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When Outside Consultants Disagree on a Business’s Future Path, What’s a New Store Owner to Do?

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AMELIA WAS A PET SITTER for a few years and had dreamed of opening an all-in-one place to serve different needs for dog owners. She decided to bring on a team of outside consultants before the opening and was lucky enough to have some investors to help her get started.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

Two months before opening, on a chilly evening in Asheville, NC, Amelia set up a dinner event for her team of consultants and investors to meet to go over her plan for the business.

“Thank you all for taking the time to be here tonight to get Doggie Destination started!” Amelia said excitedly to her crowd, and a lot of whoops and cheers came from the table.

Her team consisted of a marketing coordinator, Margaret; her biggest investor, Mark; as well as a dog trainer; a public relations consultant; and a retired pet store owner.

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During the dinner, ideas and drinks were flowing, Amelia was taking notes, and everyone was adding information and insight. A plan was really forming for the launch of her facility.

“This is really incredible — I could not be happier with everything happening here,” Amelia said. “I do have a question: Can anyone suggest software to book appointments?”

“Oh that’s easy,” Mark chimed in, “We worked with 321Groom when they were launching, and I would really recommend them for that.”

Margaret, who had had a few too many drinks, interrupted: “What? 321Groom is awful, and the owner is a complete idiot! I worked with them on their marketing, and they didn’t do anything they should have. I can’t believe you would recommend them!”

Mark and everyone at the table looked stunned.

“I am surprised you are saying that,” Mark said. “We had nothing but a great experience with them —”
Margaret was leaning over the table and pointing in Mark’s face: “There is no way we are talking about the same person. He was just awful! And their software is full of bugs!”

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Mark, still a bit in shock from Margaret’s outburst, decided to let her have the last word, seeing she may have had too many drinks.

“OK, OK. I am sure we can think of another company,” he said. But he was unimpressed with Margaret’s lack of professionalism, and she didn’t know his relationship with 321Groom.

As the dinner wrapped up, Amelia thought that besides Margaret’s outburst, the evening had been a success.
The next morning Amelia met Mark for coffee.

“Hi, Mark,” she said. “Thanks again for coming last night and for all your wonderful feedback and information!”

“Hi, Amelia. You are definitely onto a great start, I am happy to be part of it,” Mark said. “I will say, though, last night was great until your marketing person started jumping all over me. I thought her reaction was really inappropriate and unprofessional. You may not know, but we were backers of 321Groom.”

Amelia felt her face flush.

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“I didn’t realize that,” she said. “I apologize for Margaret’s outburst.”

“Well, you may want to think about whether you should keep her on your team. If she is talking that way about a past client, what is she going to say about your business in the future?”

“She came highly recommended,” Amelia said. “I will say, though, it did bother me that she had so many drinks at a business event.”

“Yeah, she didn’t seem to slow down in that regard,” said Mark.

After Mark left the coffee shop, Amelia was feeling unsure of how she should handle the situation.

The Big Questions

  • Is there a way Amelia can smooth things over between her biggest investor and the person tapped to handle her marketing?
  • Should Amelia be worried about — or say anything to her — about Margaret’s drinking?
  • What can Amelia do to ensure the friction does not imperil her new business?

Expanded Real Deal Responses

Dion L. Minneapolis, MN

Let her go. When people show you who they are, believe them.

Terri E. Nature’s Pet Market, Salem, OR

I’d sit down with Margaret and acknowledge her strong opinion and outburst. I’d ask her what she was thinking when she made those statements, listen and ask more questions to get to what she has to say without the anger involved. She really may have something important to contribute, but no one is going to hear it with all the emotions up front. Get to the facts. I’d expect you’d learn a lot about how her mind works and whether she’d continue to be a valued team member or not. Either way you need to understand.

Frank F. Farmingdale, NJ

If I were Amelia, the question I would always ask is, “What’s best for my business?” I would also expect that my experts would think in the same spirit. Just because Mark is a silent partner doesn’t necessarily mean that that software will be the best choice for Amelia’s startup. In addition, Margaret needs to have more professionalism in regard to her excessive drinking at any event while representing your company. Also, her outbursts were not in the best interests of the team dynamics. Ultimately, Amelia will have to decide strictly on the merits of the software to determine whether it meets most of her requirements when compared to alternatives available. The priority of all decisions should be what’s in the best interest for Amelia’s company, which necessitates putting aside any and all outside biases and agendas.

