We received a phone call from a crying woman who was just about to take her dog to the Vet to put him down. I asked her to bring her 2-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Duncan in for an evaluation. Duncan had never been trained and had bit a visitor in their home who had reached under a table to pet him despite a clear warning of a growl. So, Duncan entered our Residency Training program, specifically a 4-week rehabilitation program. We started with obedience training first, then worked on



distraction, and other techniques including perception modification, conditioned relaxation and behavior training. We also trained Duncan’s pet parents to become more engaged in Duncan’s’ life, especially in applying his new training skills and anticipating his behavior. Duncan quickly became a happier dog, never bit anyone ever again, and lived a long and happy life.

Under what circumstances is Residency Training the best training option available for a dog? Under most circumstances, Residency Training is the best training option for basically all dogs. It is easiest for the dog to have one person who is consistent in their training and handling. It is important to understand that with Residency Training, the dog is not only learning, but also learning how to learn over time. It is kind of like the human equivalent covering elementary school, then high school, and finally college for the dog in one program. So, Residency Training can be the best and most complete education programs for all dogs. Ideally every dog would go through Residency Training, then their owners need to be trained to follow through. Pet parents need to show the dog that they expect the same results with the training as the trainer did. It needs to be the same approach for it to be optimal for the dog.

For what types of pet parents is Residency Training the best option for their dog? Especially for super busy pet parents. Anyone who has a very active dog, which can be stressful and test their patience. Dogs with any behavior concerns are perfect for Residency Training. This could include aggression, fear biting, and separation anxiety. It is important to understand that it is easier for a trainer to place higher expectations on a dog vs. a pet parent, and therefore we will get better results. We also need to continue to stress the point that owners then need to follow up at home. People who have puppies who need to be house trained are a perfect fit for Residency Training. Also, shy and under socialized dogs are a good fit, as we have the time and knowledge to build confidence in the dogs. Families with 2+ children under 10 years of age are a great match so that the dog gets all the attention they need during training. Essentially, anyone who wants their pet’s education in the hands of a professional.

For what types of pet care services facilities is Residency Training the best training offering to provide? For facilities that have overnight stays, i.e. lodging or boarding, Residency Training is the best training offering. We also have drop-off training programs, but it takes longer to get the same results, as the dog goes home at night, and rules are different at home than they are in training. Our Residency Training is a 3



weeks program where we are going to have a dog trained for off leash reliability outside. Without having 100% control of the dog during this time, it takes much longer to get the results.

When is Residency Training not a good training option? Dogs on medication for seizures or diabetes are probably not the best candidate. Given a change in environment, it can take a dog a few days to adjust. So, if the change is going to cause a seizure, or if they stop eating for more than a day or two, we don’t want them losing weight. In summary, we don’t want them to have any type of medical issue while they are in our care.

If a pet care services facility today is already set up for lodging/boarding, what else do they need to do to successfully launch and attract clients for Residency Training? First, they need a confident, outspoken, and experienced trainer who has their own well-trained dogs that they can demonstrate to new clients to show the results they can get, and what people can expect to get out of the training. That’s really important. You don’t want a cookie cutter approach, so the trainer needs to be able to adjust to the individual dog’s needs. They need to be able to understand personalities, evaluate them, and discuss behavior problems. They need to come up with a training plan to be successful and use it at home with the owners. This can also include

a lot of follow-up lessons afterwards, which we believe is one of the reasons our Residency Training programs are more successful than many others. For example, sometimes we are their 4 or 5th trainer the pet parents have used, but we can pretty much guarantee we will be their last as our results endure the test of time.

How can Residency Training help give you an edge over competition in your region? Big boxes have group classes and private lessons, but they don’t typically offer Residency Training. Also, most other pet care facilities today do not yet offer Residency training.

What special equipment and capabilities do you need to launch Residency Training? You really don’t need any specific equipment, but you do need a confident and competent trainer. Nothing should be fearful for dogs. We use lots of treats and lots of encouragement as we believe in a balanced approach to training. We get dogs to want to learn from us, and introduce the word “no” so we can redirect their attention when they get distracted. You really need the capabilities of getting the results that the owners are looking for with their dog. We use our love and affection to get these results. When the owners are happy, we are happy for them.



