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Nail one thing in these 30 categories, and your marketing will take off.

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NO SELF-RESPECTING STORY on modern marketing starts without a few staggering statistics. Here are some to ponder:

  • Prior to the availability of smartphones, American consumers accessed the Internet an average of five times a day. Now, one in four Americans reports being online constantly.
  • Forty years ago, we were exposed to about 500 commercial messages a day. Today it’s 5,000, possibly 10,000 if you live in a big urban area and use the internet a lot.
  • A typical grocery shopper spends 21 minutes doing her shopping, during which she buys an average of 18 items out of the 30,000 to 40,000 choices available to her, all while being bombarded by sale signs, commercial jingles, and other moving displays and psychologically tested packaging.

If you’re now feeling like a tiny entity that’s lost its voice after shouting to be heard in a noisy marketplace, you shouldn’t. There’s actually never been a better time to be a small-business owner, at least when it comes to marketing.

Through social media and the ultra-connectedness of consumers, small businesses can foster personal customer relationships that are the envy of bigger companies. It is also easier than ever to leverage your distinctive personality — read: “brand” — to separate yourself from the competition.

And in a world saturated with information, consumers are increasingly turning a deaf ear to the appeals of corporate marketers. Instead, they are putting their faith in the opinions of their fellow shoppers. Word of mouth is the new mass media.

For all the things that change, there are others that stay the same, and in retail, the one great constant is that consumers are powered by emotion.

To help you make the right choice for your business, and in the spirit of our distracted age, we’ve distilled the benefits of the various marketing mediums to just one thing. So, turn off your phone, power down your iPad and focus for the next few minutes.

1. Branding

The one thing to know: As the owner of a retail business, it pays to be accessible (meaning spending time on the sales floor), to be a little larger than life, to be a genuine persona that can be carried through to every part of your marketing. The unique human element is one of the advantages small businesses have over corporations. Discover your uniqueness and parade it around your sales territory. Forget about being benign and fitting in. Forget about saying, How can we help you? Focus on sharing stories and building relationships, says Peter Montoya in A Brand Called You.

One thing to do now: Add some “campfire language” to your website’s About Us page. Most introductory pages are drearily formulaic, telling the buying public what you do but not who you are. Yet in most cases, what you do or offer in the way of services is little different than what the five other pet businesses in your area provide. In contrast, no one else has your story. Share it and start to build emotional connections with the people in your market. In place of those claims to be the best at one thing or another, offer some insights into how you feel about pets, your ties to the community and your non-work interests.

2. Newspapers

The one thing to know: Traditional wisdom said: Advertise in the newspaper. Everyone reads the newspaper. Conventional wisdom says: Newspaper readers are aging rapidly as the young abandon print.  We say: Don’t buy too much into it. If you need to raise awareness of a sale, a relocation or another event, newspaper ads (run frequently before the big day) can still deliver your message. Don’t forget to run a photo.

One thing to do now: Newspapers are willing to bargain more than ever before. Ask for a free banner ad on your local paper’s website when you buy a print ad. That way, you get some insurance that younger readers will be reached while you get to experiment with online advertising.

3. Outdoor

The one thing to know: Billboards reach more people for a dollar than any other media, and they’re geographically targetable, so you can reach specific pockets of your market with them. Their weakness is that they fail to register with regular passing drivers after just a few sightings in the same location, so you need to be able to update the message or move your ad after about a month or so.

One thing to do now: Put more than eight words on a sign, and you’ll be advertising to the passenger seat. Can’t tell your story in eight words? Think again. The image should be telling most of the story anyway. (Oh, and don’t forget your contact info.)

4. Direct Mail

The one thing to know: It’s expensive, and most of it is tossed out. Use it mainly to stay in touch with your best customers.

One thing to do now: A service from the U.S. Post Office — Every Door Direct — allows you to leverage direct mail’s biggest strength, the ability to target geographically, at a reasonable price. The terms: Minimum of 200 standard flat-mail pieces (under 3.3 ounces) to be delivered via a “saturation mailing” to a particular postal route (meaning every household on that route will get your mailer, at a rate of just 14.5 cents per piece.).

