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These days it’s hard to escape Donald Trump. Open a paper, turn on the TV and there the presidential hopeful is. But let’s not forget how he became a household name:

“You’re fired!”

THERE IS SOMETHING “succinct and very beautiful about the words … they’re so definite and final,” he once told Newsweek of the signature line of his former reality TV show, The Apprentice.

He may find those words beautiful, but there are very few others who do. For most of us, those words are almost unutterable, no matter how badly they need to be said.

Much more likely is a rambling speech that starts off something like: “Listen John, I’m not quite sure how to put this to you, but I’m afraid we’re probably going to have to let you go. I hope you can understand. Sales are down, and it, um, doesn’t look good. And then there’s my wife. She said we need our employees to show up on time, be polite to customers, make sales, you know, that sort of thing. As for me, I’d love to give you another chance, but you understand, right? My hands are tied …”

So how’d you do there? Well, you blame-shifted, told about three lies, all whoppers, and were barely coherent to boot. And this is probably after spending weeks or even months, dwelling on the issue and thinking of ways to approach it.

Let’s face it: As a species, most humans are not very good at managing difficult situations. No matter what the situation — dealing with an irate customer, a partner we don’t believe is fairly sharing the load, a longtime supplier who is no longer price-competitive, a repair man who always charges more than his quotation, or even an employee with a body-odor or chronic tardiness problem — most of us will do nearly anything to avoid these little conflicts.

But in business, such avoidance comes at great cost. It leads to what consultant and author Susan Scott calls a “culture of terminal niceness.” Everybody evades or works around difficult employees, problems don’t get tackled, and mediocrity is tolerated.

There are also personal and psychological costs for managers and staff when issues aren’t addressed effectively or honestly. Trust diminishes and misunderstandings multiply. Festering problems consume huge amounts of emotional energy and sap creativity.

In some cases, when the situation finally becomes unbearable, we do take action. But we invariably go about it the wrong way. We vent, point fingers and lay blame, leaving hurt feelings and the seeds of a new misunderstanding in our wake.

In contrast, when conflicts or difficult conversations are managed well, better decisions are made because goals are clear, teamwork and productivity increases and workplace morale surges. Conflict resolution, done effectively, also helps foster a climate of learning that allows people to learn from their mistakes and encourages managers to provide critical feedback.

But how to do it?

Dr. Tim Ursiny, author of The Coward’s Guide to Conflict, says there are seven ways of dealing with a difficult situation:

1. AVOID IT. (Bad, for the reasons stated above.)

2. GIVE IN. (Bad, because we don’t permit our- selves a chance to properly remedy the problem. We let someone else win the argument and then we feel bitter about it. Sometimes the other per- son knows we’ve surrendered, but most of the time they don’t have a clue and go about their business as always. Grrrr…)

4. BE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE. (Like when you huff and puff and scowl when someone uses a mobile phone in a movie theater. This is about as effective as giving in, even if we do make an effort to ensure the person knows our feelings.)

5. COMPROMISE. (Now we’re getting warmer! But still, compromise suggests that neither party got what they really wanted. After all, the focus of compromise negotiations is what you are pre- pared to give up.)

6. HONOR THE OTHER PERSON. (Sound sappy? You’re right, and this is a solution best saved for situations involving family and significant others. This is where you make a choice to give up something and enjoy the sacrifice — say, you decide to forego a disputed bit of parking space to help out a neighboring businessman.)

7. PROBLEM-SOLVE TOGETHER. (You’ve probably guessed; this is the best way to go.)
Now, suggesting that you “solve the problem” might seem excruciatingly obvious — but what Ursiny, who is an executive coach and psychologist by training, is really advocating is the use of a technique that invites mutual analysis of an issue, takes into account the emotions on both sides, and results in a win-win situation.
Easy to say, but surprisingly hard to achieve. And that’s because most of us are thoroughly inept at doing the basic things required to achieve such a goal, oh like listening properly, understanding the other person’s point of view, and refraining from making critical judgments.

We’re here to help you better navigate your way through difficult conversations, but first we need to address the 800-pound gorilla in the room. And its name is … fear.

Our behavior in times of looming confrontation is invariably driven by fear. Fear of physical harm, fear of rejection, fear of losing a relationship, fear of anger, fear of being seen as selfish, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of failing, fear of hurting someone, fear of getting what you want, fear of intimacy, fear that people will think less of us.

Sometimes these fears are rational or based on experience. You may have tried confronting someone before and it went badly. Or maybe you worry that talking will only make the situation worse.

And sometimes our fears are irrational. She’ll be crushed and kill herself if I tell her our clients hate her coffee. He will hire a Cessna and drag a 200-foot sky banner over my neighborhood telling everyone what a cheapskate I am if I don’t give him the pay rise.

Or maybe the anxiety wells up because of something that happened way back in your formative past — something at the very core of your identity. You’re afraid what the looming conflict will reveal about you as a person.

One of the things about the problems life throws at us on a daily basis is that we know deep down inside that the best way to deal with them is to put aside our worries and tackle the situation head-on. Don’t believe us? Think about your reaction the first time you saw Nike’s old “Just Do It!” ad campaign. You probably went out and did something … didn’t you? With that campaign, Nike proved that they knew the shadows that lurk deep in our hearts. Everybody wants to act forcefully, without restraint. Few do.

And “just doing it” is still one of the best ways to summon the courage. No, that doesn’t mean that you should simply jump right into your difficult conversation without preparation. But you should commit to doing it as soon as possible, and then start taking the necessary steps to make it happen. Weigh up the pros and cons and focus on the long-term benefits. Recall a case where you confronted a problem and it worked out well. Except for those cases where there is the genuine possibility of a physical harm, tell yourself that the conversation won’t destroy you, that you
can handle it, and most important, that it is the right thing to do. The relief you stand to gain will be permanent — as opposed to the temporary respite avoidance provides.

To give you that extra edge for your upcoming difficult conversation, we’ve compiled some expert advice from masters of the art of conflict resolution. Using it, you’ll find that disagreement is not only nothing to fear, it can be healthy. You’ll grow from it. Trust us.

But first, let’s examine the nuts and bolts of the conversation you are about to have.

PREPARING FOR THE MOMENT OF TRUTH


The first thing to do when preparing for a difficult conversation is to pick the right time and place. It’s pointless to start such a conversation if you don’t have the time to do it properly or are going to be constantly interrupted.

Then, ask yourself some questions:

Why are you having the conversation? What do you hope to accomplish? If you think, “I just want to get something out in the open,” or “We just need to talk,” that’s not good enough. Your purpose is too vague, and vague goals almost always mean disappointing results. Your purpose needs to be forward-looking.