Sandy H. Watkins, MN

Yes, there is always work to do to smooth tough conversations. First, she could reconnect with Mark and eloquently tell him that she is concerned with the potential friction that the prior evening’s discussion created. Mark seems to be very business-savvy and emotionally intelligent. Ask him whether this may affect any potential of working together and mention his invaluable contribution to the vision. Likely, Mark will give suggestions on how to fix any residual — and there may not be any. As far as Margaret, it would be wise for Amelia to have a candid, yet professional, chat as soon as possible. We always want to address conflict at the onset. Amelia could have a written and simple list of expectations for professionals she hires to represent her brand and company. Amelia should bravely tell Margaret that her excessive drinking at the dinner was inappropriate timing and out of context. Next time, boundaries of a few-drink maximum might be in order. I’d conclude by asking Margaret how she foresees this situation being resolved.

Kelly C. Bagdad, KY

Amelia should handle it face-to-face with a non-alcoholic meeting with both Mark and Margaret and discuss the issues at hand in order to come to a conclusion on working together in the future. She should ask Margaret beforehand to bring facts in on the 321 company and any others she would recommend. They can then hash it out and decide what will work best for Amelia’s company. And also Amelia may have to be the mediator in order to keep things calm and to be sure they will be able to work together going forward.

Carlos C. Upland, CA

Margaret acted in a very unprofessional manner. I would be worried about continuing to work with her. There is more at issue here than just the drinking. It appears that Amelia did not do enough research before hiring Margaret.

Wendy M. Emerald Isle, NC

Since the friction was largely due to the choice Margaret made to consume too much alcohol, the onus is on her to smooth things between everyone. If she cannot, or will not own up to her unprofessional behavior and apologize to Mark and Amelia for her outburst, Amelia is better off replacing her.

Ruth M. New York, NY

If Margaret is a marketing person, surely this outburst was inappropriate? Sadly, drinking can interfere with the way we handle things. Perhaps Amelia should find out how much she drinks regularly and then read October 2018 PETS+ about how to handle difficult conversations. Is this the right person for her?

Kristina R. Falls Church, VA

Good for Ameila to get a board together to help. With that said boards are advisory. If she is the 51-percent holder in this situation, then she should do what she feels is best for her, not the others. I understand that Mark is an investor and it would be hard to lose him, but if he knows how much she needs his investment, he could very well be the one to watch out for. Margaret, appeared to be drunk, lost her guard and blurted out her true feelings. But, she was drunk, maybe next meeting, don’t have it around booze. If Margaret has a good reputation, I would not say anything, chalk it up to the booze. But I would watch for other unsolicited outbursts. Friction is normal between people. We are all different, thankfully. If you bring in a board you have to know that each member will have opinions, and just like armpits, some stink. She needs to be the leader and have the last word. It is her business.

Danny B. Sarasota, FL

Amelia is drowning in drama after her first get together two months BEFORE Day 1. She should can Amelia, not judge her booze issue. Amelia will make the connection sooner or later. Mark had no business predicting the future or even bringing up the silent partner handcuffs. He needs to go too. She should open the business and start working 80-hour weeks. She will learn. If she needs all this hand-holding this early, she should just work for someone else who will tell her what to do and pay her, rather than her paying someone to tell her what to do.

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com.

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Real Deal

When a Marketing Consultant Under-Delivers, What’s a Business Owner to Do?

The case of the over-promising marketer.

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KATIE JUST OPENED her first business, a dog café, before the holidays, and the reception was better than she expected. But marketing is not her area of expertise, nor has she found the time to do it while running the café. One of her new year’s goals was to hire someone to increase their social presence and email marketing.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

Before opening the café one morning, Katie was answering emails, and posting to her Facebook page about the specials at the café that day. An ad popped up for a marketing guru — exactly what she was looking for. She clicked on the ad, and it said they specialize in marketing, social media, email marketing and advertising.

“This is too good to be true,” she thought and she continued to look at their website. It seemed like they had a decent track record of clients. So, she filled out the “contact us” form.

About an hour later, she received a phone call from the founder of the company.

“Hi Katie, this is Ronald Smith with Town B Marketing getting back to you about your email inquiry. Do you have a moment to chat?”

“Wow … um … thank you for getting back to me so quickly,” she said. “I actually don’t have time at the moment — do you want to come to the café to meet?”

Before she could finish Ronald said, “Yes. How is 2 p.m. today?”

