On March 1, 2015 Rex’s Place will celebrate our 5th anniversary. We opened our doors on March 1, 2010. It doesn’t seem that long ago and yet so many things have changed. I always dreamed of owning my own business but many of them fail in the first year. We’re still here. Besides location, location, location, just how have we done it? That’s what I’ve been thinking about as this year comes to an end.
It’s all about the people – nothing but the people.
In the beginning it was Rex, Barkley and I! Yes, at that time, Rex came to daycare. We hung out in the little dog playroom and I often wondered just what I had done. Soon we had more dogs, and I needed to get help. Meaghan was the first person I hired and what a find she was. She and I were on the floor together a lot and we started to envision what it would be like when we were “fully grown.”
The right person for our business is very different from what I used to look for in my corporate life. At Rex’s Place, staff can walk into something new and different every day, and it’s not always just a new dog. What are the key attributes needed to be successful? Positive attitude, critical thinking, a client service mentality, embracing change and uncertainty, physical stamina, and a joy of life. It’s what our jobs demand each and every day.
We made some mistakes in our early searching but usually found that out quickly. Potential employees love dogs and would be excited when they walked into the room and were greeted by a pack of happy ones. All that love is exhilarating. Then they realized it is much more than just playing with dogs all day. They actually needed to work – really hard. The staff is constantly on high alert. Whether it’s breaking up a scuffle, redirecting a dog, realizing a dog that needs a bit of rest; if they are on the floor they need to pay attention.
Many of the staff has been with us for a while (rare for this business) or left and come back (right Matt and Renee?). Which means two things: We most be doing something right AND our staff can usually anticipate when the scuffles are going to break out, when a dog needs to rest, go to the bathroom or just needs a cuddle or two. Just as in my corporate life – it always comes down to the people, doesn’t it?
We have a lot of great ideas, but are short on the resources to make all of them happen as quickly as we would like. We all, my staff and I, have to juggle a lot of plates and keeping them straight can be a challenge. We are starting to add more things slowly (e.g. boarding and walking) but want to make sure we have everything in place to be able to deliver what we promise. Still have a few kinks but they are quickly getting worked out. After having no luck with three technology programs we tried to use, we have finally found the right one. We are starting to use it to get more organized and soon will be utilizing it a whole lot more to help us (and hopefully you) “juggle those plates.” Technology is the future, even with dogs.
The Right Partner
When you’re starting a new business, everyone wants to give you advice. Some of it good, some of it bad. Some of it free, some of it not. You don’t even need to really know the person to get it. Everyone has some advice they want to share. To get through the chaos of the noise, finding the right sounding board is critical. What makes them the right one? They listen and they can get through to you even through the noise. You can call them when you need help, no matter the time of day (or night.) I was lucky to have found it in Wendy DeCarlo. Originally I was only getting the space in the back, currently known as the big dog space. She convinced me to take a risk and go for the front space as well. We would get a street presence and she assured me it would be okay. I gulped, checked my money and listened, just as I listen to her now. Whether it’s dog training, staff training or just walking me through an issue, she has been there, rock solid even before we opened our doors.
The right clients are important as well. That’s where all of you come in. We try to thank you every day; we know we wouldn’t be here without you. There is one other thing we need to share. One more thing we’ve learned. In case you’re wondering, yes… you totally look like your dog.
Here’s to a great 2015.