You also need to question your objective. You may think your motives are honorable, like educating an employee. But as soon as you start talking, you notice yourself lapsing into language that is highly critical or condescending. (And believe us, the employee does as well.) This is also a good time to think about how you contributed to the problem.

Work on yourself so that you approach the conversation with a constructive aim and see it as an opportunity to learn about the other person’s point of view. Think “I wonder why he keeps doing that?” instead of “That’s it. I’ve had it with the way he keeps doing that and I’m really going to let him know it!”

Second, investigate what assumptions you are making about this person’s intentions. You may feel intimidated, disrespected, or ignored. But you shouldn’t automatically assume that this was the other person’s intended aim.

Third, start thinking about the other person’s viewpoint. What might they be thinking about this situation? Are they even aware of the problem? If so, how do you think they perceive it? What fears and needs could they have? What solution do you think they would suggest? Stop looking at the other person as an adversary — instead, see them as your partner in solving the problem at hand.

Finally, ask yourself what reaction the other person might have that is most likely to throw you off balance. What if they accuse you of picking on them or acting unprofessionally? Identify which reactions would be the toughest for you to deal with and plan how you might respond if the other person breaks down in tears, gets angry, or withdraws. Don’t just “wing it.” If that’s your approach, you won’t be very effective.

GRABBING THE BULL

The best way to start is much the same way you would for a meeting: Set out an agenda. This outlines the problem to be discussed, establishes that you want to hear the other person’s perspective, that you want them to hear yours and that you would like to do some joint problem-solving. Use the opening part of a conversation to be upfront about why you’d like to talk and what your main point is. You’ll engage the interest of the other person and help them understand what follows. When describing the issue at hand, state it neutrally, the way a mediator might. For example, instead of saying, “I want to know why you insist on making the staff wear these silly Santa hats,” you can begin with, “It’s obvious we both care about the business. And we both want to do what we think is best. But you and I have different approaches to marketing. Let’s see if we can talk about that and find some middle ground.” This approach includes bits and pieces from both sides and seeks to close the gaps between your two perspectives. No one will feel attacked and you’ll be off to a smooth start.

Then, invite the other person to share their side of the story first. Don’t feel compelled to dive in with your perspective. You’ll actually be more persuasive if you let your counterpart get their side out first.

This way, you get to learn what they care about, how they see the problem, and you can respond accordingly. Also, until the other person feels heard, they don’t have the mind-space to hear you. It’s infinitely harder to persuade someone who hasn’t felt heard than someone who has.

Remember too, as Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says, “to listen to understand and not to reply.”

Often one of the things blocking our pursuit of the truth is that we think we not only understand our own point of view, but we also believe we know for sure what the other person did, said, and thought on the subject. He always does that because he knows it irritates me. She intentionally came in late to make me mad. She knows exactly what is expected of her, but doesn’t want to do it.

The problem is, such tough discussions are not about things that can be shown to be right or wrong, say Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen, authors of Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. They involve facts, but they are not at heart about facts. They are about conflicting perceptions, feelings and values. They’re not about what a contract says, they’re about what a contract means. They’re not about which sales technique is most popular; they’re about which sales technique the store should employ. Finally, they’re not about what’s true, they’re about what is important.

If you automatically think you’re right, the conversation becomes one of trying to get the other person to admit he’s wrong. As strategies go, this is a poor one — the other person immediately becomes defensive and closes down.

The mistake of assuming we’re right leads to a second common error: We don’t ask enough questions. Studies have shown that about 90 percent of what is said during a failed conversation is advocacy, and only 10 percent inquiry. That means, the two parties find a lot of different ways to state their own views over and over again. Understanding is never reached. And too often, poor decisions result.

One of the first things you’ve got to do to get through a tough talk is to understand how the two of you see things differently. And doing that requires questions, questions and more questions.

YOUR TURN

When you sense that the other person has been able to unlock some of their energy and express the essence of what they want to say on the topic, it’s your turn.

From what they’ve told you it should be clear what they don’t understand about your position. Start by trying to clarify your view without minimizing theirs.

Be quick to identify the problem areas that remain. Be authentic too. There is something in us that responds to people who level with us, who speak from the heart.

Regularly summing up what you’ve said can boost the quality and accuracy of the dialogue — and eliminate many of the problems caused by misunderstandings.

Use words that reflect the other person’s meaning as well — “What you’re saying is that you feel that when I’m busy, I’m prone to treating people like they don’t exist. Am I understanding you right?” This way you demonstrate empathy and also get the chance to confirm that you’ve got it right.

If the conversation becomes heated or adversarial, go back to asking questions. Asking for the other person’s point of view usually neutralizes emotions. The challenge is to reframe the conversation from “whose fault is this” to “where did the misunderstandings occur, and how can we correct them so we can move forward?”

If the other person keeps saying everything is your fault, you can say, “I know I’ve contributed to this problem. Let’s talk about that, and we should also make sure to discuss ways that you’ve contributed to the problem as well.”

Be persistent in your efforts to keep the talk constructive.

FIX THE PROBLEM

Once you know what the other person wants and they know clearly what you want, then it’s time to find a solution. There is no guarantee this will be easy but at least both sides now are aware of all the factors in play.

Remember to keep asking questions. Ask your colleague what they think would work. Whatever they say, find something that you agree with and build on that.

Often such discussions get caught on the question of what’s fair. But, remember, fair is a subjective matter. What is a fair salary when the economy is doing badly? What is a reasonable vacation policy when the company is under-staffed? Your opinion and that of your counterpart are almost certain to differ. Of course, this scenario is specific to employee conflict, but the underlying principles remain the same.

The best, most straightforward way to approach any issue is to put on the table what both sides want and then brainstorm to see what is doable. In this instance, maybe a higher rate of commission based on achieving a new sales target would better reflect the economic conditions and the employee’s performance.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

A successful outcome will depend on two things: how you act — centered, curious, persistent — and what you say. Don’t expect to handle every difficult conversation with ease and poise. At the beginning, you may be tongue-tied, scared and inarticulate. That’s OK. Your goal is not eloquence. It is openness and honesty. As with any other skill, you will get better with practice. Keep in mind that failure is the best teacher.

It is also worth noting that there are times you should walk away from a difficult conversation. There isn’t enough time to confront your partner, boss, staff or clients every time they annoy you.

But if walking away ends up being your response most of the time, you’re on the wrong track. Yosur feelings will fesstrongr. And in the long run, if you don’t raise important issues and have those difficult conversations, you will damage the relationship you were hoping to protect.