She was kind of shocked at how quickly he wanted to meet, but she agreed, as that was a slower time at the café.

Katie really hit it off with Ronald, and she was impressed with his knowledge of marketing and his incredible claims of helping clients get a following on social. Ronald followed up quickly with a contract, for three months of work for $10,000, with a third up front. Katie thought it was high, and she consulted with a good friend Jacqueline, who had her own clothing boutique down the street.

“It looks like a good company based on their clients,” Jacqueline said. “We paid almost the same amount for an independent contractor to do similar work.”

After four weeks of work, and already paying $3,300 up front, Ronald did provide some social posts for her platforms, created an email marketing campaign and was working on a series of Facebook ads. Katie thought the progress would be faster, especially with his supposed track record and how much money she already gave him that she agreed to in the contract.

Katie was frustrated, though, when she noticed that her social posts looked very similar to other posts for other pet care companies. She let out a sigh said to herself, “I told him I wanted to stand out, to be different — not lumped I with every other pet business! Ugh!” And while the café’s Facebook and Instagram pages had growing followings, it didn’t seem any faster than when she was trying to do them herself.

She sent Ronald an email, asking what the status of the Facebook campaign was, and she expressed her disappointment in the social posts and growth.

There was no response for four days from him, and it just seemed filled with excuses. Moreover, at the end, he had the audacity to remind her that the next payment was due on Friday for him to continue working. Flabbergasted, she called Jacqueline for advice, “I am stunned ….

What … how … I signed a binding contract with him. Now I don’t know what to do!”

The Big Questions

  • How would you handle a company that you hired to do a project but was not delivering on what it agreed to in the contract?
  • What would you say to someone who is a new business owner in reference to hiring outside companies?
  • If you have no budget for a lawyer, how would you dispute this situation?
Angela P.
Stratford, CT

Contracts are broken all the time. It could be scary at first for a new business owner to think about defaulting on a contract, but if there’s dissatisfaction with the service and not an acceptable response, then there’s no reason that payments should be made. As owners we cannot do it all, but trusting our gut leads us in the right direction. Katie should remember what made her take the leap into becoming a business owner anyway: guts, bravery and nervousness … not fright! The marketing guy should be afraid of her!
Katie should take the lead and suggest how this could be worked out reasonably without outside interference from legal. She can intelligently negotiate to get what she wants, and she can be unwavering. The marketing guy should want to keep a good reputation and, in doing so, work to please the customer, not his own pocket. I trust that this scenario would in the end work out just fine.

John C.
Bronx, NY

As a leading marketing and sales consultancy, I would offer the following advice for hiring a marketing agency:

1. Sometimes expectations are subjective. Outline expectations and objectives upfront and in writing. Try to negotiate with the company to recoup some of the money paid. No agency wants an unhappy client. Try to negotiate with the agency for future work without pay until expectations are met. Most people are reasonable and don’t want negative feedback.

2. Check references and see examples of work before getting started. It’s always good to get a perspective from an agency’s past and present clients to see how they feel about their work.

3. You can usually find a law student or firm willing to do some small business work pro bono. Sometimes a letter from a lawyer is enough to get a dialogue started.

Dawn T.
Vero Beach, FL

To handle a company that you hired to do a project but was not delivering on what was agreed to in the contract, it depends on the wording in the contract. If she specifically stated in the contract that she wanted to “stand out and not be similar to other pet businesses,” she would be able to do something such as hold the next payment until he changes the ads to stand out. Of course, she needs to save the examples of hers and the other ads for proof and reference. I would say to someone who is a new business owner: Ask for references, call those references, do research on the company, verify the sources, and in this case check out his other marketing sites, and she would have seen the similarities. Having no budget for a lawyer, I would dispute this situation by requesting a meeting with Ronald before next payment is paid and try to discuss the situation.

Liz Barnes M.
Lawrenceburg, KY

I would never sign a contract of this nature with out a 90-day money-back guarantee. Pay for 90 days. If things improve by 20 to 30 percent, go with them. If not, time to resume your search.