5. Marketing

The one thing to know: Those 5,000 other commercial impressions you’re battling with every day? Wit will help you cut through the noise. Examples of guerrilla marketing include Colgate inserting toothbrush-shaped sticks in ice cream with a reminder: “Don’t forget to brush;” the Fitness First health chain setting up a set of scales under a bus stop seat and an accompanying digital sign displaying to all how much the person weighed; and Absolut Vodka sticking what appeared to be plundered boxes of vodka that went round and round on airport baggage carousels. The rise of social media and the chance to get potentially millions of views on YouTube has added to the impact of such stunts.

One thing to do now: While guerrilla marketing has been embraced by big companies (think Red Bull’s outer-atmosphere parachute jump), it has its origins in smaller businesses seeking to generate a buzz on a tight budget. What could you do that’s out of this world … or at least outrageous?

6. Promotions

The one thing to know: Be bold or be ignored. Promotions remain the best way to quickly build excitement and attract people to your store. But … price-driven events don’t keep you top of mind throughout the year. And you run the risk of training your market to wait for discounts.

One thing to do now: Involve your staff in the planning of any sale or promotion. Be clear in your planning on exactly what it is you’re trying to achieve: Do you want to raise cash or promote a brand? Get rid of old merchandise or have an event?

7. Gift Certificates

The one thing to know: The most powerful gift certificates are those that have no minimum purchase requirements. If you’ve got the nerve to do it, offer $25 and watch your customers pour in.

One thing to do now: Are there employers like insurers, banks, hospitals or car dealerships in your area? In the months before the holiday season, approach management with an offer to provide customized gift certificates that could be distributed with payroll checks prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. It will make the bosses, and your sales, look good.

8. Website

The one thing to know: If you don’t have a decent, mobile-friendly website, you do not exist. Marketing tool, e-commerce platform, store catalog, social media portal, first impressions … it’s difficult to overstate how important your website is to your business, and how it is only going to become more significant in the future.

One thing to do now: If your site was designed by a “computer geek” friend or relative, it is probably time to bring in an expert. Opt for a “website developer” over a “designer.”

9. Email Bulletins

The one thing to know: In contrast to a lot of social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), email is a true and tried performer. Recent research has found that 4.25 percent of website visitors from emails turn into customers, while only 0.59 percent of visitors from social media make the conversion. While people show more willingness to be engaged commercially by emails, it doesn’t mean you can get overly promotional. Engagement should come first. Every email you write should be focused on your customer. It should meet their needs or offer something special so they close it feeling happy to have spent the time reading it.

Here are some ways you can make your emails worthwhile, courtesy of Constant Contact:

  • Offer valuable information that will solve one of their challenges
  • Share resources they may not know about
  • Give them a discount code or coupon to use on a purchase
  • Invite them to something exclusive, whether it’s a private page on your website or an event at your location

One thing to do now: Keep a signup sheet on your counter. And your request for a customer’s email address should imply a benefit: “Would you like to receive emails every few weeks about new products and special store events?” Grab people while they are on the premises. That’s when they are excited about your products and services.

10. Co-promotions

The one thing to know: Aim for a partner with similar clientele. It could be a coffee shop, an ice cream store, a yoga studio — even a pet business offering complementary products or services.

One thing to do now: Join your Chamber of Commerce. Whenever there’s small business campaign in the community, you’ll be among the first to know.

11. Word of Mouth

The one thing to know: The secret to generating positive word of mouth is never to promise everything you intend to deliver. The bigger the happy surprise you deliver when your customer comes into contact with you, the stronger the positive word of mouth that will follow.

One thing to do now: Send a thank-you note and gift certificate or discount coupon to referrers. (Of course, you need to make it a habit to ask customers how they found you). Be sure to send monthly emails to these clients with what’s new. If they’ve recommended you to one person, they are likely to recommend you to more.

12. Exterior Signage

The one thing to know: Expensive signage at an intrusively visible business location is often the cheapest advertising your money can buy. In marketing speak “intrusive visibility” refers to a sign’s ability to stand out from its surroundings. Are you in a location with a lot of passing traffic? Does your sign face that direction? It’s surprising how many signs can’t be seen by someone walking up Main Street.

One thing to do now: There is more to exterior signage than hulking billboards atop your store or a huge Duratrans display. A sandwich board out front can reinforce your branding message on a regular basis while building share of mind. Neat handwritten messages in chalk often work the best. The key is to change the message every few days. Give people a reason to look for your sign each day and to come in. You may need to check with your local city council to see what the regulations are, and then get to work.