 

TOUGH TALK TIPS

Here are some more tips and a few conversation starters to help you:

Don’t aim for perfection. Difficult conversations are tough for a reason. Aim for gradual improvement each time.

You don’t win a difficult conversation. Your goal is not to get the other person to capitu- late and admit that you were right all along. It’s to express your feelings, allow the other person to express theirs and hopefully reach an understanding you both can live with.

Need to deliver bad news or fire someone? There are no magic words that will somehow make it less upsetting. The best you can do is be honest, to the point, and sympathetic. You can’t take responsibility for the other person’s feelings. If your accountant is inept and messed up your books, you need to let him go. His feelings are immaterial to the outcome. It is only the facts relating to his poor performance that matter. The success of a conversation should not be judged by whether someone gets upset or not. (And don’t try to trick the person into accepting blame first.)

Don’t waste time and energy defending the weak parts of your argument. In any tough conversation, no one is 100 percent right or wrong. Each side has weaknesses, and it is wise to acknowledge the problems. Take responsibility for your share and focus on a solution.

Controlling your emotions is crucial to avoiding a destructive argument. You need to look forward — not try to defend a position or win an argument. If a conversation is getting heated, use silence to slow it down, says Scott.

Stay with the issue; straying will always sabotage your mission. You’ve had a great year and you would like to discuss bonus levels with your sales manager. But he notes how two years ago, he didn’t get a bonus when (he believes) one was promised and doesn’t feel he can trust you in this discussion. Suddenly you find yourself debating your role in the conversation. In such situations, refocus on the future.

Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements when discussing your thoughts and feelings. “I” clarifies for the other person what you think and feel while “you” can make them feel criticized. “I” reduces defensiveness and fosters communication. Good “I” statement: “I feel uncomfortable when you interrupt me during meetings. I feel it shows a lack of respect.” Bad “you” statement: “You always interrupt me during meetings. You have no respect for me!”

Say “and,” not “but.” The word “but” has the power to erase everything good said before it. For example, “Joe, I really liked the way you closed that sale, but next time don’t spend so much time talking about how bad insurance reimbursements are.” Far better to say, “Joe, I really liked the way you closed that sale and I think it would be better if you didn’t mention our issues with the patient’s insurance provider.” This is something improvisational actors are taught. The basic premise is not to reject what is proposed and focus instead on elaboration, to create new ideas and move forward.

Similarly, avoid negatives and absolutes as they shut down communication. Example: Negative: “Why can’t you …” Positive: “What if we …” Absolute: “We must do it this way.” Non-absolute: “Here’s a good idea to consider…”

Avoid judgmental words like “bad,” “ugly,” “wrong,” and any that imply fault like “unprofessional” and “inappropriate,” Ursiny recommends.

The same goes for you. Many misunderstandings arise from faulty assumptions. So when in doubt, say what you mean. Hinting isn’t good enough. Don’t rely on subtext.

Remember that acknowledging the other person’s feelings is not the same thing as agreeing with them. Saying “I can understand this is really important to you” indicates an effort to support the other person, but doesn’t mean you’re going to go along with the decision.

In cases where you find yourself poles apart, use the “100+1 approach.” Find the one percent of the other person’s position you can agree on and endorse it 100 percent. That suggests that you are committed to finding middle ground.

Research shows that we spend a lot less time talking to people close to us than we imagine. These same studies also show that many of our more challenging dialogues could be avoided by staying in more regular contact.

Blaming the other person for not understanding you — or for you not understanding them — is pointless. Be willing to recognize when you don’t understand or need to know more. If you don’t have a clear understanding of what the other person is saying, keep trying until you do. It could be that their thoughts are unclear. Encourage them to be specific.

What if it’s someone you’re going to have to work with again — for instance, a high-performing sales associate who is suddenly suffering a five-alarm case of body odor? Same deal. Take him aside and let him know his new antiperspirant isn’t quite up to the task. Of course, he’ll be embarrassed but eventually he will thank you. Knowing that you can’t control the reaction of the other person in a conversation can be liberating, say Stone, Patton and Heen.

The best decisions are the ones that people reach themselves. So be lean on the advice, but generous with help and support.

Don’t just listen to the words, listen to the “music” as well, including body language and voice quality. Also, look for clues in what is not being said. Ask yourself and the other person, “What is it they really want, really mean?”

Being genuine is at the heart of all worthwhile communication. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings. Author Scott recalls a conversation with a friend who said: “I notice I’m becoming defensive, and I think it’s because your voice got louder and sounded angry. I just want to talk about this. I’m not trying to persuade you in either direction.” The acknowledgment helped the two to re-center, she says.

Not sure how to open the conversation? Consider some of these lines:

  • “I need your help with something. Can we talk about it?”
  • “I think we have different views about [insert topic]. I’d like to hear your thinking on this.” “I have something I’d like to discuss with you that I think will help us work together more effectively.”
  • “I’d like to talk about the recent changes to our compensation structure with you, but first I’d like to get your point of view.”
  • “I’d like to see if we might reach a better understanding about our store’s dress code. I really want to hear your feelings about this and share my perspective as well.”

Final tip. Realize difficult conversations are part of life. They aren’t going away, but they can become easier, less anxiety-causing and more constructive if you work on it.

Chris Burslem is the group managing editor of SmartWork Media.

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Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Snow…

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Amazon isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Chewy. So how can independent brick-and-mortar stores compete when it comes to the purchase and delivery of pet supplies?

We asked you that very question, and those who have found success in this area generously shared their practices and policies. Some factor delivery into the cost of doing business, while others have grown it into quite the moneymaker. Learn from both.

THERE BEFORE BREAKFAST

1CAPTIVATING CANINES, WESTERVILLE, OH
No customer’s dog or cat ever misses their breakfast with Ron Keller on the job at Captivating Canines. He takes phone orders and drops them off the next morning, bright and early, on his way to open the store. He also makes sure pet parents get the best price. “I consistently beat anyone’s prices, including Amazon and Chewy.”

DETAILS: Free delivery within a 5-mile radius.

THERE BEFORE DINNER

2CITY BARK, DETROIT, MI
Many a pet parent empties the bag or last can at breakfast, which means picking up pet food goes on their to-do list for after work. And then tasks pile up, and it looks like they won’t get to the store before closing. City Bark comes to the rescue.

Customers can place an order via phone or website before 7 p.m. for same-day delivery between 7 and 8 p.m. They can even note exactly where they want the food left, a big plus in neighborhoods where porch pirates regularly steal deliveries. And as Jamie Judson points out, “Because we’re a local shop, we’re still able to offer our delivery customers the frequent-buyer program.”