Jim A.
South Jordan, UT

I am one of those marketing consultants, and this kind of thing embarrasses me, but I see it far too often. To avoid such frustration, you must realize that you are your company’s chief marketing officer, and while you can delegate, you cannot abdicate that responsibility. You must educate yourself on marketing as the primary function of your business — to bring in buyers. You’re going to have to remain involved pretty constantly, especially in the beginning, if for no other reason than to bring your vendors up to speed about your business. If you hire help, you must be both realistic and clear on expectations and particularly on frequency of communication. (I insist on at least weekly meetings with my clients.) There should be a performance “out” in your agreement. If you’re not happy, you should be able to terminate the arrangement, for reasonable cause.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and you’ll get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

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Real Deal

At a Holiday Photo Event, a Dog Plays Naughty with Santa, 
Putting the Boutique Owners in a Difficult Situation

Read the case of Santa’s dog bite.

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A’S PET BOUTIQUE was just coming up on its first year of business, and owner Aaron was excited to be hosting the business’s first Santa Paws photo event — where pet parents could bring in their pets for pictures with Santa. In addition, the store planned hot chocolate and nibbles for the humans, special Santa dog treats and discounts on holiday merchandise. A lot of marketing and pre-promotion were going into the event and seemed to be creating a buzz both online and in the community.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

“Hey, it looks like we are up to 115 people who plan on coming to the event, but only about 25 people have actually pre-scheduled their appointments,” said store manager Anita, who has 15 years pet retail experience. “Do you think we should cap it at 50, 25 each day just for the photos?”

“Let’s just let anyone come,” said Aaron, still a relative newbie to the pet space. “If they want to wait or get squeezed into a photo session, let them.”

“OK, but it could get out of control if all those people actually show up,” Anita warned.

“A problem I would love to have,” quipped Aaron as he flashed a big smile. Anita frowned: This weekend could be amazing or a nightmare.

As the Santa Paws weekend drew closer, they were close to 50 paid-for and scheduled photo appointments. They hired a professional to play Santa and a pet photographer to take the photos.

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Two hours into the event, everything was going seamlessly, people were having their pets’ photos taken with Santa and sticking around for some holiday cheer while the photos were printed and sent to their phones. As the holiday music played in the background, the sounds of laughter, dogs barking and the cha-ching of the register were music to Aaron’s ears.

This is exactly what he was envisioning when they were planning the event, until suddenly he heard a very loud, “Oooowwwww!” and then the growls and yap of a small dog.

“Your dog … your dog just bit me!” exclaimed Santa to the dog’s parent.

Aaron ran over to see what was happening, and just then Santa pulled off his glove to reveal a punctured bloody hand. There was an audible gasp from people nearby. “Anita, get the first aid kit! Can you guys give us some room?” Aaron then turned to Santa: “Joe, are you OK?”

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“Well, no! I was just bit!” Joe said. “I have been doing these gigs a long time, never have been bitten this bad before.”

Aaron handed him paper towels. “Let’s go into the bathroom and wash off your hand to see how bad it is.”

“I am so sorry.She has never done anything like that before!” the dog’s owner said.

Anita asked everyone to be patient, and she would let them know what would be happening the rest of the day soon — but to stay and enjoy themselves.

Aaron, said to Anita, “It doesn’t look that bad — but he is shaken up. Did you get the information from the dog owner?”

“Yes, the dog is up to date on all shots,” Anita said, “and we already have all her contact info from her consent form. I feel terrible for Joe.”

“He doesn’t know if he will stay,” Aaron said. “He may go to urgent care. We have all these people, appointments lined up. If he leaves, to go to the ER or urgent care, I understand completely, but what are we going to do about the rest of the event?”

The Big Questions

  • What would you do without a backup Santa?
  • How would you handle all those pre-paid appointments for photos with Santa?
  • Should the dog owner be responsible for the medical expenses, or the store, or both?
Pattie B.
Charlottesville, VA

We’ve had Santa before — he got piddled on, but never bitten! My ex was Santa, and he left and went home. So I got to be Santa for a day! When we have photo sessions, it’s by appointment in our indoor photo area, or if it’s by drop-in, we have a tent with panels outside the front door. This helps to reduce stress in a crowded situation. If we have outside people come in to help with an in-store event where dogs are welcome, they sign a release. But if there was a bite, we would pay for the medical expenses. Most owners whose dogs bite never really think it’s their fault and take no responsibility for bad training. They’re the ones who would be most likely to complain about the situation online, which takes too much time and effort on my part to diffuse.

Dawn T.
Vero Beach, FL

First, never schedule such an event without a backup Santa. Considering they don’t have one, see if the Santa suit will fit the owner or possibly the other employee in the store. To handle all the prepaid appointments for photos with Santa, Aaron could reschedule the appointments or offer a refund. It is an unfortunate circumstance that the dog bit the Santa. However, dogs are dogs. The dog owner she should offer to pay — or at least split — the cost with the store for the responsibility for any medical expenses.