ONLINE EXTRAs

13. Radio

The one thing to know: It’s the mass media for the small guy who wants to be a household name in his local market. It takes a high-frequency and a long-term commitment, but only a modest budget. According to Wizard of Ads Roy H. Williams, radio advertising offers 14 times the bang for your buck as newspaper advertising when used as a long-term strategy. You just need someone who is good with words and who knows how to script an emotionally engaging story.

One thing to do now: Use your own voice (not the channel’s talent, which everyone has heard and ignores). And make your point quickly. In an age of digital distraction and information overload, people are losing their listening skills. To embrace the new demands and forestall a wandering mind, Williams advises you to:

  1. Talk faster, say more.
  2. Use big ideas, presented tightly.
  3. Introduce a new mental image every three to five seconds.
  4. Use fewer adjectives.
  5. Embrace unpredictable timing and intonation.
  6. Say things plainly. Bluntly, even.
  7. Emotion is good. Even negative emotion.

14. SEO

The one thing to know: If you don’t show up on the first couple of pages of Google’s search engine, you’re not going to be found.  Without some basic search engine optimization, you will languish in the forgotten purgatory that is Google’s back pages.

One thing to do now: In order to perform well in local search results it’s critical that you optimize your Google Local Guides listing. Update the details about your business — always with identical address, phone number, hours info across  — and you’re good to go!

15. Google Ads

The one thing to know: Local pay-per-click works for businesses that are well known. If you’re still trying to build a reputation, try another mass medium to grow awareness first, and focus your website efforts on SEO.

One thing to do now: While Google Ads might not be a good marketing fit for your business, you should still be experimenting with them. Google itself recommends small businesses start with a daily test budget of $10 to $50.

16. Mobile Marketing

The one thing to know: The future of mobile marketing? It arrived yesterday. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re playing catch-up; most of the world’s biggest retailers didn’t see the impact smartphones would have on Internet use either.

One thing to do now: Make sure that what customers are finding accurately represents your business. If you haven’t done so, claim your business on Yelp to help you keep track of what people are saying.

17. SMS Marketing/Coupons

The one thing to know: Coupons work spectacularly well on mobile phones. A report by Chetan Sharma Consulting found that mobile coupons get 10 times more redemptions than traditional coupons.

One thing to do now: The initial ardor surrounding deal sites has cooled, and rightly so — store owners often ended up holding the bag as bargain hunters scooped up heavily discounted goods and never returned. Newer mobile campaign services such as those offered by Constant Contact promise to give the store owner control over the discounts being disbursed.

18. Social Media

The one thing to know: Social media can be an effective and measurable way to attract customers, but it takes a huge investment of time. It is in the words of the technocrati “earned advertising” as opposed to the paid variety. If you don’t enjoy engaging people through mediums like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter you are probably better off directing your energy to more conventional marketing channels.

One thing to do now: Be genuine. Your goal should be to create a first-name dialogue that will result in relationships rather than leads. Have faith those good relationships will turn into sales later.

19. Facebook

The one thing to know: Facebook is not a push medium. The moment you force Facebook engagement, you lose credibility with your audience. Seek to build a reputation as the “go-to person” for pets in your area. Help your customers make better buying decisions, whether it’s advice on nutrition, training a bird to speak or exercising an overweight hamster.

One thing to do now: Hold a Facebook Fan Friday party to reward those loyal customers who like your page. Can’t do that? Offer these “best customers” a special perk like a discount coupon or daily deal through your Facebook page.

20. Blogging

The one thing to know: You know more about pets than just about anyone in your market. Blogs are your platform to show that off while building trust and appreciation for your business. That Google is increasingly demonstrating a preference for “expert” content — content that answers search phrases that start How Do I …? Where can I …? What is the best …? — is a huge added benefit

One thing to do now: Think up the 50 most asked questions you get from customers and create a blog post around each one. When you get done you’ll have enough fresh content for a year.

21. Review sites

The one thing to know: More than 90 percent of consumers now read reviews before making a purchase, and according to one survey, 78 percent of them say they trust peer recommendations over ads.

One thing to do now: Want good online reviews of your business? ASK satisfied customers for them. Most customers will be more than happy to comply. In your pursuit of favorable coverage, aim for at least 10 customers. Stop letting that one disgruntled customer on Yelp! dominate public perceptions of your store.

22. YouTube

The one thing to know: On YouTube, in contrast to just about every other medium, consumers are willing to spend a significantly greater amount of time with brand messaging … as long as it’s entertaining.