DETAILS: $5 delivery within a 5-mile radius; the person scheduled to close does deliveries.
TIP: “It’s important when providing a service like this to go above and beyond. I’ve delivered to doggie day cares on behalf of a customer and hiked up four flights of stairs to help a customer with a broken arm.”

DELIVERY+TREATS

3PURRRFECT BARK, COLUMBUS, NC
Customers can place orders with Purrrfect Bark by phone, email and online. Deliveries often come with a surprise. “We give freebies from our stash pile. We also bring fresh doughnuts or such at times,” Eric Mack says.
Staff also put deliveries where requested, including frozen foods in house or garage freezers.

DETAILS: $4.95 delivery within a 15-mile radius.
TIPS: “Be sure it won’t stretch you thin, and always remember to put some money away for the wear and tear on vehicles.”

32 YEARS OF DROP-OFFS

4THE HUNGRY PUPPY, FARMINGDALE, NJ
The Hungry Puppy’s well-established delivery division grosses more than $1 million a year. Here’s how Frank and Teresa Frattini have built it into a highly profitable part of their business:

They take payment for delivery over the phone, not online — Customers can place orders through the store’s website or app, by phone, email and even fax. An employee then calls for payment. “This allows us the opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell items that might also be of interest to the customer. The average ticket for each delivery is twice what it is in our store,” Frank says.

They beat Amazon and Chewy’s prices — “They have to abide by MAP pricing for their products not only because manufacturers demand it, but also because they have the added overhead of having to ship products via third party. We, on the other hand, can sell the product through our store for any price we wish. We are not ‘advertising’ the price. We are just offering it for less through our brick-and-mortar store and providing the value-added service of delivering locally to our customers for free. The way we make it profitable is to buy in volumes necessary to accrue appreciable savings on products, and then we pass those savings on to our customers.”

DETAILS: $5 delivery for orders less than $50 and free for orders $50 or more within a 40-mile radius in geographically arranged areas on the same day each week; $6 additional for delivery within 24 hours; auto-ship also available.
TIP: “Infrastructure is super important, which means you have to have procedures in place from the time the orders come in until the time they are delivered.”

EXPANDED OPTIONS

5CHOICE PET, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey
In 2017, this group of pet supply stores streamlined its delivery process and reduced costs through Endless Aisles, a platform from PHIDO, the digital solutions company of Phillips Pet Food & Supplies. With it, customers can place orders for delivery at in-store kiosks and on the store’s website, and they have access to the distributor’s vast inventory.

“Our staff can place orders for customers on items we don’t have in stock or generally don’t carry,” Director of Operations Larry Bocchiere says. “Instead of taking on inventory risk, we get the product delivered directly to the customer, saving time and money but also creating a better experience for our customers.”

DETAILS: $5.95 delivery on orders less than $49 and free for orders $49 or more.
TIP: “The truth is: Our customers will shop however they want to. Sometimes that’s in-store, but other times they’re busy and want products delivered. Home delivery is just another service that strengthens our customers’ trust in our brand, increasing their loyalty and ultimately our bottom line.”

CUSTOMIZED ORDERS

6HEALTHY PET PRODUCTS, PITTSBURGH, PA
Toni Shelaske offers customization as part of her delivery process. Customers, who place orders by phone, can set up recurring orders and even ask that proteins be rotated. They can request that products be left in a specific place and also in a waterproof bag during wet weather. They can get a delivery window as well. “And then we can smile and say thank you in person. That is definitely something the customer can’t get online.”

DETAILS: Free within a 5-mile radius, $5 for more than 5 miles and $10 for more than 10 miles.
TIP: Delivery can be a pain, Shelaske says, but it must be offered. “A lot of companies are swinging back to delivery. Who knows? Maybe the milk box will end up back on the front porch someday!”

TO THE LETTER

7AGSENTIALS, WATKINS, MN
This store and feed manufacturer has been delivering to farmers for 30 years, and began offering the same service to pet parents and hobbyists two years ago. No matter the address, they follow even the most specific instructions to the letter.

Farmers can direct delivery to where feed is stored, such as in a barn or shed, and the employee will not only stack each bag in the same direction for easy identification and a uniform look, but also will place any remaining bags on top of new ones to ensure they are used first. Pet parents and hobbyists also can specify where deliveries should be left, outside their home.

Orders get placed by phone, email or online, with the AGsentials truck making deliveries. Sandy Wolff says, “People love seeing our branded and wrapped truck pull into their yard — it’s very farm feeling and provokes a certain contented, country emotion.”

DETAILS: Free delivery for orders $100 or more within geographically arranged areas on the same day each week; fees apply to orders less than $100, varying on location.
TIP: “It takes a while to build the customer base. Track your expenses and time as a way to measure your success.”

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Epic Fail

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Where once failure was the domain of losers, it’s now a cause célèbre, a hard-earned badge of redemption and authenticity. In ads for sneakers, athletes relish in how many times they missed the winning shot. In magazine articles, CEOs take pride in recounting their blunders, politicians and celebrities their lowest moments.

The benefits of failure shouldn’t be news to us. Toddlers develop into autonomous, well-functioning selves by testing boundaries. Fall over, pick yourself up, fall over with a little less pain the next time.

The wisdom of learning from failure is incontrovertible, and the benefits manifold. From preventing recurring mistakes to spurring innovation, to helping you find your true course to uncovering opportunities, it often begins with failure.

Yet for most of us mortals, this advice is still hard to take: Failure is painful. Disappointment cuts deep. And so much psychologically rests on being right, that denial and finger pointing remain our default responses.

Rita Gunther McGrath, a professor of management at the Columbia Business School, says that when she asks execs how effective their organizations are at learning from failure, on a scale of one to 10, “I often get a sheepish ‘two — or maybe three’ in response.”

Failure involves real costs: It wastes money, destroys morale, infuriates customers, damages reputations and can sometimes lead to legal trouble. For small-business owners, there is the legitimate risk that a major failure — choosing a wrong location, expanding to a new market or opting not to adopt new tech — could mean the end of their business.
Further, there’s a concern among many managers that a fear-no-failure culture will lead to an anything-goes environment for staff.

As a result, despite all the good talk about failure, most businesses continue to do the opposite. They punish mistakes, shoot the messenger, deny errors, blame others, make no systematic effort to study it and basically ignore what failure has to teach them.

In doing so, they double down on their errant course of action, stifle risk-taking and create the very thing they are trying to avoid — a terminal misstep.

As the business world becomes more complex and uncertain, the issue is becoming more critical. In 2019, leading a business is not so much about good management, as it is about how you respond to new threats, new trends, new technologies. Nobody gets it right the first time anymore.