How do the revenue and profit of Residency Training compare vs. lodging, daycare, grooming, and basic training? A few years ago, we did all these services at one location in 600 square feet. We were training about 10 to 15 dogs a day. We outgrew the space, and relocated our training department to an 8,000 square foot building. The Residency Training today is about 60% of our total revenue, and regular boarding, daycare, and grooming stayed at our original location and makes up 40%. Our income from Residency Training is what is keeping us going. Importantly, the profitability of Residence Training is a lot higher than for the other services. We offer 1, 2, and 3-week programs in Residency Training. Each week of training is going to bring in for us between $600 and $1200 per dog for some of the programs we have. For the 3-week program that usually brings us about $2800 in revenue.

What does your staff think of Residency Training vs. other services you offer and why? The staff really like the Residency Training vs group classes or private lessons. Group classes can be frustrating as you can only go as fast as your slowest learner. Private classes, as long as the client is motivated and works with their dog in between, can be good. They also like getting to know and understand the dog better and seeing the transforming results with Residency Training.

What educational and marketing tools does a facility need to successfully launch Residency Training with clients? Go to Vets with a demonstration of the training you do, and give them brochures that talk about the training. Marketing with veterinarians is a must, and you really need a compelling demonstration. When we are asked how to pick a dog trainer, we say look at the trainer’s dog. We tell our trainers that you have to spend 30 minutes a day training your own dog, as that is what you are going to be showing and talking to potential clients about. This also improves the relationships all around.

ADDITIONAL TAKEAWAYS FOR SUCCESS TRAINER CULTURAL FIT The foundation for success is the trainer(s) must be “confident, outspoken, and an experienced trainer who has their own well-trained dogs that they can demonstrate….” The rest of their success will depend largely on your team ensuring they are hiring and/or partnering with someone who shares your values, and is a team player to collaborate with the rest of your staff. CLIENT EDUCATION Key to success will be having your trainer(s) develop marketing materials to train clients up front on why it is so important to get dogs trained properly, and why Residency Training will provide the best education and long-term results



for their dogs. This should also contain content outlining what pet parents must do immediately after the training and ongoing to ensure that the training becomes a way of life and pays long term rewards. SERVICE UPGRADES Take advantage of your launch of Residency Training to upgrade your overall services offerings. This can include “good, better, best” offerings in Residency Training. It is also a great time to review and upgrade your lodging/boarding experiences as they will end up being important components of your Residency Training program differentiation. Katy and I both wish you much success launching Residency Training at your facility, and feel great knowing it will benefit so many dogs and clients, while helping to take your business to the next level of service excellence and financial results!

Alex McKinnon is an accomplished brand builder via leadership in innovation and teamwork driving significant business growth. Currently Alex is Founder and CEO of Kinn, Inc., a Member of IBPSA’s Advisory Board, a Fear Free Certified Professional, and a Member of the Board of Directors of the Charlotte Symphony. He has 30 years of increasing responsibility in general management, brand marketing, and design/product development senior leadership roles with Kinn, Gillette, Braun, Bell Sports, Sara Lee, Sylvan Learning Center, Hampton Products International and TopicalNet based in USA, Spain, Germany, and Scandinavia. He is a Fear Free Certified Professional, has an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in Marketing-Finance-International Business, and a BA from Duke University in History and Spanish.



with Clay Liebrum

he IBPSA Pet Care Business Excellence Awards, nicknamed the IBBYs, were established by the International Boarding & Pet Services Association (IBPSA) to honor those businesses raising the bar for professionalism and success in the pet care services industry. The 2020 IBBYs were presented to the winners in multiple categories during the final session at the Eighth Annual IBPSA Virtual Conference & Trade Show, this past October.

I was able to get a chance to talk with our five distinguished winners. We wanted to ask them some questions about their business and operations, but we also spent some time talking about the past year and all that went along with the many situations that almost everyone has been facing. It was a pleasure hearing the success these people are finding as a result of the passion they have for the pet care industry. I definitely learned a few things from these incredible people, and our hope is that you will, too.



JILL MERJESKI JILL’S NEXT DOOR DOG WALKING & PET SERVICES PETATARIAN AWARD WINNER HOW DID YOU GET STARTED? I established Jill’s Next Door Dog Walking & Pet Services in 2016. I started out doing independent contractor work with Once I got that started, I then established Jill’s Next Door Dog Walking & Pet Services. From there, it’s just been growing. I have a team of sitters, and now I sort of overhead manage everything. I’ve never seen so many community cats that needed help. This area of Florida is inundated with stray cats, so I started just feeding the local community cats,

