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Candace D'Agnolo

Pivot and Rebuild for the Ultimate End Goal: Selling Your Pet Business

The life of an entrepreneur is a fast-paced roller coaster…

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SMALL BUSINESSES ARE facing incredible challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are working longer and faster than ever to keep up. Others have closed due to a lack of demand or after having been deemed “non-essential.” In the pet industry, there are polar opposites in many of the segments, and there is still a lot of uncertainty ahead.

Back in 2005, when I was 26, I sold my first company, a small canine bakery, and made $10,000. In my mind, I was rich. I used my “fortune” to get started on Dogaholics, a multi-unit, brick-and-mortar business in Chicago. In 2015, I sold the retail assets to Bentley’s Pet Stuff, allowing me to get out of bank, credit card and distributor debt, and to build up a business savings account. After 10 years in business, I still never had a business savings account to bail me out … can you relate?

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This past March, I was honored to sell the rest of Dogaholics to Destination Pet. This decision was not made lightly, and we both spent considerable time exploring the decision to ensure that the sale was the right for my team and me. I never would have thought that my dive bar of a doggy daycare, that sucked the life out of me at times and almost made me homeless (twice), would have set me up for retirement, but it has.

Here’s what I know. While I literally dodged this pandemic as the owner of a consumer-facing small business, I fully understand that the life of an entrepreneur is a fast-paced roller coaster. The dramatic rise to the top and finally feeling like you have it all figured out, only to start falling down again, and in some cases (especially now) losing everything you’ve built. The twisting and turning causing only chaos, and not an opportunity to see what just happened. That was my life over the last 15 years, more down than it was up. I will say this: The more I learned to manage the “amusement park” and not be the guest on rides, the more I was setting myself up to ride it out and survive.

No matter if it was scaling too quickly and not being a good leader, getting into debt to the tune of $400,000 or having an employee steal $40K from me, dealing with workers comp cases, the rise of the internet and the beginning of Chewy, or the canine flu that hit Chicago in 2015 and almost bankrupted me, I know the strong survive. I’m not talking about strong financially. I’m talking about strong mentally. Your business will have to pivot. You will need to evolve and think outside of the box.

When faced with a crisis, Dan Sullivan, co-founder of The Strategic Coach, developed these success strategies on how to respond to Scary Times.

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  • Forget about yourself; focus on others
  • Forget about your commodity; focus on your relationships
  • Forget about the sale; focus on creating value
  • Forget about your losses; focus on your opportunities
  • Forget about your difficulties; focus on your progress
  • Forget about the future; focus on today
  • Forget about who you were; focus on who you can be
  • Forget about events; focus on your response
  • Forget about what’s missing; focus on what is available
  • Forget about your complaints; focus on your gratitude

Having been through my own battles (I just aired all of my dirty laundry above), I know this: You will survive 2020. This will make you stronger as an entrepreneur, as a leader and as a human being. You will rebuild again and someday, you’ll be ready to sell your business, too.

Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. For help creating a customized 90-day plan to tackle all your business goals, download a free worksheet, at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her at hello@petbossnation.com.

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