“It’s not about effective planning. It’s about trial and error,” Tim Harford writes in his book, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure. “Those who can afford to fail more times will succeed in the long run,” he says.

There is a quote often attributed to the German statesman Otto von Bismarck that “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

But recent research indicates it actually helps to know the hurt firsthand, for the resilience it builds and because like riding a bike, some things you can’t learn from a book or YouTube video.

Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure by Tim Harford

“All the advice tells you not to dwell on your mistakes, to not feel bad,” says Selin Malkoc, co-author of the study and a professor at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. “But we found the opposite. When faced with a failure, it is better to focus on one’s emotions — when people concentrate on how bad they feel and how they don’t want to experience these feelings again, they are more likely to try harder the next time.”

In the following pages, we provide tips to help you prepare for when things go wrong and to get the best out of situations when they do go awry.

There is, however, no way to take the pain out of failure. At times like that, it helps to take a philosophical view. On top of trying to tell yourself the feeling of disappointment is salutary, keep in mind that in some mysterious way, the possibility of failure is what makes games worth playing, business pursuing and ultimately life worth living.

When there is no challenge, the joy evaporates. (Try playing a video game designed for 4-year-olds, and see how long that stays fun!)

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke summed it up nicely: “The purpose of life is to be defeated by ever greater things.”

In business, those challenges are waiting every day. Go down valiantly.

 

20 Ways to Make the Most of Failure

“Always learn from mistakes and failures,” notes Tavor White of Chews Happiness in Boulder, CO. “If one does so, they are not failures.” Too true. Here are 20 tips to help you turn those failures around.

Contain the downside

1 To be able to enjoy the benefits of failure, you’ve got to be able to survive the experience. Thus it’s best to fail small and cheaply. Always ask, “What is the minimum viable experiment?” says Roy H. Williams, author of The Wizard of Ads. It also helps to stick to areas where you have some related business experience. The business world is littered with the dead projects of companies that strayed too far from their core competence. Even a small failure can be expensive, but in the long run, ignorance tends to be even more costly.

Dig deep

2 When Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard Business School, discusses failure with executives, she often asks them to consider her Spectrum of Reasons for Failure, which lists causes ranging from deliberate deviation to thoughtful experimentation. “When I ask executives to estimate how many of the failures in their organizations are truly blameworthy, their answers are usually 2 percent to 5 percent. But when I ask how many are treated as blameworthy, they say (after a pause or a laugh) 70 to 90 percent. The consequence is that many failures go unreported and their lessons are lost.” To be sure, managers need to make a distinction between excusable and inexcusable mistakes, but often one can discover underlying causes that are more important. Was the cause carelessness, training, fatigue or another issue?

Fail differently

3 A crucial question to ask yourself about your mistakes is, “Am I failing differently each time?” says Steven Levitt, author of the business best-seller Freakonomics. For all our talk here about failure, what we are actually talking about is learning. Fail the same way over and over, and you’re clearly not learning.

KEEP Plans B, C and D on deck

4 “Expose yourself to lots of different ideas and try lots of different approaches on the grounds that failure is common,” says Harford in his book Adapt. “This approach is far less intimidating than trying to come up with the best idea ever. You need Plan B, Plan C, Plan D. ” Not only does a fallback position make it easier psychologically to be wrong, but it enables you to take away a wider range of lessons from each mistake, he says. Ideally, you want to try a mix of off-the-wall ideas and by-the-book practices.

WRITE DOWN YOUR FLOPS

5 Keep a failure résumé: When you fail, write it down. But instead of focusing on how that failure makes you feel, take the time to analyze the practical, operational reasons you failed. What’s the point of such self-flagellation? “Because honestly analyzing one’s failures can lead to the type of introspection that helps us grow — as well as show that the path to success isn’t a straight line,” says Tim Herrera in his Smarter Living column for the New York Times. It can also be a reminder of how much you’ve tried, said Melanie Stefan, a lecturer at Edinburgh Medical School. “Sometimes I look back on them and see how much I’ve actually struggled to be where I am,” she says.

FAIL FROM the front

6 The example set by owners and management is crucial. Admitting mistakes shows a leader’s self-confidence and helps forge closer ties with employees. “A blunder admitted is empathy earned,” write Richard Farson and Ralph Keyes in Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins. “Leaders who don’t cover up their errors become people whom others can admire and identify with.”

Debrief

Rebel Talent: Why It Pays To Break The Rules At Work And In Life by Francesca Gino

7 When a business venture fails, sure, it sucks. But when a military expedition fails, people die. The life-or-death nature explains the military’s relentless review system, known as “after-action reviews” (AARs) of each combat encounter and combat-training exercise. “As in business, the reasons for success or failure in combat often are not clear,” writes behavioral scientist Francesca Gino, author of Rebel Talent. “AAR participants discuss four key questions: What did we set out to do? What actually happened? Why did it happen? What are we going to do next time?” To be sure, failure reviews aren’t much fun. Most people would rather sweep the little disaster under the carpet and look forward. But then the learning opportunity is lost. Such “reviews work best when they are fast and to the point; take place frequently, through good times and bad; and are forward-looking, with an emphasis on learning, not assigning blame,” write Julian Birkinshaw and Martine Haas in Increase Your Return on Failure.

If it ain’t broke, experiment

8 There’s a view that success doesn’t have much to teach you — you may have been lucky, it will cover up mistakes, it saps the will to innovate, it can make you overconfident and misattribute the real factors at play. But it doesn’t have to be that way, say Francesca Gino and Gary Pisano in an article in the Harvard Business Review. “Celebrate success but examine. Ironically, casting a critical eye on your success can better prepare you to avoid failure,” they write. Gino and Pisano say the right question for leaders of learning organizations to ask is not “What are we doing well?” but rather “What experiments are we running?” Keep looking at data even when things are going well — understanding why you’re successful is as important as understanding what causes mistakes.

Beware your biases

9 The human capacity for self-deception is profound. It thus helps to be aware of the kinds of biases that can undermine a proper evaluation of a project. Among the most common psychological blind spots related to failure are the “God complex” (feelings of infallibility), chasing your losses (taking bigger risks to win back lost money), or hedonic editing (when we try to convince ourselves that a mistake doesn’t matter, or finding some way to reinterpret our failures as successes). Few of us can make purely rational decisions. Beware of your biases.