and it becomes addictive. I fed those first community cats and they kept coming back at the same time, every day. Then, they began bringing their friends. They are just sitting outside of your door, waiting to get fed and they are just starved. So, I became the community cat feeder and then fostered a bunch of kitties. Then, I realized that I needed some more hel. I created these alliance programs to create a bridge to the different rescues and people that can foster and adopt. People that have lost cats or were looking to foster them would come to me and I would work with the local rescues help them. It just becomes one thing after another and if your heart is in it, like mine is, then it is really difficult to say no. It is so fulfilling and it is so rewarding. With the benefits, there is going to be loss. There is going to be grieving. There are going to be sick pets that we just can’t help. There is going to be death. My team has wanted to give up because it’s just too heart wrenching. We can turn a blind eye, that’s an option, but it’s still going to happen. Do you want to be a part of it? My thing is, grieve it, get through it, and then go help the next one. TELL US ABOUT YOUR TEAM. We have a rescue liaison, and she works our local rescues and then with the fosters and adopters and then we align them with the different kitties and cats. We have a trapper, who also has a property that we fund raised to build an



outdoor “catio”, which is a screenedin area for cats that are unadoptable. We also have a volunteer that comes in to help socialize the baby kittens, which increases their rate for adoption. We also get a ton of support from the community. A lot of people have been willing to help, so it’s been a group effort, for sure. TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT’S BEEN KEEPING YOU BUSY OVER THE PAST YEAR. Well, with rescues closing, me and my team had to jump in and figure out how to continue getting these stray cats trapped and fixed, finding ways to get treatment to the ones that are ill, fostering them, and all of that stuff. So that’s when we had to jump it into high gear and up our social media presence. I also reached out to local rescues and helped them with their websites that were really out of date and not very user friendly. I did a lot of website design for them and just tried to get them online donations, since everyone was doing everything virtually at that point. I didn’t know anything about website design, so I had to just learn it on my own. Started some online fund raisers to raise money for building shelters for unadoptable kitties, hoping that people would be willing to help me and they were, which is fantastic. Setting up a bunch of makeshift medical stations. Inviting teams of people to come help, working with a ton of rescues in the area.

HOW DO PEOPLE TYPICALLY FIND OUT ABOUT YOUR SERVICES? They find us on social media. We did a morning television show through our local community. Getting this Petarian Award was huge for us. I sent out press releases and the local papers picked up the story. It’s a great honor for this recognition, but it also brings awareness to the cause and what we are trying to do. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST OBSTACLE? I would say resources are our biggest obstacle and having the funds to care for ill cats. Resources are also needed to have enough room to foster. Having fosters and adopters are other resources that are always needed. People are always wanting kittens, and they grow so fast. If I don’t get it to them in that window, then they are no longer kittens. Time is a resource that seems to always be needed. WHY? WHY DO YOU DO THIS? It’s really really interesting. I ask myself that a lot because it is hard. It’s difficult to find fosters. It’s difficult to find adopters. It’s difficult to reunite lost cats with their owners, all of it. It’s really a lot of hard work. It’s sad and it’s scary to get phone calls saying, “Hey, I need to re-home a cat.” And I think, “Why do I do this if it is so heart wrenching?” But then, I have these little babies here that grow and thrive. I make people’s lives by giving these people this beautiful



pet that they love. It comes full circle where the good outweighs the bad. The benefits outweigh the detriments. That’s what it always comes down to. Yes, it’s tough. Yes, it’s difficult. At the end of the day, we do such good and it feels so good. When I’m looking at these helpless kitties and they are sick or abandoned, and now they are thriving. They wouldn’t have had the ability to live their lives had we not jumped in. It really starts with that one kitten in need, and then you’re hooked.

“Where there is a Jill, there is a way!” HOW HAVE YOU BENEFITTED SINCE BECOMING INVOLVED WITH IBPSA? Every day I am so grateful for this award. I tell everyone and anyone that I meet about this award because it means the world to me. All of this stuff that I have been doing has seemed to be on the side, out of my own home, so to have this international recognition blew me away. I’m still buzzing from it. The IBPSA Conference is amazing. Their resources are amazing. I’m on their website all of the time. I’m on their social media, learning from the community. What’s not to love? It’s a great asset. It’s a great reference to have.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CREATIVE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE HAD TO DO DIFFERENTLY DURING THESE COVID TIMES? Since some of the rescues were closed, we had to triple our fostering efforts. There were cats in every room of my house. We had to set up makeshift medical stations in my house and invite professional to come in and treat the ill cats. We had to boost our online presence and social media efforts. We started building a “catio” because we were running out of room. We were inundated with becoming more creative because of the pandemic. I often say, “Where there is a Jill, there is a way.” ANY SPECIFIC SITUATION FROM 2020 THAT COULD HAVE GONE BAD, BUT YOU WERE ABLE TO MANAGE WELL? The best story was when I got a call about a mom that had just given birth to three kittens and I went out and picked up the mom and kittens. But then I had to evacuate my home because of a hurricane that was coming. So I put my three cats, the mom cat, and her three kittens in my car and drove to a hotel West Florida, where it was safe. So I had seven cats with me in this nice hotel room and was so thankful that hotel allowed me to bring those cats in with me. We blasted that story all over social media to highlight the generosity of the hotel. Because of that, we were actually able to reunite the mom with her



