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Tip Sheet

Talk to Your Rubber Ducky and More Tips for Running Your Pet Business

Yes, we recommend you channel your inner Ernie from Sesame Street. Whether you sing is up to you.





BRAINSTORMINGRubber Ducky, You’re the One

When faced with a seemingly intractable problem, have you ever called a friend or family member for help? And as you were explaining the issue, did the solution come to you before the person could barely utter a word? If so, you’re not alone, and the trick is well known enough among software engineers to have its own name: rubber duck debugging. It comes from a story in The Pragmatic Programmer about a software coder who would carry around such a bath toy. When confronted with a line of buggy code, he would pull out his yellow friend and explain line-by-line what wasn’t working, and in doing so often find the solution. According to Wikipedia — yes it even has its own entry — the method works with just about any inanimate object, or even a pet! So now you no longer need to bug your friends when a problem keeps you up at night.

QUALIFICATIONSShout It From the Rooftops

Your certifications are nothing to be modest about. Indeed, they give your customers reassurance about the products, services and advice you offer. That’s been the experience of Penny Murano of Unleashed in New London, NH. “Once [team member] Abbey and I finished our Pet Nutrition Coach certification, we let customers know! We posted it all over our social media and have our certifications hanging up in the store.” Murano says their ability to find the right nutritional information has super-charged referrals. “We have so many new customers coming in who have heard how we have helped their friends’ dogs!”


SALESAlways Add, “Which Means…”

To boost the impact of your sales presentations and really, really ensure your prospective customer understands the benefits of what you’re selling, add “which means…” after every feature you share, says “Wizard of Ads” author Roy H. Williams. “You can add these words verbally, or you can add them silently, but this habit will bridge you into language the customer can see in their mind,” he writes in his weekly Monday Morning Memo. Williams provides the following example: “This blade is made of Maxamet steel, which means you’ll never have to sharpen it.”


At the heart of social media’s attraction is “engagement,” as business communication becomes a two-way street. Healthy Pet Products in Cranberry Township, PA, leverages that feature nicely with its “Friday Free for All,” during which they open up their social media channels so customers can post any questions they may have, concerns they want to share or product suggestions. The questions are then answered in a short video by owner Toni Shelaske. “This is an opportunity for the customers to ask what they want to know while really getting a chance to interact with the owner of our company to make sure their voices are being heard,” assistant store manager Ashley Watkins says. “Not to mention, we get to know our customers better and learn better ways to serve them.”

SELF-IMPROVEMENTAsk About Your Blind Spots

Ask people for feedback, and they sometimes tell you what you want to hear. Ask them about your blind spots, and they’re more likely to tell you what you need to hear. So says organizational psychologist Adam Grant in his new book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. “Gains in self-awareness often begin with the question: What do other people know about me that I might not realize?”


When faced with a frustration, it’s easy to fall prey to anger and want to lash out. But that rarely makes things better. Instead, try to reframe the experience as a test of the imaginary Stoic gods, says William Irvine, author of The Stoic Challenge: A Philosopher’s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer and More Resilient. “It’s not a setback, the Stoic gods are testing your resilience,” he says. “They are not punishing you, they are giving you an opportunity to show your courage.”

MANAGEMENTReward Small Victories

On the way to a grand goal, celebrate the smallest victories as if each one were the final goal, writes WIRED co-founder Kevin Kelly on his blog: “No matter where it ends, you are victorious.”


MANAGEMENTKnow When to Get Out of the Way

There are times when the best management is none at all. Stanford business school professor Bob Sutton writes on LinkedIn that a common problem with business meetings is “groupthink,” a premature consensus where everyone agrees on a plan before more potentially innovative solutions have a chance to surface. A key contributor to this can be the presence of the boss, whose suggestions will frame the debate and stifle contributions from the team. “Sometimes the best way for a leader to reduce undue influence is to leave the room or avoid going to meetings where his or her presence will dampen frank discussion and deep examination of facts,” he writes.

MARKETINGThe Best Online Reviews

Not all reviews are created equal. Eighty three percent of consumers say reviews must be recent and relevant in order to care about them. Ideally, you want reviews that have been posted within the last week. But how to achieve that? Hayley Sonntag, a marketing specialist at review management site Podium, says to send out a text with a link asking for a review while the customer is still in the store. “They’re happy in that moment. Once they walk out it’s hard to remember to do it.”



NASC Media Spotlight

At first it was just an idea: Animal supplements needed the same quality control that human-grade supplements receive. But that was enough to start a movement and an organization —the National Animal Supplement Council — that would be dedicated to establishing a comprehensive path forward for the animal supplements industry. In this Media Spotlight interview, NASC’s president, Bill Bookout, talks to PETS+ interviewer Chloe DiVita about the industry today: Where it’s headed, what’s the latest focus and why it’s vital to gain the involvement of independent pet product retailers.

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