Use symbolic rituals

10 Heroic Failure Awards, Failure Walls (a space in your back room where you and staff can share your “growth lessons”) or a Failure Hour (a weekly meeting devoted to things that went wrong and can be improved) can help create an environment in which failures are openly and seriously discussed. “Something magical happens to failure when it’s openly acknowledged,” writes business author Jeff Stibel in a column for Bizjournals.com. “Paradoxically, it becomes less of a big deal.”

Hail the bad-news messenger

11 “The biggest mistake you can make as a leader is to shoot the messenger and bury the bad news,” write Birkinshaw and Haas. “Big, painful, expensive failures are easy to spot. But in many organizations, any failure that can be hidden is hidden as long as it’s unlikely to cause immediate or obvious harm.” The goal should be to identify it early, before it has mushroomed into disaster. Among the ways to do this: creating a shared understanding around the types of failures that employees can expect to happen, being accessible as a leader both in terms of personality and physically, and rewarding the messenger who presents bad news.

Find a podcast

12 When things aren’t going well, there’s a fabulous world of inspiration out there: podcasts, YouTube commencement speeches, TED talks, School of Life videos. No end, really, of great people who have experienced what you’re going through and can provide reassurance or even tactical guidance. Designer Ida C. Benedetto told the Creative Independent she keeps a collection of such talks for when she needs a boost (petsplusmag.com/5192). Build your own list.

Share what you learn

13 While it’s useful to reflect on individual failures, the real payoff comes when the lessons are shared across the organization or even better, they become part of institutional memory. At Coca-Cola, stories about the failure of New Coke are still told 30 years on. Former CEO Roberto Goizueta got years of one-liners from the fiasco. “Admitting his mistake conveyed to his employees better than a hundred speeches or a thousand memos that ‘learning failures,’ even on a grand scale, were tolerated,” says Farson. Today, traditional soft drinks now account for less than two-thirds of Coke’s business. “They saw the handwriting on the wall, and they evolved into ready-to-drink teas and coffees and juices and dairy products. Coca-Cola knew it was time to reinvent themselves; to transform from one thing into another. This is why — after a continuing series of mistakes, failures, and course corrections — they will continue to thrive,” says Roy Williams.

Know HOW failure looks

14 Recognizing failure can be surprisingly difficult. We’ve been trained that “persistence pays off,” so it feels wrong to cut our losses and label an idea a failure. “Decide what success and failure would look like before you launch an initiative,” says Wharton Business School’s Rita Gunther McGrath, noting that some companies build exit strategies into their projects to ensure that doomed or resource-sucking efforts do not drag on. “Being able to recognize a failure just means that you’ll be able to re-cast it into something more likely to succeed,” Harford adds. In such instances, feedback — either in the form of data or third-party reviews — is essential for determining which experiments have succeeded and which have failed. “Get advice, not just from one person, but from several.”

Use checklists

The Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande

15 In his book The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande argues that in our complex modern world, failure results not so much from ignorance (not knowing enough about what works) as from ineptitude (not properly applying what we know works). His solution: checklists. In medicine, a field where the available well of learning expands every year, the problem is “making sure we apply the knowledge we have consistently and correctly,” says Gawande, a physician. A recent study in U.K. hospitals suggested that wider use of checklists might prevent 40 percent of deaths during treatment. If surgeons can fill out checklists, the rest of us should probably be willing to run our expertise by the numbers as well.

Give back the pen

16 It’s not just at the organizational level that failure can be “a gift.” Individuals, likely including your employees, can benefit from its didactic embrace. The problem is that many managers are what psychologists call “over-functioners” — faced with a challenge in the store, they spring into fixing mode, taking control, attacking the issue, offering instructions and dealing with it. As with raising kids, it often helps to let your underlings fail to allow them to develop, even if it creates some short-term anxiety or uncertainty. When a person is stuck or struggling, ask them, “What do you think you should do? Go try it and I’ll give you some ideas and then you see how it goes.”

You are not your failure

17 A lot of us look to athletes for inspiration, especially when it comes to taking on a daunting challenge. But according to British sports psychologist James Hamilton, many elite athletes have a pretty unhealthy view of success and failure, associating defeat with an all-round failure of the self. To be sure, it can fuel a heightened drive, leading them to put up with huge levels of discomfort and deprivation, but it can also result in risk-avoidance and self-blame when things don’t pan out as they had hoped. A much healthier view, he says, is to remember that any failure “stands separate” from you.

Celebrate intelligent failure

18 As 3M’s legendary chairman William McKnight once said, “The best and hardest work is done in the spirit of adventure and challenge. … Mistakes will be made.” A risk-averse culture, on the other hand, is dangerous. Once you quit innovating and become guardians of the status quo, the end is only a matter of time. “One division head I worked with would say to his team members during their performance reviews, ‘Show me your scrap heap,’” recalls Wharton’s Gunther McGrath. “The request perfectly conveys the idea that high achievers will, of necessity, try some things that don’t work out.” Tom Peters sums it up another way: “Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes.”

Educate your subconscious

19 The pioneering behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman changed the standard view that humans are rational economic actors. The Soviet Union proved something similar for economies — what looks to be efficient rationalization is often a system that can’t learn or adapt. It’s the same for just about any business. British advertising great David Ogilvy had an interesting take on this: “The beginning of greatness is to be different. And the beginning of failure is to be orthodox. Big ideas come from the unconscious. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process.” Go expose yourself to ideas and experiences.

Share your failures

20 Look for opportunities to share your mistakes, be it at a lunch, an industry peer group or some other professional gathering. “If you’re having lunch with some of your peers, then revealing failure is a great strategy to induce levels of liking by reducing malicious envy,” Amy Edmondson says. Adds Roy Williams: “When people share their experiences in an atmosphere of respect and mutual trust, a special kind of magic occurs: Smart people become wise, and their businesses begin to grow.”

FAILURE TEACHES THE BEST LESSONS

Pet pros share their flops … and how they bounced back.

Photos, Bad or Good, Make the Day

Angela Pantalone, Wag Central, Stratford, CT
3 One of my easiest epic fails to swallow is one that is reoccurring and that we poke fun at. We post a monthly calendar, and often the event of the day focuses on photos coming to owners via text. In our fun “wag speak,” we explain that we know that a pup may not cooperate with the turkey hat on his head or sitting nicely in a valentine photo booth. We send the epic-fail pictures as well as the perfect ones to keep things lighthearted and fun. Most of our clients say this makes their day.