original owners and then adopted out the kittens. It was a beautiful success story of how to overcome the elements. No matter what comes, you can still do it. Just because disasters, hurricanes, and pandemics happen, it doesn’t mean we stop. WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT YOU WILL CONTINUE TO DO EVEN AFTER COVID IS A THING OF THE PAST? Focusing on the online presence and cleaning up some of these rescue sites to be more user-friendly. We are even more digital now and updating the places where people go for help or to donate should be something we continue to do. We’ve all learned new skillsets because of this past year and using those new skills moving forward is important for the community.

this for the greater good. It’s a ton of work and it’s exhausting, so for me to have this international recognition is validating for all of the work. I am so honored to be the first recipient of this award. ANY SORT OF ADVICE YOU WOULD WANT TO SHARE WITH OUR IBPSA MEMBERS? Use the resources that IBPSA offers. That knowledge base is irreplaceable. Use those cohorts to learn from and grow with together. Foster those relationships, not only to help the IBPSA community but also to be better professionals in this industry. Get out there. See how you can help your community. Connect with the passion. Don’t let hurricanes or pandemics stop us.

WHAT DOES THIS AWARD MEAN TO YOU? I was so happy and grateful for the recognition. I jumped up and down! I was going to hang the award in my office but I want it near me all of the time, so I keep it in my bedroom, right on my nightstand. This is the most proud that I have been for any accomplishment in my life. By far, bar none. This is it. I do want to say, there’s been some pushback from the community with feeding the community cats. My family often wondering why I have 10 kitties that I am fostering in the house. There’s just been some pushback there. I’m doing



pet is their child. We also have families with parents that work and they go on vacations. I would say it’s an even split. DO YOU HAVE SOME SORT OF DAYCARE MEMBERSHIP OR PUNCH CARD? That’s all taken care of in our computer system. We sell daycare and boarding packages. The second we check you in, the system itself deducts the proper amount from the package, which they have already purchased. No appointment needed.


FRANCHISEE AWARD WINNER HOW LONG HAS YOUR LOCATION BEEN OPEN? We will have been here eight years at this location, this coming May. WHAT ARE THE MAIN DEMOGRAPHICS IN YOUR CUSTOMER BASE? (FAMILIES, RETIRED, SINGLES…) It’s a big mix. When we first opened, we were generally more expensive than other places. As time went on, the demographics began to even out. We have retirees that travel the country. We have recent graduates that are on their way to getting married, and that

WHAT IS THE SPECIAL SAUCE THAT SETS YOU APART FROM THE COMPETITION? Customer Service. Period. The end. At the end of the day, it’s ALL about the relationships. You go out of your way to accommodate, within reason, whatever the customers are wanting to do. Sharing information for the wellbeing of their dog is important. People come back because of the relationships. Love the clients. Love the dogs. Then, everything else will take care of itself. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST SUCCESSFUL FORM OF ADVERTISING? It’s mostly the internet. It’s mostly getting the most out of the search engine optimization. We come up pretty high on the search page, no matter what you are searching for online,



whether we are paying for advertising or not. I pay enough for the SEO side so I haven’t gotten into the targeting part of online advertising. We do some coupon mailers and some direct mailers, as well. IF YOU WERE STARTING OVER FROM SCRATCH, WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WOULD WANT TO DO DIFFERENTLY? I might have started a little smaller. I might have spent a little less money on bells and whistles. That kind of stuff might get people in the door sometimes, but I’m already talking to them when they come through the door. Did I really need crown molding? I thought we would start out a little bit faster and grow a little bit slower, and it turned out we started a little bit slower and grew really fast. I also think we could have paid better attention to our organic presence on the internet prior to opening, to have that built up ahead of time. If people can’t find you, then people can’t find you. HOW HAVE YOU BENEFITTED FROM BEING INVOLVED WITH IBPSA? Exposure, for one. The ability to attend the annual IBPSA Conferences, for another. The sharing of knowledge and ideas has been helpful, hearing other ideas and testing them out. No matter how good you are in any one area, you can always get better. If you’re not getting better, then you are getting worse because somebody else is

