Pampered pets Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2007

When hiring, FETCH! Pet Care Inc.’s founder and CEO Paul Mann isn’t just looking for people who love pets — he’s looking for entrepreneurs. Mann wants employees with entrepreneurial skills to run the company’s 100-plus franchises, and after he finds them, he just stays out of their way. That formula has worked at the 1,500-employee, professional pet sitting and dog walking services company, as sales increased 243 percent from 2005 to 2006, and the company is on track to shatter that mark in 2007, posting 241 percent sales growth in the first half of 2007.

Smart Business spoke with Mann about how a brand is like a promise and how empowering employees has helped his business grow.

Q: How do you communicate your vision to employees?

Simplicity is No. 1. It’s got to be clear, not complex. You’ve got to grab on to the key, salient points you want people to know.

It needs to be consistent every time you ook at FETCH! — because a vision is the creation of a brand. A brand is something you can rely on, over and over again. You know it’s going to have the same taste, feel, level of service, wherever you go. It’s very important to stick to the vision and not vary it too much.

I will share our five- and 10-year plan with the person who does the filing for us because I want them to know where we’re going as a business. I want them to get excited about the future of the business.

Q: How do you develop your brand?

The vision and brand equal a promise of what you can expect. That’s what I have to sell to our staff, to our clients, to the marketplace. The key is that you have to have a realistic vision that’s achievable.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be a crazy vision. We have some crazy numbers, and we’re actually achieving them and beating them. But I needed to articulate how to get there.

Basically, I needed to give them a road-map of how they could achieve this.

So the vision needs to be realistic, and it needs to be achievable. If you don’t achieve it, your vision goes away. Your brand will not stand strong if you don’t deliver on your product or service. You lose your reputation.

Q: How do you get buy-in from employees on your vision?

The key is to understand that the roadmap is always changing. We set the end point; we want to go from A to Z — that doesn’t change. What changes is everywhere in between. The buy-in comes from explaining Z very clearly, the end vision. Then, employees can understand how they can contribute.

It’s not my job to sell anybody. My sales-people don’t sell franchises. They are not supposed to sell a franchise because the franchisees also have to convince us that they’re right for this, as well. Then we get the right people — entrepreneurs who really grab the vision.

That way, there is no selling, just communicating the vision. It’s those people who embrace it who then have something to contribute.

I can tell very quickly if someone is excited or if they aren’t. They’ll come to me with ideas, or they don’t.

Q: How do you empower employees?

If someone is hired for a job and they are just told what to do, they’re not going to get excited. They’re worker bees; they’re just following somebody’s orders. If they are empowered to be part of the team and contribute, they’re going to rise to the challenge.

My management style is similar to parenting, in a way. I have a 2-year-old and a 14-year-old, and I don’t tell them what to do. I watch what they’re doing and give suggestions if they need them.

Rather than watch over their shoulders and telling them, ‘Do this, do that,’ I let them unfold on their own as people and see what they can create. I’ll only step in if they’re on the wrong track.

It’s the same thing with my staff. They know their job; I let them do what they do best. I’m merely there to supervise and make sure they don’t go off on the wrong track or do something potentially damaging to them or us. People love that level of independence because then they are entrepreneurial in our business.

Q: How do you create that empowerment?

That’s something a lot of businesses miss. They could have a bunch of empowered entrepreneurs, but instead, people get the life sucked out of them because they’re given these impossible tasks and deadlines, and they’re not given the tools to achieve them to a level at which everybody’s going to be satisfied.

Give them a clear direction of what you want to achieve — not what you want them to do, what you want them to achieve. The second thing is give them the tools to do it, like software systems or a good computer.

Don’t skimp because that’s only going to frustrate them and limit their abilities to produce.

HOW TO REACH: FETCH! Pet Care Inc., (866) 338-2463 or www.fetchpetcare.com