Frank F.
Farmingdale, NJ

We’ve been holding a pictures-with-Santa event for 26 years. (Last year, we had more than 600 dogs have their pictures taken with Santa, with the proceeds going to local rescue groups.) Knock on wood, we’ve never had an incident where Santa was bitten (especially since I’m Santa …). We do not book prepaid appointments for pictures. We have a backup plan for Santa should I get sick/lame/lazy or die! We have a dog trainer/behaviorist on-site during the event to help set up the dogs for their pictures. Last, my business insurance would be on the hook for the liability, since it is a company event.

Debbie K.
St. Augustine, FL

Get an employee to get on the costume and continue on. If not, refund the appointments along with a free bag of food or something else. Unfortunately, the store is responsible. Maybe split the cost with the dog owner if they feel an obligation.

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Angela P.
Stratford, CT

The health and safety of Santa is of most importance, so of course he should go to urgent care. I would quickly compose a text or email message to all of the participants: “An overeager elf pup showed Santa his displeasure by giving him a little nip. Santa is OK, but needs to get some first aid. We will be continuing to take photos with our fun backdrop and have Santa’s costume here should you as an owner want to use it with your dog. While we’re sure the photos will still come out cute, if you’d like to reschedule, we will let you know when Santa is available! Thanks for understanding!” Honesty, willingness to still show that the event and store are open and ready for celebration, as well as offering an alternative, will still gain points with customers. Most reasonable people would be fine with this.

Ramie G.
Evanston, IL

We do free Santa photos every Saturday in December (we suggest a donation to the shelters we sponsor), and it’s my biggest nightmare scenario. One year our Santa who did this for 10 years was ill and went into the hospital after one Saturday. We chose our backup based more on personality than anything else, and it worked just fine. There were people who expected our regular Santa, but they were more concerned about his health than their photo. I would hope that by having a photographer setting this up, that they would have language in their form explaining that there could be an emergency like this and how they would compensate those paying for photos. I would also think they would have a backup plan. The store insurance should cover Santa’s injuries, and our state does hold pet owners responsible for bites.

Greg G.
Cody, WY

Do you have workmans comp? I do on everybody! I would be out of business if I didn’t. Had an employee fall, hurt her shoulder. She had $57,000 in medical bills. Worth every penny to have coverage. No comp? Split the bills between customer and store. Replay video if you have to see what actually happened.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and you’ll get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

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Real Deal

When a Vendor Doesn’t Like His Booth Location at a Local Pet Festival, Its Organizers Are Left Trying to Calm Him

What would you have done? Here are your answers.

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FOR THE FIFTH YEAR, in a row, Erika and Janelle have hosted the Ruff Ruff Harvest Fest in Minneapolis. At this year’s fest, they were excited to bring in a few new types of vendors. The Fest is normally just pet vendors, but had many inquiries from area businesses that were not pet specific and wanted in on the large crowd the annual fest draws.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

Two days before the event, as Erika and Janelle were finalizing last-minute preparations, Janelle said, “We’re taking a bit of a risk bringing in these vendors that are not pet-related.”

“Well, Carl basically begged us to be part of it — I mean you were there,” Erika laughed. Carl is a well-known fixture in the community with a successful home-remodeling business.

“Yeah, you’re right,” Janelle agreed. “It will be fine — it’s only a few non-pet vendors.”

Saturday morning, 7 a.m., the day of the fest: It was the perfect fall day, cool and crisp, and the sun was shining bright. The majority of the vendors set up the night before, and the early morning gave way to the bustle of tents popping up, people rushing around, and dogs barking with excitement.

At 9:45 a.m., Janelle was walking the grounds and noticed a few vendors still not there or set up. One empty vendor space was a 10-by-20 space at the front, but they just texted her that they were a few minutes away. Local vendors were frantically setting up — knowing they were late — and Carl was one of them who arrived to set up just minutes ago.

The gate to the fest opened at 10 a.m. to a flood of pet parents with their dogs in tow, heading onto the grounds. Janelle was smiling, saying hello to them and greeting each dog. Just then Carl came over and said in a frustrated tone, “No one has come by our booth, or to that area of the fest yet.”

“What do you mean?” Janelle said, puzzled, looking down at her phone, “It is 10 after 10 — the fest just opened?”