getting better. You can always improve on everything. It also definitely doesn’t hurt to have the IBPSA label on all of our advertising. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CREATIVE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE HAD TO DO DIFFERENTLY DURING THESE COVID TIMES? At first, each and every one of use were coming up with little mini promotions, and it was somewhat disjointed. There are 15-20 locations open right now and we were all doing our own thing and then realized we were doing it. Now, we have a unified system with a whole calendar of standard promotions so each of us doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Not as many of our clients “need” us as they did when they were fully commuting into work or going on vacations. But I do feel that a lot of people kind of forgot that we were here and how much their dogs benefitted by coming in. So getting them back in the door with these mini promotions kind of primed the pump a bit to where daycare sort of got us back on track. HOW COULD YOU HAVE BEEN BETTER PREPARED FOR ALL OF THIS? I was lucky enough to somewhat weather the storm. I don’t take money out of the business. My wife wants to know where all of this income is going? I was saving it for a disaster. We put ourselves in a position to kind of weather a storm. So,



between that and the PPP loans, we’ve done alright. We did have to close for a few months, due to the unknown. I was uncomfortable with the staff being here together without getting a feel for what was at stake. We were considered an essential business, but I wasn’t comfortable right off the bat. We now know, for the next time this happens, what kind of precautions we can take. Financially we were pretty prepared. All of my employees that I had to temporarily furlough, I made sure they all knew that they were going to be taken care of, no matter what happened. I’m not sure there was much more that we could have done to be better prepared. We rolled with the punches and we kind of planned for it. Again, not this situation specifically, but we had planned for a disaster. WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT YOU WILL CONTINUE TO DO, EVEN AFTER COVID IS BEHIND US? We didn’t focus too much on social media. You know, it wasn’t like I was ignoring the value of social media. It just wasn’t a priority. Operations and customer service was my main focus. But I think moving forward, with all of the mini promotions we did along the way and all of the little things we put on social media to generate some interest or at least keep people engaged will continue on. All of the things that we started doing to keep up the occupancy through COVID, that’s what we are

going to keep doing. Anything you can do to share information and connect with people, that’s the important thing. If social media is where that is happening, then we’ll continue doing that.



TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WOOFINGTON? The Woofington is a dog resort and spa that caters to petite dogs with very posh accommodations. We do grooming, daycare, and boarding.



WHERE ARE YOU LOCATED? We are about 20 minutes West of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in a very affluent lake community. HOW LONG HAS WOOFINGTON BEEN AROUND? HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN THERE, OR IS THAT THE SAME ANSWER? It is the same answer. We opened on June 27, 2016, so we are into the 5th year, here. WHAT ARE THE MAIN DEMOGRAPHICS IN YOUR CUSTOMER BASE? (FAMILIES, RETIRED, SINGLES…) We have an interesting group. We have families, but it seems that we cater more to Millennials and Boomers. We’ve noticed a trend over the past couple of years that retired people are getting puppies, in droves. And also, some of these people have never had a dog before now and they are in their 70’s. We are also noticing a lot of Millennials getting married and while they are waiting to have children, they first get a dog or two. DO YOU HAVE SOME SORT OF DAYCARE MEMBERSHIP OR PUNCH CARD? Absolutely, and we don’t restrict times. They can drop off thier pet anytime during lobby hours, 7am-6pm, Monday through Friday. We sell daycare packages that

can go up to 40 days, and they get a discount the more days they buy. WHAT IS THAT “SPECIAL SAUCE” THAT SETS YOU APART FROM YOUR COMPETITORS? Our tagline is, “The appearance of opulence over ordinary.” I think it is quite simple, really. We create a “WOW” client’s experience anytime we can. I don’t care if you are at the front desk. I don’t care if you are working the evening shift in the boarding area. While dogs can’t talk, we firmly believe that they can communicate just fine. If we take that time to truly do everything that we can to blow that client away and take care of that dog to a level that nobody else will, you can tell in that dog’s demeanor when they come and pick them up. Our staff has complete license to make that client thrilled. We traveled across the United States and looked at many facilities before opening The Woofington, and we found a lot of inflexibility. I think that is what really sets us apart. HOW IS YOUR EMPLOYEE RETENTION, IN A NORMAL NON-COVID TIME? It’s very strong. Most our people have been here since the beginning. We are a family. I always say, “If you can’t be happy working this job, working at The Woofington, then you’re never going to be happy.”