One thing to do now: Use your smartphone to collect video of customers giving you real-world, real-time testimonials “in the moment.” Post these testimonials on YouTube and embed them on your website. “You don’t even need to know what you’re doing, says “Wizard of Ads” Roy Williams. “Professional video editors are plentiful and affordable in the cloud,” he says.

23. Magazines

The one thing to know: When you know the type of consumer you want to target with your message (meaning their personality, values, attitudes, interests and lifestyles), magazines are one of the best tools. This kind of targeted exposure means the success of your campaign will be determined by how good your ad is. Downside is that frequency is not great and that rates tend to be high.

One thing to do now: Big brands will use magazine ads to raise awareness or to persuade people to consider their product over another company’s. YOUR ads should encourage readers to come in and buy something.

24. Mobile Billboards

The one thing to know: The answer to that problem of a billboard message becoming quickly invisible to regular passers-by? Wheels. Mobile billboards and transit advertising are an effective alternative in large urban areas where the cost of a prominent billboard can be astronomical.

One thing to do now: Congested traffic is your target. Drivers who are stuck in traffic will most likely notice, read and remember the ads on the back of mobile billboard trucks or buses.

25. Location

The one thing to know: Showrooming, social media engagement, geotargeting … for all the upheaval in retailing, some rules remain inviolable, including the granddaddy of them all — it’s about location, location, location. A high-visibility location is usually the cheapest advertising you can buy for a retail business, especially in current times, with escalating media costs and the public showing an increasing resistance to ads. “Your location tells the public what you believe about your company in your heart,” says “Wizard of Ads” Roy Williams.

One thing to do now: Move to where the action is. Take your lead from Home Depot, Starbucks and the other big boys who have already done the research. If you’ve fallen for a cheap location and are paying thousands more in marketing than in rent, you might consider putting that cash toward a better location, somewhere people can’t miss you as they drive by.

26. Public Relations

The one thing to know: Journalists will rarely read past the first 25 words of a press release. It’s why many PR companies are shifting to Twitter to disseminate their news. Make it easy for them as a source. Pitch story ideas, get to know and be available if a reporter calls. In a world where consumers are skeptical about most of the information they see about a business, mentions in the local newspaper boost credibility, influence brand identity and your Google ranking. It’s worth it.

One thing to do now: Think like a newspaper editor. That means, what is it that will make a reader utter those golden words, “Huh, how about that?” This could be a trend in pet-gift-giving at the holidays to something unique and out of the ordinary.

27. Events

The one thing to know: Whether it’s a birthday party, a dog-training seminar or another themed event, the single thing that will determine its success more than any other is a follow-up phone call to the initial invitation. This is about giving people a FUN, possibly educational human experience that they can only get from a small retailer. Your regular customers will likely be put out if you DON’T call them.

One thing to do now: Use the “50 percent rule” to determine how many customers you will need to achieve your sales goal. It goes like this: 50 percent of those clients who express interest will say they will be there; 50 percent of those who do actually will show up; and 50 percent of those who show up will buy something.

28. Loyalty

The one thing to know: Consumers today expect to be rewarded for their loyalty. And there are a lot ways to do that, from incentive operators to a simple program you manage yourself that disburses rewards at your discretion.

One thing to do now: In your mind, you may already be aware of who your best customers are — the people who attend your events, open your emails, engage you on social media, refer other shoppers to you, and who account for a disproportionate share of your sales. Reward these customers for their loyalty by putting them on an exclusive list. Planning a sale or event? Rolling out new products or services? Let them know first by scheduling a special email a few days before notifying everyone else.

29. Yellow Pages

The one thing to know: The Yellow Pages were where people used to go to find a service provider (in contrast to newspapers and magazines, where’d they look for products). The operative words: “used to.” Now, they go to Google.

One thing to do now: Put your ad dollars elsewhere. It’s time to move on.

30. Cause Marketing

The one thing to know: People like to support and spend money with businesses that share the same values and support the same causes. Your community links are an advantage over the majors. Play it up.

One thing to do now: You don’t have to always donate products, your time or energy to community causes (but obviously it’s a good thing to be seen to be doing good). Blogs and other social media channels offer you the chance to express your support and show off your values. If there’s a particular cause your business supports or whose values you stand with, remind your audience. Just stay clear of politics.

Chris Burslem is the group managing editor of SmartWork Media.

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Cover Stories

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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Cover Stories

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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Trail Blazers

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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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