“We want to move our location! No one is going to see us where we are!” Carl said loudly, “What about that spot right there?”

Shocked at Carl’s tone and attitude, Janelle said calmly, “Carl, they are on their way, and they paid premium for that space.”

“We would never have been part of this if we knew we were going to be in back!” Carl said.

Janelle tried to walk Carl away from the entrance to avoid making a scene and said, “You asked us to be part of this fest, and you picked the space for your booth. I am not sure why you are so upset — again the fest just started.”

“Yes but that spot in the front is empty! I demand that you give us that space!” Carl nearly shouted. “I am not happy!”

With that, many people had turned and looked to see what the commotion was, and Janelle quietly said, “You need to lower your voice. This is a family friendly event. I will be right back.”

Erika saw Janelle walking over to her rather quickly and said, “What is going on over there?”

“Carl is causing a huge scene,” Janelle said, explaining the problem to Erika. “What should we do?”

The Big Questions

  • What could be done to alleviate the situation so it doesn’t escalate?
  • What should Janelle and Erika say to Carl to maintain a professional working relationship, for the fest and beyond?
  • Is there anything Janelle and Erika could have done to prevent this?
Ramie G.
Evanston, IL

Maps detailing what space each vendor is in, sent out before the event, would stop this before it started. If Carl had a problem, it would be known prior to the event, and the option to not attend would be his. We have all been to events that are not as well organized as we would like; that’s life. Offer to do something during the event to promote those who are there, but maybe didn’t get a good location — a shout out “thank you” over the PA system, etc. Don’t let anyone feel your event isn’t worth doing again next year!

Wendy M.
Emerald Isle, NC

I would use the feel-felt-found method with Carl: “Carl, I understand how you must feel. When I have been a participant of these kind of events, I felt that way too when no one came to my booth, especially after spending time and money to set up. But here is what I have found: Since this is a pet-related event, attendees will go to those booths first. Then they will explore the other options.” I would then give him the option to either stay, and remind him he knew exactly what the event was about and that it would draw in families that may need his service, or to pack up his booth and leave. Under absolutely no circumstances would I allow him to bully his way into the prime spot. If he continued disturbing the peace, I would also remind him that he could either leave peaceably or with the help of local law enforcement — his choice.

Vicki G.
Moline, IL

I would calmly tell Carl that you are sorry he is disappointed, but “As I said before, it is early. People will be coming by as the day progresses. The front space is already reserved and paid for, and the people are on their way.” I might offer a partial refund if at the end of the show, he feels he had no traffic. If he continues to berate you, I would say, “I am sorry, sir, there is nothing I can do.” And walk away.

Karen C.
Delavan, WI

We’ve been to many of these fests and have hosted them as well. We were never guaranteed a particular spot, but as a paid sponsor for many years, we did get great placement. When we hosted, our featured guest — typically a rescue — would get first dibs, and others were free to set up where they chose. These types of scenarios can almost always be avoided by having a clear and concise policy. Whether the space is free or fee-based, have a policy! A great event planner will make sure the flow around an event like this draws people all the way through. Food or interesting demos are great for this. The vendor needs to be a great presence and attract folks to them. I would not hesitate to remove a vendor who threatened the event with the antics described, and I would certainly not invite them back.

Dawn T.
Vero Beach, FL

To alleviate the situation so it doesn’t escalate, ask Carl to calm down. Text the vendor who is running late to see if it is possible, because they are late, that another vendor, who is there, have the spot. Then ask them to “sneak” in the back to set up, so not to disturb the front entrance. See what they say. If the vendor agrees, have them switch, and if not, offer a partial refund and a guaranteed entrance spot next event. Janelle and Erika could have prevented this by having a vendor meeting to confirm the times and locations. If vendors are late, then in the contract state that they would be moved to the back of the festival.

Cathy E.
Des Moines, Indianapolis, Kansas City

It’s pretty obvious the event isn’t the problem; Carl is the problem. If he begged to be in the show and selected his location, then he didn’t know how to manage his own expectations. I would say to Carl that he needs to give the crowd a chance to filter throughout. When people attend an event, they walk the entire site, they will get to his booth. But if by noon he is still uncomfortable with his location, then you will revisit it and see if there is another location that will work better. Hopefully, this will give him a chance to settle down, begin interacting with the crowd and rethink his position. Don’t ignore him, check back every couple hours, knowing that something is bothering him that probably has nothing to do with the event. Use phrases like “we want this to work for you” and “your business is important to us.”

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