IF YOU WERE STARTING OVER FROM SCRATCH, WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY? With regards to the facility itself, I would have more storage. No question about that. With regards to the business in general, and this is probably controversial to say, but I would have started with people who do not have dog experience. I have found that the most passionate employees that we have had are those who don’t come in with bad habits, where we can train them because we know that we do things differently. We would have people that came in with a lot of experience, and it’s an expensive and time consuming endeavor to hire people. So, we would get them all trained in and then they would want to do things the way they would do it at their previous facility, and we just do things differently here. WHAT IS YOUR MOST SUCCESSFUL FORM OF ADVERTISING? We use a local company to do radio advertising. People find us on search engines because we have invested in SEO. We do a lot of Instagram and Facebook. People like to see pictures of their dogs. One thing we do differently is we don’t just blast every single photo that someone took with the phone onto social media every day, because people don’t really care about that. They want to see their dog. We’ll do targeted

photo shoots. If it is their birthday, we’ll wrap them up in a boa with a birthday hat and put them up in our Presidential Suite, with all of the blingy pillows. HOW HAVE YOU BENEFITTED FROM BEING INVOLVED WITH IBPSA? I tell you what, we have LOVED the conferences, first of all. This last IBPSA Conference that was virtual, I was very skeptical because I don’t have that expertise of Zoom calls. But, it was phenomenal! All of the different speakers and sessions that we took part in were great. Even in 2019, we were in Palm Springs and we just took so much away from that conference. The people that attend the conferences are fantastic. You know, we made such good friends out of it and the quality of the speakers and content has been invaluable…. and Carmen, too. She’s such a great person and she is always available. She picks up the phone anytime that I have needed anything from her. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CREATIVE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE HAD TO DO DIFFERENTLY DURING THESE COVID TIMES? We’ve really stepped up our sanitizing, as far as clients coming in and out the door. So our process is a client comes to our vestibule, and one at a time our clients come inside. We sanitize the door handles, and obviously we are all wearing masks. We installed some



foam sanitizing units right at the door for clients to feel more comfortable coming in and out. Some of our clients will simply call us, and we will run their dog out to the car…which is something that we had never done before COVID. HOW DO YOU THINK THAT YOU WERE PREPARED FOR THIS UNKNOWN? I tell you, we haven’t changed much when it comes to sanitizing. We sanitize out entire facility, top to bottom, every single day. We always have. WHAT IS A WAY THAT YOU COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER PREPARED? Gosh, some of this stuff was completely out of our control. You know, 75% of our revenue is from boarding, so that has been a hit to us because nobody is traveling. I guess we have tried to focus on thinking outside the box, and maybe that is something that we should have been doing prior. We wanted to get people thinking about different reasons to use our daycare, instead of just going to work and dropping off your dog. Such as, dropping off your dog when you go Christmas shopping, or when you are out golfing or boating. Ever since COVID really hit, that’s when we really started promoting those types of things, and maybe we should have been doing that already because our daycare numbers are right where they are usually at, or better.

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC SITUATIONS THAT COULD HAVE GONE BAD BUT MAYBE YOU WERE ABLE TO NAVIGATE WELL? It could have gone worse if we did not try to get creative and getting people to think differently. We would encourage people, when traveling locally, to drop off their dog at The Woofington to give them a vacation, too. That could have gone bad had we just ignored that. We tried to help our clients think a little differently. WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT YOU WILL CONTINUE TO DO, EVEN AFTER COVID IS BEHIND US? We’ve added some things in our daycare area to make it more fun. We have more structured activities that I think is more attractive to clients. We actually have a significant amount of things for the dogs to do. We have structured bubble time, where we fire up the bubble machine with bacon scented bubbles, and the dogs run around popping bubbles. We have ball pits. We have pools outside in the summer. We have agility equipment and command reinforcement. So the dogs are going home not only physically tired but also mentally exhausted. Clients have really been responding to that, so we are going to continue those structured activities. Keep doing things in an excellent way and I think you will be rewarded for that. Figure out who you want to market to and don’t deviate from that plan.



having multiple pets.