Big-Box Lessons

Nancy Okun, Cats n Dogs, Port Charlotte, FL
3 I brought in a brand of cat food that’s sold in a big box. My thinking was the low price I got and the quality of the food, plus the well-known brand, would attract enough customers to make it profitable. Six months later, I’ve decided to discontinue this brand. I don’t consider this a failure. I look at it as more of a lesson learned that I shouldn’t bring in any brands a big box already stocks. The customers left for price, even though our prices were within pennies of each other. Mass advertising made a big difference. Now, when a brand goes big-box, we discontinue it and find a brand equal or better to replace it. And, we let our customers know what’s going on upfront. We tell the customer how much we value their loyalty and hope they will stay our customer.

Discontinued Chore

Jack Carey, Amoskeag Pet Supply, Manchester, NH
3 We tried having theme months. Like puppy month, cat month, etc. Initially, we were all excited to create the promotion and decorations for each month. After the first few months didn’t generate any interest for our customers, it became a chore and ultimately was discontinued. It did help us round out our departments’ offerings and promoted creativity.

Trust Your Instincts

Johnna Devereaux, Fetch RI, Richmond, RI
3 There is no such thing as a failure — just an opportunity to do something different (or make a different choice with newly learned information) next time. I remember bringing in a new collar line that I didn’t quite believe in. They were cute and of high quality, but my instinct told me they wouldn’t sell. I went against my gut … and ended up sitting on over $1,000 of inventory. The takeaway: Always trust your instincts. You know your consumer base better than anyone. Don’t ever let a salesperson change your mind. Lesson learned … and luckily at a relatively inexpensive price.

An Upside to the StoryWendy Megyese

Muttigans, Emerald Isle, NC
3 I decided to open a second location in 2018. I became enamored of another beach town that was an hour away. The emotional attachment overrode my logical decision-making, and I hunted until I found a site that was being constructed. I overlooked its drawbacks. All I saw was that it was near the beach and that I would be able to create the interior I wanted, rather than having to retrofit an existing structure. I signed a lease and paid the deposit — two months’ rent. As construction began, I started feeling queasy about my decision. It was keeping me awake at night, and I realized I was spending time trying to justify my action. It became clear that I had made the wrong choice. I contacted the real estate agent and told him I wanted to back out of the deal. I was fortunate that he allowed me to do so since the construction was not fully completed, but I forfeited my deposit. While the money was unrecoverable, I decided to mentally frame it as a very expensive lesson. A few months later, that area was devastated by Hurricane Florence. While the building I would have been in is still standing, most businesses there were closed for months. If there is any upside to the story, it is that I would have lost much more had I gone forward with my plans instead of admitting that I made a poor decision and backed out of it.

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You impress us. On a daily basis. Your creativity and generosity know no bounds. In fact, many of you are leaders in your respective fields, innovating and then sharing your wins with other pet business owners and managers so they too can succeed. Ten such professionals are profiled here. Some are pioneers. Others have taken an existing product or service and given it a new spin, helping to move their part of the pet industry forward. We hope they inspire you to do the same. That is, if you aren’t already.

DOG PARK INNOVATORS

Dave Hensley & Leib Dodell | Bar K, Kansas City, MO

Most public dog parks are problematic. They never have enough shade or seating. Fights break out between unsupervised pups. Rules prohibit food and small children, rightly so for safety reasons, but it makes a family trip to the park difficult for some. And not all dogs have the vaccinations they need.

Leib Dodell and Dave Hensley decided to create a place for pets and their people that has none of these issues — and that offers so much more. They opened Bar K in August 2018.

“Like a lot of entrepreneurs, we started out wanting to solve a problem for ourselves,” Dodell says. He enjoys going out with his Australian Shepherd Benji and Shepherd mix Bear, as does Hensley with his Goldendoodle, Bishop. “Public dog parks are challenging and limited in the experience they provide.”

Bar K spans two acres on the south bank of the Missouri River, adjacent to downtown Kansas City and partially under the expansive Heart of America Bridge.

“It was this big undeveloped property, kind of a dump, but we could see it had potential to be something special.”

The business partners made it exactly that. Off-leash space totals 68,400 square feet (about 20 percent larger than a football field), with separate areas for dogs big and small, and puppies, to run and play. A jungle gym, four-sided climbing wall and splash pool are among the amenities. Dogtenders, trained in behavioral cues, watch over the action.

“Our trained staff can spot escalating warning signs, and then redirect dogs with a ball or take them to another part of the park.”
A separate 3,000-square-foot Petfinder Park hosts adoption events and training classes.

Inside the 5,000-square-foot restaurant and bar — built from 17 repurposed shipping containers — humans can order from a healthy casual menu while their pups play outside. Those who want to dine with their leashed dogs can do so on the outdoor deck or upstairs patio, and even order a meal for them from a special menu. Beer, wine and cocktails are served inside and outside.

Kids are welcome throughout the property, with different rules applying to on- and off-leash areas. Pet parents can stop by the Groom-Groom Room, a grooming salon with self-bathing station, before they leave.

Admission to Bar K is by day pass, $10 per dog and $5 per additional dog, and by annual membership, $225 per dog and $25 per additional dog. Membership recently surpassed 1,500 members, and Dodell says, “1,000 people can come through on a busy weekend.” All pets must be vaccinated or provide recent titer test results.

 

FITNESS TRAINER FOR PUPS & THEIR PEOPLE

Sue Hepner | Cool Dog Gear, Langhorne & North Wales, PA

Dogs make the best workout partners. They’re always up for exercise, whether it be a walk or run or game of fetch.* Too bad pups can’t go to the gym with their people.

They can in Pennsylvania, thanks to Sue Hepner, co-owner of Cool Dog Gear stores. She created and offers private Work Out Doggie Style classes at both locations, six days a week.

Her own enthusiasm for fitness inspired the program. “I would go to the gym, and my dog would be like, ‘What about me?’”

Hepner, also an avid dragon boat racer, put together the core routine with her team’s coach, retired physical education teacher Jan Cairone. Instructors modify as needed for different doggie ages and physical abilities.

“The youngest pup we have is 4½ months. The oldest is 15 years. The seniors, for example, don’t do as much jumping,” she says, adding that growing puppies also skip certain exercises.

Each class begins with dog and pet parent — or parents — doing three minutes of laps around the gym, located at the back of each store. “They can walk or run, however they usually get around the block.”

Participants then start moving through a series of stations. Pups weave through poles, balance their front paws on an oversized ball and do nosework by finding hidden treats. Hepner even has skateboards for advanced students. In between, they walk or run laps again. Humans guide their dogs, but also have exercises of their own to do such as reps with resistance bands and kettlebells.

Class always ends with 10 minutes of fetch to pull out the pup’s last bit of energy. “Then they’re done, physically and mentally.”

Each class costs $20, with each store holding 100-plus a month. Hepner does not have to advertise the program, as photos she shares nightly on social media get tagged, liked and shared, and lead to new participants. Its popularity even has manufacturers providing toys and treats used in class because doing so results in sales boosts.