WHERE ARE YOU LOCATED? We have three locations - Springfield, VA, Sterling, VA, & North Bethesda, MD. WHAT ARE THE MAIN DEMOGRAPHICS IN YOUR CUSTOMER BASE? (FAMILIES, RETIRED, SINGLES…) I would say that it really runs the gammit. First and foremost, they are pet parents. Demographics are a little different between the resorts because of the area they are located. We have everything from Millennials to retired folks who travel quite a bit, and really it’s a good mix of singles and families, as well. Heavily, the majority are families which lends itself to

WHAT TYPE OF BUSINESS DO YOU HAVE MORE REGULARLY, DAY DROP-OFFS OR OVERNIGHT BOARDING? The bulk of our primary business, and certainly revenue, is in overnight dog boarding. However, we do have a rather robust day camp, where dogs come daily. We have 10-day and 20day punch passes that gives you a little bit of a discount for those day camps, but it’s basically just drop-in for the day. Between our three locations, we can have 400-500 dogs between boarders and day camp drop-ins. All of our resorts have multiple day camp rooms, and we divide our dogs not just by age, but also by their temperament and speed of play. So, you can have small dogs with big hearts that want to run with the big boys. We take care to make sure that the dogs are well suited for each other. We also make sure to have a high staff to dog ratio there, as well. HOW IS YOUR EMPLOYEE RETENTION, IN A NORMAL NON-COVID TIME? It’s great. We have a personality profile software that we use when hiring to make sure it is a good match for our employees and for us. We have great benefits, so even seasonal and parttime employees have access to great health benefits, so we have pretty good retention there.



WHAT IS THE SPECIAL SAUCE THAT SETS YOU APART FROM THE COMPETITION? We have something called the Pet Protect Promise where we approach everything to provide the safest and most loving environment where you can entrust your pet. It’s a service behind the scenes that runs throughout our pet staff. They do everything with the pet safety and love in mind. We understand that the pets in our care are a part of someone’s family and we treat them like they are a part of our family. That’s part of our hiring profile. WHAT IS YOUR MOST SUCCESSFUL FORM OF ADVERTISING? Pre-COVID, we actually sponsored the Washington Capitals. They have a program called The Caps Canines, but they haven’t been playing a lot of hockey. We do a lot of outdoor advertising on the underground Metro. We are also in the regional print magazines. HOW HAVE YOU BENEFITTED FROM BEING INVOLVED WITH IBPSA? I would say for myself, some of the surveys and market research have been invaluable

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CREATIVE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE HAD TO DO DIFFERENTLY DURING THESE COVID TIMES? It started with closing our lobbies and creating curb-side pickup and drop-off, which we have done our own internal survey and will probably continue to offer an element of that even post-COVID. A good amount of our customers were really pleased with it and loved that process of not having to get out of their cars and come inside. We have created a Curbside Currier that goes out to the car with every dog at the first of the month. People don’t open a lot of email blasts, but they loved getting that piece of paper that kept them in-touch with everything that was going on. A lot of it was in the backend of the house, making sure our employees walking in one way directions, wearing masks, hand sanitizers readily available for employees and customers, and we’ve always done a great job of cleaning and disinfecting the facilities. HOW COULD YOU HAVE BEEN BETTER PREPARED FOR ALL OF THIS? I’ll be honest with you, we have everything from fire plans to hurricane/ tornado plans, so we have had so many emergency plans in place. I think the thing that we will always be better



planned for comes down to personnel and running more efficiently, by cutting back on services and rotations of personnel. We couldn’t have a bunch of humans in a room, safely. It was that contingency for scaling back while retaining as many of our employees as possible. To keep our volume up, we cut our boarding prices by 50% to help the first responders and health care workers, and we have continued that with our other customers, once they started needing our services again. ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC SITUATIONS THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO HANDLE WELL THAT COULD HAVE NOT ENDED0 NOT GREAT? I’d give a hats-off to our reservation team. They’ve been incredibly nimble throughout all of this. You can imagine, we’ve had people making reservations and then cancelling reservations. We adapted our cancelation protocols to give people more flexibility. It’s just been flexibility at every turn and understnading guest relations when you are handling human beings, where everyone is completely stressed out. To put that extra smile on their face or understanding of why they are in a particular mood is such a team effort.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT YOU WILL CONTINUE TO DO, EVEN AFTER COVID IS BEHIND US? From surveying our own customers throughout this time, we have a better understanding of what kind of customer service they are wanting. Like, curbside drop-off for convenience and things like that.


VENDOR AWARD WINNER TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT VIROX. Virox has only been a part of the pet industry for about five years. We are historically a human health company and we manufacture surface disinfectants. The surface disinfectant industry is



typically extremely boring. The same basic chemicals have been used for 7080 years. The company was formed in 1998 and brought to market a product that could be more stable, safer, more effective, and have a longer shelf life than the standard at the time. WHERE ARE YOU LOCATED AND WHERE DO YOU SHIP YOUR PRODUCTS? We ship to 70 countries around the world, and to outer space. Our product is the only disinfectant used on the International Space Station. WHAT PART OF THE PET INDUSTRY MAKES UP THE MAJORITY OF YOUR CUSTOMERS? We divide the pet industry into three separate subsections. The first one is veterinary, which is where we started our focus. The veterinary business has the most costumers for us, but they buy in relatively smaller quantities. The second is the shelter sector. The shelters base doesn’t have as many customers but they buy large quantities of our product. The third is the pet service section. There is a significant need for our product in the pet services base. When you get into the daycare and boarding areas, those really have a high risk for disease transmission, with varying acceptance of vaccines and other prevention strategies. Our goal

here has been to help assist and do it in a way that is completely credible so that IBPSA can promote the content and be really confident that they are doing it in a way that was not influenced by industry. HOW HAVE YOU BENEFITTED SINCE BECOMING INVOLVED WITH IBPSA? We need to focus on awareness and partner with the most credible organizations in the industry, while demonstrating that we have value to provide, outside of selling a product. Selling the product is the outcome. We need to demonstrate that we are more than just a product. We are knowledge, expertise, confidence, and that’s really what our solution is about. A disinfectant is just a disinfectant. If you don’t use it right, it does nothing. If you don’t know what you are doing, then just spraying something down can do more harm than good. So, we have to pair that with information, knowledge, and expertise. We need to do that with an organization that is credible and that we feel a real valuable partnership with. It was obvious to us, as we started researching the industry, that IBPSA is the organization that we wanted to work with.



HOW WERE YOU OR HOW COULD YOU HAVE BEEN BETTER PREPARED FOR THE UNKNOWN LIKE A PANDEMIC? We have actually been ready for this. During the SARS epidemic in 2004, we were mandated as a product by the government. That exposed us to what a potential outbreak could be like, and we have always operated strategically in a capacity that would allow us to be able to respond to the events that are happening now. Still, every drop of disinfectant is presold for the next 18 months. We have been able to really drive to respond to the needs of the market as best we can. Part of my role here is Strategic Planning, and this is one of the areas we focus on. I make 75% of my year about working with the entire team of over 100 people here, so that we have 22 fully developed strategic plans that all connect to each other and ensure that we are prepared for these eventualities. We have been talking about the next pandemic for 16 years and being prepared. It’s a big part of our culture to think strategically and try to be prepared for every eventuality and be able to respond to those things quickly. And hopefully we are bringing those same values to our partners, like IBPSA.

COMING FROM SOMEONE WHO LOOKS TO BE PREPARED FOR THESE SOMEWHAT UNFORESEEN TIMES, WHAT KIND OF ADVICE COULD YOU SHARE WITH OUR IBPSA MEMBERS? I will say, and it is easy to say this and executing it is much harder, but planning and documenting has been the key to the success at Virox. Develop an understanding of the possibilities that could be and the potential challenges that could be faced and then planning for ways to work around those. I know it’s boring, but it’s true. I can see the comparison between how we operate here at Virox in terms of our planning and how most organizations operate. Virtually everybody is winging it, and I understand that is a reality for most organizations. The more effort you can put into planning the more benefit can be found when these types of events happen. When we engage in a program or sponsorship, we will write a document that states our current situation, our objectives, how we are going to measure success, and then we go back and measure against that. That also includes the IBPSA standards. Our goals around the IBPSA standards were to generate awareness. We’re in infection prevention, not for Virox. We want to teach the industry about infection prevention. We know our products are the best products. We don’t have



to worry about how they are going to stack up against our competitors. So, we want to educate the pet services market on the importance of infection prevention, and that was our goal here. We wanted to help gain more of a presence in the pet industry. And these are all things that we document. When it comes to planning, whether that’s an individual project or your entire year, documenting these plans is important. Just saying that we have those plans typically means we don’t have that, or we don’t know how to respond. There’s one thing we didn’t talk about that I do want to communicate is just how extremely grateful we are to the IBPSA leadership, the IBPSA membership, and the animal health community for all of their support and the warm welcome we have received. We’ve only been doing pet services for a couple of years and it was relatively harder to get into the shelter and veterinarian communities than it was the pet services community. This is literally the least we could do, to lend some of our expertise and knowledge to the industry and to help them respond to something like this.






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