Next up for Hepner: She plans to franchise Work Out Doggie Style to other pet businesses.

FIVE-PAW CHEF

Beth Staley | Happy Dog Barkery, Downers Grove, IL

In 2011, pet baker Beth Staley introduced a new Thanksgiving special: turkey stew for dogs.

“We ended up selling 250 over just a couple of days. It took us by surprise,” she says.

Stews are now a bestseller at her Happy Dog Barkery, with more than 1,800 sold in January of this year alone. Staley makes three recipes at a time from an ever-growing menu, now at 25. Popular offerings include Heart of Hearts (chicken, zucchini, chicken liver and heart, carrot and pea) and Pork n Beans (pork, sweet potato, garbanzo bean, molasses, bacon and tomato sauce).

“It’s not a complete diet, more of a food topper or to entice dogs who aren’t eating well.”

Staley has always looked for ways to innovate as a pet baker and chef. In addition to custom cakes and other bakery items, she offers seasonal and cultural treats. Polish pet parents particularly appreciate her celebration of Pączki. The traditional day of eating special jelly-filled buns happens in March, and dogs get their own pączki filled with chicken, coconut, peanut butter or sweet potato. More than 1,300 sell over the three-day period they are available.

Bakery items, which include all of the above, make up 30 percent of overall sales, helping to spur “double-digit growth every single year,” Staley says.

HERBALIST TO THE PETS

Johnna Devereaux | Fetch RI, Richmond, RIL

Johnna Devereaux has been studying the healing properties of herbs for humans since she was 15 years old. After opening Fetch RI in 2014 and becoming a certified canine and feline nutritionist, it was only natural to begin incorporating herbs into her plans for pets.

“I’ve been blessed from my childhood with this passion, and now I’ve found a way to use it to help animals heal themselves and to increase my business,” Devereaux says. “I’m so grateful and appreciative.”

Now also a clinical pet nutritionist, she offers a variety of services and products for dogs and cats with health issues. In-depth nutritional assessments and recommendations involve consultation with the treating veterinarian, or Devereaux can simply look at recent test results and current medications. This costs $75 per hour, $35 per half-hour followup. She also dispenses advice and herbs outside of consultations for minor acute issues, such as suggesting marshmallow root for a dog with an intestinal tract inflamed by diarrhea.

Her go-to commercial herbal products are those from Animal Essentials. The company even creates custom extracts for the store. Devereaux also has an herb garden and apothecary at home.

“I’m sensitive to where herbs come from, whether or not there are heavy metals in the soil, so I grow my own. I make salves for wound care and paw protection, and hot spot remedies. I also formulate teas because I’m a huge advocate of adding water to a dog’s food, and it’s another way to deliver herbs.

“If we’ve interfered somehow and interrupted an animal’s system, I provide tools to help the body heal itself.”

PET SUSTAINABILITY PIONEERS

Julie Paez & Pennye Jones-Napier | The Big Bad Woof, Washington, DC

Pennye Jones-Napier and Julie Paez founded The Big Bad Woof in 2005. Since day one, they have helped to set the standard for sustainable pet stores in this country.

“We’ve always had a green business model, which encompasses everything from what we use for cleaning products to how our electricity is supplied,” Jones-Napier says. “This even flows into buying decisions, by looking at where a product is made, how it is packaged and how far it has to travel to get to our store.”

Among their sustainable achievements: The Big Bad Woof in Hyattsville, MD, was the first business to become a U.S. Benefit Corporation, in 2010. They closed that location in 2016 to reopen in Washington, DC, with D.C. Benefit Corp status.

The current store has 96 solar panels and two energy-efficient Big Ass Fans.

Staff reuses shipping materials and picks up styrofoam coolers and ice packs from area vet clinics to use for raw food delivery.

Bones and organ meats come from a local organic, non-GMO farm. Locally made Chippins treats use cricket as protein.

They joined the Mayor’s Office of the Clean City campaign. Free branded poop bags and holders are available at the store.

LEADER IN PET SERVICES SAFETY

Suzanne Locker | ABC Pet Resort & Spa, Willis, TX

In the early 2000s, doggie day care continued to grow in popularity. However, members of the American Boarding Kennels Association were not convinced it was without risk to the dogs.

As the service became more mainstream and seen as a viable play activity, the ABKA tasked member Suzanne Locker with updating existing accreditation standards to include day care best practices. The revised standards came out in 2006.

“We saw that we needed to be inclusive of all kinds of services,” Locker says. “We had an obligation to our staff, pets and pet parents to have safety procedures for overnight lodging as well as day care.”

During her time with the association, she also served on its board of directors and as president. Her pet resort continues to value safety certifications through the International Boarding & Pet Services Association, American Kennel Club and the Professional Animal Care Certification Council.

Locker also stresses their importance during her Pet Care Facility Management Boot Camp for those opening their first pet services facility.

PET WHOLE FOOD ADVOCATES

Marc Berube & Gregori Lukas | Lukas & Berube Healthy Pet Markets, Montclair, NJ

Gregori Lukas and Marc Berube want nothing more than for pets to eat fresh whole foods. The co-owners of Lukas & Berube’s Healthy Pet Markets believe so strongly in such a diet that they invited top integrative veterinarians and industry experts to speak about it and other topics at their first-ever Healthy Pet Summit.

Held in October 2018 at a venue near their store, the summit featured well-known practitioners Dr. Karen Becker, Dr. Melissa Shelton, Dr. Judy Morgan, Dr. Gerald Buchoff and Dr. Laurie Coger, plus Answers Pet Food Nutrition Science Director Billy Hoekman.

“Our goal in gathering this elite set of vets and experts was to open the minds of pet parents who might not know about nutrition and other modalities, and how they can be proactive about doing the best for their animals,” Lukas says. “We wanted to inspire and educate.”

The event sold out quickly and went over capacity to accommodate all 85 people who wanted to attend. They came from around the world and were more knowledgeable about pet nutrition than the original intended audience, being followers of the speakers on social media. Lukas was more than happy with the outcome.

“If we can make an impact in the pet food industry, support the ongoing growth of this small community, then others will learn that there are better options,” he says.

Tickets are already on sale for the 2019 Healthy Pet Summit, which will be a much larger event held Oct. 12 at Montclair State University. Lukas, a certified pet food nutrition specialist who serves as nutrition education director for the store and animal nutrition specialist alongside Buchoff at Holistic Pet Care, has other changes planned.

“We will say farewell to kibble in the store all together. To be the change, we have to be the difference.”

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